IS THREE THE MAGIC NUMBER?

BY CLEMMIE TELFORD, EMOTIONAL, LOVE & MARRIAGE, MENTAL HEALTH, MOTHER OF ALL LISTS, MOTHERHOOD, MUST READ, PREGNANCY, BIRTH & BABY'S, THOUGHT-PROVOKING, USEFUL

I have resisted writing this list – because I was concerned it lacked the gravitas of other post. That maybe be so, but once I started I found it so therapeutic. A rare chance to reflect on the whirlwind of the last 11 and a bit months:

  • We are almost exactly a year into having 3 kids.

  • To say it’s gone by fast is an understatement.

  • I still find myself fantasising about all the things I am going to do on my third maternity leave, only to realise it’s already happened!!

  • People often ask ‘how is having 3 kids? The quick answer is it’s bonkers but brilliant.

  • The long answer is as follows:

  • I feel overwhelming lucky. Having 3 healthy humans to love is something I know makes me immeasurably fortunate.

  • I look at them all  and feel absolutely blown away by the fact I grew them all.

  • Problem is when you have this many kids you don’t feel as if you aren’t entitled to complain about the bad bits.

  • You see we elected to have this chaos.

  • In fact in our case we spent quite some time ‘trying’ for number 3.

  • But even with the knowledge that comes of having a couple of kids,  doesn’t make you exempt from struggles.

  • Especially since Mental Health issues are indiscriminate. They don’t give you the swerve just because you’ve already got two other kids to care for.

  • New parents need support whether it’s their first or fifth. 

  • ANYWAY let’s rewind a bit:

  • My third pregnancy was my hardest by a mile.

  • That could have been attributed to her being a girl after 2 boys. 

  • But mainly I think it was a case of starting on the back foot.

  • Already 4 and a bit years of broken sleep under my belt.

  • Zero opportunity for self-care or even 5 minutes rest.

  • Tired, achy, hormonal etc the list goes on. 

  • I thrive on feeling capable and in control, neither of which are possible in pregnancy.

  • My husband would probably confirm that I wasn’t fun to live with during those 41+ weeks.

  • HOWEVER.

  • My third labour was fine. 

  • Again, perhaps because there are less surprises or unknowns.

  • Maybe it’s because you have that innate confidence that your body can and has done it before.

  • I’d go so far as to say my labour was pretty ace. Of course it wasn’t pain free but it was straightforward and not too overwhelming. 

  • I had been warned that third labours are often ‘stop /start’ and that was certainly the case for me.

  • We’re talking a week of false starts; being convinced we were ‘game on’, only for it all to peter out. Which is emotionally draining: like standing at the top of a diving board. The longer you are there the more you talk yourself out of it.

  • Then by the time the real event came, I was so convinced it was another fakey,  that even when I was having to do some extreme hypno-breathing, I was saying to Ben (my husband) ‘What if this isn’t it?!’. 

  • Either way I guess that’s better than jumping the gun and finding it goes on forever. 

  • In the end our midwife only came 20 minutes before Greta arrived. Read the full birth story here.

  • One of the best thing about ‘going again’ is that third time round is a chance to ‘do the post natal bit how you wish you’d done it before’. 

  • First time we were so keen to prove to the world that nothing had changed and that we were nailing parenting that we were charging about like nutters from the moment we got back from hospital. Trying to tidy the house, make tea for visitors and generally ‘keeping up appearances’.

  • Second time we were so relieved not to be feeling as terrible as the first time that we AGAIN went ‘wild in the aisles’:  in the pub day 2 and soft-play day 9. MADNESS.

  • This time I revelled in the newborn stage and FINALLY prioritised myself, my recovery and bonding with my new babe. 

  • Third time you also have the benefit of knowing what is ahead of you. And that (in some ways) a baby is so much easier than an actual child who can a) move b) argue with you c) refuse to eat anything that isn’t beige.

  • Greta’s birth coincided with half-term. Ben took the boys out and about. I stayed in bed looking at her tiny ears/toes/finger nails! I certainly felt like I got the better end of the deal.

