Having a baby daughter 9 years after my middle child and second son at the age of 40, 5 days before my 41st birthday (yes, we’re both high-energy Scorpios), has been an eye-opening, life-changing experience.
Almost a decade on from the birth of Alexander, I’ve been surprised by a great many things this time around from new high-tech baby inventions on the market to rediscovering the reality of raising a baby again after so long.
I’d just overcome baby brain for it to hit again (yes, I tried to catch a cab in my slippers) and of course the crashingly low moods that accompany the hormonal changes in pregnancy, birth and the first year of baby, coupled with sleep deprivation means having a baby be it your first or fifth takes some adapting to. Life changes irrevocably.
The intoxicatingunconditional love see you through the hard times but it’s no walk in the park, caring for a baby and adding other kids into the mix means it’s a relentless, 24/7 job and isn’t for the faint-hearted. 3 kids is a marathon in parenting.
It’s worth it seeing this sweet face every day though!
But back to the surprises and some positive ones, thanks to my age: sleep deprivation hasn’t been as hard as the first time as perhaps I’ve become hardened to a lack of sleep or less in need of it the older I am.
I can weirdly feel myself on very little zzzs and I didn’t expect to.
Secondly, I’m a far more relaxed and patient mum in my early forties than I ever was in my late 20s and early 30s. I think I know this is likely to be my final baby so I’m savouring her first milestones as I know they’re likely to be my last.
I’m also indifferent to other people’s parenting advice, however well meaning, as third time motherhood means you trust yourself fully and know what’s best for your baby. No one can mess with a third time mama.
That’s not to say you can’t still learn. I’m open minded but equally trust my maternal instinct more than ever.
So here I am, a different decade, a different experience and thankfully, a different perspective, a confidence which has come with age and life experience.
There’s a reassurance too, in the knowledge that tends to come with subsequent children that however s*** life can feel in the moment, we know all too well that the days (and nights) may be long but the years are indeed short and the tough times pass in a blink of an eye and before you know it, your kids are almost teenagers and you practically have to beg to get a cuddle from them!
That context that comes with having multiple children helps you overcome adversity quicker and with greater resilience. Like anything, the more experience you garner in parenting, the more skills you acquire.
There’s also a quiet acceptance that right now, your baby needs your attention 24/7 as all babies do so you need to find inventive ways to divide yourself when your other children are around (mine are at an age where I can intelligently explain the situation and also ask for their help). My 9 year old is wonderful at creating inventive games with his sister and keeping her occupied and my 12 year old is better at the practical side: feeding and bathing her for example. He’s still not changed a nappy though!
Life has had to adapt for all of us and the whole family has had to compromise.
The boys have had to learn to share mine and my husband’s attention and time but equally what they might have lost (for a while), they’ve gained in the most joyful playmate they love and adore.
They’re still kids, enjoying their childhood, playing and living their own little lives. They don’t exist to help us constantly with Florence as that wouldn’t be fair but they’ve learnt a lot about raising babies observing us and helping us when they can.
If they ever become fathers, they’ll surely be the best.
They can read Florence’s cues and know when she’s hungry, in need of play time or when she needs to rest and sleep.
They’re her fiercest friends and most loyal of protectors and seeing their mutual love and respect for one another is the single most touching aspect of being a mum of three.
Yes the older two become frustrated at times, especially when Florence cries because she’s overtired or is struggling with teething and they can’t solve her sadness or they want more time with Peter and I but it’s been good for them to learn to share us and putting others first.
They’ve both more empathetic, patient and understanding having a little baby in the house.
It is rare for them to feel resentful of Florence though, their love overrides that and the fact they so desperately wanted a baby sibling.
I feel the same.
I think as I’ve already made so many compromises with two kids in tow, I’ve understood the assignment (!) as they say on TikTok, so I knew my life would change and I actively wanted it to so I could relish raising a baby and the opportunity to slow down too.
I rarely feel FOMO despite declining most event invites and I know having had other kids, that some normality will resume when Florence starts the odd day at nursery down the line. It’s a treat to go to the toilet solo right now. The bar has been set low, folks!
On the whole, everything in moderation, works for me.
