“And you had ANOTHER one?!”
This is a question I often get, particularly from other parents of twins, when they realize that I had a baby after having multiples my first time around. Many of these parents have twins under the age four and are still in the throes of infancy and toddlerhood – another baby seems unimaginable. (And the parents of triplets smile here.) Many have tried for years to conceive and are ecstatic that they have been doubly fortunate, and so another baby might seem like tempting fate, or logistically too expensive or difficult. A friend of mine, seeing my twins for the first time, said, “Having children is a lottery every time. It looks like you won the lottery.” Weren’t they enough?
I had always wanted three children. I imagined a boy, then a girl, then a boy, spaced out over some years. Then, an unplanned pregnancy resulted in identical twin girls. As a younger sibling, I’d never known the experience of being an only child, and now I was denied knowledge of that relationship from the parent’s side as well: even though I knew I wanted more than one child, I had relished the idea of a few years, at least, bonding with just one. But it wasn’t to be. For the first years of my twins’ lives, my imaginings of a single child faded as life became centered on my two daughters. It felt like enough; many days, in fact, it felt like more than enough.
By the time my daughters were four years old, the old longing had crept back, and with my children starting Junior Kindergarten, I found myself missing babyhood. I’d established a career since my twins were born, and had space in our home for another child. Maybe I’d use that babywearing wrap I’d bought when I’d first discovered I was pregnant and never had time to learn to tie when the twins arrived: it hardly seemed worth it when it would only take one of two babies off my hands. On the other hand, there had been other changes in recent years: after my raising them alone their first two years, the twins were now living with their father part-time, allowing me to go out without having to find or pay for a babysitter and otherwise resume the life I’d had before they were born. I had all the joys and challenges of family life, but many of the freedoms of a child-free person. It was a highly enviable position. Did I want to anchor myself to home full-time for months, and have someone so wholly dependent on me again?
“Yes” was the resounding answer in my mind; “No!” was the gasp of astonishment from friends when they learned the news I was expecting baby number three. I was single to boot which added to the quizzical responses I got. I surprised my colleagues and friends when I returned from summer vacation visibly pregnant, and kept the news off social media until the new arrival, another daughter, was born: who could look at a new baby and question or criticize? I am fortunate to live in a province with the most progressive assisted reproduction, maternity leave, and childcare policies in North America, and I was making an income greater than most Canadian families. I have a few close and generous friends who agreed to be there for labor, delivery, and my nights in the hospital, and who kindly offer babysitting services on occasion. I have the very best parents who are retired and in good enough health to visit and help for weeks at a time, and who, thankfully, are progressive enough to recognize that a child needs love first and foremost, regardless of family structure. People had questioned my decision to go ahead with my first pregnancy when I was a single graduate student far lower on the household income scale, and I had never been happier with my policy of ignoring what others thought. I was the best judge of what I wanted, and what I could give my children.
Having a third child has only bolstered this conviction. My youngest daughter has a great life and has made our family’s life richer. Thanks to her, I know the joy of a bond with an only child, which she gets to be when her sisters are with their father; thanks to her I’ve been able to see my twins be sisters and mentors outside of their particular relationship. I’ve seen them focus with pride on how they’ve grown, how they can help, what they can do on their own, rather than in competition with each other. I’ve seen my youngest yearn for her sisters’ love and attention when they’re away, and be jubilant upon their return, despite basking in having my attention all to herself for a week. Yes, there are challenges, and conflicts, and moments when everything feels like too much. But there is also love and beyond an abundance of it. This is how I recently taught my youngest the meaning of a word that was new to her. Listing all the people she loves is something she does before closing her eyes each night; afterward, she says, “There’s room for everyone. Love is—” she hesitates as she pronounces, insisting upon getting it right—”infinite.”
This post is part of a series of essays by the contributors to our second anthology, Multiples Illuminated: Life with Twins and Triplets, the Toddler to Twin Years. Subscribe to get new posts on your favorite reader as and when they’re published.
Gina Granter teaches English at Dawson College in Montreal, where she lives with her three daughters. She is a storyteller, an occasional stand-up comedian, and an annual seamstress of Halloween costumes. She divides her time between Montreal and New York City.