He made me put three different superhero outfits on the stuffed dog before deciding on ‘Spider Pup.’ Plus, a carrier, one bowl of dog food, a six piece vet kit ‘so I can give him check up,’ and the $2 cookie at the register. Stuff I NEVER would have allowed my first two children to purchase. I’ve actually never taken them to the Build-A-Bear I was now leaving with my three-year-old son.
Today is his birthday. And, let’s be honest…
He’s my third baby.
Third and last.
We have closed the door on adding to our family. And suddenly all those Disney commercials and American Girl catalogs I tried to hide from my older kids these last seven years are things I actually want to do. Like now—and fast! Soon they’ll be smacking their gum and texting their friends how annoyed they are to spend Friday night with their mom. They won’t be cute or snuggly, or ask me to curl up next to them on the couch to watch another (terrible) My Little Pony cartoon. So, I better enjoy them right now.
This shift in perspective is one of many reasons popping out my third baby—in less than five years—absolutely changed my life. Not for the obvious diapers, less me time, more snacks kind of way, but for the slow your roll change that I desperately needed in my life.
Here are a few other ways having a third baby, truly, saved my life.
I stopped working. This was a big one. I had finished my masters in creative writing a few years earlier and just gotten my dream job as a lead copywriter for a retailer that I loved. There were brainstorms and photo shoots and visits to Amish country to meet furniture makers and then—boom! I got pregnant. With a boy. Because when you’re ‘advanced maternal age’ you pretty much find out the sex during your first OB visit. With three kids under the age of 5, building a new home and starting a farm, it was too much for both of us to continue working at full speed.
I stopped moving. The frog pose, the rocking to sleep, the little hand tucked inside of mine every time we walk, will be the last time it happens. (Until I have grandkids…gulp.) The urgency to slow the f**k down and savor the baby smell isn’t just for the baby. I ache for my older children to be still. My oldest loves to be tucked in like a burrito. His head hits that pillow and he tells me every single detail about his day. My middle child, the only girl, still likes to sing (and dance to) Old Mac Donald before bed. She also remembers to bow her head and pray. The baby spoons his little body against mine as we lie down and read the same Goodnight Gorilla book each night. The bedtime routine that used to not come soon enough is now not so bad. They still need me. They still want me. I’m still their ‘best friend.’
I stopped judging. Holy Moses this is NOT easy. I am big on healthy eating. Bigger on an organized house. And don’t even get me started on video games and screen time. But then I stopped looking at what all these other kids and their moms are doing and starting taking in how they feel about each other. Myself included. No more beating myself up for not sticking to all the (stupid) rules, but taking a BIG step back to look at what really matters. Do they feel loved? Are they a good human? Did they smile often today? My son knows how to admit when he’s wrong and apologize at the age of 7. My daughter can read books and she’s not even in kindergarten. My youngest has an incredible, mildly inappropriate, sense of humor and he just turned 3.
I stopped planning. Sure, I have a white board with a list of activities, birthday parties, family trips, but sometimes you need to cancel swim lessons because the kids are exhausted. Or, it’s sunny in Cleveland and they want to hit up the playground. Or, you know leaving the house with all three could possibly land you in jail because you have hit your max and it’s not even noon. On a big picture, heartbreaking, hold-your-breath kind of reminder—tomorrow isn’t guaranteed for everyone. Think about the little warriors you know personally or see in the GoFundMe forward who are sick and would move mountains just to ride a bike outside. Every day is a gift.
I started to enjoy life. Not always in ways that appear enjoyable to me, but trying to be more of a participant than a viewer in my kids’ activities. When the littles want to swim in our goose-infested pond, I put on my bathing suit and get in. It’s freezing and my daughter called my pregnancy scars ‘cute’ last week, but look at me swimming!
We try new ice cream shops that are out of the way, wear wet clothes home when we find a splash pad accidentally, and eat cereal for dinner when we need to squeeze in a quick meal. Some days are awesome and others make me question why we left the house in the first place.
I don’t know if it was more of a perspective change or a survival switch that flipped when I had my third. But, I don’t have time to get everyone in their matching Gap outfits or even out of their pajamas when my oldest needs to get to school by 7:45 a.m. The ipad keeps the youngest from wondering into a parking lot during baseball games. And the food I said would never be eaten in the car keeps my kids alive.
Maybe you don’t have kids. Maybe you feel this way already. Maybe having one opened your eyes to all there is to be thankful for. But today, my third baby turned 3. We spent almost 100-American dollars at Build-A-Bear. That might be why I’m crying as I write this post. Though, I’m pretty sure it’s because this little man saved my life. I may have brought him and his two siblings into this world, but they certainly gave me life.
Happy Birthday Vanzilla. I’m so thankful to be your mama.