I don’t need or want to be living life at 100 miles per hour. I think my attitude changed during the pandemic, as it did for many of us. We collectively realised we wanted to become more selective about our life choices and what we want to prioritise.
I feel lucky I found balance in my career and life in 2018 after needing an operation on my thryoid. I pivoted into a 2 week day whilst still growing my business.
On reflection, this lay the foundation for preparing to make room in my life for another little person.
So, what else have I discovered third time round?
Support systems matter more than ever:
As the African proverb states, raising a baby requires a village, and pregnancy and birth can take time to heal from, especially if both were tough-going and that means leaning on others for support.
Like Oliver, Florence’s arrival was considered an emergency section and somewhat traumatic as I was acutely unwell and hospitalised before her birth for many reasons including a repeat of the pregnancy liver condition, ICP, I suffered with, with Oliver. I didn’t share the complexities of my birth experience online and I’m not sure I will do in detail but I’ve healed from that time, thankfully but I’m so grateful my husband Peter had 6 weeks off work and we were in Leeds with my parents who could help us as I recovered.
Post-natal recovery: mental and physical of course, varies from pregnancy to pregnancy, baby to baby and birth to birth, and however prepared you think you are, each experience and child is unique.
Oliver’s crash c-section birth in London, far from family, was one of the biggest challenges I’ve faced in my life and that dark period took a year to recover from.
Xander’s elective felt like a walk in the park in comparison. An easy baby, there were no postnatal blues with him and I felt wrapped up in love, living in Leeds with a supportive bubble consisting of family and old friends, propping me up. He slept incredibly well and early on so sleep deprivation didn’t hit like it did with Oliver who also suffered with colic.
When it came to Florence, Ii took 5 months for my hormones to feel more balanced and almost 8 months, (now), to feel fully myself.
That’s not to say life is all unicorns and roses.
Three kids can feel like thirteen kids most days and life is immeasurably different with a trio than it was juggling two.
Being outnumbered means your time and attention is constantly divided by three and each child has its own distinct personalities and needs meaning you feel stretched most days.
The fact the older two are at school helps but all hell breaks loose when they return home and I’m like an octopus running around trying to do three people’s job (until my husband finishes work and then there’s two of us that’s still not enough adults to kids ratio wise, but helps). I’ll share a typical day below to provide more detail too.
Our daily routine:
I wake up with Florence around 6 am and she has her breakfast first (usually porridge with mushed fruit) and then, if she’s clingy, she goes into the baby carrier whilst I tidy and clean and help the boys get organised for the school day/ make packed lunches, organise uniforms etc for the school run. My eldest mostly sorts himself out (although he can never find his uniform and despite me encouraging them both to get organised the night before, it never seems to materialise) and my 9 year old needs my help with preparing his lunch and finding his blazer/ bag etc. We need to work on him becoming more mature and organised!
I alo do at least once one load of washing a day if not two with one usually going in, in the morning.
My husband helps in the am before work on the days he works from home (he leaves around 5 am on the days he’s in the office) and he will do one of the school-runs (usually the walk with Oliver as he has less time than I do) whilst I do the other, the car run to Eton.
When Peter’s not working, we share the load, equally.
The rest of the day with Florence tends to be easy-going, most of the time. We might meet fellow friends with babies/ pre-school kids or just enjoy one another’s company strolling around Windsor and Eton, feeding the ducks, visiting the library, doing the weekly shop etc.
Things become trickier to manage again when the boys are back from school as I try to help Xander with his homework, make him a sandwich and something to drink, whilst juggling Florence’s feeding and nap times.
Again, Oliver at 12 is an autonomous learner and is incredibly self-motivated so he does his homework solos, sorts out his own snacks and watches some TV in between playing with Florence.
The boys only have one after-school activity that requires a drop-off and collection now (we reduced other clubs outside of school and move music lessons to the weekend, to make life eaasier) and Alexander attends an after school club most days so I can collect him at 4pm not 3.15 allowing me to miss the school run rush. There’s always parking that way too.
My husband tends to cook most nights and Friday is always a take away night for us so we don’t wake up to messy plates on a Saturday.
I have an amazing lady who provides home help for a couple of hours, a few times a week, cleaning and ironing. I’m a complete neat freak so this has reduced stress for me, especially as I don’t have family nearby. I am still cleaning and tidying for a huge amount of my day but this gifted robotic duo help too (Florence loves watching them as well)!
