How expecting your fourth kid is different from expecting your first

photo-260We survived the holidays, including the 10-hour car trip both ways to Indiana. It was not as bad as it could have been, and seeing the kids have so much fun with their cousins made it all worthwhile. With Christmas and New Year’s behind us, now there’s nothing left before the next big family event: the baby.

Yes, if everything goes well (hopefully), I should be welcoming my fourth baby in the next few weeks. It is all slightly surreal. I can look in the mirror and see I look hugely pregnant. I feel him moving around. I have scheduled a break from some recurring professional commitments. I ordered a big box of newborn-sized diapers, which just arrived.

And yet the fact that there will be another little person around here is easy to forget in the rhythm of daily life. The thing about having your fourth kid is that there are three other little kids around the house, occupying any mental capacity that exists beyond work commitments and life maintenance. Time I might spend pondering the magnitude of all this is sucked up in helping the 7-year-old and 5-year-old put together the roughly 8 dozen Lego sets they got for Christmas (I am the Lego Queen. That is what they now call me. I have instituted a rule that they need to at least try spending 5 minutes solving any particular problem before they summon me. Not being able to find a piece is not a problem unless it is a really unique piece. They need to substitute a different color piece from their existing stash).

Here are some other ways having my fourth kid differs from having the first.

Kid #1: The hospital bag was packed for weeks.
Kid #4: Eh. I highly doubt I will actually go into labor spontaneously. I never did on the other 3, so I’ll schedule an induction, which means I can pack the night before. I would love to be proved wrong on this, but I’m banking on experience over hope.

Kid #1: We hired a decorator to create a lovely blue/brown and wild-animal themed nursery out of the former dining room in our New York City apartment.
Kid #4: I have no idea where he’s going to sleep. In theory, I have a 5-bedroom house, but the kids all like their own rooms (which are full of non-baby-friendly Legos), and my husband took over the 5th bedroom as his office, and there are enough upsides of having him work from home that I’m not going to kick him out. So someone’s going to wind up sharing. But who? Stay tuned! This is not going to be worked out anytime soon, but I have a bassinet to shuffle the kid around in.

Kid #1: We had the name picked out for months.
Kid #4: Maybe I’ll use the time in the hospital to make a decision.   

Kid #1: I had lots of baby clothes and furniture, but no feeding paraphernalia. I mean, the whole thing with nursing is you just stick the kid on, right?
Kid #4: I feel like in nursing three babies I’ve figured out how to run a small dairy operation. Pump as soon as your milk comes in so you get ahead of the game and overproduce so if you miss a feeding later you don’t under-produce, etc. Try not to moo.

Kid #1: When I did finally get a pump, I put my baby’s picture in the little photo holder.
Kid #4: Apparently, I’ll be pumping for kid #4 with a picture of kid #1 in there. I still haven’t gotten around to changing it.

Kid #1: People who hire baby nurses are crazy!
Kid #4: Call me crazy. My husband travels a lot for work, and I can get upset about that and insist he quit, or I can hire someone to help overnight. The latter is cheaper.

Kid #1: I listened to people who responded to my mentioning continuing to do X, Y, or Z post-baby with “Oh, just you wait. You’ll feel different about everything once he arrives!”
Kid #4: Sure, life changes after having kids, but if you know yourself, you know yourself. I love what I do for a living, and my professional goals haven’t changed. Indeed, the kids have helped them along, since I’m not sure how much people would buy my “time management guru” identity if I wasn’t also managing a passel of children. I love long runs for solo time, so I’ve kept that in my life too. Some peripheral stuff falls off, and I’m not as social as I used to be, but whatever really matters to you can stay, whether you have one kid or an ever-expanding brood.

If you have more than one kid, what changed from the first to the later ones?

21 thoughts on “How expecting your fourth kid is different from expecting your first

  1. Oh, I love this! We didn’t decide on the name for our third until we left the hospital. Granted, we had it down to two options. But we decided we would need to actually see the child first.

