The good news is, we've had many fewer of those moments (all the kids crying, mom crying too) than I anticipated. The other good news is, you know, those moments happen, and then they pass, and we've all survived, and my kids are still relatively happy and healthy and they still love me and know that I love them.
In between those moments, though, I've had some coping strategies, and I thought I'd share some of them here with you, because there are a handful of you out there who are expecting that third baby to pop out any day now (sorry to those moms whose third babies have already popped! I know there are at least two of you who have had that baby between when I started this post 4 weeks ago and now ... I guess taking four weeks to write a blog post is part of the gig!).
So, here we go, in no particular order, some of my coping strategies for those first few weeks with three...
* Train your kids to be totally okay with nothing but milk and bananas for breakfast. Breakfast on day 1 for us was a bowl of Cheerios at 11:45. Lunch was a second bowl of Cheerios at about 11:57 (this is neither a joke nor hyperbole).
* If you have/had a back/belly support belt, consider wearing it again. After my stomach still felt like I'd done a million crunches on day 3 (and I was still cramping a ton), the extra support helped my back and gut feel way better.
* Related to the above, after-birth pains get worse with each kid (this is not a secret; all my nurses and my doc told me this). On top of the hospital-provided Ibuprofin and Tylenol and heating pads (love those!), I took arnica pills... and then I forgot to take anything when I got home until I had tears in my eyes from the cramps. Remember to keep taking your pain meds at home!
* Lower your standards! We rarely watch TV at home, but we have been watching an awful lot of Blues Clues lately, and you know what? It hasn't ruined them yet!
* Plan meals and snacks, especially ones that you won't feel guilty about. Chocolate-Covered Katie's Fudge Babies are great - there's no guilt in consuming an entire batch, and my kids are convinced that they are eating a decadent treat. If you want some help coming up with other ideas, I'm glad to help you out, just ping me somehow. Also, there's no shame in cereal bars, applesauce packets, and eating your meals on paper plates.
* Be okay telling your kids to go play in their rooms because mommy needs a break. Enforce them staying in there (with a timer, maybe), even if it initially makes them cry.
* When you do let them out of their rooms, have new and interesting things for your kids to do. We were close enough to Christmas that they still had joy in their new toys. Also, new stickers and puzzles. I ordered a roll of like 1,000 stickers from Amazon and let them go to town with them (in appropriate places). Rolls of paper taped to the floor for the kids to color on. Coloring pages. Tito (and consequently his younger, copy-cat sister), became obsessed with the movie Planes 2 over Christmas, and I started printing coloring sheets of the characters for them to color. We literally went through an entire ream of printer paper and an entire set of printer cartridges printing out coloring pages and other activity sheets for them. Totally worth it. When they got tired of markers, they switched to watercolor paints, which I like because they're easy to quickly wipe off the table and put away. A source that I like for preschool-level activity sheets is 3dinosaurs.com. Tito especially likes a lot of the pages that she puts together, but Lili is getting into them, too.
* I wish I'd planned out some things from Pinterest beforehand, but I had enough time nursing that I scanned through old pins that I'd never taken the time to do, things that would be easy to put together, to throw at the kids in their mid-morning or post-nap slumps. A few things that we did do (in addition to stickers, markers, coloring pages and watercolors mentioned above) are making water bottle aquariums (water bottles filled with almost anything would have been a hit, but I happened to have some tiny plastic fish figures and the grandparents have a salt-water aquarium that the kids love), balloon/paper plate ping pong, squirt bottles of colored water to play in the snow, baking soda + colored vinegar from spoons or eye-droppers.
* Consider babywearing. I got a Baby K'Tan with my first but never felt like it was tight enough for my newborn (and my 6'4" husband couldn't wear it because it's fitted to my 5'4" frame). I got an Ergo for baby #2 and while it's great for a lot of things, it was too bulky for everyday wear, especially with the newborn insert. For #3, I got a Boba and I've worn E2 in it almost every day. It was super for a trip to Costco when I knew I'd need my whole cart, and it's great at bedtime when I need both hands for pj's and teeth-brushing and I have a tired baby who wants to be held. I wear it for walks and for making meals; it's seriously something I'm thankful for every time I put it on... but of course, babywearing isn't for everybody and needs/preferences differ from person to person and even from baby to baby.
* Be okay with crying (I'm talking about your kids here; I'll get to you next). I'm surprised at how okay I am with letting my littlest cry for a few minutes while I do something else that needs to be done. I had to do it when #2 was a baby, but it stressed me out. #3? A little crying (emphasis on "a little" - I'm not letting my two week old "cry it out") won't hurt her while I got to the bathroom or fix lunch. The other two run back-and-forth reporting, "Baby's wy-ing" and I'm like, "Yup. But I'm making you a burrito so you can eat while she eats." I'm not oblivious, but I'm usually okay.
* Even with all this, you just might be singing "Jesus Loves Me" to your #2 at naptime after just having had to discipline her, while #3 lies on the floor crying, and #1 stands in the doorway demanding something from you, and you might have trouble finishing the song because you are tired, you are overwhelmed, and this moment is a crescendo of all that made this morning both normal and super stressful. And this is what I tell myself: 1) you are normal, 2) try, try, try to keep the perspective of a grateful heart, because thankfulness quells a multitude of sins, and 3) cling to Jesus, who is with you in the flood, even if it's just a flood of tears and pee and poop and spilled milk and watercolor paint water. It's a legitimate flood, and his is a sufficient grace.
And, so I don't end on a down-note, here are some words I wrote the other day to a friend who is expecting her first and was listening to me and another mom reflect on what was different about #3, since we both agreed that some of our time with number three felt especially sweet, moreso than with our first two.
You know what? Having babies is kind of like your wedding day - no matter how much people tell you to savor it and you know that what they tell you is true and you stand on that stage and try so hard to soak it all in, it's still just a moment that passes. It was special and you loved it and lived it well and the memories are sweet, but you can't make it last forever, and now you are moving forward in the joy of the relationship that was established in that moment... Baby #3 is sort of like getting a third act to your "baby wedding" - it's special in a way because you get to prolong the "magic" that refuses to be bottled because we are time-bound creatures. But your time with your little July bundle? So much magic awaits, just like your wedding day.
PS - Am I really "adult" enough to have three kids??? It sure doesn't feel like it!