I’ve seen a lot of posts lately come through my Facebook feed and online about the pros and cons of having a third baby, especially for mothers who are in their late thirties.
I had to make that decision as well, not long ago.
I already had to two healthy boys, who were born pretty close together, about 15 months apart. I had started having kids in my thirties due to professional school and my career (and later marriage than some).
My second son was about a year old when we started the debate. Should we have more kids? After all, there was still time.
My husband at the time (unfortunately, now my ex husband) was dead set against having more children.
He was ready to play with the kids that we had, and felt like another baby would just hold the whole family back.
He saw another baby as a burden, rather than a blessing.
And to some extent, he is right. Another baby when the rest of the family is ready to fly is a weight. You can take a baby along for the ride some of the time, and they do grow quickly.
But a pregnancy and the birth and the infant stage….that’s a lot of time. The other kids grow quickly, and you miss out on doing some things with them in order to make the newest member of the family a priority.
And just think about being pregnant AGAIN, this time in my late thirties.
I wasn’t young when I had my first babies, but it could only get worse, right? If I had another baby, I would officially be geriatric. Advanced maternal age. Subject to all sorts of genetic testing and extra ultrasounds.
Everyone said that babies later in life are harder to bounce back from. If I had another baby, I probably wouldn’t lose the weight easily, right? My breasts would sag to the floor and I would be a wreck of a mom, right?
I went back and forth with my husband for months about this.
But in the end….I just knew that there was a part of my heart that didn’t exist yet on earth. I’m not a religious person, or an overly spiritual person.
I just knew, as certain as I can be about anything, that I had one more thing to do in this world before my family was complete.
And eventually I wore my husband down, and less than a year later, I gave birth to a perfect baby girl.
Was having a third baby the right call?
I will never regret it. Never.
But having her had both positive and negative impacts on my life.
One of the first things that happened after my daughter was born is that my husband and I separated, and then got a divorce.
Turns out that our already struggling relationship couldn’t handle the stress of another pregnancy and child.
I don’t think I can pin point just one thing that was the cause of the end. It was a 100 million tiny things, then eventually became a big thing.
I think my husband resented the fact that I wanted another baby, and he resented the attention that I provided to the children and not to him.
And I don’t say this in a way that mocks his needs. Seriously. A marriage is a relationship that has needs. It has to be fed to survive. Before I had my daughter, I had the option to make saving my marriage a priority, or having another child a priority. I was being led by my heart, which was pulling me away from him and towards her.
Having a third child was probably the ax that killed my marriage.
If you are thinking of having a third baby, make your marriage a priority.
When the first baby comes, your focus is 100% percent on the child. The marriage can go along for a little while without effort, because it has been nurtured for months and years prior to the arrival of the child. There’ll be some momentum there to carry it along for quite some time.
But then there is baby number two. And all the time and attention is then wrapped up in toddler and baby.
But not in the marriage.
Thus with baby number three, the marriage momentum is almost gone. And without some serious time and attention, it won’t keep rolling along.
To survive a third baby, I think both parties have to be prepared to handle the pregnancy and baby a bit differently. Not losing themselves 120% into the child, asking for more help in the home to give the parents time to be together and nourish the relationship.
Otherwise a third baby could put a good thing on the skids.
Making health a priority
I had the good fortune to have a healthy baby with almost no complications in my late thirties. But this is not always the case for mothers and children at this age.
With a third baby, you have to make your health a priority during the pregnancy and afterwards. In fact, I think I had more trouble after my third baby was born physically.
When you have two very active boys and you are trying to recover from giving birth, it is pretty easy to injure yourself (hernia, low back, neck, shoulders). I did some bad things to my neck I think wrestling one of my son’s during a tantrum that has never really gotten better.
As we enter our 40s, it becomes very much a use it or lose it time of life. If we don’t focus on ourselves and our health, we might never be able to get to a healthy and physically strong point again.
Was I able to lose the weight?
This was a big fear of mine. That I wouldn’t be able to lose the baby weight.
Turns out, this fear was really unfounded for me. I nursed my baby and then once I was done nursing, I was able to exercise moderately, eat reasonably, and drop most of the extra weight.
Does that mean my body looks like it used to?
