Tuesday, July 17, 2012

The First Month as a Mama of Three

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I have heard it said that a third child is the “game changer”—the family addition that tips the tables upside down and throws the parents into a game of zone defense. But, as I jokingly reminded my mother-in-law one afternoon, I’ve been playing zone defense five days a week for the last three years!

“If you can survive three, it’s easy to keep going,” moms of many have told me.

And I don’t know if I just lucked out and got the sweetest baby on the face of the earth or if my character has been so overhauled by the last five years of parenting that the struggles of motherhood seem less daunting and draining, but I cannot describe the past month as “survival.”

It has been so much more.

We are thriving.

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I have never had as much fun during the first month of a child’s life as I have with Abigail. She is a gift and a blessing in every way. All of my children have been. But, now I have the eyes to see it and the ears to hear.

So many fears have been allayed by half a decade of mothering and the joys and struggles of two children. Questions like, Am I making enough milk? and How will get the older child to accept the new baby? no longer send me running to the library for the latest “expert” advice. I know my children and my husband and myself. I know this family.

I do not need to panic at every little cry, because I am more adept and reading Abby’s needs. I hear her little screams as communication, not as some sort of personal admonition, “Mommy, you don’t know what I need, and you’re a bad Mommy!”

Not so much.

Not any more.

I have been a mother long enough to smile at my sobbing child, hug her to me, kiss her hair, and tell her, “Let it out. Mama’s here.”

Mama hears.

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Life is slower, yes, and clumsier these days. But, it is fuller, richer, sweeter for the stumbling.

Am I surviving as a mother of three?

Yes. Yes.

And so much more.

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11 comments:

  1. So wonderful! I felt the same with my #4. The grace of savoring the moments and appreciating the miracle was and is so palpable. I think the fact that he enjoyed his sleep right from the beginning had a lot to do with it, too :) She is so beautiful!

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  2. I'm not sure if three is that much worse than two...of course mine are 3, 1.5,and 5 mos so things are going to be crazy no matter what! I'm glad you all are doing so well. Abby is beautiful. Does she look more like Brian? I love her dark hair.

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  3. Emily - I hear you! I had a 3 and 1.5 yo with Sophia and James, and that was THE toughest, craziest phase of motherhood for me so far. Toddlerhood is hard for me ;-) I feel so blessed having a 5yo big girl helper this time around!! Oh, and everyone says she actually looks like me! For once, a baby that looks like me! I love the dark hair, too. Blessings to you and yours :-)

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  4. So do you have to fight Sophia to hold the baby? =D Goodness that's a lot of wonderful sibling love; she looks like she's over the moon with her new sister. I love to see stories of happy family transitions!

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  5. That's beautiful, Bethany, I'm so glad!
    ~Elizabeth~

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  6. I enjoyed the early days of no. 3's life more fully than either no. 1 or 2. With 1 I was so worried and new to everything. With 2, I was just overwhelmed with 2 kids. With 3, I just enjoyed it so much more.

    I'll let you ferret out the next 3 years of 3 (or more) kids. You're too blissful right now to mention the way in which things get dicier. :)

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  7. You are so blessed. I don't expect you to reply to this, but... I have 2 lovely children and my husband is now talking about adding a 3-rd child to our family and I'm just getting terrible cold feet. To go through it all again... the morning sickness, the weakness, the inability to move from the couch, the endless medical check-ups - everything that would tear me away from taking care of my 2 little ones. And the birth itself, which was such a horrible experience for me last time... going to hospital... then the sleepless nights, going on as a sleep-deprived zombie, being unable to concentrate on anything... and the fear that something would be wrong with the child. I know someone who had several normal children and then one with a permanently disabling birth defect. Not anything that could be predicted or prevented. And I've just this nagging thought - if only she had stopped at 3, she would have had a normal family!! So overall... I just wish I could stop at 2. But I also don't think I could stop at 2 without wishing and longing for a 3-rd, or wondering what might have been, or feeling guilty about it all. I'm sorry if this overwhelms you, but what do you think?

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  8. Elizabeth - It is difficult responding in such a condensed format here, but I will do my best.

    Firstly, I would remind you that "perfect love casts out all fear" (1 John 4:18). God loves you and your children (including any future ones!) more than we can even comprehend! He wants what is best for you all. That doesn't promise that things will be easy, but it is an assurance that, if you trust Him, you and yours have nothing to fear. I would encourage you to pray earnestly that God heal you from your fears, whatever course you take.

    Second, I have certainly been therewith the exhaustion! I am usually on the couch most of the day for the entirety of the first trimester! Have NO energy and 24-hr nausea (have with all 3 pregnancies). This time around, though, I knew to expect it, and I was able to do some things to help myself bear it with better grace. I instated afternoon "quiet time" even for my oldest who doesn't nap. James naps and Sophia has 1 hour to spend quietly in her room with the door shut. I forced myself to nap during that time, no matter what needed to be done around the house. A cheerful (as cheerful as I could be!) mom and wife was more important for my family's well being than a home-cooked meal or a clean living room. (Really, it is!) I cooked multiplied recipes on days when I felt up to cooking and froze them for later use so I didn't have to cook every day. I stocked jarred pasta sauce and spaghetti (which we NEVER eat normally), just in case. I lowered my standards, knowing that things would be rough. I spent a lot of time playing board games and reading to the kids and let them watch more movies than was probably good for them on occasion. It wasn't ideal, but we made it through, and now we have a beautiful new life in our family that has made it all more than worth it!

    Have I feared birth defects or prenatal death? Yes, I have. Have I feared complications in pregnancy, labor, or birth? Yes. Have I dreaded the sleepless newborn nights? You bet! But, I know that it is my duty and my incredible blessing as a Christian to turn to the God of Creation in trust and praise, knowing that He can care for me and mine better than I can. In my weakness, He shows Himself strong, and He alone has power to conquer all my deepest fears.

    All this is not to say that you may not have reason to limit your family size (at least for the time being), but it is meant to encourage you to prayerfully consider your reasons with your husband. I have found, in my own life, that fear alone is rarely a good reason to avoid something. Typically, in fact, I have found that in facing my fears, I have come to find God's true purpose for my life. I do not know if this will be the case with your situation. I merely offer my own experience.

    May the peace of Christ be with you in everything.

    Bethany

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  9. I'm so glad you did this post! How encouraging, how uplifting to me who is just about to have three under the age of four! I am brimming with excitement, but there is of course fear there, too. So many have said that three is the hardest. It might have something to do with the spacing of your children, but in any case it will be an adjustment. I do love hearing about how you can relax in your parenting a little more and savor the time without fretting as much as you did with the first and second. I have high hopes for that, as well as the nursing hormones, to get me through some potentially hard days. It's impossible for me to know right now how things will go, but it is quite encouraging to hear that you are thriving! Thanks again, God bless :) (And she is beautiful! I cannot wait to hold a newborn again!)

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  10. Dear Bethany, thank you for taking the time to write this very encouraging reply.

    In a way I wish we could just adopt... to skin all the pregnancy and birth mess, and to see what we are getting into! I hope this doesn't make me sound like a very weak and faithless person.

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  11. Elizabeth - We all have our own crosses and struggles. I would never presume to judge the state of person's character or faith based on one set of circumstances.

    Blessings,
    Bethany

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