Joseph, Callum and Charlie have been brothers for almost 5 years and in that time have become quite a united force, however they are soon to be joined by a new sibling! On the whole they have all been remarkably relaxed about it and seem pretty excited, particularly Callum who had been wishing in wishing wells for a baby brother or sister for a long time! In fact, I recently heard him tell another home-ed mum that he had wished just the right amount because had he wished too much, I might have had twins again! All of the boys had let us know that they liked the idea of a new baby in the house which was handy, because we did too!
Joseph discovered that I was pregnant when I was only 6 or 7 weeks. I had been experiencing a lot of sickness, and had been prescribed tablets by the GP to stop me vomiting when Joseph overheard a conversation between Ollie and I where 'pregnancy' was mentioned. He asked outright if I was pregnant and we were honest with him, telling him that we hoped I'd be having a baby, but needed to wait until the scan to find out for sure. We asked him not to mention it to anyone until we knew for definite and he was fine about this, chatting to us about it every now and again to say that he really hoped there would be a baby, and that Callum would be soooo happy!
When we showed the boys the scan picture and told them they would all be big brothers they were excited, although it was clearly a lot to take in. Charlie put the scan picture in the bin later that day, but continued to talk happily about a new baby, so we didn't have any major concerns! Soon after he knew there really would be a baby the news began to sink in for Joseph, and he discussed concerns that the baby would break or knock over his toys. He really enjoys setting up battle scenes of various sorts, so I can understand why this was a particular concern for him, although all of the boys have since expressed similar worries. I've tried to reassure them as best I can, letting them know that it will be a while before the baby can move around and that I'll do everything I can to prevent any 'destruction' from happening. We've discussed the spaces throughout the house where we can set their toys up away from a crawling or toddling baby, and the kind of toys we could get for the baby so that they have their own things, while acknowledging that this little person is likely to find their three big brothers and everything they do pretty fascinating! I told them that when Joseph liked to build and Callum and Charlie liked knocking things down, we would sometimes build things especially for them to knock over, and Callum likes the idea of doing this for his little brother or sister!
Callum has been fascinated by my growing body! He is a very tactile and sensual person, and loves to be able to feel and touch my belly. He often gives the bump a massage with some body butter, and the baby 'thanks' him with lots of wriggles and kicks, which has been a lovely way for them to bond. Joseph too has a lot of affection for the bump, hugs it, speaks to it and tells it that he loves it. Being a little older than his brothers, he seems better able to imagine having a baby in the house and shows a lot of excitement. When I was recently sorting through baby clothes we chatted about how there would soon be a baby in the house and he said with real feeling, "We're so lucky!" He recently climbed into bed for a cuddle one morning and was kicked by the baby, then bent down to my belly and told it "I can't wait to meet you!"
With Charlie, things have been a little different, and he seems to have been preparing by becoming a baby himself again! He tells me often that he is my baby, he likes to be cradled and enjoys being treated like a baby, often asking me to feed him for example. None of this has concerned Ollie or I, and we have been happy to play along. Of all the boys, he seems the most likely to feel displaced by a new sibling; he is the third born and the smallest, and despite Charlie being only a minute younger than Callum, Joseph has always perceived him as the youngest. All of the boys enjoy a lot of physical and emotional closeness with me, but whilst Callum and Joseph are increasingly interested in activities that take them away from me for periods of time, Charlie isn't ready to make that kind of separation yet. When Charlie tells other adults that he is a baby they usually respond by telling him that he is a 'big boy' now, and remind him that he is soon to become a big brother. I feel like Charlie feels this all too well, and doesn't need me to remind him. It feels as though he needs to be reassured that he won't be forced into a role he isn't comfortable with before he is ready, and that he won't be turfed out of a position within the family that makes him feel secure. We all know that a huge change is coming and that this will impact all of the boys, but I don't think that reminding Charlie constantly what a big boy he is now would help him ride that change. When we're alone together he talks about being a big brother, about the things he'll show the baby and help them to learn, and he has given me toys he has found around the house that he thinks a baby would like. Charlie is a deep thinker with a vivid imagination, and has shared some lovely realisations. He has talked about how I have two skeletons inside my body, and about how the baby is living underwater. For a couple of months now Charlie has been telling us that he came from the sea, often telling us stories about his life underwater before he came to us, and through this underwater theme I can see that he is already making a connection with his new sibling. He'll often point to me and then the bump saying "I love you, and I love you", and I can see that he understands that this bump is its own person, and is preparing for it to become one. There will no doubt be ups and downs for him along the way as there will for us all as we adapt, but I feel confident that we can ride them together.
