[Photography Credit: Blue Roots Photography | IG: @bluerootsphotography]
To say we were shocked to find out we were expecting our fourth baby is a great understatement. We hadn’t exactly decided not to have a fourth child, but it had been almost five years since our last one. We were feeling quite comfortable with this amazing stage of parenting in which our kids could all buckle their own car seats, they were all potty trained, and they were fully comprehensible. We had even survived three rounds of threenagers!
The days of diapers and breastfeeding were like a tiny speck in the distance in our rear view mirror. In fact, we took a road trip to Disneyland and while we were there, we enjoyed chuckling at the sight of all the strollers parked outside every ride while we walked on by with our big kids. It was about a month after that when the surprising news hit us: it was our turn to dust off the old stroller and mentally prepare for the onslaught of all things baby… again.
It wasn’t the baby or even the pregnancy that sounded so daunting. It was the fact that my first three kids were born within the span of four years. All my experiences with pregnancy and newborns had been in the context of the older siblings being babies themselves, still highly dependent and needy. Those years were very hard, both physically and mentally.
However, I was pleasantly surprised to discover all that I could do during this pregnancy as opposed to my previous pregnancies. When I was feeling tired, I could actually take a nap while the older kids watched a movie. I could wobble into the grocery store without also carrying a toddler. I could sit at a park while the kids played on the playground by themselves.
But there was still a big question in my mind. With the older siblings being so close in age, would I need to have a fifth child for this baby to have a playmate? Personally, that seemed like more than I could handle. So I became hyper-focused on finding examples of other families with a large age gap between kids, and what I found was encouraging. Despite the return to sleep deprivation, toddlerhood and pull-ups, these mothers told me it was an amazing experience. As it turns out, they were right.
So if you are considering it, or maybe this quarantine is lending towards a higher probability of it (wink!), here are my top five reasons for recommending what I call a “gap baby”:
5) You can get the baby gear you really want. This is obviously superfluous, which is why it’s my last reason. But after you have been around the motherhood block a few times, you know what you really need… and it’s definitely not three types of baby swings and a dozen fluffy baby dresses. I was determined not to feel overrun by unnecessary baby items this time around so I stuck to the basics, but whenever possible I made sure those basics were also fun. For example, our gap baby only ever had two baby bottles, but they were awesome silicone bottles with pink rims. Baby trends have come a very long way since my first couple kids were born. Thankfully, some of my friends were kind enough to add some gorgeous upgrades to my old baby gear, such as a cool diaper bag and beautiful nursing covers. These small touches of design and fun made going back to the sleepless nights and stinky diapers more bearable.
4) Older siblings are big helpers. For the first time, I could sit with my newborn and have the older kids bring me the wipes and the diapers. They could entertain baby girl in the playpen when I needed a bathroom break. I was able to get a lot more rest, as well as a lot more accomplished, while they had the opportunity to learn to be helpers and to think of others.
3) Welcoming a new baby becomes a family affair. Our older kids had no recollection of pregnancy or newborn babies prior to our gap baby because they were too young. This time around they were part of the experience. My husband and I loved surprising them with the news of a baby sister. We answered so many questions and got all kinds of entertaining input from them throughout the process, including their unanimous suggestion to name the baby Princess Leia. To experience this event in our family alongside them has been priceless.
2) It keeps you young. Perhaps young and tired, but nevertheless, going back to the baby stage has caused me to stay active and silly. My older kids were moving into an age where they were more peer-focused than parent-focused, but just when they were getting “too old” for tickle attacks and kitchen dance parties, baby girl came along and brought all the giggles back. She has added a new level of fun and mischief to our family which keeps us all on our toes.
1) You get another chance to savor the moments. Every parent knows that kids grow up too fast. So to get a chance to slow down again and simply sit with a sleeping baby on your chest is a gift. This time I know that my phone can wait, the laundry can wait, the noisy world can wait because I am reading my baby girl the Moo book for the hundredth time and it’s worth every second. There is a tendency for parents to take photos of every little thing their firstborn child does but then sometimes slack on this memory-keeping effort with subsequent kids. But I’m pretty sure gap babies win when it comes to the amount of photos and videos taken of their antics because now it’s not only mom and dad, but also the older siblings who are recording the smiles and silly moments.
We all attempt to plan what our ideal family will look like as we try to aim for the perfect age gap. But in the end, whatever age gap our kids have is their unique kind of perfect and the most ideal set up for their success. It’s not really age that matters as much as children growing in a loving home where they know they are safe and known. There are certainly challenges that come with having a large age gap between kids, but the benefits that our family has experienced from it have been completely worth every moment.