As I just cleaned off Ethan from breakfast, I was struck by how many things I have let go of this time around simply because I don’t have the time or energy to care about them. One mom told me, “With our first baby, we drove home from the hospital under the speed limit with our emergency flashers on. With the second, we made sure we didn’t go over the speed limit. With our third, we stopped for drive-thru food on the way home. And with our fourth, we went straight to soccer.” I can totally relate, because for Ethan, things were different as soon as we left the hospital as well. I went straight to Eliza’s school to pick her up because she had missed me so much in the 48 hours I had been gone. I have been collecting ideas on how to explain what it’s like for me to have three children compared to two or one, but that will be another post. This one is about how it’s different for Ethan. Our poor, sweet Ethan.
Crawling. Ethan is about 8 1/2-months-old and has been on the cusp of crawling for about a month. What this means is that I purposely keep him off the floor because unlike with Eliza, I dread the day he is off and running. With your first, you are excited to announce to everyone when your children reach their milestones, and secretly hope that someone says, “Wow, she’s advanced. Isn’t that early?” This time around I just hope no one accuses me of stunting his growth.
Cleanliness. I’m not ready to be chasing Ethan around the house, but I’m also not ready for what his crawling will mean in the realm of cleanliness. I’ve tried to institute a rule that any toys or parts of games that can fit inside a toilet paper tube cannot be on the main floor. I might as well be asking the children to nail Jell-O to the wall for an art project. So instead of an unenforceable rule, everyone gets down on hands and knees for “safety checks” before we set Ethan on the floor (sitting up, not on his belly, or else he might try to crawl). We look for coins, beads, Rainbow Loom rubber bands, and anything else that could be a choking hazard. Once Ethan is on the move, his life will be more in danger. Not to mention I do not have a way to store a vacuum on my main floor. (I’m about to buy a battery-operated tiny one that we can hide behind a living room curtain.) So there is a ton of dirt and dog hair on my floors on a regular basis. With Eliza, I was good about vacuuming and mopping every few days. Ethan is going to be a veritable Swiffer on the ground. (Should I get him one of these?)
Clothing. Right now Ethan is wearing the pajamas I put him in on Tuesday night. He has multiple layers of dried, crusty oatmeal, black bean juice, and formula on various parts of it. Just now when I changed his diaper, three grains of rice fell out of his sleeper. But I’m totally cool with that. He’s had a cold, so his crib sheet is decorated with snot marks all over it (despite its being changed on Monday). I lay him down in an area that doesn’t look too bad and hope he doesn’t move a lot in his sleep. How could I?!? Because it takes time and effort to change a crib mattress, and it makes more laundry. I don’t change his outfits or much of anything related to him unless it’s an absolute must, like poop or pee got on it. When you adjust to having one child, one of the most overwhelming aspects of new parenthood is dealing with all the extra laundry. I used to separate out Eliza’s clothes, towels and other items to wash on their own, special cycle with baby detergent. Then I just started using baby detergent for all of us, and continued to do that with Zach. Now everyone gets regular detergent. There is enough laundry with a family of five to require 8-10 loads a week. Anything I can do to lighten that load, I will do.
Bathing. Eliza and Zach were both bathed nightly as part of their bedtime routines. Ethan is lucky to get two baths a week. We are trying to do better with this, as eating solids makes for a dirtier baby. But my brain has adjusted to thinking that a bath every day for a baby is not necessary, unless he doesn’t pass the aforementioned poop and pee test.
Eating. There is one way Ethan is advanced, and that’s with eating. I started his solids around 5 months like I did with Eliza, but I am pretty oblivious about when I’ve introduced him to certain things. With your first, you write everything down, spreading out the introduction of new items every 2-3 days in case of allergies. The only things I know Ethan hasn’t had are honey, shellfish and nuts. He even ate some fish we had for dinner the other night that had spicy rub on it. He seems to want to be a part of our meals and looks at our food with hungry eyes when we give him something different. So as long as I haven’t added salt to something, I give it to him. I think because he’s been eating so much real people food he’s cut his teeth a little early. He has four teeth and the next two have popped through his gums. If there’s anything you would want your children to be delayed in, it would be cutting teeth. Nursing has been painful.
Photos. Ethan is less photographed. This is partly because he’s always wearing pajamas, and partly because I cannot seem to have one contiguous thought/follow through sequence such as, “This is a cute moment, I should photograph it” and then actually locate a camera or phone and snap the picture. There are too many interruptions, mostly in the form of “Mommy, ____.” (For example, Zach just interrupted me to tell me, “Mommy, chocolate chips are like poop because they are brown. But they are not poop because they are chocolate chips.” This happens all day long.) I even bought those cute stickers you put on your baby to photograph him every month to mark his first 12 months with photos. I did it consistently for the first five months, and then lost the six month sticker. My track record has been horrible since then. Eliza has a baby book that’s mostly completed. I at least purchased one for Zach. Ethan does not have one.
Activities. At this point in Eliza’s life, I had signed us up for a water babies class so we could swim together, and I was in deep debate and research over where to attend other classes like music and exercise ones. I do not think Ethan will ever make it to one of these things, at least not as a baby. Ethan is on a daily schedule, but he has to be so much more flexible than Eliza and Zach did. He misses his morning nap three days a week because of other commitments, and his afternoon nap on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays are in the car for carpool pickup. He doesn’t seem to mind that much, probably because he’s learned he doesn’t have a choice.
Crying. I must confess it’s easier to listen to Ethan fuss than it was to hear Eliza or Zach fuss. A new mom was at my house a couple of weeks ago when Ethan woke up from him nap. He had made two seconds of noise when she said, “Do you want me to go get him?” I don’t think my brain had even registered that he was awake. I said, “No, wait a little. He’s fine.” Ethan cried a lot as a young baby, but around five months he finally adjusted to the sound of my voice saying, lovingly, “I can’t help you right now baby boy, but I’ll be with you in a minute.” He had to learn that I would come, eventually, so he started to trust that. I would stop mid-cooking if Eliza needed me; but with other little mouths to feed now, I don’t stop.
Stimulation. Ethan is currently sitting in the Pack ‘n Play (in his dirty pajamas) with his toys while I type this. He does this a lot. That’s because like with many other things, he doesn’t have a choice. He does have two older siblings who love to engage with him and “play” with him, though, so he’s not in need of attention. With Eliza, if I wanted to leave her like I leave him, I would have researched if there would be harmful mental or emotional effects. I would have sought out a guide on what kinds of toys to leave her with and how many. Ethan is surrounded by some of his toys, some of his siblings toys, and some cellophane. And that’s totally cool.
I’m sure there are other things that are different as well, but these are the first ones that come to mind. I hope Ethan doesn’t hold this information against me one day. The truth is, he is a very happy baby and maybe that’s in part the result of me being a little less neurotic. So cheers to third babies and all the things they make you realize aren’t that important.