This is the face of 21st-Century nesting: a steady stream of Amazon boxes full of baby bottles, nappies and sundry accoutrements has been arriving at the door for days. My wife was distracted, studying for a high-pressure medical exam she had to do. Now that it’s done, her mind has turned more fully to the increasingly imminent arrival of our fourth child.
Her blossoming bump is a lovely reminder of the transformation our lives are about to undergo. Some women feel embarrassed by their large third trimester tummies, but I’ve always thought that there is a heart-lifting beauty about a woman, swollen with new life. At once, she is vulnerable and yet powerfully dignified, engaged in the most profound task: bringing a new human being into the world.
Andrea has reached 34 weeks now, well into the third trimester. She herself was born at 35 weeks, so it could be any day now. I’m hoping the baby will wait until she is good and ready, though. I touch wood nervously when I speak about the baby’s arrival, for I assume nothing. It is a nerve-wrecking time. Even though the baby could do fine if born now, there is so much that can go wrong in the perilous journey from the womb to the outside world.
Preparations are afoot in our household: the cot has been set up and the baby bag is being packed. Arrangements have been made for friends to look after the kids in case of a sudden midnight dash to the maternity ward.
The couple of glasses of wine I enjoy at weekends will be forgone until after the baby arrives. I would feel like a duff husband if I couldn’t drive my wife to hospital at 1am on a Saturday morning, because I was over the limit.
This is not mere paranoia, we have a track record of precipitous labours, and the last baby was born in the emergency room of the Rotunda, about three minutes after arrival.
The children remain curiously excited about the baby’s arrival. Each week we sit down and learn more about the baby’s development. This week, we learned that the baby may be dreaming. She can hear our voices, and might be soothed by a lullaby.
The kids have already been singing to the baby and kissing the bump goodnight for months now, but the burgeoning bump has become far more responsive. They can now feel their little sister’s increasingly powerful kicks from outside the tummy. The bump has already become a member of the family.
Much of my preparation has involved nervously googling things like: “What is it like to have four kids?” One article that pops up is encouragingly entitled: “Why having four kids is not as terrible as you think”. All speak of chaos. Most say it’s worth all the hard work.
I guess having four kids amounts to a big family these days. When I was a child, three or four kids was standard issue. A generation further back, four kids would have been a smaller family. Nowadays, when booking things, a family ticket includes two adults and two kids, that’s it. In the past, you could pile a load of kids into the back of a car. Rules around car seats now mean you need a very big car to seat six, and you’re moving into minibus territory if you also want to transport friends or visiting relatives.
Such practicalities will sort themselves out, I believe. We haven’t had a full nights sleep in years anyhow, and our lives are already a constant whirl of school drop-offs, pick-ups, scraped knees, dispute resolution, meal preparation, washing up, tidying up, entertaining and so on. Perhaps we’ll hardly notice the difference.