When I had my first baby, I was determined to be the "perfect mom." I planned to breastfeed exclusively, use cloth diapers, and make my own organic baby-food, among other things. Then I became a mom, and my plans went right out the window. I felt like I had failed. After my second baby was born, I relaxed a little, combo-fed, ditched cloth diapers, and cut myself some serious slack. Then last year I had my youngest, and you guys, there are so many things that no one will tell you about having a third baby. It's so completely different, in just about every way.
Maybe it's because my life is completely different than it was when I had my first two kids. I now have a super supportive partner, and the relative luxury to be able to stay home with my son. Then again, I don't think that's entirely it. I think it's because I'm different, too. I am so much more relaxed, and less stressed out, and more than happy to fully embrace my status as a "hot mess" mom. I have also realized that loving your kids is the only thing that really matters. The rest? The things that seemed so huge when I was a first-time mom? Well, after having my third baby I've realized that I was making mountains out of molehills.
My baby seems different, too. A mom of one I know recently joked that my youngest is a "classic third child." I am pretty sure she was actually trying to imply that I’m neglecting him by not touching him 24-hours a day. But, eh? I mean, sorry I'm not sorry. Because I've realized that spending time away from my children isn't a bad thing. At all. My youngest is learning to do things for himself, and I am way less intense than I was as a first-time, and even a second-time, mom. I am pretty sure my chill is rubbing off on him, too, because he actually is a really happy baby, which is great, because I don't think I could handle parenting a high-needs baby and my other kids, too.
So, if you are thinking about having a third baby, or already have one on the way, there's a few things you should know, including the following:
Even though I knew what labor was like, because I had had two babies before, also I knew that each childbirth experience might be completely different. So, yes, it was still scary. That's why I didn't care about doing this "naturally" or earning some "medal" in the so-called labor and delivery olympics. Instead, I got an epidural before my induction started. 10/10 would recommend.
I took way better care of myself this time, seeking help for postpartum depression and anxiety right away and talking to my doctor about birth control options as soon as possible. I also made sure I received physical therapy for the pain and incontinence I tried ignore last time. Listen to your body, guys. It took me three pregnancies to learn that lesson.
Believe it or not, most of the time parenting three kids is actually easier than parenting two. My older kids are able to help with the baby, and they keep each other occupied most of the time. It’s actually awesome to see them play with each other. I mean, when they aren’t fighting, that is.
They say that when your kids are little, the days are long, but the years are short. It’s so true. I can’t believe that my oldest child is about to turn 9, and my youngest — my baby — is not really a baby anymore. Perhaps the most important lesson that I’ve learned, though, is that the things that I thought were the biggest deals — like breastfeeding, and being a perfect mom — are so small in the grand scheme of things. I guarantee that no one can tell which of my kids breastfed the longest, ate only organic, and wore only cloth diapers.
Kids are expensive, you guys. There’s no getting around that. Fortunately, though, over the years I’ve learned that there are so many items of baby gear that you just don’t need. Unfortunately, I’ve also learned that different babies like different things. One baby might love that expensive swing and specific brand of bottle, but another might hate them. So, this time around, we only bought the bare minimum and waited to see what our baby would like once they got here.
You know those moms with the houses that always look perfect on Instagram and Facebook? Yeah, I'm not one of those moms. After having my third baby, I’ve totally given up on trying to be perfect all of the time, and I simply don’t have the time or the energy to try, even if I wanted to. And I’ve stopped trying to make my life perfect from the outside, too. Besides, it’s way more fun and way easier to be a hot mess mom that it is to clean my house 24 hours a day.
My best laid plans for my third baby have totally fallen by the wayside. I planned to breastfeed, at least as much as I could. Turns out? My baby has food allergies and has to drink special formula. I bought dozens of adorable cloth diapers. Guys, I love cloth diapers, but with three kids, two step-kids, three cats, and a tank full of fish, I just don’t have time to keep up with all the extra laundry. Fortunately, I’ve also learned to cut myself some slack. I just wish I had learned that lesson the first time around.
I no longer apologize for my parenting choices. As my family has grown, and I have grown with them, so has the barren field in which I grow my f*cks. I'm serious, I don’t have a single one left to give. When you look in my back yard, the bare patch of dirt where the organic vegetable garden used to be is totally neglected. My baby and I are still in pajamas well past noon. My kids, though? They are loved and thriving in our messy house, and that, my friends, is really all that matters.
Check out Romper's new video series, Bearing The Motherload, where disagreeing parents from different sides of an issue sit down with a mediator and talk about how to support (and not judge) each other’s parenting perspectives. New episodes air Mondays on Facebook.