I had four babies in seven and a half years.  "How is it?" friends will sometimes ask.  "Is four a lot harder than three?"  Or, "is it completely chaotic in your house?"  Here’s my answer.

We all remember the foggy, joyful terror of adjusting to life with the first child.  It was hard, certainly, but every ounce of life in your body focused on meeting the needs of that one little person.  You watched him breathe, you watched him sleep, you knew every twitch of his mouth and twinkle of his eye.  Life was good.

Then came number two.  Your attention is divided for the first time, and you face the panic of wondering what you’ll do if they both need you at the same time.  But you realize, with thankfulness, that this is do-able: you have two arms, two parents, two lobes of your brain.  You learn the age-old dance of breastfeeding one baby in a frighteningly grungy convenience store bathroom while successfully helping your older child potty without touching a thing.  You watch the two little people you love most learn to love each other.  Life is exhausting, but good.

Enter baby number three.  You haven’t just upset the proverbial apple cart, you have taken a sledgehammer to it.  Someone, at all times, is un-manned.  You’ve gone from a man-to-man to a zone defense (and that’s my one sports analogy, girls, so enjoy it).  You attract looks of pity, and occasionally disdain, from elderly women at the grocery store.  But you suddenly are the spectator at a little mini-convention right in your own house.  You’ve gone from witnessing only one sibling relationship (1 and 2) to witnessing THREE–1 and 2; 2 and 3; 3 and 1 (go ahead and do the math, I’ll wait…).  I’ll tell you, life is pretty tricky, but it is oh-so-good.

Then along comes number four.  And you realize that with the last child, you breached the Chaos Threshold, a little-known hypothesis in the Book of Parental Physics that states "the incremental kinetic energy required to maintain domestic stasis is inversely proportional to the quantity of juvenile beings in the household. "  Roughly translated:  "So what’s another one?"  The parents are already outnumbered and your house is already equipped with bunk beds and a deep freeze.  You’re already in the car more often than you’re in your bed.  Oh, the noise.  Oh, the laundry.  And OH, the fun.  There’s always an Uno partner handy, always someone to grab a new box of wet wipes for the baby.  And somehow–though I wouldn’t have believed it after that first baby–there’s still enough love to go around.  Not always enough time, and certainly not enough detergent, but somehow the constant cameraderie seems to make up for it. 

So, chaos?  Yes, more than I ever dreamed I could handle. But joy?  More than I dreamed I would have.

43 thoughts on “Four

  1. KimC says:

    4 was our breaking point – the point where I realized I couldn’t hold it all together on my own. 3 was tough, but doable; 4 in 4 years finally humbled me.
    But Mary’s right. Once you’ve been properly humbled, 5 isn’t much different…or 6…or 7…

  2. Victoria says:

    I had a nice chuckle at your post! I had my four in 2 1/2 yrs. (umm no need to struggle with the math, my first two are twins!) With the twins I was out and about, then add #3 to the mix, I was out but not as often, add number 4, it was me calling my husband asking him to bring home stuff and saying, “yes honey I know I have a car, but there are FOUR of them!!”

  3. ambah says:

    I agree- the transition from three to four has been my hardest. I’m just now starting to feel like I might possibly be able to get it all together sometime in the distant future. I really can’t fathom five at this point. My youngest three were born in 2 1/2 years (and none of them are twins). So right now we’ve got four girls ages 7, 3, 2, and 1. It’s a little crazy to put it mildly.

  4. Addie says:

    What a great post! I loved it. I only have three and a friend with 2 going on 3, asked me the other day if it was crazy. My response was oh, yeah it’s crazy but good.
    Now I can just refer them to this post! 🙂

  5. Brenda says:

    My hat’s off to all you mothers who have had more than two. Hubs and I have 4 children between us (2 each) but we rarely have all 4 of them at the same time. It does get chaotic when they’re all together, that’s for sure. They were 14, 12, 11, and 9 when we married which has made it a little easier for us (only slightly). Blending families is a whole nother ballgame.
    Love your post, Shannon. The joys of motherhood are indescribable.

