It turns out that people are significantly less enthusiastic about your fourth pregnancy than your first. As one friend and mother of four put it, “Congratulations! That’s so exciting! Welcome to the club where people regularly ask you if you’re crazy, and look at you like you definitely are when you tell them that no, you’re not crazy, you just love your kids and wanted a big family.” It turns out that she’s dead on.
With a first pregnancy, the response to the news is almost absurdly over-the-top-excited. There are hugs, tears, and joyful shouts of glee. The response to a second is a knowing smile, an “Oh, how wonderful to have a sibling,” a “Congratulations,” and everyone’s best wishes.
Things started getting a little strange with pregnancy number three. There were two general categories of responses I heard. There were the ones that fell into the “Oh wow, you’re brave” category, decidedly without the ear to ear grin. And then, in my case after having two boys, “Oh, you must be hoping for a girl,” usually accompanied by what I guess was supposed to be a knowing look. To me this was very strange, for a lot of reasons. I had never really had a gender preference when considering having a child, and I certainly did not specifically set out to have a girl when we decided to try to have a third child. The plan was to try to have a baby. The strangeness continued when we found out that it was a girl. I cannot count the number of “You got your girl!!!” (smile returned, relieved) comments I received, both before and after she was born. And there are definitely people who have a furrowed brow when I say that I have three children, until they figure out that it’s two boys and a girl. Somehow that the third one being a girl makes it alright with them. Very strange. I do love that she’s a girl; I love her. Just as I would have loved the baby if it had turned out to be a boy.
But with pregnancy number four the response is decidedly less upbeat. There was my college friend, a one-and-done, who immediately asked me if we really meant to have another child, long before she ever said “Congratulations” or “Best wishes.” And then there were a lot of people who asked the similarly intended, if somewhat less bluntly phrased, “Was it on purpose?” And then there have been more than a few who flat-out asked if we were crazy or out of our minds. Or if we didn’t understand how it was that these things worked.
I happen to live in a neighborhood that has a lot of families with three or four children. So while I recognize that this is not necessarily the trend for all families everywhere, it doesn’t seem that unusual to me. What does seem strange to me is people asking such pointed and personal questions, essentially asking about the intimate part of our marriage and family planning choices. There’s also just the practical side that I find strange. I’m 40 years old, highly educated, and living in the technology capital of the world in 2015; I cannot control whether I can get pregnant, but surely I can figure out how to avoid it.
My friend was right; I did join her club. It’s one to which I’m happy to have a membership. There are definitely days that I worry about the logistics of having four kids, and as a result I’ve been spending a lot of time gathering suggestions from other parents about how they handle four. But as my friend explained, we love our three so much, and they love each other so much that it simply makes sense to us.
It’s really that last part, how much the kids love each other, that makes us the most excited about having a fourth child. They simply adore each other. This is not to say that they don’t fight or squabble or annoy each other. They do. A lot. It drives me CRAZY and makes me want to peel my skin off. But when it comes down to it, they would rather be with each other than with us. We simply cannot imagine them not having each other, and we feel like one more is just one more of them to love each other. And one more for us to love.