As a first-time parent I distinctly recall walking around in a semi-permanent state of bewilderment. I would stare at families with multiple children with my jaw ajar.
How does anyone manage more than one child, my husband and I asked each other and others often. It wasn’t rhetorical. We were desperate to understand. We couldn’t comprehend it. Caring for a single bundle of baby seemed to occupy our every waking minute. Our vague desire for three children suddenly seemed beyond our reach: I couldn’t envisage the logistics beyond the ratio of two parents to one child.
Fast forward two and half years, like many before and after us, when we welcomed our second baby into the world, it somehow transpired that we could care for a baby and a toddler. It was loud and busy but it was absolutely possible.
This time last year I was two-thirds of my way through my third pregnancy. I was hopeful the highlight of 2016 would be meeting the fifth member of our family, but to say I felt some trepidation would be an understatement.
I was terrified. I was steeling myself for the personal and physical challenge of spreading myself between three small children: a challenge I wasn’t sure I could meet.
Twelve months on, I am happy to admit I was wrong. My expectations about becoming a family of five were way off. I was too busy mentally preparing myself for the hurdles that I hadn’t contemplated the rewards.
I had not properly anticipated just how much our two older girls would love their baby sister.
I had not properly anticipated how much joy one small bundle would bring… a home, a street and a family.
I had not properly anticipated how much my heart would swell upon meeting my baby.
I hadn’t contemplated that becoming a family of five would be the best thing I’ve ever done. And I don’t say that lightly.
When it comes to families and babies there are many variables: no two infants are the same. The same goes for labour, feeding, toddlers, older children: there are no guarantees.
But there is a sliding scale. Nothing is as difficult as the first few weeks and months with your first baby. Nothing.
Being home all day with a single baby is far more difficult than carting a baby around to school drop offs and pick-ups and swimming lessons. With subsequent babies, you are tethered to the community with your older children in a way most of us aren’t with a single baby.
Sleep deprivation is easier knowing that somehow, at some point, it will get better.
The days are shorter when there are older children to feed, entertain and generally work around.
Feeding for hours at a time is less daunting when you know it will not last forever.
Babies are less likely to be bored when there are older siblings around to watch.
While life ensconced in a baby bubble has been lovely, I am acutely aware that 2016 will be remembered by many as a god awful year punctuated by tragedy, terror and turmoil.
The bombings in Brussels. The Bastille Day truck attack in Nice. The Orlando nightclub massacre. Syria. Brexit. The election of Donald Trump. The deaths of David Bowie, Zsa Zsa Gabor, Prince, Alan Rickman, Anne Deveson.
Against that backdrop it almost seems insensitive to confess that 2016 has been a happy year. But perhaps the external turmoil is all the more reason to recognise a good patch when you’re in it.
Who knows what 2017 will bring, but I look forward to sharing it with you all.