Uh….no. Definitely not.
But the third baby didn’t do that damage. My first baby did all that damage. The subsequent babies just really cemented in the changes.
How did the third baby impact the children you already had?
Of course it impacted them. There’s no way it couldn’t.
My kids didn’t understand the new baby. At all. I helped in the transition by keeping the baby strapped to me in my Moby wrap, and I rested by sitting on the floor on a pillow so that the kids could still play with me and around me, even though baby sister was there too.
The kids were pretty rough with her, so she spent a lot of time in her bassinet, generally lifted well off the ground.
At firs the noise wasn’t a big deal at all, as it was consistently noisy all the time, and as she got bigger I put her down for her naps in the next room rather than in the room with us.
Having a third child took time away from my boys, of course it did. I know that they missed me, and I definitely missed them, during the times when I had to put the baby down in the evenings when she was sundowning/crying. Or when I had to nurse while they went out to play with dad or a grandparent.
But they were always well cared for and loved.
The upside of a third baby (or any additional siblings for that matter) is that it pushes the independence issue for the older kids. It forces them to start doing things for themselves and on their own. Mom and dad can’t always be there to do it for them because the baby needs them. They might be upset about the loss of the help, but it pushes the transition of “I can do it” to the next level.
Having had three children, I can honestly say that one of the best things that I could have done for my oldest son was having his brother. And for my second son, having his sister.
The new sibling has pushed them both to grow in so many areas in positive ways.
Yes, there were growing pains.
Yes, there were tears (many of them mine).
Yes, there were tough times, frustration, tantrums, yelling.
But in the end, my kids love the heck out of each other, and I am so grateful to have them all.
They don’t always get along that well, but one day they will be grown, and I will be gone, and they’ll have each other.
The new baby changed my relationship with my boys
I was very close to both of my boys when their sister arrived. I napped cuddled up with them. We tromped around the woods, played in the sand, rode bikes, and mucked out the chicken coop.
When their sister arrived, I couldn’t do all the things I used to do. Their dad started to do a lot of those things, and I think we all felt the loss of it.
It does cause me some grief now to look back at what things were like between the three of us before she came. It was such an idyllic time, and I wish that they could remember it.
Now with the benefit of hindsight, would you have your third baby again, even knowing what it would mean for your marriage and the changed relationship with your boys?
This goes back to my reasoning for why I wanted another child. It was almost imperative that I do so. There was something instinctual going on here, like my body knew that it was necessary.
And its not that I just want more and more kids, because I don’t. I love babies, and I miss having a baby, but I don’t feel that aching hole anymore.
When my daughter arrived and I looked into her little face, cuddling her sticky, vernix covered body, I felt complete. Like I had everything I needed. I knew right then and there that I wasn’t going to have any more children, and I was 100% fine with it.
I mourn my failed marriage. I am still struggling with my anger (at him and at myself). I am still disappointed, feeling guilty, and embarrassed that I couldn’t make it work, that I didn’t do a better job.
There was a point in my marriage where my children became more important to me than my husband, and I can’t honestly say where that happened or why that happened. But I suppose that is the danger of loving someone (or several someones) so very much. Your priorities get skewed, and change.
Now having my daughter, watching her grow up, spending as much time with her as I can, I don’t regret her, not for a second. I would do it all again, exactly the same way I did it, mistakes and all, just to have her (and my boys) exactly as they are today.
Should YOU have a third baby?
Heck if I know. That’s your call. Don’t let anyone tell you what to do or how to do it, especially some blogger on the interwebs.
But I’ll tell you this…it was the right call for ME. If I had not, I would have regretted the decision for the rest of my life.
The question is…can you live with your decision? With any regrets you might feel on either side, one way or another? I’m living with mine right now, and I know which would have weighed on me the most.
What do you think is going to tip the decision scale for you? I’d love to know what you are thinking. Let me know in the comments section below.
Emily Anderson is a mother of three children, all under the age of 10. Located in the Pacific Northwest of the US, Emily is a mom and part-time blogger, jumping in front of the computer when the kids are sleeping. She started this blog in April of 2019 and is proud that the blog is now paying for itself. If you want to know about her journey as a blogger, check out out her personal digital journal or her post about failing her way to blogging success.