The Fourth ChildIn January of 2014 we got exciting news...we were pregnant with our fourth baby. She was a big surprise but nothing we couldn't handle. Julia had just turned 6, Mark was 4, and Micah was 10 months old. I was just getting used to our family of 5 and now had to come to terms with quickly becoming a family of 6.
Many people don't realize this but I had always wanted a big family. Growing up I imagined getting married and living on a farm and having 5 or 6 kids, horses, chickens, a dog, a cat and maybe a big fat pig named Wilbur. But after I started teaching I stopped dreaming so much and really fell in love with my students and the life of a teacher.
Once we finally were ready for kids we already knew we wanted a daughter named Julia and a son named Mark. I think after God answered those prayers I didn't even imagine anything past 2 kids until my heart felt very empty and like something was missing from our family. At first we were so busy with two kids it didn't bother me that much, but when Mark turned 2 that feeling of wanting more kids really became ever present.
Mark turned 3 years old in 2012 and in 2013...Micah was born!
Three kids was no joke! So finding out we were having a 4th shortly after Micah was born was quite terrifying at first. Here are some things I wish we'd known before Amelia was born.
1. I wish someone would've told me that the laundry quadruples! Oh. My. Word. I am a clean person. I like clean clothes. I like a clean laundry room. But after having Amelia no matter how many loads of laundry I would do each day...I found that the laundry just took on a new life form. It just kept growing, and growing, and growing. And no matter how many lectures I gave the kids about wearing pjs more than once, or not putting clean clothes in the hamper that they didn't feel like putting away I was still washing laundry, folding laundry, and putting away laundry morning, noon, and night. Here's my Mommy tip: Do one load in the morning, dry it, fold it during nap time and have the older kids put it away. And at bedtime throw in one more. Tell the big kids you need help and that you are counting on them. My kids love to hear me compliment them and tell them I need them. They are always willing to help me (especially when I am desperate). Don't forget to tell them how much you appreciate their help!
2. I wish someone would've told me that asking for help is not considered a weakness. Since Micah was born we have had a cleaning lady come once or twice a month to deep clean. This sounds like a luxury but for us it's just what was the most practical thing we could've done. Between homeschooling, church ministries, sports, extracurricular activities, etc, there was no way I could do it all. And having a clean house is what gives me some type of sanity amongst all the noise, the 4 kids, and all the activity. It also allows us the freedom to host more events in our home. In the beginning I felt like my cleaning lady should be a secret and that I was somehow a bad mom for needing her. But now I tell people proudly (well I'm getting better at that) because although it's humbling to admit you can't do it all, it's also very freeing and very human. I'm not super mom. I'm just a very busy mom who's trying to do the best she can like every other mom.
3. I wish someone would've told me that after I had 4 it would take a lot longer to "bounce back." Listen up ladies. You can only be stretched so thin before you break. You can only pour out so much before you are running on empty. For me after having Julia I would say after a few months I had bounced back. It was hard getting into a rhythm and a schedule but by golly I did it...then Mark came and he just followed right with the schedule we had going. But the more kids you have the harder it is to keep everyone on schedule. The harder it is to meet everyone's different needs. It's this balancing act that really seems impossible at times. The meals, the cleaning, the no sleep at night, the questions, potty training, breast feeding, the diapers, Lord Jesus how can one do it all? Bouncing back gets harder because you start to lose brain cells or sleep cells, or...I don't know what it is.... but you lose it! Part of your sanity goes and as much as you try to line things up, keep things clean you have 4 little people breaking out of line, getting dirty, and cruising down the driveway with no helmet on! But fear not! You will bounce back, but it will just take some time. Don't compare yourselves to other moms, give yourself grace and remember you won't be able to do it all anymore. Some things you might have to let go of for awhile. But as time goes on, you can start to add things back in. Motherhood is a balancing act. Give yourself the time you need and couple that time with grace.
4. I wish I knew that my husband would become my biggest ally. I am so thankful that I married a man like John. He always seems to know when I have reached my full capacity and need a break. He then promptly whisks all 4 kids into the minivan and disappears to a park, a pizzeria, or his mom's house. This gives me a few solid hours to clean in the peace and quiet and "rest". This rest that we speak of consists of me sitting on the couch watching Kevin Hart or Love Actually or Parenthood on Netflix, drinking coffee or some red wine, and just decompressing. Moms very rarely decompress. Sometimes I get jealous that John gets to decompress for an hour and a half on the bus to work and another hour and a half on the way home from work. There is beauty in doing nothing. And I have found that after a busy week or weekend, sometimes it is ok to just sit and do absolutely nothing in the quiet slumber of the day or night. The fact that I have John who knows me better than anyone, who knows our kids and loves them, and is able to handle them the way that I can, is such a help to me. Without his help I really don't think I could make it.
5. I wish I would've known that my heart we burst yet again with an endless love for yet another baby. It truly is a miracle to bring a child into this world. With every hair on their head, every finger, every toe, the way they hold your finger so tightly, the way they need you and trust you, it is just amazing. The gift of being a parent is that you may have no experience, no training, no degree, but that sweet babe is yours. He or she might have your features, your temper, your laugh, your fears, and they will love you no matter what. That baby belongs to you. Your heart will swell with pride when they smile their first smile, bare their first tooth, say their first word, and take their first step. You will love them no matter what. If they kept you up all night. You will love them. If they spill their drink all over the table you will love them. If they jump on your leather couch (Micah) you will love them. If they ask you a million questions (Julia) you will love them. If they somehow always see the negative side of things (Mark) you will love them. If they say no when you ask them if they love you (Amelia) you will still love them. Because...they are yours. And you will have a lifetime of days to figure all of this out. And you will be thankful for each moment that God has given you with them.