Once upon a time, a mommy who already had two beautiful children got pregnant with a third. “OK,” she thought. “We can handle this.” But no one else thought she could.
“But where is your new car?” said one friendly stranger.
“And where is your new house?” said another.
“But we already have a house and a car,” said the mom.
“Those won’t do!” said the two friendly strangers. “You need NEW ones!”
This conversation played out over and over and over after I got pregnant with my third child. We suddenly, according to everyone around us, not only needed to be preparing for another child, but should also be upending our lives to make everything bigger and newer in preparation for her. My Honda Civic wouldn’t do, I needed a minivan! Our three-bedroom house was too small, when were we moving? Why weren’t we finding out the sex of the baby? We needed to know if it was a boy since we only had girl things–what if he had to wear FLOWERED onesies?
Honestly, the stress of having a baby is stress enough, whether it’s your first or your fifth. And when you’re pregnant, you’re particularly vulnerable to the well-meaning advice of strangers. This is unique to pregnancy, since you don’t have to wear your condition around on your head for any other stage in life. The advice of well meaning strangers nearly cost me my sanity during my third pregnancy. We hadn’t planned to have another quite yet, so I was dealing with the shock of the idea of having a preschooler, toddler and infant at home. Then on top of that, people kept foisting all these additional consumer expectations on me. It took a few months of showing for me to stop and look at the situation with fresh eyes.
You’re bringing home an 8-pound baby, not Shaquille O’Neill.
At first, I was panicking, running the numbers, and looking at cars online. But even small cars can fit three kids across the backseat–safely and legally–if you have slimline carseats. I did my research and realized we did’t ever need a need a new car if we didn’t want to get one. Even Shaquille O’Neill can fit in a Kia, so there.
Babies don’t Need a Room.
The baby room is certainly a modern invention. For much of history, and in other parts of the world today, babies sleep with mom for practical reasons. Honestly, the baby room was basically a place for me to change diapers and clothing until about age 3 when independent play began to emerge. My kids didn’t want to play in an empty room all alone, they always wanted to be where the action was. This means you have about 2 years from birth to make a transition.
My kids also currently share a room, which, contrary to popular belief, is not child abuse. Up until about 1950, kids routinely shared rooms and bathrooms. The average home size was just over 1,000 square feet for a family of four. Today, the average home size is 2,100 square feet, and the most common trend in new home construction today is including a bathroom for every bedroom.
Decide for Yourself What Really Matters
People were floored that we weren’t finding out the sex of the baby since we had two girls. What if it was a boy? What would he wear? Honestly, the fashion conundrums of an infant were of zero concern to me. If we had a boy, he would wear the clothes we had at home until I found the space in my head and day to go get boy clothes. It was just not a detail that stressed me out. It continued to be a detail that stressed out everyone around me. I was much more concerned about how I would survive each day with all these tiny children at home. Be prepared for a million contingencies to be raised, whatever your situation. Then decide what you care about, because that’s the only stuff that matters.
Continue to Think Critically
As a kid, I wasn’t allowed to go play at friend’s houses if they lived in an apartment. This tiny detail stayed with me when I got pregnant for the first time. We can’t have a BABY in an apartment! I knew this to be true. Plus, we were throwing money away, right? Better to buy a house. Because that’s what you do when you get pregnant. You buy a house. Unfortunately, our first child was born in 2008. This means we bought a house at the peak of the housing bubble, in part because we had on these cultural baby blinders. Expectations and arbitrary rules kept us from thinking objectively and critically about the huge decision of home ownership.
It’s easy to go into autopilot when you’re pregnant. No matter which baby this is for you, it’s overwhelming to have so many people, familiar and strange alike, telling you what to do with your finances, your relationships and your body. But all of those things are still yours. You’re going to do a lot of smiling and nodding. But these people who are giving you advice don’t have to survive on your savings in 30 years. They don’t have to go to the grocery store and shop on your budget. They don’t have to bear the scars of major surgery or the emotional pain that can follow a traumatic delivery. These decisions are yours and yours alone, because you alone bear the consequences.
You can do things your own way in your own family. Your story may not look like your parent’s or your partner’s parents, and that’s OK. Sometimes realizing that is a process of mourning and acceptance, and that’s OK, too.
Erin Burt is a freelance writer and the mother of three girls. She lives and writes in Oklahoma City.