A few years ago, just after Christmas, when our ‘baby’ was nine months old, I became pregnant with our fourth child. Discovering you’re pregnant can bring with a range of emotions, regardless of how many children you already have. However, having a fourth brings with it some extra challenges and surprises.
Only around 5% of all Australian families have 4 or more children.1
More chaos, less rest
It’s a lot harder to rest when you’re pregnant with your fourth child, especially if your other children are still very young. The oldest might understand to some degree, but the littlest one can take some readjusting. If you can, take some time everyday to spend with your youngest child so that she feels like she’s not missing out on Mummy-time. You might even like to nap together, meaning you can relax in each other’s presence, while also getting some quiet time. Of course, all your children will want your attention, but the older ones have done this before. It’s a whole new ball game for the youngest one.
Questions, questions, questions.
Going from three to four apparently means you are now a Big Family. Depending on where you live, most families will have a maximum of three children. Be prepared for all the questions about ‘not knowing what causes it,’ or how much bigger your belly is this time, and if this is going to be your last. Of course, none of this is any of anyone else’s business, and I suspect pregnant women have been asked these kinds of things since time eternal. Just take a deep breath and know that it will all be over in a few months and then the focus will be on your gorgeous fourth child in your arms, rather than your tummy!
Going from three to four can also be a logistical challenge. Most family cars only fit five people, so if there are six of you, you’ll need to invest in something bigger. The same applies to houses—if everyone wants a bedroom of their own, that’s five bedrooms. It ramps up the cost of both transport and housing. However, there are some good deals to be had on second-hand cars, and young children don’t absolutely need to have their own rooms. Our four still share two rooms and are very content to do so. I believe it makes them closer and they provide company for each other.
Fourth child? Too easy.
The great part about having your fourth is that you’ve been there, done that. You know what tests will be ordered, you know what happens at ultrasounds. All the midwives at our birth centre knew me by name. I had the same midwives for my appointments as I had with my previous pregnancies, and when I came in to give birth, the midwife who’d delivered Baby #2 came in to support me while I was in labour – and she wasn’t even on duty! By the time you give birth to your fourth child, you’re an old hand at all this. Baby #4 came after only two and a half hours’ active labour, and this time, I knew what to expect and how to cope. It makes the whole experience less traumatic and far easier to recover from. (No less painful, though, I hate to say!)
Families with four or more children enjoy the greatest life satisfaction, a five-year study by Perth’s Edith Cowan University has found.2
When I first became pregnant with Baby #4, I’ll admit I was anxious about whether I could do this. His pregnancy was the worst of all in terms of nausea and fatigue at the beginning. We were living in a small unit and I wondered how we were going to manage—not just financially, but emotionally, too. What was I thinking, having a fourth? Four was too many! Surely I’d made a huge mistake! So when I went in for my first scan to check Baby #4’s heartbeat, I was in fairly low spirits.
‘Is this your first baby, Rebecca?’ the sonographer asked as he began to move the ultrasound wand over my belly.
‘Umm… fourth!’ I squeaked, almost apologetic.
‘Oh, you know, Rebecca,’ he looked at me with a kind smile, ‘I think it’s just as well, to have a few children. If you only have one or two, you might end up with donkeys!’
I laughed out loud. It was just what I needed to hear. Now, it’s become a family joke. And while I know he was just trying to make me feel better – every family is different in size and shape, after all – I often look at my little group of hilarious, naughty, energetic children, who play together, who love each other fiercely, and who choose to hang out together even when they don’t have to, and I’m so glad we had each and every one… and not a donkey among them.
But it was probably good to up the odds, just in case!