Whenever I see friends and family these days, the first thing out of their mouths is, “So…how is it going with three kids?” They ask the way you might ask someone who just survived a natural disaster, “So…what was it like?”
I suppose that is apt considering some days I feel like the five of us are our own little tornado. We sweep into a room with a flurry of sound and chaotic activity and we leave a trail of destruction in our wake. I’m learning that a successful outing is possible, but requires careful strategizing. Let’s just say I really wish I had paid more attention when I read “The Art of War” in college.
Our first outing was to take Miren to a doctor’s appointment when she was a few days old. The doctor asked me how things were going and I replied in a cocky mother-of-three tone that things were fine. SO much easier the third time. Then I took off her diaper for a weigh-in and she promptly peed all over her only clean diaper, her only outfit, and her only coat. Apparently in my post-partum fog, I had failed to any pack provisions for this new member of our family.
On a date night a few weeks later, Robbie and I left the boys with generous friends while we took Miren to a fancy Italian restaurant (I’d like to pretend we are that romantic, but the truth is, we had a gift certificate). This time we had learned to pack provisions, but then we promptly left those provisions in the diaper bag with the boys. We realized it as we sat down to eat, but figured What’s the worst that can happen in one hour when you have an easy baby like Miren?
You all know where this story is going, right? Halfway through the meal, she pooped like she had never pooped before, right out of that only diaper and only outfit. Robbie had her up on his shoulder and everyone in the restaurant was making googly faces at her as a bright yellow squash blossom bloomed on her back. I attempted to remedy the situation by giving him a handful of paper towels from the bathroom, but somehow coating your newborn in paper towels does not make you look any more competent.
Not long after this incident, I was forced to do my first day all alone with all three kids. Of course, it happened to fall on Emerson’s winter break, so no school to help me out. And we had scheduled a white cane training appointment with the boys’ vision therapist at the mall – a mall packed with people thanks to the aforementioned winter break. We made quite a scene: two white-haired kids wielding large sticks pushing through the crowds while a teacher tries in vain to yell out instructions. I’m trailing behind with a baby strapped to my chest and a giant diaper bag strapped to my back (provisions – check), all the while drunkenly steering an empty double stroller and begging them not to take out anyone’s kneecaps.
As I collapsed onto the couch later that afternoon, I thought, “Sometimes you have to learn by fire. It can only go up from here.”
For once, I was right.
I’ve streamlined my system, learned my limitations, and increased my confidence. As my Facebook friends know, I even did Ikea by myself with all three kids last week. And I lived to tell the tale.
(To be fair, my husband took all three to Detroit’s Eastern Market last Saturday by himself, which is even more impressive than Ikea.)
The past two months have been a haze of visitors, endless snow, multiple rounds of colds and flus, leaking breasts, exhausting outings, night wakings (they tag team so that someone is always having a bad night), and of course, conveyor-belt diaper changes.
But when people ask me “So…how is it going with three kids?” I hear myself answer:
“It’s going great.”
I never thought I would love the newborn stage, but this time I do. It turns out, when you don’t have first-time parent anxiety (for the most part), when you don’t try to combine major life events like starting school or buying a house with having a baby, and when you don’t have to deal with colicky crying or reflux spit-up, the newborn stage is actually kind of awesome. Who knew?
There is one more factor that has made this post-partum period much easier than the first two times: our community. For the first six weeks, we had a friend or family member staying with us and helping almost all the time. We also received a huge outpouring of meals, baby gifts, babysitting, etc. Within an hour of Miren’s birth, a little boy who lives a couple houses down showed up at our door to ask if he could shovel the thick layer of snow that had blanketed the driveway. Every time I looked out the window after a snow storm for the next month, a different neighbor was already out there with a shovel.
I think I have written over 50 thank you cards and there are still more to be done. Being on the receiving end of so much love is truly humbling. Having such a supportive community for Miren to grow up in is truly a blessing.
In the past couple of weeks, however, the magical cocoon of post-partum recovery has finally come off. The guests are long gone. We have to shovel our own snow and cook our own meals again. I spend every day alone with the kids and Robbie takes over at night so I can take three classes. Chores have to get done, bills paid, and long-neglected projects restarted.
As the youngsters say:
Sh@#’s about to get real, yo.
But I’m not scared. I’ve got a strategy….and a lot of spare diapers.