    And I so, so, so agree with your last point. I am still who I am, even with kids.

    1. @Tana – we’ve narrowed it down, too, but the final decision will have to be game-time. I just thought of another difference between kid #1 and kid #4 — I now look older than the mom on the diaper box.

  2. I could enjoy the newborn stage much more the seond (and third and fourth) times around. I wasn’t so anxious about…everything. And I knew the sleeplessness wouldn’t last forever, so it wasn’t quite to daunting as the unknowns of the first time.

    My husband just took our three older kids to North Carolina for several days and I just had our 6 week old. It was bliss! Felt like vacation:)

  3. Laura, I loved reading this! You have three beautiful children and I can’t wait to meet Kid #4.

    43 years ago, Nurse Trail, our Scottish midwife, told us all we really needed was an empty bureau drawer and some blankets to welcome our baby home. Your brother did have a carri-cot but he spent much of his first six months as a wanderer without a room of his own.

  4. We’ve just got the one, but having lived through the teenage years with my stepkids and knowing that they had survived their entire childhoods with my DH (and his then-wife) raising them — i.e., he had a clue — made me, I think, much more blasee than many moms of first babies are. Worrying about the things one worries about with teenagers made the things one worries about with healthy full-term infants seem mostly dull, to me.

    We have a 3br house, but ours had only our br to sleep in (in a hand-me-down bassinet and then a crib purchased on Craigslist) for the first ~15 months of his life. We had our house remodeled about the same time he was born (doh!) and the entire front end was torn up (no kitchen — well, a microwave and a fridge, on the exposed subflooring of the living room), and all its furniture crammed into the 2 brs that weren’t ours (the remodel didn’t take 15 months, but our moving the furniture back in to the renovated space did). A lovely and well-intentioned co-worker kept insisting that I had to get DS out of our room because moving him was going to ruin his sleep and in fact the opposite proved true — that was the point where he started sleeping through the night reliably. Which helped convince me that there’s no need to create problems before they happen, just deal with them as they arise (I’m sure her advice was based on experience, just experience with a different kid!).

    I look forward to reading about your new arrival and how your family and life do and don’t change.

    1. @Alexicographer – Agreed on not creating problems before they happen. Also, I’m on a parenting list where one of the most popular phrases is YMMV: your mileage may vary. I think it’s a good approach to this, and when someone occasionally gets on a soapbox, they are gently prodded back to this mindset. Kids are their own little people, just like adults, and what works for one (strict sleep schedule!) totally backfires with another.

  5. well, our second kid has just started solids at 5 and a bit months. I remember being quite anxious about for my first. My second, her first official food was the crust off a loaf of garlic bread… Needless to say, her response was a bit like ‘Food!! Where have you been all my life?!’

    1. @Zenmoo – ha. I remember my second’s first bite of ice cream. The blissed out look on his face (captured by photo) pretty much sums it up. Milk and pureed bananas are one thing. But this? *This* is the life.

  6. Laura – I loved this and could totally relate, what with expecting #4 myself. By the time I was 5 months pregnant with my first, I had ready every pregnancy book there was and already started making a VERY detailed list of all the supplies, etc that we would need. At this point with #4, I can say in all honesty that I have done literally nothing other than attend all the requisite prenatal appointments and let family, friends and work colleagues know…Well, I guess that’s not totally true. I DID create a fairly detailed proposal of how to handle projects at work during my planned mat leave (which will also be shorter than all the others, but then again I’m in Canada, so shorter still means about 6 months!). However, in terms of supplies and personal life, nothing…And lest you think that I have tons of supplies from my other 3 kids, let’s just say that they didn’t come out in the best of condition, so a revamp will definitely be necessary!

    Oh, and I’m still in need of good boy name suggestions, if you (or anybody else) has any. I like Biblical names…

    1. @Rinna- thanks! Yeah, not all our supplies are in great condition. I just figure I’ll solve various problems (onesies, bottles, etc.) when I come to them. Plus, I’ll have various helpful people around, and an easy way for people to help is to send them to the store for things.

