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.