On Expecting a Fourth Child

Room for another?

In my last post, I announced that we’re expecting our fourth child in early June. This may have surprised some of you, but not as much as it surprised us! That’s right; if it wasn’t already obvious, this child was a WHOOPS!

Let me be clear right away that I’m totally aware of what an unfair blessing it is to conceive a child without trying. So, when I say that this child was a WHOOPS!, I don’t mean that we aren’t happy to be expecting, or that we don’t already love this baby.

It’s just taking me a while to process.

I had convinced myself that we were through having children. I’d laid out all sorts of rational arguments against having a fourth child. I’d even written down my logical progression from wanting a fourth child to wanting a dog, and that story made up the bulk of my last post. If the ending of that post seems abruptly tacked on, that’s because IT WAS. I wasn’t expecting to be expecting. The big news was supposed to be the dog.

But, here we are.

When you’re pregnant with your first, second, or even third child, people are so happy for you. “Congratulations!” they squeal.

When you’re pregnant with your fourth child, most people aren’t quite sure whether to congratulate you. “Wow,” they whisper, and their eyes get really big and scared, like you’ve just told them that you’re starting a cult — which, in some ways, I guess you are.

And when you’re pregnant with your first, second, or even third child, it can be such a fun and creative thing to figure out how to break the news to your husband. When I found out I was expecting Campbell, Fiona handed Erick a little jar with two pickles in it — get it? Because we were going to have TWO pickles in our family.

Here’s how it went with #4. Scene: Dawn. Erick sitting on our bedroom floor, checking his email.

ME (emerging from bathroom): Um, so, I think I might be pregnant.

ERICK: You’re SERIOUS?!?

Four children seem a little…excessive. We will now have no extra room in our minivan, no empty seats at the dining room table. And I can’t even imagine how much MILK we’ll go through in a week. (Note to self: Need larger refrigerator, stat). Erick has pointed out that, if we ever want to get those little personalized stick-figure family decals for the rear windshield of our van, we’re close to running out of space.

I feel guilty: Guilty about our family’s combined carbon footprint. Guilty because we’re contributing to overpopulation. Erick tells me not to worry, that in his professional opinion as a PhD-holding economist, our family won’t make a significant difference in these problems. But I know that if everybody thought that way, we’d be in trouble. And most people DO think that way.

Also, I feel anxious: Anxious about having to go through the whole pregnancy/childbirth/newborn thing AGAIN. Anxious about where we’re going to put one more child. Anxious that this baby will be a BOY (we aren’t finding out) — what will we do with a BOY?!? Anxious that Erick and I will never have another date night for the next decade, because frankly, I think four children (and a dog) is even a little too much for the grandparents to babysit.

I’ve written before about my tendency to add things like children, chickens, and dogs to our lives, motivated by the adage that “You can never have too many things to love.” Although this fourth baby wasn’t an intentional addition, it’s reminded me that another good (but hard) reason to add things is this: It keeps me from any illusion that I’m in control.

I grew up in a pretty controlled environment. I was an only child, and the only pet I had (aside from some fish that cooked when the aquarium heater malfunctioned) was an outdoor cat who didn’t like us very much. So, for the first half of my life, I honestly believed that it was possible to be in control of your life; it was possible to have a spotless house, clean clothes, neat hair, and perfect grades. This kind of thinking caused me endless trouble and anxiety, because the implication is that if you’re not in total control of your life, you’re failing.

When you have three (almost four) children and a puppy, it is impossible to be in total control. Erick likes to say that we’re “Beta Parents:” parents who admire some of the IDEAS of alpha parenting (like teaching your child a foreign language, practicing flashcards, serving only organic foods, and using cloth diapers), but are just too exhausted and burnt to actually follow through. Kiddo Four will cement our status as Beta Parents. Family creed: “Sometimes, a B is just good enough.”

You can either see that as a freak-out-worthy situation, or you can see it as freeing. I’m trying to choose the latter. (Some days I choose it better than others).

So, bring it on Kiddo Four. We are waiting to love you in our own imperfect, not-in-control way. I hope you like dogs, and sisters.

20 responses »

  1. It’s not that bad! you’ll have one seatbelt left in your minivan for a friend and then (I can’t believe we’re already in this stage) your oldest will be able to sit in the front and leave 2 empty seats in the back! They’ll get old enough to stop drinking SO much milk (although they start eating more at the same time) and you learn to just cook a LOT of food all the time. I remember the night when one box of spaghetti and one jar of sauce wasn’t enough. Now we just make more. Eating out is more special than it used to be…..They all get to think about others even that much more when there are 4 kids instead of 3. A party all the time. It will never be boring!
    I love having a bunch of kids now. I always wanted a lot. HOWEVER the pregnancy, childbirth, newborn part was so hard for me. I didn’t plan to be pregnant more than twice. So when I “accidently” was pregnant the 3rd time, still nursing a 6 month old, I cried for a month. I get that feeling. It’s so overwhelming. You’ll make it, friend!

    • Thanks so much for the encouragement, Shea! You’ve always made four look manageable. Any graphs/flowcharts/battle plans that you have would also be helpful 😉 We miss you guys!

  2. We’re feeling much the same about losing control with kid #3 on the way. If yours is a boy and doesn’t grow faster than ours, we’ll be happy to pass on some hand-me-downs….

    • Aw, thanks Annie! If ours is a boy, I may just take you up on that. The odds of any child of ours ever exceeding the 25th %ile for growth are pretty slim!

