If you haven’t yet, read part 1 first.
The infant stage with any baby has specific challenges, so my experience is that it usually takes about six months to adapt to having a new child in the family. However, the adjustment was much easier with James than it had been with Peter. The three older boys could all walk without help, I think they were all potty trained, and they probably even dressed themselves by that point. The 2-and-a-half-year-old probably still needed some help in the latter department, but I’ve always encouraged early independence among my kids, and I could enlist the older boys to help him. By the time that James was born, Samuel, our eldest, was already 5 years old and able to be really helpful. It was a completely different experience—and easier—than when I had only had three kids.
I remember it as such a sweet time. Everyone in the family loved the new baby and enjoyed holding him and entertaining him. For myself, I basked in the infant stage. Knowing that this would likely be my last baby, since my husband and I had planned on having four kids, I made a point of savoring every precious moment with him, trying to commit to memory what it was like to nurse him, to cuddle him, to brush my lips against his downy hair and inhale the sweetness of his tender skin. I began to relax into motherhood in a way I never had before.
Life continued on in this way until James was nearly 2-and-a-half. We’d recently moved about 300 miles, and we had just gotten settled into our new city when my husband said wistfully one day, “Wouldn’t it be nice to have a daughter?” I sort of laughed and said, “Well…we can try…,” feeling doubtful about the outcome, since the odds of having a girl seemed pretty slim, given our track record. But we did try for a girl, and when the ultrasound doctor informed us that it was a boy, he was only confirming what I already had sensed. I was happy—even slightly relieved—that it was another boy. I felt that I knew how to care for boys but would be at a loss with a girl.
The boys were actually a bit upset when they learned that they weren’t getting a little sister; however, when Baby Andrew arrived, no one was disappointed. Everyone adored him from the very beginning, and when he ended up in the newborn ICU due to an infection that he contracted in his first week of life, the kids gathered around his hospital bed for a poignant farewell picture after the whole family had checked us into the hospital. Once Andrew was finally healthy and we settled into normal family life, the older boys were a huge help around the home and in caring for their younger brothers. I felt so rich and enormously privileged to have another baby to nurture, since I’d thought that James would be my last. I became even more relaxed and present with Andrew than I had been with James, filled with gratitude for the chance to enjoy the baby stage all over again.
I was nearly certain that Andrew would be our last child, so I was very intentional about taking time to enjoy him, often thinking of the final lines of a poem an older friend had once shared with me: “Oh, cleaning and scrubbing will wait till tomorrow, / But children grow up, as I’ve learned to my sorrow. / So quiet down, cobwebs. Dust, go to sleep. / I’m rocking my baby. Babies don’t keep.” The poem is called “Song for a Fifth Child” and was written by Ruth Hamilton after her fifth child was born, and it was with my fifth baby that I finally learned to give myself permission simply to be with the baby—cuddling him unapologetically long after I had finished nursing him, just because I wanted to.
Read part 3.
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Photo credit: Stephanie Getz