  7. Congratulations! Life will only get better! Best wishes for physical health for the new baby & mental health for you, ha ha 🙂

  8. As another mom expecting her fourth child this month, I loved this post. It reminded me I need to figure out my breast pump options since I rented previously.

    We, too, don’t have a room and we have a 3 bedroom house, with the den/office already converted to bedroom use. She’ll be in our room for awhile.

    My favorite starter food is plain puffed rice/wheat. They slobber on their hands and puffed rice, in particular, sticks well enough for them to eat it before their pincer grasp is very good.

    1. @Twin Mom- looking forward to hearing about your impending arrival! And I’ll have to try the puffed rice thing. I’ve done Cheerios most of the time before…

  9. Congrats! Very curious to hear about how your night nurse experience goes. I’ve always wondered how helpful that is for a nursing mom. If it’s a positive experience, it might make me much more receptive to the thought of a second child!!

    Good luck!!

    1. @The frugal ecologist – so yes, if you’re nursing, you still have to be the one nursing the baby. But that’s all you have to do. If the kid is fussy, someone else can rock him while you sleep, and get him to the 2-3 hour mark. And if you have other kids, it’s another set of hands to deal with a potentially fussy baby while you do bedtime routines with the others. If my husband were only gone from 9 to 5 daily after a multi-week paternity leave, I probably wouldn’t spring for it, but I don’t really picture that being the way this will all work out. Of course, as for whether or not to have a second kid — that’s a whole different can of worms!

      1. I’m also curious as to how your night nurse experience goes. I didn’t do it for my first 3 but am seriously considering for #4. Frankly, I’m just feeling too old to be up that much at night. Also, I don’t feel as committed to exclusive breastfeeding this time around. So maybe I will transition to formula (or pumped milk) at night after the first few weeks, in which case a night nurse could probably be amazing. Have you used one before?

  10. Huh. I don’t remember doing much of any of that with #1. Fascinating. Perhaps by the time my 4th comes along (as if) I’ll be allowing him/her to juggle knives in the well baby nursery.

    How much does a night nurse cost?

  11. 1st baby – didn’t let her out of my sight @ the hospital

    2nd baby – begged the nurses to take her to the nursery for just 2 hours so we could sleep 😉

    +1 to still being able to do fun stuff after kids. I had a lot of people snickering at the fact that I’d still have time for crafting, BOTH times. But man, I’d be so unhappy without it.

    Hope you’re feeling good!

    1. @ARC – you are my poster girl for making time for artistic passions! And yes, by kid #3, I definitely thought she needed a little time in the nursery during the night. When I had kid #1, my roommate in the hospital had just had her fifth, and it was totally her “me” time, such as it could be. That baby was dispatched straight back to the nursery as soon as he’d eaten, and then she’d call her girlfriends on her cell phone.

  12. I’m the 3rd child of 4 and we laugh at my parents different baby albums for us:

    Child 1: a daily photo with every detail in her baby album filled in, locks of hair, hospital bracelets, the book is immaculate.

    Child 2: less frequent photos that some are stuck in but most just tucked in the album ready to be arranged.

    Child 3: some photos in an envelope. Need to buy an album.

    Child 4: No album. No photos – just a few blurry ones us older siblings took… One photo is of Mum and Dad sleeping.

    1. @Heather – On photos, I have made plans to avoid what I know could be a source of consternation later in life for kid #4. We will at least do a photo book (and I’m commissioning a scrapbook/baby book from The Papercraft Lab), and will get “official” family photos taken once baby hits peak cuteness. When we did a formal portrait of the 3 kids this fall we didn’t buy the really big one, since it wouldn’t be that fun for kid #4 to be constantly looking at this giant portrait he couldn’t be part of (even though we knew he was coming). But yeah, he won’t have much in the way of cute new baby clothes or toys. The bassinet is currently located in his 3-year-old sister’s room, and I hope the pink birds all over the wall won’t threaten his masculinity or anything.

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