Florence tends to sleep earlier than the boys on an evening so Peter and I get some quality time with them before they sleep, and it’s not usual for me to nod off on the sofa during Love Island most nights! I do try and be in bed by 10.30pm the latest, in time to do it all again the next day.
Now, I want to pause a minute and rewind back to the start of my fertility journey and trying for a baby after two children at 39 in case it might be of interest/supportive for others to read about. My brain isn’t what it was, so if I don’t include this now, I might forget. I’m sorry this blog post is so choppy by the way but this is the best I can do right now, writing in chunks of time whenever Florence sleeps.
It’s only taken a month from starting this post to publishing it-eek!
My fertility journey:
I conceived quickly at age 39 at the time (I think it was the second time we tried) and prompty told all of our family members and close friends only to regret doing so when the pregnancy tragically ended in a missed miscarriage (where you don’t experience the common symptons of miscarriage and discover the loss, in a scan) and surgical management (manual vacuum aspiration known as MVA).
There is no right or wrong way when it comes to informing others of your pregnancy or when is right to do so (apart from the legal obligation to your employer that might vary from country to country).
It’s a deeply personal decision if and when to share you’re with child but in my case I wish I’d kept my news to just a small, intimate circle of family and friends rather than telling anyone and everyone as that meant having to tell strangers I was no longer pregnant when I miscarried.
While I found comfort in close family and friends knowing I’d lost our much-longed for baby as they were able to help me navigate the dark and confusing period which followed, carrying others’ grief alongside my own, often felt like an extra burden at times, too.
It was a shock to lose the baby as I naively didn’t think it would happen to me after two healthy pregnancies and sons.
I had seen a heartbeat at 7 weeks at the Early Pregnancy Clinic after a little spotting (I’d experienced the same with Oliver early on, too) so didn’t expect not to see a heartbeat at my following appointment at 10 and a half weeks pregnant, particularly as my pregnancy symptons had cruelly persisted.
There is only a 10% chance of losing a baby after seeing and hearing its heartbeat at 6/7 weeks which made it even harder to comes to terms with.
I was plagued with questions of ‘why me’ and felt immense heartbreak for that baby and also for my husband and sons who were as devastated as I was to have lost our baby.
I’d read enough about fertility to assume the miscarriage was age-related yet blood tests my GP kindly approved (despite me suffering one and not three miscarriages as is the usual case for investigation) and a scan post-procedure determined my age was unlikely to have been a factor as my results showed I appeared to be far from menopause and my eggs were presumed healthy based on my hormone levels and the fact I was ovulating as normal (a test was taken after day 20 in my cycle). Egg quality can only be tested fully, if removed.
My GP told me that 50% of miscarriages tend to be due to chromosonal abnormalities and it was something that could have happened if I was ten or more years younger in his opinion and experience.
I was advised to try for a baby again after two cycles of rest, post-procedure.
I didn’t ovulate in the first month after the surgery (which is common) and waited another cycle to allow my uterus’ lining to thicken.
In the months before conceiving Florence, I took fertility-boosting vitamins I’d read about online and in the book, It Starts With An Egg including Inositol, Coq10, B vitamins, vitamin D and folic acid stopping everything bar the latter two as soon as we tried to conceive that month.
I also switched the cleaning products in my house to gentle brands, limiting the use of bleach, and made an extra effort to eat nourishing food as close to the sourse and as unprocessed as possible, prioritising healthy fats, lean meat, fish, fruit and vegetables.
Filtered water and organic meat meant moving away from hormones in food and drink, and limiting alcohol and sugar seemed sensible too.
I practised yoga and meditation more (YouTube and free mindfulness apps) and included long power walks into my weekly routine which was already active daily.
Maybe all of the above contributed to the conception of Flo. Maybe it didn’t. Who knows? Irrespectively, making these healthy changes made me feel like I was being proactive about my health.
Weekly therapy during that time gave me the courage to try again, also.
As did faith, as I attended church, lit candles and prayed for a baby. I refused to give up hope.
I fortunately became pregnant the first time we tried, on the 3rd month after the surgery, aged 40.
