It had been four days since I had delivered my fourth baby. I had just arrived at my mother’s house from the hospital the day before so that I could recover from my surgery and my mom could help me with the other three children. My phone rang while I was in bed nursing the newborn, and I groggily answered it.
The crisp female voice identified herself as from our pediatrician’s office. She informed me that my baby’s blood test results from her heel prick in the hospital had returned abnormal, and sternly mandated that I take the baby to a Children’s Hospital 45 minutes away immediately. She then paused for effect.
“No.” I told her.
“Excuse me?!!” She declared, clearly taken aback.
“The PKU came back strange?” I asked her.
“Why, yes, actually.” She replied.
I explained, “My eldest daughter had the same thing happen, and it was a false positive. I’m still recovering from a C section, and I can barely walk. My baby is eating fine, and appears perfectly healthy, so I don’t think that this is an emergency that merits an immediate trip to the Children’s Hospital.”
The woman was clearly flustered. She started sputtering and asking me questions. “Has she been throwing up? Is she feeding alright? Is she lethargic? Does she have normal pees and poops?”
“No. Yes. No. Yes.” I answered. I continued, “Listen, if it is that serious, I should talk to the doctor about this. But otherwise, she has her 1 week appointment with her pediatrician in a couple days, and we can redo the heel prick then.”
“Hold please.” The crisp voice said. I waited. After a long wait, the voice came on the phone again. “The doctor says that you can come in for her 1 week appointment and we can redo the heel prick at that time.”
I breathed a sigh of relief and said, “That sounds good. Thank you.”
She cut in, “If your child starts vomiting or is unresponsive, you must take her to the ER at once,” she intoned, wanting to get the last word in.
“Right.” I answered somberly, willing to throw her a bone. I had really stolen this poor lady’s thunder, after all. So I choked back the urge to answer, “DUH!” instead.
A month later, we were informed it was a false positive.
With my first child, this same scenario had played out very differently. We rushed to the Children’s Hospital immediately when we got the call. I was sobbing because I was terrified for my baby, and I couldn’t walk as it was only a few days after my C section. My husband had to find a wheelchair for me so that we could make it to the genetics lab. I sobbed even more as I watched the nurse stick a huge needle into my one week old’s arm and drew out vials and vials of blood as she screamed and writhed in pain. The nurse then stated that she was going to stick a catheter into her tiny body to get a urine sample, but my husband put his foot down. “You’re not doing that to my baby,” he informed her. “What are our alternatives?” She then reluctantly told us that we could use a bag in her diaper instead. He stated that that was what we would be doing. We then spent the next two months worrying and sending them urine sample after urine sample. I was also told that she couldn’t go more than three hours without eating or else she could die, so I spent the next month waking up my child all night long to feed, which would make her furious and she would scream the rest of the night. Only to be told at the end of it all that it must have been a false positive and it turns out she was perfectly fine.
That is an extreme example of why it has been so much less traumatizing and emotionally exhausting this time around. But there are several other less extreme examples. Am I going to bore you with them, you are wondering? Well, yes. Yes, I am.
Why the Fourth Child is such a Game Changer:
- People can’t bully you. With two of my other three children, I let the nurses at the maternity ward bully me into supplementing with formula because my milk wasn’t coming in quickly enough for them. That led to a lot of breastfeeding problems with my eldest in particular. They panicked and told me that if the baby loses more than 10 percent of her birth weight, then the protocol is that you start supplementing with formula. With Rhea (my fourth), they tried to start that mess with me all over again, and I politely told them to back off. Luckily, the lactation consultant supported me wholeheartedly and our pediatrician humored me.
- You know what you’re doing. I have had enough experience with doing this three other times that I can at least not be in a constant state of panic about every little thing. Breastfeeding is a breeze by the fourth time. The lactation consultant just came in once with Rhea, watched me nurse her for about a minute, and then cheerfully bade us goodbye and left. With my eldest, we were desperately calling the LC for every feeding. And I was still crying and desperately trying to get her to latch for ten minutes with every feeding when we got home. It was a nightmare. Now, breastfeeding comes naturally, even though Rhe has a hard time latching sometimes. But by now I have confidence and the knowledge to get her to nurse without it being an ordeal.
- No one bothers you with unsolicited advice. Although, to be honest, unsolicited advice has never bothered me. But I know it drives some moms crazy, so there you have it. I’m ashamed to admit I’m usually the mom giving the unsolicited advice. If you have ever been on the receiving end of my unsolicited advice, my most sincere apologies. Be comforted by the fact that if you do not follow said advice, I do not take it personally in the slightest. In fact, I make it a habit not to take anything personally. It makes me a much happier person. But that is another blog post for another time.
- People think you look great no matter what. Apparently a mom of four has the reputation for looking like a total hag. This is setting the bar real low. So whenever people find out I have four children, they always say, “Wow, you look great!”, or “You don’t look like you have four children!” It is a real confidence booster. Never mind I have spit up on my shirt, desperately need a hair cut, and have been forced to ignore basic grooming routines for a few months. At least I don’t look like a mother of (gasp) FOUR!
- The rude comments about your family size are drastically reduced. Because at this point, most people just assume that you are crazy and beyond all hope.
- You can relax and savor this time with your baby. With your first child, everything is completely new and terrifying. Your entire life is turned upside down. You don’t know what you’re doing and are terrified you are doing everything wrong. Your fourth child’s entrance to the world adds to the joy of your family without the fear of the unknown. You know firsthand that even though that first year can be mind-numbingly difficult, it really does fly by way too fast. So this time around, you make sure to stop and savor all of the wonderful moments. Because if you are too busy dwelling on or worrying about the hard times, you just might miss the joyful blessings every child brings to the family.