We had endured a two hour flight, complete with layover, with our four children ranging from age 1 to 7 to be there for the family reunion. As we gathered around my husband’s ninety-five year old grandmother, frail but glowing from the excitement of our surprise visit, my husband quips “and we brought a surprise extra baby along with us!”
Silence. Furtive glances.
This is the reaction when you announce your fifth baby.
Since we have all daughters, baby #2, #3, and even #4, were greeted with “So are y’all going to keep on trying for that boy? (we aren’t). But once you hit baby #5, people begin to suspect that you might just actually want that many children. They grow concerned and begin to vocalize concerns. Do we have enough money, energy, time, space, love for this baby? Do we know what causes babies? Did we really think this through?
Most of the time I avoid answering these concerns because there isn’t always a good answer or one I can give words to in the moment. Some raise philosophical ideas—“do we have enough love?” Does anyone, I wonder?
There are a few concerns I can lay to rest right away. Here are my five 5th pregnancy myths debunked:
We didn’t really want a fifth.
When you announce your fourth baby, people are already thinking you are excessive. A fifth baby is flat out inexcusable. So, if you are like me, you might start digging around for something that sounds like it is ok for us to add to our carbon footprint. “We were surprised as you are!” or “Guess birth-control isn’t 100%!” feel pretty safe. After all, if the baby is an accident, then we are just making the best of our situation, right? But our baby wasn’t an accident—we have four kids, and we know how they got here.
We can’t afford a fifth.
I’m a poet, not a mathematician, but I’ve found that babies get exponentially cheaper the more you have. Hand-me-down clothes, toys, gear, borrowing from friends, gifts because people feel sorry for you for being crazy enough to have a fifth baby, it all adds up. There are expenses down the road of course, but I would rather handle the stress of those expenses when the day comes than handle the regret of not having a fifth baby because I was worried about expenses.
We can’t handle a fifth.
The more kids you have, the better you get at taking care of more kids. I won’t say it is ever easy to take four kids ages seven and under to the grocery store or park or library, but it is one of those things you can get used to the more you do it. I’ve found that the braver I got—being willing to try to take them to that festival or restaurant or class alone—the easier it got for me. Also, I always know that I can leave if it gets unmanageable.
Our kids won’t get enough attention.
My husband and I believe siblings are good for kids. Who wouldn’t want more people in their life who have shared most of their life experiences and are bonded to them forever? Built-in playmates and having lots of siblings teaches children how to understand and live with many different types of personalities before they ever leave the house.
A fifth pregnancy isn’t healthy.
Until recent times, having five babies was considered a small family. It is true that sometimes even one pregnancy is more than a woman’s body can handle, but by the fourth blessedly healthy pregnancy and baby, my doctor feels confident that a fifth won’t be a problem for me. I’ve found that with each subsequent pregnancy, I have less time to worry about any aches and pains since I’m so busy keeping with the other children.
Adding a child to the family is a personal decision, and not everyone chooses to have five children, or any children at all. Just because the family size we chose may be different from our siblings or cousins or best friends doesn’t mean our size is wrong or abnormal. We are excited and want you to be, too!
Renee Emerson is the author of Keeping Me Still (Winter Goose Publishing 2014) and Threshing Floor (Jacar Press 2016). She earned her MFA in poetry from Boston University, where she was also awarded the Academy of American Poets Prize in 2009. In 2016, she was awarded an Individual Artist Grant by the Arkansas Arts Council. Renee teaches online classes for several universities, and she lives in O’Fallon, Missouri, with her husband and four daughters. You can follow her on twitter @thisquiethour and read her blog at Www.ReneeEmersonPoet.com.