I didn’t tell our sons until I had a private scan at 11 weeks and I’d received the results of a Harmony Test which tests the baby’s chromosones, although they guessed I was pregnant many weeks before then, perhaps because of the nausea I had experienced (although I didn’t confirm it to them).
I only told my husband, mum and three close friends early on, when I became pregnant again. The people I would have informed if the worst were to happen again.
I’m so deeply glad I perservered when it came to having another baby because our bright star, rainbow baby, Florence, has enhanced all of our lives and strenghtened our bonds tenfold. It required great courage to try again after the shattering loss but I knew I wanted to and somehow found the strength to give it another go.
Lessons from Florence:
Florence is our greatest teacher, unknowingly encouraging us to be our best selves every day.
She’s taught me to live more mindfully, exercise strict boundaries protecting my time and energy (vital because I have less of both now she’s here); to reject negativity (everyone in my life is a blessing now, there’s no room for negativity), to unflichingly trust my gut, to be stronger, more patient, kinder, and more resilient and she’s made me realise how much energy I actually posess. Yes, it’s a little self-congratulatory to admit but I shock myself at the energy I find to run around all day despite little sleep the night before. There’s no option to find the strength and truck on with three kids.
Florence has boundless energy too, she is a loveable whirlwind of a baby and while some days juggling the demands of all of my kids can feel exhausting (there have been a lot of tears over the past few months), I personally thrive on the intensity of this family and the way my kids lean on me, and the deep love and connection we all have. I used to be a TV director and filmmaker pre-kids and I always saw myself as the maternal anchor on set, I was the captain of the ship, steering it gently, always preparing for the worst, courageously protecting the story, caring for the actors and crew whilst being strict about my vision.
Parenting isn’t too dissimilar.
I’m no longer a director (hopefully I’ll combine my digital career with a return on set, one day) but I do blog and work on social media, professionally. Maternity leave over this past year has meant limiting my workload, becoming selective on the commissions I take on and walking away from anything that didn’t feel right for me.
When it comes to an official end in September, I will continue my job in a part-time capacity prioritising the projects I feel passionate about and spending as much time as possible with the little people in my life (the greatest job of all to me).
I spent my 30s building my online business hopeful I could enjoy more time with my kids once it firmly found its feet and the last few years have allowed me to do just that and work in a flexible, remote and fulfilling way whilst spending precious time with my sons.
It’s one of the reasons I wanted another baby. I’d freed up time to expand my family and I wanted to enjoy it.
I realise I’m lucky to have set up this blog in 2010, making me an early adapter of this online world and I’m grateful for your support as it’s thanks to you all that it continues to grow and evolve.
I can’t wait to show Florence my blog when she’s old enough to read it!
Right, I, better go now as Florence is waking up! Please don’t hesitate to ask any questions in the comments and if you’re considering a baby or third child, I hope this blog post has been useful.
The best way to summarise my experience is that mothering 3 kids is full-on: you oscillate between extreme elation and extreme exhaustion, heavy with the responsibility of keeping three humans alive and happy yet nothing feels as life-affirming or joyful than being surrounded by your three kids especially when they’re all asleep ;). I can understand the women who become addicted to having more and more babies, now.
Parenting three kids is like drinking a glass of concetrated cordial without water. Every emotion, good or bad tastes stronger, it’s undiluted and highly potent!
You will be multitasking around the clock: negotiating, organising and caring for others, finding yourself last on the rung of the ladder of priorities, especially in that first year of your baby’s life and there are inevitably times you’re fed up, exasperated, feel like running away (wishing you were still a carefree 16 year old whose mum still cooks you dinner) but when you weight it up. Love wins.
Parenting is a job, a job unvalued by society and the workplace sadly and sometimes even by your own kids but it’s an epic undertaking and one I’m proud of doing.
Motherhood multipled by three has really been the making of me.
P.S. Florence slept in the bunches you see in the portraits here of her in the blue dress, and with already curly hair, they’re looking a little messier than usual :)-before anyone comments ;).
Peter took all of these beautiful photos, many I’ve promised myself I’ll print and frame, soon. I’ll add it to the never-ending list in the Notes app on my phone! Mothering three kids means lots of list. Millions!
Thanks for reading x
The Miscarriage Association can provide support if you have been affected by baby loss.
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