“Congratulations! Going from two kids to three was the hardest for us!”
That was my dad’s cheerful response when we told him we were expecting our third child. Um, thanks, Dad.
He was right. In fact, many other parents told us the same thing over the course of our pregnancy. For the first time, we as parents would be outnumbered. And our older kids were not very old yet, almost 3 and barely 1, so essentially we would have three babies. Our sweet daughter was a surprise baby, but a welcome addition to our family. As much as I loved having three kids, I was overwhelmed and exhausted. My mantra became “One Less Thing.” If there were things that I could stop or say “no” to, I did.
(Spoiler alert: almost all of these things were temporary sacrifices. It’s amazing how things have changed now that my kids are a little older!)
1. I stopped being the homemade mom.
I used to make my own laundry detergent. I used to buy blocks of cheese to shred at home instead of buying shredded cheese at the store. I used to cloth diaper. These were all things that were incredibly time consuming with three babies. And you know what? None of them were necessary for our family.
I’m back to shredding my own cheese again. But the cloth diapers are still in storage.
2. I stopped going places.
I loved going on walks with the kids in the stroller, but driving anywhere involved changing and dressing the three of them, packing a diaper bag the size of a carry-on, hauling everyone and everything out to the car, buckling (then unbuckling) three carseats, and carrying two babies into our destination while holding a toddler’s hand. That was too much. I felt daunted by the prospect of going out by myself, so I did the grocery shopping and ran errands when my husband was home or when Grandma had the kids.
Our youngest was ten months old when I finally felt brave enough to venture to Walmart with all three in tow. Now I take them with me all the time. It’s a much less daunting prospect with older kids. (And whoever invented those gigantic carts at Walmart big enough for my kids AND my groceries has my eternal thanks!)
3. I said “no.”
I put the brakes on most of my activities. My involvement on the church worship team, my work as a photographer and graphic designer, and my writing for Her View From Home slowed way down. I didn’t have the time or energy to do everything, so I had to say “no” to some things. It was hard because I enjoyed doing all of those things, but I knew it was the right decision.
Fast forward a year and a half and I’m doing all of those things again! I have no regrets about taking time off from all of those activities, and it has been exciting and gratifying to say “yes” again.
4. I gave up nursing.
I had to give up nursing my daughter when she was only six months old. I’m not sure how or why it happened, but my supply dropped and she became a very lazy nurser. I tried everything I could think of to boost my supply and encourage her to nurse, but nothing helped. I dreaded nursing sessions because it felt like my body and my baby were fighting each other. I was worried about her weight gain, upset about my inability to produce enough milk, and stressed about how much time I spent forcing her to nurse. My husband and I decided that, for my sanity and for her health, we needed to switch to formula. It was a hard but necessary decision.
5. I stopped pretending I was fine.
Admitting I need help has always been hard for me. After our second child was several months old, I realized I had been dealing with postpartum depression. I had been feeling so overwhelmed and lonely, but didn’t think I needed to ask for help. I mean, I only had two kids. Lots of other moms had more kids and they all handled it just fine. I should be fine, too. Well, I learned my lesson. I was so humbled by my friends and family telling me that they wanted to help and many of them told me that they had also battled postpartum depression. I wasn’t alone.
When Baby #3 came along I knew ahead of time that I needed to be brave enough to ask for help. I wasn’t serving my family by pretending to be perfect. My mom was amazing and didn’t even wait for me to ask. She just came to my house and kept me company, brought me food, did the dishes, and folded the laundry. My husband held me when I cried, listened when I needed to talk about my day, and prayed with me.
To tell the truth, I still sometimes pretend that I’m fine. But it’s getting easier to be honest about my struggles.
I don’t have three babies anymore. My oldest tells me all the time that he’s going to be five soon. We’re planning our second-born’s third birthday party. Our youngest is a tiny and talkative nineteen-month-old. I don’t have to plan my day around three different nap schedules, or carry an infant carseat around, or avoid the grocery store. I don’t say “yes” to everything, but I don’t have to say “no” either. I love our three kids and it is so fun to see them growing up and developing unique personalities.
If you’re in the trenches with multiple babies, wrangling bottles and carseats and diaper bags, I salute you. This is hard, mama! Give something up if you need to. Be brave enough to receive help if you need it. On the days that you are just trying to survive until bed time, know that you aren’t alone.