Churning through life with four under four


We were blessed with four sons under the age of four, the last being a set of twins twenty-one months younger than our middle child. Four in diapers; four car seats; four child seats at the table, four snowsuits, a million little socks and six loads of laundry a day… 

I nursed all of the boys,  so I was well indoctrinated by the time our little groundhogs arrived on February 2nd. Our middle of the night routine was a well-orchestrated dance: The first baby would awaken and Daddy retrieved him for the first suckle. When he was satisfied, #2 was awakened and presented to Mama. Daddy took # 1 for diaper change while the second nursed. Baby #1 would be returned to me so I could “top him off” while the second received clean dipes. He was then returned for seconds, while #1 was tucked back in. Then I would convey the second back to the crib shared by both, for a nice uninterrupted 30 minutes of sleep. This, two or three times a night, interspersed with lost pacifiers and the occasional “bad dream” or other upset on behalf of the others.

Our plan for the day seemed simple enough: be out of the house by 9:30.

A new day began at 6 am with my being nudged out, if not shoved right over the edge of the bed by the five squirming attendants. The two big boys had migrated in the wee hours, and Mama had been too lazy to return babies to bed after the last feeding.


We hit the floor running: Pee. Nurse babies. Line the boys up on the living room rug to change diapers assembly-line fashion (thankfully one was in daytime undies!) Nurse and change diapers again, for invariably it was necessary after breastfeeding. Get breakfast for the two elder sibs. Change diapers. Get the boys dressed. Nurse. Change clothes that had been spit up upon. Nurse. Naptime for babies. Sesame Street (Thank God!!). Get laundry in, clean up cereal that has been flung all over the kitchen, make a plan for the day, pee and get dressed. Snack time for little boys. Babies awaken and nurse. Change diapers. Get snowsuits on. Take snowsuits off to poop in the toilet. Time for lunch. Naptime. Laundry time. Snack time. Change diapers. Snowsuits on. Ah… out the door at last! And it’s only 4:30 pm! The realization that I never even got my teeth or hair brushed! Round and round we’d go churning through our days.

The older boys wore disposable diapers, the babies wore cloth. Groceries for our family then were $75 per week without disposables, $95 with. So the wee ones would not get into the stinky mess, we had an arrangement next to the changing table. Hanging from a macrame’ plant hanger was the basket into which the disposable diapers were pitched. Under that was the high backed stool holding the diaper pail for cloth diapers. There were times when the disposables were heaped to precarious avalanche state, and the cover on the pail below sat on top of a mound surpassing its rim by 8 inches – Quite the conversation piece!

As they grew, the babies never even had the experience of solids during their first nine months. Their sole means of nutrition was breast milk, for it was much easier to just “whip it out” so to speak than to try to prepare conventional meals for everyone single-handedly. They nursed simultaneously, crossed over one another in my lap. Once when the phone rang I got up with the two latched on and sat them on the counter while I took the call and they continued, uninterrupted.

When they were big enough, the twins sat in seats hooked over the edge of the counter, kicking their feet frantically and waving their little arms as though ready to take flight. Phil sat in his high chair, more often than not nodding off into his lunch. Henry, in his big boy chair, was becoming devious, trading Phillip for the “good stuff” when he thought I wasn’t looking.

When they had all graduated to peanut butter sandwiches, they each exerted their individuality thus: one wanted peanut butter and jelly with crust; one peanut butter and jelly, without crust; one peanut butter, no jelly, no crust; one jelly with crust, no peanut butter. “Do you want your banana big or cut up? “Big. No, cut. Ummm, big. No, I want it cut” Are you sure?” “Yes,” I cut the banana. “Whaahhh! I want it big!”


Our middle child was of the age that ideally, we would have ditched the pacifier, but you can’t do that to a one and a half year old that has just been dethroned. Alas, by the time he was three, the only time that thing was not in his mouth was when it was resting on his lip as he cried 20 times each night until someone came to stick it back where it belonged.     

In frantic desperation one night before our weekly garbage pickup, I decided enough is enough and threw the slimy snot covered thing into the trash- as it happened, the basket containing the disposable diapers. As I was changing my youngest (by one hour and four minutes!), I started thinking maybe I should talk with # 2 son about this.

Then a wondrous thought occurred to me: Maybe the poop from the diaper… I peeked under the stinker I had just deposited. Nope, no such luck. I reached into the basket, opened the shit filled sack, swiped the pacifier through the mess, crying “Eeew! Phillip! Look what happened to your pacifier!” “Eww! We better throw it away!” “Oh! Good idea Phil.” We stood at the window waving bye-bye to “paci” as the garbage truck traveled down the street.

We owned a Honda wagovan, only seating five at the time of birth, so bolted two of the car seats into the cargo area facing backward. My husband devised a “Ben watcher” (a round, convex mirror on the driver’s sun visor so he could keep an eye on Baby Ben sitting behind him when he drove without a copilot. 

One  Christmas Eve the babies were in the way back, packed in amongst the groceries and I looked over my shoulder, aghast to find Jordan waving an empty egg carton about! “Stop the car! Stop the car!” 
When you live in that type of mayhem, so much of it is a blur. But there are those life-altering moments that remain clearly etched in one’s memory. 

One morning as my husband and I were awakening, we delighted in the babies jabbering away in the room next to us. Then silence. “What are they doing?” Suddenly, THUMP! “hehe hehe!”, THUMP!!! “hehe hehe!” as they learned to free themselves from the captivity of their cribs.

Things were about to get crazy!- RDW, 11-12-11