  3. Pingback: How Many Children Should You Have? | THE PICKLE PATCH

  4. Why are you freaking out if you don’t want any more kids go get your self fixed and your husband too. One more is one more you have a Minnie van what’s the big deal kids grow fast soon there will be more room in your precious car. Add a room to your home or give up your own room to your kids. Adapt to the situation you created stop blaming the poor child for your own actions. I’m on my fourth baby and I dont think like you. I knew what I was doing that got me pregnant. My husband took our truck back to the dealer and got us a suv. We need a bigger apartment we know that but the baby is small so we have time for that. Or we just buy a home and add a room. My husband knows he will have to make more $$$ but that doest scare him. I just don’t understand why it has to be so chaotic to have another child be blessed millions of people can’t have kids!!!!!! Adapt to the situation that you!!!!!!! Created!!!!!!

    • Gracie, our fourth child is now over a year old, and we wouldn’t trade her for the world. I think if you re-read my post, you’ll see that nobody is “blaming” the child, failing to adapt, or not appreciating the blessing. I wrote this when I was feeling some apprehension about adding another child — a feeling that I believe is completely normal for most expectant parents, no matter how blessed they also feel, and no matter how much they recognize that they “created” the situation. Grace (like your name!) is allowing people to have the feelings that they have, and I hope that by writing this when I did, it’ll help other expectant mothers who may be experiencing similar feelings. Best of luck with your fourth baby!

      • I googled something about expecting a fourth. I came on your post. Thank you. You touched on all my sentiments. With a bit of humor. Thank you for writing it. Despite what others opinions are. “Opinions” everyone has one.

        Thanks again.

  5. So I was anxiously googling when I found this post. I rarely comment on anything online but you nailed my feelings and thoughts to a “T”. I am currently breast feeding my 14month old 3rd girl my other 2 girls are 3 & 4. My husband is abroad in Europe visiting family as he is from another country. And I just found out our “whoops” while he is away and I am nearly losing my mind. I’m not sure i should tell him while he is abroad or not… His mother is sick that’s why he is abroad. I worry about our carbon footprint too and we just bought a fuel efficient mitsubishi outlander two years ago and now I’m like how ?!! With 4!!! I worry about being a good mother…. About devoting enough love and attention and making them all feel happy. I worry about the fact that we live in a small house (2 bedroom) and I’m like “totally freaking out” lol……. I know how babies are made too as I wanted a fourth but just spaced out more… I love spending time wih my littlest she is soooo joyous (as are the other two but being older they are more indpendent) sorry for rambling but you comforted me. I just don’t know how or when to tell anyone and I know they are all going to look at me like “what the $&?!@” but really it’s about life and our family not them….

    • Congratulations, Laura! You know, it’s been a while since I wrote that post: My fourth daughter is almost 2-and-a-half now. And I have to say, I LOVE having four children! Sure, it can be extremely noisy, tiring, and chaotic, but it’s also amazing how you adjust; four children really doesn’t seem like all that many at this point. In fact, my 2nd daughter has been lobbying pretty hard for a 5th child lately (“I really like lots of kids,” “It’s great to have more playmates,” and “I love babies” have been her big selling points) and I have to admit that I was almost open to it. ALMOST 🙂 I hope your pregnancy is smooth and healthy, and that you all enjoy baby #4. And try not to worry about the car and the house and the love, etc etc — you will have just enough. It will be okay.

  6. I’m 40 years old and expecting our fourth and I loved this post. Ours was also a surprise. While I could never be unhappy about a baby I have definitely experienced the same feelings of apprehension wondering if I was up to the task financially, mentally, and physically. Thank you for sharing and helping me process my own feelings and realize everything is going to be okay.

  7. Thank you so much for writing this….I’m terrified! We were told we couldn’t have any more children and then God said, “I’m bigger than doctors” and poof I’m pregnant. I rationally know that we will be fine but the alpha to beta family thing really hit home. Plus, I do not have the luxury of being a SAHM. Thank you for your honesty and making me feel a little like I’m not alone. I love our baby already but it doesn’t mean I’m not scared. Much Love…Kristy

    • Congratulations, Kristy! So, I’m responding to you on a day when child #4 had a stomach bug, and children #1-3 were all home for a snow day, but STILL: Of course you’re scared. That’s probably exactly why you’ll do just fine. (I mean, on many days you won’t, but that’s true of all of us!) And I have to say that, 3 years later, we feel like “What’s the big deal about 4 children? We could even handle MORE!” Okay, that might be getting ahead of ourselves, but all this to say: You adjust, and what seems scary now will soon feel normal — crazy, but normal. I wish you and your family all the very best!

  8. I stumbled upon this as I am in the san whoops baby number 4 thing now. My kids have all been whoopsy babies and I loved them from that start but this 4th child thing is freaking me out. It’s just bad timing, I almost had all my kids in school, but when my current youngest goes to preschool I’ll have a newborn, definitely feeling a bit stressed wondering the same things you did. On top of all that my stepdad my children’s father not grandpa has cancer and odds aren’t on his side. I haven’t even told anyone aside from bffs and the hubs. I don’t even know how to break the news to my family who will likely be shocked.

  9. Congrats. I just found out I am having our fourth and I am not sure how to break it to my husband. I hope he will be as happy as me since I always said four is my goal. But my mother has chimed in after my third that she doesnt want more grandkids she has 12 So i am scared to say anything to anyone congrats on your baby i hope my husband is as excited as you and your husband. Wish me luck

  10. Hello and congrats on the kiddo four. We are going thru the same, out smallest one is 14 months and just found out our #4 is on the way.

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