1. Have Patience.
Just know that things are going to take a really long time. Getting in the car, getting out of the car, running a simple errand. Four people (at least!) now have to get in and out of the car each time. But it’s okay. It’s just time. You’ll get there.
And the kids need patience too. Especially when, once you’ve finally reached your destination, the baby needs to nurse or needs a diaper change. Now everyone has to wait for one person. And with more people in the car, it’s more likely that one person will need something (bathroom break, water, etc) at each errand. It’s okay. Patience.
2. Be Organized and Have a Schedule.
In the first weeks, I actually started leaving twenty minutes early for preschool drop-off for my oldest child, so I had time to nurse and change the baby’s diaper, so that when we returned home, he’d be napping and I could spend some time with my middle child. Whew! And outings took some effort at first. Bags have to be packed, diapers changed, snacks packed, and nursing completed..before I even think about strapping anyone into car seats. My mind is always racing; what task do I do first to make this transition go quickly?
And oh, do I love our schedule. We know what we’re doing and when and that makes transitions so much easier, especially during these summer months.
3. Give Every Child Their Own Attention.
Each child requires a different type of attention, and giving that individualized attention takes up a lot of the day, but that’s okay. Yes, we can read a book. Yes, we can sit and snuggle. Yes, you can come sit with me. But also…you have to give the baby space because he’s nursing. You can hold him only with an adult’s permission and supervision. You have to wait a few more minutes because he’s having his milk. Everyone has to be a little more patient, because now there’s one more person whose needs have to be filled.
4. Give Yourself Permission to Hibernate.
This one has always been so hard for me. To let go of my work, to not pick up the phone, to not socialize for awhile. But when the third baby arrives, there is so much going on within the home, that in the first few weeks almost everything else has to fade away. For the first time in my life, I didn’t pick up the phone each time it rang. I didn’t have any visitors (other than grandparents) for the first almost three weeks. I just let myself fall deep into home mode, snuggling with my children, reading books, going to bed early, (and of course being up at all hours for feedings,) watching a movie every so often and allowing myself to heal from the surgery, enjoy the new baby, and relax. And you know what? It was so much fun.
5. Watch Your *New* Middle Child.
I have kept a very close eye on my newly appointed middle child, my daughter. She’s nurturing and thrilled about her new brother, but seemed displaced for the first month or so. As I recovered from my c-section, I couldn’t pick her up, (for weeks!) and it broke my heart. In the beginning, I said to her, “I miss you,” and she said, “I miss you so much.” Heartbreak!
I’ve let her nap with me at times, and come into our bed at night when she wants. When I was resting, she’d come find me upstairs, just to tell me something or bring me a toy. She needed to know I was available to her.
6. Trust that Change is Good.
This one is especially true for my daughter now, and was true of my son as well, when she was born. Because recovery from a c-section is intense for a couple of weeks, the kids had to rely on someone else, namely, my husband, to tend to things I normally would, such as bathtime, bedtime, and trips out of the house. And while at first she cried because she didn’t want to be with him, soon, she adapted to this change, and was happy to tag along with him on morning errands. I missed her, but I watched her get slightly more independent and slightly less reliant on being with me all the time. It’s bittersweet.
7. Accept Help- Give Into the Village.
People may ask if they can bring you dinner, your husband may be gentler and more patient, your parents may ask to come and do your laundry or watch the older children. Oh, say yes! It will give you more time to recover and even though it’s your third baby, you still need time to enjoy the little one, recover your body and pamper yourself a little. You’ve certainly earned it! And acknowledge the village. Now, when we go to the pool, we meet someone there and split up the kids; bigs and littles. I’m seeing now more than ever that we parents have to help each other. You can take my child to the bathroom and I can give your child a snack. Someone once called it the “mom code” or something…but I get it now, more than ever.
8. Do Some Things That Scare You.
Scared of going to Target with all three children? Just go. Get a few things and go home. Scared of the grocery store? Go ahead and go out just to get milk. Once you do a few things you’re afraid of, you’ll get more confidence. And confidence is key!
9. Trust Your Partner.
Three kids and one parent is tough. Three kids and two parents? Much easier. But that means each spouse has to be 100% confident in taking care of the children, and both spouses have to trust the other. Teamwork and communication is so crucial with three so one parent isn’t completely overwhelmed with responsibility.
10. Give Yourself Grace!
This one is the most important, I think. There has to be grace. In the first few weeks, there may be more tv watching. Kids snacks may be more unhealthy than usual. It’s okay. You’re exhausted. You’re recovering. You’ll get through it and you’ll find a new normal. And you’ll find that somewhere along the way, your third baby will seamlessly find his role in your family.