One kid, two kid, old kid, new kid

Since Alexandra arrived, people have asked me what the transition from two to three is like, if it is the similar to the transition from one to two. In my experience, the transition to each child has been different.

When Katherine was born, I had no idea who she was and it was a complete life change to have a baby in our home. I loved her even before she came out, but it was a primal type of love, an overwhelming need to protect her and care for her. It was only looking back after a few months, a year, two years that I realized the “new-born love” was different from the love that had deepened so much over time.

When I was pregnant with Clara, I wondered if I would truly love her as much as I loved Katherine. I knew Katherine, I had no idea who this new baby would be. Of course I loved Clara right away as I loved Katherine right away, but being the second child, it was different. Katherine was so familiar to me and she was also all I knew when it came to babies. And Clara wasn’t Katherine, so Clara seemed unfamiliar. Again, though in a different way, it took time for our bond to grow, but it did. However, an aspect of going from one to two that I was unprepared for was the sense of loss of no longer having an only child. My close bond with Katherine was disrupted and I wondered if we would ever find that closeness again (we did). On top of that, I felt guilty that I felt a loss with the arrival of the new baby. I suppose there is something very special about the first baby, something a mother doesn’t have time to savor with subsequent children. But seeing the relationship Katherine and Clara have as sisters far outweighs the sense of loss I felt at the beginning.

The transition from two to three has been entirely different. Having been through wondering if I would love #2 as I loved #1, I never doubted that I would love #3 just as much. I also didn’t feel any sense of loss, I knew the big sisters would (eventually) love having a new sibling. I had strategies for dealing with sibling jealousy. And I trusted that #3 was meant to be a part of our family in the same way Katherine and Clara were meant to be. With those uncertainties out of the way, Alexandra has eased right into our family. The challenge this time has been almost exclusively logistical. How do we do bath and bedtime with three kids and two parents? How do I prepare lunch for two hungry kids, change a blow out, nurse a screaming baby, and break up fights between the big sisters all at the same time? And why does the cat chose this moment to puke up the rubber bands someone must have left out on the counter? What do I deal with first? These paralyzing moments are my challenge now.

I have heard that any big family transition takes one year. I would say that is true. So by next February I should have the three-kid thing figured out.