  • A big change from all the seething resentment I felt towards him after the other babies were born. Before I envied his freedom. This time I relished having an excuse to enjoy being forced to switch off from the world and pour my energy into my small human.

  • HOWEVER after the glory of initial baby bubble I quickly found myself in some laughably challenging situations.

  • Take week 3: Ben’s back to work. Nerve wracking enough the concept of being left in charge of 3 kids and needing to get them to school/preschool on time.

  • Of course Mother Nature was NOT on side. Not only did it snow.- remember The Beast from The East?  It was World-sodding-Book- Day. Course it was. Picture the scene: me slip sliding my way to school, with a precious newborn strapped to my chest, holding the big bad wolf’s paw in one hand and carrying a bean stalk in the other.

  • I kept thinking ‘is this my life now?’

  • How will I ever find time to do anything other than trying to herding these humans about?

  • Although the baby bit isn’t as daunting third time. It’s still exhausting. Insanely so. 

  • You surprise yourself by still having the same self doubts, the same asking google for answer about feeds/naps/colic, same stupid middle of the night arguments.

  • But at least this time you that all the above is normal. 

  • You know that one way and another you will get through it.

  • After all you’ve got a very real reminder that ‘everything is a phase’ in the form of 2 snotty, snack-obsessed kids who were babies a blink of an eye ago.

  • What other truths?

  • The logistics of 3 kids are hard. 

  • (You need to allow ALOT more time to get out of the house: as a rule of thumb I go by half an hour for every human and 45 minutes ‘just in case’). 

  • The reality is there are now more humans than you have hands.

  • There are now more kids than adults.

  • Forever outnumbered.

  • Until this point you could tag team your way through most situations.

  • But with 3 someone is, quite literally, always left holding the baby.

  • ours.

  • Overall 3 kids has taken away all the ‘contingency space’.

  • Since expanding to a family of 5 I feel as if I have been a worse sister, daughter, grand-daughter and friend.

  • Not because I don’t care about all the ‘other people’ in my life just as much.

  • But because I am maxed-out. 

  • By the time you’ve poured your energy into 3 tiny people, paid the bills and at the very least been civil to your partner,  there isn’t much left.

  • And if you thought the to do list was long before 3,  it just got even longer.

  • The cycle of illnesses that go from one person to the next, seem to go on for longer.

  • The chances of getting a broken nights sleep are higher. 

  • And you’ll need a new car or one these Multimacs (which aren’t cheap but great).

  • And in time you’ll probably realise you need a bigger house too.  Which may well mean that you can no longer afford to be where you are. Or not if you want some storage and, dream case, a garden big enough for a trampoline. 

  • And the washing. Lets not even talk about the washing.

  • Or the quantity of snacks and bread-based products we consume! 

  • Also, by some terrible bit of planning our 3 are born with in 8 weeks of each other with Christmas in the middle. That’s a lot of parties and a lot of presents and very dented bank balance in a short space of time. 

  • BUT for all the being ‘stretched’ and generally exhausted. I wouldn’t change it. In fact I’d recommend it for those who feel brave enough.

  • Three is bonkers but marvellous. My heart and home feel full to bursting with humans to love and be loved by.

  • I love the dynamics of the three of them: what physical features they share, which they don’t. How different parts of their personalities bring out the best in one another.

  • Like any phase of parenting going from 3 to 2 is a matter of adjusting to a new type of normal. And accepting that it will never go back to how it ‘was’ and that knowing deep down you wouldn’t change it for the world.

  • A year in to three kids and it feels as if the dust is settling (though I’m all too aware that even saying that aloud is asking for trouble).

  • I now know that I needn’t have worried about the middle child syndrome. Firstly I hope that even being aware is a good step towards avoiding it. Also, seeing Woody, who was once the baby and will always be the younger brother, step up into the role of a nurturing, caring older sibling brings me such joy.

  • I needn’t have worried about the neglected third child either. What she lacks from my attention sometimes being elsewhere she gains in having constant entertainment from her older siblings.

  • In my experience its not the kids needs that fall by the way side its your relationship.

