And just like that, my boy is three. Well, practically. There’s a numerically shaped, train-topped cake ready in the fridge, a pile of gifts waiting to be wrapped in the cupboard, and a feeling in my heart that I can’t quite explain…
My third child, my first son. He was born on his due date, slipping into the world with ease. He opened his eyes, but not his mouth. I sobbed uncontrollably over my silent, sweet baby. He was everything.
I thought the perfect birth meant I’d have the perfect son. But oh, how we struggled. He cried a lot. Almost always, or so it felt. The midwife suggested I stop eating dairy, and friends suggested I take him to an osteopath, and all I remember is sitting at home unable to wrap my head around it all. I had three children. Three. There were so many. It was too hard. But then the baby smiled at me, only three weeks old and he smiled. And it was still too hard, but not always. Sometimes the sun came out. Some days things were good.
My tiny baby grew into a big baby, and the big baby babbled and giggled and crawled all through the house. He started saying words, real words, and he learned tricks, and he was happy to sit in the pushchair and watch his sisters. Everything was fine. Everyone was fine. And so I thought, ‘Well, we have three already, what’s one more?’
So we didn’t try, but we didn’t not try, and of course, sure enough, a new life took place deep inside me, set to replace my boy as the baby.
Suddenly I needed my son to grow up.
Instead of growing up my son started acting out. His words dried up and screams became his only form of communication. He hit us. He bit us. He ran away whenever he got the chance. It got so bad that I dreaded announcing the new pregnancy, and when I finally did, the responses were worse than I could have imagined.
Oh God, you’re not!?
Why didn’t you make your husband get a vasectomy?
We battled through. My body became bigger, heavier, slower. My son became bigger, heavier, faster. The tantrums got worse. The screaming, the kicking, the violence was relentless. I couldn’t do it, couldn’t take it, couldn’t even handle three, let alone another one. What the hell was I doing? A mother waiting at the school gate looked at my son, and with a sour taste in her mouth said, “He was screaming like that this morning too.”
I could have punched her in the face.
When the new baby was born everything was bad. The baby was unhappy. The big brother was unhappy. I was unhappy. We all took turns screaming and crying. I didn’t bother even trying to leave the house. I couldn’t. I felt like I was drowning, and every day the thought was there: I’ve made a mistake. I did the wrong thing. I should have stopped at three.
And now here I am. The present. Preparing to wrap presents and light candles. Excited to see my son’s eyes glistening with anticipation. Proud to call him my boy. He’s talking again, full sentences now, and telling Knock Knock jokes like it’s no big thing. He uses the toilet. He sleeps in a Big Kid bed. He goes to kindergarten, and he plays with his sisters, and he cuddles his brother. He absolutely obsesses over trains. Who is this child? Is he really the same person? I struggle to recognise him, this tiny human with a personality all of his own.
I’m not exaggerating when I say this birthday means everything to me. It is confirmation that he is growing up, and it is proof that we’ve made it through our darkest days. We didn’t give up. We are still here. My home-birthed son, the child who remained at my breast the longest, the one who worried me the most, has been through a lot. Hindsight tells me that the tears and the tantrums, though hard on me, had to be even worse for him. Surely.
Tomorrow he will be three.
– Fern xxx