  6. Mary says:

    Sometime, I think about it and I can’t believe that I have 6 children!
    My husband always wanted 6 but I kept saying “no, I think 2…3…4…5…”

  7. peach says:

    Missed you. Glad you’re back, and back with oh, such a fabulous post. Know the chaos will just be magnified, but praying daily for that fourth to come from across the world to join the joyful chaos of us.

  8. Amy from Ezekiel's Garden says:

    Thanks for sharing! I’m not so scared about the possibility of 4 now. My transition from 2 to 3 went really smoothly (much better than 1 to 2). I think my only concerns are laundry and food. It seems like that is all I ever get done, and I’ve still got to fit time to shower, homeschool, and read my Bible in there (praying is exempt, since I do that almost constantly anyway!).
    Hope your time away was fruitful!

  9. Michelle- This One's for the Girls says:

    Shannon, if you’re wanting our permission and blessing to have a fifth baby, go for it. You’re right, after baby #4, the rest just fall in line. (Actually, I thought #3 was the most difficult transition.)
    C’mon, everyone! Chanting with me– NUMBER FIVE!! NUMBER FIVE!! NUMBER FIVE!! Bahahahaha.

  10. Sheri says:

    LOL, I have four two, and I hear ya!
    We had a giggle at our friend “downloading” at church yesterday, they pulled out and one by one littlun’s hopped out until finally the mom turned with a baby carrier and their four day old…
    I just wrote a post on parenting over at my place!

  11. Code Yellow Mom says:

    Love this post! I’ve heard my mom describe it this way – I’m the #1 child and she said three was the hardest, and after that everything else was gravy. (She has seven, spread over 22 years – that has its own set of chaos issues. Like grandchildren the same age as some of your own children.) My siblings are the best things my parents EVER gave to me. And it seems like love multiplies right along with the number of family members. Funny how that is. I’m taking a breather after two, but I think you are right – four is a good number!

  12. Rebecca says:

    Oh, I’m glad to hear that the fourth child is easier than the third! When we had our third baby last year we were staggered by how hard it was – and it really made us reconsider having any more kids, even though we’ve really always wanted (at least) four.It’s good to hear that things do get easier!

  13. chilihead says:

    I love how you put it all in perspective. I laughed out loud at your “Book of Parental Physics”. If I’ve said it once, I’ve said it a thousand times: You are one great mom raising four great kids! (And Hubs ain’t so bad either.)

  14. veronica says:

    My sister, who has five and still going, says much the same thing.
    My OBGYN went from two to four. Her third pregnancy was twins. I have always sympathized.

  15. Mary says:

    My brother has 5. Someone says “So and so is coming over is that okay?” We alwasy look at each other and say sure…what is one more kid.

  16. Queen Beth says:

    You know what’s funny? Having my third child did not phase us or change things much. I didn’t really feel like it was more than I could handle. And when step-son moved in for a brief period of time, it still didn’t feel like much of a difference..just a higher food bill!

  17. Melissa says:

    The hardest for me was going from 1 to 2. We are expecting # 7. After 3 or 4 you just multiply the fun. You are already cooking and doing laundry for a crowd so it doesn’t really add exponentially to those chores like you think it would and by the time you get to 4 your first isn’t so little anymore. -Melissa

  18. mom2fur says:

    Your kids are spaced just like mine–Michael, my oldest, was 7 1/2 when the baby was born. BTW, the ‘baby’ just turned 16–today! Michael and my second, Katherine, learned to be rather independent at an early age. If they wanted something and I was busy with a baby, it was either wait or get it yourself. I’m lucky in that the first two were easy. James, #3, was a handful. The first three were born in 82,84 and 86. Nicky didn’t come along until 1990. I remember being exhausted all the time, but I was happy. I’d always wanted a big family. I’d have been happy with 6 or 8 but this is what I was given and I’m content. And in a few months, James will be 20…and I’ll have 3 kids in their 20s! Aaaggh, I don’t want to be old!

