Everything is temporary. Everything is temporary. Everything is temporary.
This is the mantra I used to recite to myself after my first son was born, when he basically didn’t sleep for the first six months of his life. As I tried to find my footing as a new mom, I would tell myself what a friend who had recently had a newborn told me – “Everything is temporary.” It’s the same mantra I repeated when my second son was born, and my first was only 20 months old. As I nursed my newborn and my oldest, desperate for my attention, would dump crayons all over the floor despite my admonitions, I would remind myself that this phase would pass eventually. I would tell myself that every day, my boys would get older and at some point, I’d no longer be taking care of two babies.
In November, my husband and I found out that we were very unexpectedly expecting another baby, a son due in July. We thought we were done after our second, and though I mourned for a while the third child I had always imagined I would have, I knew it was the best decision for us at the time. There were several reasons that we made the decision to stop with two, but a major factor was the fact that I am a particularly whiny, miserable pregnant women. I wish I loved being pregnant like so many other mothers I know, but the fact is, I don’t. I’m not a fan of the lifestyle changes I have to make or the discomfort that comes with housing another human being in my body. Mainly though, I hate the worry. For someone who deals with anxiety on a regular basis, pregnancy is a real struggle. I can’t help but stress constantly. Will my choice to eat fish last night mean his IQ drops a point? Will the bath I took to calm my sciatic pain cause lifelong birth defects? I haven’t felt him move in over an hour, but maybe I just wasn’t paying attention? Basically, I’m a total mess for the whole nine months.
I know how lucky I am to be able to get pregnant without interventions and to carry healthy babies. I don’t take that for granted. But knowing that hasn’t made the concern go away. And this time around, I’m consumed by an even greater fear than the nerves that normally accompany my pregnancies – can I even handle a third child? I’m just working on figuring out this whole thing called parenting. Adding a baby to the mix is not something I’m sure I’m ready for. Everyone I know keeps telling me how difficult three will be, and it makes me wonder if I’m up for the challenge.
For the last eight months, these are the thoughts that have been circling in my brain, and my normal mantra of “everything is temporary” hasn’t really been getting the job done. Then, last Friday, I had a little wake-up call, a moment that gave me perspective again and helped me to remember that this all is so very, very temporary. I shared tears with a friend and colleague whose son, her first of three, was graduating from high school. She talked about facing this new chapter in her life, with only two at home and one away and wondered out loud what that change would look like. She vowed to enjoy these last two months with him before he moves on to college in the fall.
This moment with my friend reminded me of how fleeting this time really is. What I’m experiencing now, or in any moment, is very real, and it’s okay to acknowledge how difficult these phases are and to ask for help when I need it. But the amount of time, really, we spend pregnant, or with babies, or with our children at all is so short-lived. Each day, they get a little closer towards adulthood, towards leaving the nest and not needing us anymore. We need them to do this; we need them to get older, because pregnancy, babies and toddlers will wear out even the strongest of us. But at the same time, we should treasure these moments that we have with them, because they will be gone soon enough.
In light of this revelation, I’ve decided to focus more on the things I like about being pregnant, like feeling this little guy move inside of me or the sympathy I get from strangers in public. I’m also choosing to focus on the positives instead of the challenges of adding a third child to the mix. My little boys will be blessed with a new sibling, which means more love and fun and a new built-in best friend. For my husband and me, this change will mean we must adjust and learn to parent three kids instead of two, but we trust that God meant for this to happen and that we will find a way to rise to the occasion.
The luxury of having my third baby is I know what to expect this time around; I now have the perspective that each day gets a little easier. Just to be safe, I think I’ll frame my mantra and put it somewhere I can see it every day, so that I can be reminded when times get hard, that it’s all temporary, and that someday, I will miss this more than I can ever imagine.