See, I always thought that couples who have babies 2 years apart (or closer) were INSANE. Why on earth would you intentionally have another baby when you haven't got the last one potty trained yet? Why would you want to have 2 cribs set up (if you don't have twins)? Why would you intentionally plan them so close that you have to buy 2 of everything? We planned Savannah & Samuel's age space and it made so much sense to us. Why would anyone else do anything else? They were crazy!
Like so many other things in life, God chose to give me a healthy dose of humility in this area when He gave me two babies VERY close together! Not only are they less than 2 years apart, they are less than 1 year apart. Samuel & Sarah are only ten and a half months apart, to the day. Yes, I am serious.
Now, before you ask, let's get something out of the way.
No I wasn't breastfeeding & expecting that to work as my birth control.
Yes, we do know what causes this.
No, we don't have a TV in our bedroom.
Yes, we know exactly when I got pregnant.
No, it wasn't planned.
No, we're not Mormon or Catholic.
Trust me...I heard all the smarty pants questions while I was waddling around, obviously pregnant, carrying my infant son & holding the hand of my preschooler. I have answers for all of those questions. While I'm at it, I should speak up for all the women out there who have children close in age. Please, for the love of all that's holy & good in this world, stop asking those kinds of questions. Unless you are actually asking a complete stranger for details about their sex life, she really doesn't need your questions about her "condition". She is well aware of the facts. (But, trust me, if you do get snotty & push her long enough, she may very well give you more detailed information than you bargained for because she's sick of your nosiness.
Truth be told, when I found out I was pregnant (June 29, 2000), I was terrified. Savannah was 3. Samuel was 3 MONTHS old. And I was pregnant. Again. I remember thinking "No, that can't be right. I just had a baby. I'm sure my hormones are just "off" & giving me a false positive on this test. I'll take another test later." Over the course of the next few days, I had to convince myself. I took something like ten pregnancy tests before I finally decided it was really happening. I was really pregnant. That denial wore off quickly. As I sat in the bathroom floor holding my tiny infant son's bottle in his mouth while throwing up into the toilet repeatedly, reality most definitely creeped in. There was no denying it. Telling all our friends & relatives was hard. Calling the obstetrician to cancel my upcoming birth control appointment was embareassing, especially when I had to then tell the receptionist it was because I needed to schedule a pregnancy appointment. Hearing all those gasps of shock followed by comments that were thinly veiling the horror in their voices was just grand. (sarcasm!) But once the news got out, things were a little easier.
Over the course of the months that followed, I fretted about buying 2 high chairs, 2 bouncy seats, 2 sets of bottles, doubling the formula, buying 2 different sizes of diapers, 2 cribs, another carseat, 2 of everything! And of course once we found out that it was another girl, I really panicked. I had NO baby girl clothes left. When we had Samuel, I got rid of all Savannah's stuff because I didn't have room to store it. And the idea of decorating the nursery AGAIN, for the opposite gender, overwhelmed me.
Aside from the expenses involved, I couldn't imagine HOW I would cope with two babies so close in age. I hardly slept with the two I had, what would I do with three? Would I ever have time to take a shower, eat a full meal, spend some quiet time with my husband, cook, clean my house, get the mail from the mailbox, take out the trash (and so on)? I sought wisdom from other moms who had kids close in age. I found message boards & email groups for women who had several pregnancies close together. I needed someone to tell me "You will get through this!" Fortunately, I got lots of great advice and helpful ideas. And you know what? I did survive.
This picture was taken on the day Sarah was born. (She's tucked down in those blankets. If you look closely you can see the side of her face peeking out between Savannah and I.) This was the 'first day of the rest of my life'.
Sure, things were hard. I don't remember much of 2001. It's still a blur. I rarely slept. Most of my showers were days apart, often when my mom came by the house to give me a break (God bless you, mom!!!). Larry had to work several jobs and was in college at the time as well, so I didn't see him much.
Grocery shopping was tricky in those early months because it had to be planned out so well. If I realized I was low on milk at 8 am, I had to think through all the various naps & feeding times to figure out when there would be a break in the day that I could pile all 3 kids into their carseats & go to the store. I usually got there by 4-5 pm.
I remember wearing flip flops, sweat pants & stretchy Tshirts with my greasy ponytail and feeling like I actually looked "OK" out in public. Truth be told, I was just exhausted & trying to survive. It was fortunate for the people I ran into that I was even able to stand upright & speak in complete sentences. I look back now & laugh. I'm so glad that the people of walmart website didn't exist yet. I would've surely been on it.
