Our baby Luke was a surprise, y’all. And when Caroline and I learned she was pregnant with him, we fainted were smack dab in the middle of the throes of toddlerhood. Times three. You see, I went from carefree bachelor to father of four in just 13 months thanks to marrying a single mom, then quickly conceiving triplets.
And the triplets had proven to be quite a handful, especially when they were three-years-old, which was exactly when we learned of Luke (or Grand Finale as I’d taken to calling him at that point). And the end result was two 41-year-old parents who loved their family exactly as it was. Four kids were plenty, thank you very much. Especially in light of the difficulty which came part and parcel with the triplets.
So the unexpected news of Luke packed quite a punch, one from which it took quite some time to recover. Don’t get me wrong. We were happy about the news and certainly felt blessed that we’d get to be parents to yet another child. After all, we love babies (who doesn’t?), and all was well with our marriage and our finances, so in our best moments we were 100% great with everything.
But in our worst moments, doubt crept in and took hold. We worried we were too old (42 by the due date), too tired and spread too thin to do a good job of parenting our baby, not to mention everyone else. And speaking of everyone else, how would we ever prepare our children for our baby’s arrival given we were having such a hard time preparing ourselves? And even when we were finally (and completely) in the throes of pre-baby nesting, we still struggled with how to prepare our children. Particularly the triplets. And though I didn’t want to admit it, I was pretty sure I knew why.
Our friends and family members had always referred to the triplets as “the babies,” even after they’d clearly graduated from the ranks of infancy. One of Caroline’s buddies put it best: “I know they’re toddlers, but to me, they’ll always be the babies.”
And we felt the same way about the three little people who (we’d always assumed) had completed our family. The children this one-time consummate bachelor thought he’d never have. The ones the broken-hearted mom who’d emerged from the broken home could have never, ever imagined. And I’m sorry, but the tiny trio who served as concrete reminders that the love Caroline and I shared was not only real, but also, at least in some ways, miraculous?
They were babies, y’all. And on some level, they always would be. At least to us.
So preparing them to be older siblings? Impossible. Especially during those not-so-great moments when our minds were filled with doubt. They weren’t older siblings. They were the three perfect cherries atop the sundae that was our incredible story. And as such, during the pregnancy, I’d often look at them and wonder How can this be? They’re the ones who are supposed to be the most innocent and the youngest of our crew. Forever. Not anyone else.
Intellectually, of course, I knew that once Luke began his reign of planet Earth, he’d be the youngest and that would be that. And as Caroline’s due date crept ever closer, I grew as anxious for the reality I was struggling to accept as I did for Luke, himself. But as ready as I was for everything to take their literal place, there remained a corner of my mind which was mourning the loss of “the babies” who would soon be forced to assume a role I’d never envisioned – never wanted – for them.
Then, on July 21 Luke was finally born. And it didn’t take long for me to learn something. Those babies? They didn’t wanna be babies any more.
They wanted to be older siblings.
What’s more, they were ready to be older siblings.
And so, they were older siblings. Right from the get go. And good ones at that.
I’ve come to understand so much during the eleven months that have since passed. For starters, Caroline and I never had anything to worry about. We’re not too old. We’re not too tired. And we’re not spread too thin for all these children. (Okay, that last one’s a total lie – we’re most definitely spread too thin, but stick with me here…)
Because it turned out that the child we’d never planned had been part of the plan all along. An essential part. Not only for the evolution of our family in general, but also for the evolution of the triplets in specific.
From the moment we announced their presence inside Caroline’s tummy, the triplets had garnered unprecedented attention. The fact that the babies which officially blended our family appeared in triplicate was enough, it seemed, to give the entire world license to dote on them. And by the time they were three, that trend was still in full force.
But everyone’s moved on to Luke now. Which means that our little baby has given the triplets room to play on their own. Room to develop faster than would have been possible had the doting continued. Room to grow into the children they were always meant to be. New versions with better balance than the old versions ever had. Three modest doses of middle-child-syndrome to help offset the spotlight that came with their multiplicity.
Which is exactly why I was unable to prepare the triplets for Luke. I had it all wrong, you see. I was never the one who was supposed to prepare the triplets.
And let me just tell you, he’s been the most beautiful surprise you could ever imagine, y’all. And if you find yourself in that same unplanned-pregnancy boat that Caroline and I found ourselves in? Please don’t fret. Just hang tight, and keep those eyes wide open. Because there’s something so beautiful about things that were always meant to be.
Especially the ones you never saw coming.
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