Having Four Kids Under 5 Is a Joy & a Challenge
Wellness expert and co-host of the podcast Mom Brain Hilaria Baldwin opens up about her life raising four little ones—and the possibility of baby #5.
There's a question my husband, Alec, asks me all the time. He'll look at me, and he'll be like, "Did you ever think that you were going to have four children?" The answer is no. When I was growing up, I didn't think I wasn't going to become a mom, but having a big family wasn't necessarily something that I was so focused on. But I met him when I had just turned 27, and then, I was pregnant by the time I was 28.
At that time, I was like, "Oh, I'm going to just start with one," and I was worried. I didn't know if I was going to like it. But that changed as soon as I gave birth the first time. I had just delivered Carmen, and my feet were in the stirrups, I had her on my chest, and I said to Alec, "Oh, my God. I want to do it again." It was like a water slide. You're so afraid to go down, but as soon as you do, and you realize you can do it, you want to run up and do it again.
I felt like that each time around. I got pregnant with Rafa when I was nursing Carmen. I got pregnant with Leo when I was nursing Rafa, and Rafa was only 6 months old. Baby #4, Romeo, was the one that we actually were like, "What would happen if we tried?" I think he was the only one I was prepared for.
It surprised me that I wanted to have so many. I remember one of my friends was super close with this family that had a ton of children. I'd look at that and think, "Wow, that sounds horrible. It must be chaos all the time." Now, people definitely look at our family and say, "Oh, gosh. I don't know how you do it." Quite honestly, it's different when they're yours. You just do it. You make it happen. We do a lot of group activities where I'll bathe them all together. We all eat together. And I make a point to give them their individual time.
Every once in a while, I'll get people writing to me, asking like, "Don't you even think about overpopulation?" or saying, "That's not fair to the kids that you had them so close together," but I can't do without even one of the kids. It's not like, "Ah, I wish we didn't have Leo," or "Oh, my gosh. Romeo shouldn't be here." They're all necessary entities in my life.
And I love that they have one another in their lives. I think there is no closer blood relationship than your siblings. They have the same experience growing up, the same parents, the same home, the same smells, the same everything. All these are going to form who they are as adults, and so I think it's a gift.
Plus, our house is always a lot of fun. We are never, never, never bored, and I love looking at my kids and realizing that they have just so much stimulation.
That said, of course there's the reality of having this many children. I admit it is chaos in the house! There are those moments when I'm covered in poop, and I don't even know whose poop it is. And it's not constant, but with four of them, you are often letting someone down, so a fight breaks out.
But the thing is that it has always felt like I've had a lot of kids. I felt like I had a lot of kids when I had one kid. That felt a little daunting, a little overwhelming, and then when I had two kids, that felt like a lot. When I had three kids, that felt like a lot. When I had four kids, that felt like a lot, but now I have the perspective of looking back and being like, "You know what? This is manageable." And the fact that we're thinking about going for baby #5 shows just how manageable it feels.
All the joys and challenges of parenthood have helped me realize my personal strengths, as well. Before becoming a mom, I experienced that fear of just losing myself and my identity. But at this point, I can say motherhood has actually helped me find myself more. I feel like there is an element of how selfless you can be as a parent, how much you can give, how good you can be. All of those things surprised me and taught me what I'm capable of. Even in a physical sense. If before I gave birth to Carmen, you had asked me, "Could you push your baby out?" I'd have been like, "Oh, I don't know if I could do that." Now, I know I can.
I also think I'm at a point in my mothering where I'm all right with being a little more selfish, saying no, and setting loving boundaries. When they want more and more and more, and I say, "You know what? Actually, Mommy can't do that right now" or "No, Mommy has to go to work. Mommy's not going to drop everything to do this with you." And that's okay.
In the end, one of the greatest lessons I've learned from having four is that you can love and connect with each of your children in a unique way. Of course you love your husband, you love your parents, you love your siblings, but there is a certain kind of love that you have with your children, and to be able to experience that and experience that with so many different individual kids is so great.
With hope, we all write the stories of our own lives, and the story Alec and I have written is that we have a lot of kids, and they're very close together, and hopefully we teach them that they have to be kind to each other and always have each other's backs. My spiritual side believes that they were put in my life for a reason, and that I was put in their life for a reason. They're my tiny soulmates.