When I had two kids, I loved reading posts about having a third child. I wanted to know what it was like—if it was doable, how to make it easier. I think what I really wanted to hear was this: you can go through a pregnancy and have a new baby and all the easy parts of your life will remain easy. I wanted to skip any messy or painful parts.
The transition to two kids was really, really hard for me. I don’t know all the factors that go into whether a particular transition is hard. I think it has to do with the temperament of the current child(ren) and the temperament of the baby, what other things are going on in your life, what season it is (summer was way easier for me because the kids could play outside!), how recovery goes, and how much help you have. I could never picture how we would add a second child (and that transition was so hard!), but this time, I could more easily picture how our days would go (and this transition has been much smoother even if recovery took longer).
What I’m trying to say is: you never know how a transition will be. The joy of a new baby is wonderful, but there are always hard things. However, in the change itself, I think we have found better aspects of ourselves, our kids, and the culture of our family.
My older two have bonded in a new way. In some ways, life this fall is even easier than last fall (when we had a four-year-old and almost-two-year-old). I think my expectations are more reasonable for our home and our lives. I feel like five years into motherhood, I’m finally less affected by the sleep deprivation. I am no longer daunted by errands or by days at home.
I’ve learned better how to rest even with the kids around. Breaks from the kids used to overwhelm me because the re-entry back into motherhood felt so jarring. Now I think I’m better able to appreciate the flow of life and realize that I don’t have to be “on” all the time. I can sit quietly and watch them play and feel rest. Plus our quiet times are well-established and a life-saver for us all!
Most importantly, I’ve felt God’s strength in my weakness throughout this transition. I believe that when he gives us a child, he isn’t sitting there thinking “What have they gotten themselves into?!” (I truly used to believe this!). Rather, he is intimately involved in helping us, guiding us, showing us more of our sin and mostly, more of himself. After all, Jesus himself came to earth as a baby in all the messiness and growth that involves.
Mercifully, he also gives us other people that we have to depend on. I used to think I was supposed to be able to handle it all myself. After all, they were my children and it was my choice to have them. It should be hard, and I should bear the brunt of this difficulty. But as I’ve allowed others to help me more, I’ve been blessed and my kids have been blessed.
I still struggle at times. I feel like there is something wrong with me when our days don’t go perfectly. Surely if I had never responded in anger and impatience, my kids wouldn’t have tantrums. If I could be more diligent, the house would stay clean. If I could find the right rhythm, the baby would nap easily in his crib.
I read something by Elisabeth Elliot in Keep a Quiet Heart recently. She was talking about an overwhelming day she gave to the Lord that then proceeded to go remarkably well. But then the next day was just difficult. She writes, “There were interruptions, distractions. I could not get on as expected. My mind was dull, confused. At the end of the day I could not see what I had done with my time.” (98)
That describes so many of my days! During this discouraging time, Elliot found some letters a friend had sent her father during her father’s own time of discouragement. In the letters, the friend wrote:
“The devil does not like that paper nor its articles, and is evidently attacking you in your inmost heart, not causing you to doubt so much as causing a spirit of discontent. Fortunately we both know that temptation is not sin, it is yielding to temptation that causes us to sin and I feel that you must count it joy that you are passing through these times of difficulty, for they are sure signs that the Lord is blessing you…” (99 italics mine).
Those words—“a spirit of discontent”—describe so much of my struggle. I’m always looking for ways to do things better whether meal-planning or disciplining children or strengthening our marriage. None of this is bad in itself, but it leads me to focus too much on myself and not enough on Christ. Nothing is ever good enough, so I keep striving and become discouraged. I need to be reminded that hard days and moments of temptation are normal and that God gives me exactly what I need. I need to be reminded to stop worrying about every problem and instead gaze on him.
I think this transition to three has taught me to rely on him more and that apart from him, I can do nothing (a truth from John 15 I continually resist!). I’m in awe of his grace in helping me grow through this transition. Rather than holding us back or depriving us of life, each child we have added has brought so much growth and life and wonder and delight. My children help me see the ugliness of sin and the beauty of grace. They open up my eyes to new things about God and his world and soften my hard heart.
In all their beauty and messiness and chaos they are part of the good work God began in me in making me more like Jesus. How kind of God to use the small and weak in such a powerful way.