'Baby play' has been something that all of the boys have taken part in a lot of lately. They spend a lot of time in imaginary play together anyway, but I've noticed that baby characters have become more of a feature, and that whereas before there was some prestige in taking the role of the character with the most power or influence, there is now competition over who will be the baby! I love that at the age of almost 7 Joseph feels safe to play out these roles at home, and that all the boys are having a chance to explore, think about and experience how life might be for a baby. A baby mammals game has become a particular favourite, whereby I am their animal mother and they pretend to be born before we reenact the likely events in the moments, hours and days afterwards. We've been horses, tigers, cheetahs, rabbits, monkeys, meerkats, wolves, blue whales and moles to name a few! Callum is particularly enthusiastic about this game, and likes to construct a habitat! They tried out being baby sea turtles too, but decided it was less fun because the hatchlings don't ever meet their mothers!
As we've been preparing for the new arrival and increasing amounts of baby paraphernalia has been shipped into the house, the boys have enjoyed trying it out and having a go where they can; laying on play-mats, sitting in slings and even using the Bumbo as a Minecraft helmet! On the whole they seem excited and unphased, although I recall that one day after we'd all been chatting about the baby for a while Charlie became cross and told me that this wasn't his house, and that he needed to go and live in an aquarium (he comes from under the sea after all!) I told him that I love him and would miss him if he went to live somewhere else, so would build him an aquarium to live in at home! He was thrilled with this and hearing it seems to have been enough because so far I haven't had to build one, although of course I remain on standby...(its amazing the things a bunk bed can become with the help of a few blankets!)
Not going to school means that the boys have been more involved in baby preparations and appointments than they would have been otherwise, being present for midwife visits and coming to the chiropractor with me. I think this has helped them to understand what my body is going through and why I'm not able to do as much as usual, and they have been very mindful of helping me when they can. They love to dismantle and tip over sofas to make dens on an almost daily basis, but now do this with thought as to which objects can easily be put back again, waiting until Ollie is home for any major furniture moves! Joseph carries bags for me and brings me glasses of water, and after one busy afternoon at the park which resulted in a lot of aching, I was so well cared for that I could barely be seen under the blankets and cushions they all propped me up and covered me with on the sofa later! They understand that yoga is helpful for me, and are mostly happy for me to disappear for half an hour to go and do some upstairs. They are all old enough and have been involved enough to show a lot of kindness and understanding towards me about this pregnancy, and that, along with not working this time around, has made for a mostly very relaxing few months preparing for this baby.
For Oliver and I, expecting number 4 has been lovely. There's none of the first time 'what kind of parent will I make' anxiety, or worries about how we'll adapt to more than one child. We've been outnumbered by children for almost 5 years and we haven't just survived it we've really enjoyed it, even that crazy year we were parents to 3 boys under the age of 3! There's no doubt that we've forgotten many of the difficulties involved in caring for a small baby (sleep deprivation does that to you) but baby number 4 is heading towards confident and content parents, and we've been able to happily prepare for this child in a way we probably haven't done before. This new house is ready for and is spacious enough for a new family member, so we haven't spent any time clearing space, preparing a room or other DIY as we have with previous pregnancies, meaning that the focus has very much been on preparing for the birth and enjoying time with the boys. We've been Youth Hostelling and visiting fun places, the boys have made the baby its own bear (filled with not one, but three hearts each with a kiss from big brothers), and we have just returned from a lovely final pre-baby family break in the Lake District.
The boys are not impatient about the arrival of the baby, they know its due to arrive some time around their own birthdays but seem happy with the wait. Ollie and I are too. This pregnancy has flown by, we know how precious this time before the arrival is and are making sure we enjoy it. Being at home during this pregnancy means that I've had lots of time to enjoy this bump, and I'm happy to continue doing that while we all wait for the big day!
We don't know if we are expecting a boy or girl, although Charlie tells us he knows its a boy and thinks we should call him David Attenborough! On holiday last week he wrote 'Oro' in the sand, asked us what it said and has since been telling us that this is the baby's name! Callum would like a sister but is not too bothered, and Joseph doesn't mind either way! Neither do Ollie and I, we've had brilliant fun parenting only boys and are more than happy for this to continue, or not...whatever life has in store!
Over the past five years I've become very used to the image of 3 little boys. It's an image I've used to calm myself in many a manic moment by stepping back, taking a breath, watching them play and taking time to be truly, deeply grateful. I can't quite believe that I'll soon be watching 4 of them, and as excited as I am, I'm using this 'waiting' time to really enjoy the image of 3.