When the twins were born I knew we’d get a few public questions and stares just for them – I was even stopped for a chat by a nurse transferring a patient on the way out of the hospital – but it doesn’t compare to the comments we get when out with all 5.
“You’ve got your hands full.”
“Are they ALL yours?”
“I couldn’t imagine having 5”
I think the worst is when my friends complain about something difficult they’re going through and then add “I can’t imagine what it’s like at your house.” Not because a lot of the times we aren’t dealing with the same or 100 other issues over here, but because that doesn’t make how they feel any less valid.
They say when you go from one to two that’s the most difficult transition. Sure, it’s hard when you have your first child. All your freedom disappears in an instant and you’re suddenly tied to this human that needs you in the middle of the night, cries every time you sit down to eat, and relies on you to survive.
It’s a lot of pressure and incredibly frustrating but everyone else vying for your attention can take a back seat – the baby is more important right then. OK yeah you may not have much time to clean anymore, but it’s just adults and a baby to mess up the place – not so bad. As the baby grows you grow with it and learn to adapt to the mess and deal with the tantrums and get your groceries and just when you think you’ve got it all under control (this was around the first birthday for me) you think “time for baby number 2.”
For some reason you don’t expect to be as sick this time and end up puking every time you change your toddler’s diaper. There’s cartoons on the TV as you try (and fail) to tidy up, or take a quick nap on the couch, or not scare your toddler while you’re barfing (did I mention I had HG 4 times?) I don’t know, maybe you’re one of those people with great pregnancies, but either way we all make it to the end (hopefully) and wind up staring at this tiny newborn baby. You realize that it was totally worth it and you actually could love another baby just as much as your toddler and everything is going to be OK.
Then it’s not OK. You’re trying to care for this tiny baby and a toddler who’s used to having nothing but your attention. There’s no more naps. Your house gets destroyed. Every day that you just want to lie on the couch, perfectly appropriate for the mother of a newborn, you feel you’re letting your toddler down. Then you find yourself with tears streaming down your face wondering if you’ve made the right decision, how are you ever going to balance your time between these two kids, and – oh shit the toddler woke up the baby, AGAIN – where was I?
Two kids are HARD.
So hard, in fact, that my 2nd and 3rd kids are 3.5 years apart in age. I just wasn’t ready to do it again. I already knew what to except when I added the 3rd kid, it wasn’t nearly as difficult. I’ll admit the twins have thrown me for a loop but I’ve adapted. That’s what we do, we adapt. We are maxed out with our first baby but some how we push that and are maxed out with two, and again with each subsequent kid.
5 kids is my financial, physical, and emotional limit that I can’t push past. 2 kids might be yours. It doesn’t make your problems inferior, it doesn’t make you less capable, and it certainly doesn’t mean my kids are easier or your life is.
Sometimes it probably looks like I have everything together and am taking all this in stride or my children are really well behaved. I’ll admit, I love giving off this impression, but that’s not the reality. I really struggle to keep up with the house work and the paid work and my own personal happiness. Sometimes it’s just really hard.
But I cope with 5 kids the same way you cope with your two. A deep breath and a fake smile can turn into real joy during a diaper change. Stopping and counting to ten before cleaning up the emptied box of crackers on the kitchen floor can keep what really matters in perspective. At the end of the day checking in on those sweet sleeping faces gives me the courage to start fresh again tomorrow.