"I pictured the exponential excitement, the learning and growing, the joy we'd all share in getting to know and love this unique little spirit" ... Mic Looby
It was our family doctor who wisely suggested we compile a list of pros and cons. This, she told us, was a good way for us to get our heads around the things we might expect from our unexpected pregnancy.
Calling it a list is an understatement. It's more like a swirling, organic equation that refuses to stay still long enough to ever add up to the same thing twice. Values shift, emotion battles abstraction, love won't divide evenly into logistics.
With two little children already, we were a little shocked to find ourselves adding and subtracting this unforeseen fifth member of the family out of the blue.
Having two little kids was great. Sometimes difficult, but always great. How would we handle a third? We consulted our list again.
In our case, kids one and two were unexpected in an expected kind of way. Whereas this time around, we'd been so busy with the other two we hadn't had time to consider the prospect of a cheeky third. It seemed almost petty to include logistics among the cons. But I did. Because they loomed larger than ever before. The prospect of a third, I reasoned, presented problems that never accompanied our second child.
If you've already got one, a second child seems logical - symmetrical, even. A third, on the other hand, pushes your family unit into a whole new bracket. It reclassifies you, from a smallish medium to a large. You become one of those mobs that challenge people's memories. Wait, which one's Chloe again? The second or the third? Or is it Zoe?
For us, another child meant our house and our car would become impossibly small. It meant trading up. Which meant spending money we didn't have.
I was suddenly seeing third children in a new light, as part of a buy-two-get-one-extra deal. You have one child, then you have another to keep the first one company. Then oops, baby makes five, just as you were starting to tame the first two.
Up to this point, if somebody told me they were having a third baby, I was naive enough to think, 'Where did you find the time and the energy and the privacy?'
With newfound insight, I realised that third-time-lucky parents-to-be were probably as rusty, sexually speaking, as the rest of us. They'd spent the years leading up to parenthood practising safe sex. After that, it was more about practising any sex at all. Which was precisely how number three popped up, as an ironic consequence of being completely out of practice.
Far from suggesting you've been busy in the bedroom, number three suggests it had been so long between drinks that you'd pretty much forgotten the basics. You went floundering about like a pair of fumbly teens, worried that at any minute you might get caught, and have some explaining to do, to your own children. With a pair of little terrors tearing round, your desire for sleep outweighs most other desires. You're still busy in the boudoir, it's just that your busy-ness has more to do with competing for space with half-asleep, limb-flailing bed-wetters. Or being drafted into break-of-dawn breakfast conflicts.
Under these conditions it's only natural that your average father of two little ones, confronted by a rare moment alone with his beloved, might demonstrate his utter lack of match practice.
By now, my list of cons had run off the page. They outnumbered the pros by 10 to one, with all sorts of organisational snags rounding out my reasons against. But the more I thought about it, the less the imbalance mattered. Suddenly the list made sense. Yes, the bad crowded out the good. But the good was so much better quality. I pictured the exponential excitement, the learning and growing, the joy we'd all share in getting to know and love this unique little spirit. My head and my heart were officially with number three.
Even so, we felt a strange kind of sheepishness in announcing our news to friends and family. Especially to our respective parents. We were a little embarrassed, a little afraid of what they might say, something we never felt the first two times around.
Baby number one is big news, with everyone excited for you. News of the second is warmly received, in a ''oh how nice'' kind of way. But in announcing number three we thought we might get more of a ''what were you thinking?'' reaction. We imagined furrowed brows and pointed questions about how we could afford a third, where we would put a third, or what a third might mean for our so-called careers. Those fears were unfounded - our folks couldn't have been lovelier.
And our folks, along with our many generous and supportive neighbourhood friends, were just as lovely when we broke the news that number three wasn't to be, after all. All our plans, our pros and cons, had been overruled by a miscarriage at 11 weeks.
It was a twisting, turning, unplanned journey from uncertainty via joy and heartbreak, that brought us back to a different kind of uncertainty, one with more light and shade. We count ourselves among the fortunate. We know now, more than ever, we're lucky to have what we have, and that the good outweighs the bad.
Mic Looby is a producer for The Age.