I remember changing the baby's clothes (and mine) 10 times a day because she had reflux (all three of my kids were pukers....but Sarah was definitely a prize winner in that department). I remember changing the liner thing for the Diaper Genie about 3 times after Sarah was born. With 2 babies in diapers, that Genie never had a chance to keep up. The little plastic-wrapped diaper sausages could trail from the front yard to the back when I changed out that thing! It never really contained the stink so we gave up on it & resorted to changing the trash more often to get the smell out of the house. I remember setting out 13 bottles on the counter every night & making 2 batches of formula for the next day (Samuel & Sarah were on 2 different kinds so they had two different styles of bottles). I remember trying to pack the house by myself for a move when Sarah was 5 weeks old. Fortunately my mom came to help. Larry was out of town on a work trip the week that we had to pack the house. (I only pondered his murder once.) I remember dozing off on the couch at 7:30 in the morning while the kids watched Dora the Explorer. I remember being completely frustrated and exhausted by 9:00 am, and wondering how I would get through the whole day. I remember sweeping the kitchen floor 4 or 5 times a day to get all the dropped chicken nuggets and bread crusts off the floor so that my little toddler vacuums wouldn't eat it! I remember praying that someone would stop by the house. Anyone would do, really. A salesman, a bill collector, the UPS man, Jehovah's Witness missionaries --- anyone I could talk to & feel like a grown up with for just 5 minutes! (or anyone who would watch my kids & let me pee in peace!) I remember sorting laundry into poop stains, baby food stains, formula stains, wet sheets, and then everything else. I remember the training potty getting dumped by baby sister, several times. Once over her head. Sigh. I remember collapsing into bed at night.
But you know what else I remember?
I remember pictures of two babies playing together wearing only diapers. I remember baby language that only a sibling could understand. I remember naptimes and bubble bath 'beards'. I remember brothers & sisters who held a bottle to show me how "big" they could be. I remember enjoying the Spring breeze from the front yard where toddlers & preschoolers dug in the sandbox. I remember the sweet old ladies who would approach my disheveled looking self in the aisles of Winn Dixie to pat me on the arm and tell me that my babies were beautiful. I remember standing in the frozen aisle one day when a little grandpa stopped me to pronounce a blessing over me & my kids before he casually walked away. I remember grandmothers who told me to enjoy these years because it passes so quickly. I remember walking my oldest into school on her first day of Kindergarten & thinking "Wow. This happened too fast." And then I cried all the way home from the school.
And I've pretty much felt that way every day since. It happens way too fast.
Sure, I haven't forgotten the exhaustion and the frustration and the grueling hard work of being a young mom to three children who were all born within 4 1/2 years. Sure, I remember dealing with some minor depression & feeling like the walls were closing in on me as I lived in a blur of bottles & pacifiers & diapers. But I realize now how very quickly it all went by.
As the saying goes, "The days are long but the years are short." No mother of little ones wants to hear you say how quickly the years will pass because she is desperately trying to survive this very minute. She's just hoping to get by 'til bedtime. She's trying not to burst into tears when Junior grabs the jar of jelly off the grocery shelf & drops it into a shattering, sticky mess on the floor. She's really just trying to survive.
But it's all true. All those things the grandmas at the park tell you, all the things your girlfriends say. Don't blink. It goes by so fast.
Yes, God surprised us with Sarah. I was much too arrogant to plan two children so close in age. But ya know what? It was worth all the pain & fear & frustration & sleepless nights. If I could plan it now, I'd do it all exactly the same.
Do me a favor. The next time you see a young mom with several children close in age, (or better yet, a young mom with several kids close in age AND SHE'S PREGNANT!) keep your snide comments & questions to yourself. Instead, approach her. Offer to carry something for her. Pat her on the back (don't worry if your hand gets stuck in a glob of jelly or baby food). Tell her that she's beautiful (even if she's wearing sweat pants & flip flops.) Compliment her children's behavior (even if they are swinging from the chandeliers.) Ask if you can say a quick prayer for her & her children. Talk to her about the cost of tea, the blue sky, which frozen pizza she thinks is best, just about anything that makes her feel like something more than a milk machine & butt wiper! Offer to babysit while she takes a bubble bath. Offer to cook supper for her. Give her a flower & pronounce her the best mother in the world.
But please don't ask her "Don't you know what causes this?" She might just say YES -- and then proceed to give you a biology lesson. With a smile.