What are we letting ourselves in for?

The gas-and-air stands like a sentry in the corner. The hospital bag is packed; the moses basket is ready; the freezer is full-to-bursting. My parents have arrived from the other end of the country to look after the children. D-day approaches. But what are we letting ourselves in for?

I never envisaged having more than two kids. There’s just no precedent for it in my family. I’m one of two, my husband’s one of two, my parents both have one sibling, I have two cousins on each side, and so it goes… The only women I know with three or more children are those totally motherly types who always wanted a big family from when they were little girls, and seem to have the endless supplies of patience, hugs and home-baked organic flapjacks to go with it.

Yet now, we’re about to enter the realm of the ‘outnumbered’ ourselves. Three children under four (at least for a few days). Scary stuff.

I was one of those lucky ones who found that my first child was easier than expected. She fitted into our lives. I worked while she napped. She came to the pub with us, up mountains with us. Our second was harder, but I put that down, largely, to his special needs. I fully expect the third to hit us hard.

Everything around us suddenly seems perfectly designed for the nuclear family. There must be a reason we have only two hands and shopping trolleys come with two child seats. Our house barely has enough bedrooms for three kids; it certainly doesn’t have a big enough bathroom to accommodate the school-morning rush. Our kitchen table perfectly seats four. Our car – when we get one – will now have to be some kind of mahoosive estate with room for three car seats across the back plus a wheelchair, a buggy, and heaps of luggage in the boot. I have a recurring nightmare where I am standing on a hilltop, encumbered with a baby in a sling, watching a wayward four-year-old on a bicycle head down in one direction, as Benjamin in his wheelchair starts to slide in the other…

Before any of that, there’s the small matter of the birth to get through. You might think that, having experienced both a caesarean and a vaginal birth, neither would hold any fear for me. Both now hold immense fear for me. It’s true that you forget the pain, but I haven’t forgotten shaking uncontrollably on the operating table waiting for the first needle to strike. Watching the surgeon rummaging around in my insides, reflected in the giant theatre light hanging above me. I haven’t forgotten lying naked on the floor, my vagina open to the doorway, screaming that I was too tired to push any more.

Having survived the birth (for I guess I will, one way or the other), there will be the challenge of trying to breastfeed one child, tube-feed another, and keep Jackie occupied at the same time. Just getting everyone out of the house before someone needs another feed, another nappy change, another toilet trip … will we ever be on time for anything again? How will we manage to go on family bike-rides when I can barely pull one child in a trailer? How will they all fit in the bath? I envisage nightly battles over the TV, over bedtime story choices, over the last petits filous in the fridge. There’ll be yet another packed lunch to make (if there’s one thing I hate about parenting, it’s making bloody packed lunches). And the laundry. Oh God, the laundry…

Another load of nappies to wash...

Another load of nappies to wash…

I know I’m being pathetic. Many people cope with much, much more. Imagine having triplets for goodness sake! Or not being able to have children. I know we are blessed. This is, truly, a very nice problem to have. I even got a baby shower for the first time last week! Having an odd number of children might – I hope – help to break up the pattern we’ve fallen into, where Daddy always takes Jackie while I take Benjamin. Most importantly, I know a third won’t make any difference to the love I have for my older children and, after the mental battles we’ve faced during this pregnancy, I know beyond a doubt that I have more than enough love for our new baby too.

But if one more person asks me how I’m going to manage without a double buggy…

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