  19. edj says:

    When my first was 20 months old, my twins were born, so I went from 1 to 3 instantly. It was a hectic time, I think…I don’t actually remember much 🙂 I do remember the mountains of laundry. Now I like how close they are in age–it makes things much simpler and all 3 are good friends (and good bickering partners too!).
    Welcome back–how was your time off?

  20. mopsy says:

    So many different perspectives! 🙂
    Our hardest was going from zero to one. She rocked our world. #2 was born when our oldest was 18 months and it wasn’t that hard to adjust.
    It just got easier and easier to bring babies home. Newborns are portable and time flies.
    #6, due in three months, could rock our world. We’ll rock his/hers too, though, with seven pairs of arms eager to hold our mystery baby.

  21. Karla says:

    I’m a mess and I only have ONE! =) She has the energy of three though, I think. =)
    Great post! Loved your sports analogy, that was great.

  22. GiBee says:

    Okay … so if all the embryoes I have frozen survive the thaw, and if they all implant, and suddenly within 18 months I go from being a mamma of 1 to a mamma of 4 … you’ll be there to hold my hand, right?

  23. Laurie says:

    I’m with Melissa, my hardest transition was going from 1 to 2. After I learned 1 mom could handle more than 1 child then I felt I could handle anything God sent my way.

  24. HolyMama! says:

    so well said – from another mom of 4. i loved how you described when numbers three and four came on the scene. i totally appreciated the sports analogy. perfect.

  25. kim says:

    I bow to you with four. Three nearly killed me. My youngest is five and I finally feel like I’m coming out of the fog.

  26. Heather says:

    That is the most beautiful post! I have three children and love them all dearly. But that jump between 2 and 3 has been oh so hard. I’m not sure we’ll have another (we are very content right now). But as you said, the fun just duplicates with each child and you would never change a thing, nor could you imagine life with only one child.

  27. Undercover Angel says:

    I had four children with a 7 year time frame also. I think that although it may be more chaotic when you have more children – it is alot easier in some respects. I found that as our family grew, the older children began helping out a lot with the younger ones. When Duck was born, Monkey was only 5 but he if she spat up, he would grab a baby wipe and wipe her mouth off, rather than tell me. Little things like that really helped me along.

  28. Kathryn, dym says:

    We were hanging out with a family with 4 kids yesterday and watching the way they entertained each other and swarmed all over the place, I couldn’t help thinking, “We need more siblings over here.” Great and encouraging post. I’m really scared for number 3 though.

  29. Rachel says:

    I see you already have a ton of comments on this one, but it really resonated with me so wanted to throw in my “YES!” to this. People with just one or two think I’m some kind of saint when I’m out and about with my five (my twins are the oldest at 4), but once you have more than two or three, what’s one or two more? As long as you can fit all the car seats in your van, you’re good to go! 🙂

  30. Bri says:

    I can’t even imagine – I have one and having a second has been brought up in conversation – how do you do it? will I have the same love? time? It really is a scary prospect after having obsessed and enjoyed every moment with my first –

  31. Megan says:

    Not sure how I missed this on my bloglines!
    You know that chaos… it’s what I like to think of as that aquired chaos. *grin*
    I can handle it because it came in stages. Going from 0 to 4 all at once, though, now that’d be a completely different ball game (and that’s my sports analogy right back at you!)

  32. Sara says:

    I am the oldest of four children born in a 4 1/2 year span (no multiples). My mom tells me about the day they brought Katie (the youngest) home. She laid her on the couch and sent me down the hall to get a clean diaper. As she watched me walk away she thought, ‘What on earth have we done?’. I remember a lot of chaos when we were growing up, but I would never ever ever ever trade one of my siblings for more tranquility!

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