  • So be sure you are in the same page from the beginning.Do what you can to prepare yourself for the inevitable upheaval.

  • Communicate. Communicate. Communicate. We have returned to therapy for the fist time in 2 years. Not because we are in crisis. But because we are falling into the same old arguments and struggling to find a way out of them.

  • Doing so reminded us to be kind to one another, to cut ourselves some slack and to be honest even just forcing ourselves to have an hour outside the house alone has made a difference.

  • **Side note: be prepared for people aren’t really keen to look after 3 kids for you (can’t blame them). This is one things I struggle with most. Before having Greta, Ben and I got to the point where we could get away for a night or perhaps even two at a stretch. Where as right now I can’t for see that happening again for the foreseeable future. Of course the exchange is worth it. But it would to be nice to be just the two of us for 24 hours.**

  • Keep telling yourself that a rough patch is just a rough patch not a cause for concern. You’ll get through it.

  • And if in doubt try and laugh at yourself and the chaotic life you have created together!

  • What else? Be prepared that even after 3, people will STILL ask if and when you are having any more?

  • Ben is a firm no. I love babies. I love meeting and falling in love with a new human. But logic tells me this is enough.

  • Though I may keep swooning over the bag of newborn clothes I’ve put aside for a bit longer.

  • Because believe me when I say this ‘time goes fast’. One minute they are tiny and scrunched up on your chest, the next it’s their first birthday. In a flash. 

  • But with each milestone that slips through my fingers I feel myself adjusting to the idea that after 125 weeks of being pregnant, over 2000 broken nights and an unthinkable amount of  that part of my life is behind me.

  • I will miss the joy of a bump. the excitement of those first kicks. The sniffs of a newborn head. 

  • But I feel ready to reclaim my body for me. To know that our finances wont take another hit while we try and muddle through mat leave. To make a shift from forever thinking about the next possible baby (as I have been since 2012) and instead focus on how we can make the most of our life as a 5.

  • And maybe just maybe find time to write one of the 103 thank you cards we owe people from the last year or so.

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6 Comments

  • Reply Sophie Neild January 26, 2019 at 9:49 am

    Absolutely spot on summary. I am also hitting the 11 month stage of having three children (twins girls who are 6 and a baby boy). I found your point about friends particularly interesting and the pressure it puts on your relationship.

    • Reply Jessica February 7, 2019 at 8:08 am

      Agree with you Sophie, I have a 10 yr old and twin girls who are 3 – the pressure on friendships and your relationship is definitely real.

  • Reply Sian Broad January 26, 2019 at 8:16 pm

    Couldn’t agree with this more. Thank you for writing this, we’re the tired parents of a nearly 2, 3 and just 5 year old and have just bought a new house (renovation project!) to squeeze our family into. I regularly use the phase hands full but heart bursting!!

  • Reply Jessica February 7, 2019 at 8:06 am

    Absolutely spot on. I am a fellow mum of three and am frequently grateful that although we did not plan it, prayed for it to be different in fact, we do have a 7 year age gap between our eldest, 10 and our twin girls 3 in June. So the shock for us was going from 1 to 3 and going from having “just” a 7 year old to having babies again. I love how honest you are – it gives such comfort to know you are not alone and we all struggle with similar issues. The school run! The washing! The birthdays and Christmases! The food shopping! Getting out of the house! Time for selfcare! The list goes on…
    Having experienced constructive dismissal in conjunction with maternity leave I am setting up on my own as a social media manager whilst juggling the three – I think of the business as my 4th baby.

  • Reply Rebecca February 10, 2019 at 5:27 pm

    Aw thanks for this Clemmie. I have two kids 2.5 and 4.5 and we find ourselves on the brink of ‘do we do a third or not?’ I don’t like pregnancy or labour (!) but I love sniffing baby heads and breastfeeding!!! I like your comment about ‘for the adventurous’ cos I am!! 🙂 then the comment about finding someone to watch 3 kids being impossible… just pondering that some more!

    • Reply Jessica February 12, 2019 at 8:12 am

      Go for it Rebecca! You certainly will not regret it although it is hard work x

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