This is a strange time of waiting. Summer feels so rich and full. I’ve traded in a cleaner house for occasional morning adventures and lazy afternoons at the pool. I say “yes” more to games of cards when I should be cleaning. We take many walks. Instead of getting things done while my sons play, I find myself watching them more as my energy levels get lower and lower.
But woven throughout is this expectancy: by the time the back-pack-laden children amble down our sidewalk in August, we will have a new son.
My first pregnancy, I was twenty-three-years-old and in the middle of my second year of teaching. I was so excited about a baby and also had absolutely no clue. I don’t think I felt nervous until I thought about actually giving birth. At that point, I began to devour books about giving birth to assuage that particular fear.
Nothing really prepared me for having a new baby, but even with the months of colic, it was such a sweet time. I felt ready to be a mother; I felt in love with my baby.
By the time we were pregnant with our second son, I was a little older and already a mom to a sensitive toddler. We knew we wanted a baby, but I had absolutely no idea how he would fit into our family. I was terrified of being a mom of two and of how a new baby would change the life we had.
The transition to two was hard. With one child, we had still felt fairly free. But this little baby who arrived in the middle of a snowy winter solidified our status as a family with kids. We stayed at home more. With one child, it’s easier to maintain some of the aspects of the pre-kid life. We went out to eat freely, adventured with our family, and eventually figured out a bedtime routine. With two little ones, all bets were off.
Being a mom of one made me feel like a good mom; I had the time and patience and energy to really engage with my son and help him through big emotions. We developed a good rhythm and a close relationship. With two (and especially a preschooler), I had to learn how to be okay with not meeting every need, with disappointing my sons. My son had to learn to bond with his dad and not just me. He grew so much through developing a relationship with his brother. And it has been a hard but very, very worthwhile journey for all of us (that I’m sure will continue!).
I’m convinced that the first year of a baby’s life will always be hard. I don’t know if “hard” is even the right word for the whole year. I think the word is just work. With both my sons, I felt like the first year was a constant state of change, which is hard for a person like me who longs for consistency and routine. When I finally reached the one year mark with each of them, it felt like a rhythm developed (and like I simultaneously realized how absolutely tired I was from that intense and wonderful first year).
Right now we are in an easier season. Our boys play together, the younger one is almost potty-trained, and I feel like we know them—what they can handle and can’t, what will make their day, when they need days to rest or play hard. We can go for walks as they race ahead of us on balance bikes. We can chat while they splash at the stream or ride their Gator. They both love listening to some of the same books and playing hide and seek. They sleep (mostly) in their own beds and don't wake to every sound.
I feel ready for a third baby, the one who will possibly complete our family. I feel more prepared for birth and postpartum this time, slightly more confident in my mothering. I couldn’t accurately visualize how the first two would fit into our lives. With my first son, I was overly optimistic, and with my second, I was very nervous. But now, I think I can picture a little more realistically how our life will change and which parts will change forever and which will be temporary.
But there are still days when I realize that nothing can really prepare you for a new baby—for his or her unique personality and needs. Even as I waddle to the end of this third pregnancy, I have guilt about not being the energetic mom I used to be. Yesterday, my second son felt very heavy when I picked him up. I’ve had to say no to some of our rougher games and keep our days a bit simpler.
So I’m trying to hold expectations loosely. I picture the good days—going for walks with the baby in the Baby K’tan while my boys race ahead, outings to our favorite places, days at home reading stories while the baby naps. But I’m consciously trying to remember the harder parts too so I’m not totally shocked—the bouncing baby while I make dinner, the sleeplessness, the need for time to recover.
I’m ultimately thankful for how God has grown our family and how he has grown us as a result. I read something the other day from a mom who said she was so glad she hadn’t had kids as a twenty-four-year-old because she wasn’t mature enough. I can see many benefits to waiting; each couple and family is unique and has a different journey.
But for me, becoming a mother at twenty-four has grown me in a way nothing else could. It’s how God has shown me grace and tempered my intensity and taught me to not be paralyzed by fear. It’s how God has shown me to ask questions and how he has shown me the depths of my anger yet also made me a kinder, less angry person. It’s how he has taught me to truly understand time and keep an eternal perspective. It’s how he has shown me I still have a long way to go, but he will continue the good work he began in me. It's how he has taught me to be a better wife and friend. It’s how he has taught me to pray.
I’m thankful for this journey, thankful to meet this little baby in a month or so. And I hope that this third time, I’ll be more open to the growth that will come through impossibly hard moments and wonderfully beautiful ones all mixed in together.