People ask me all the time, when's the third? My parents, my husband's parents, parents of my children's classmates. The third: the third baby, the person who would officially tip the balance of adult-child power, the seemingly logical step after the second.
Andi Buchanan

Most of the other parents I know, I know through my children, and due to that most of them have a family composition similar to ours. Two children, one in early elementary school, one in preschool. Among my peers this is the hot topic: a third baby, or a job? Another baby or a foray into regular life, a return to the old life?

"The little one isn't so little anymore," a friend remarks of her nearly four-year-old son. "What am I supposed to do next year, when he's in school for a full day?" She worries her uselessness will be exposed. Without a young child, a baby, to consume those long school-filled hours, she fears she will no longer have justification for being, as she calls it, out of the world. Is it time to go back in the world? Does she want to go back in the world? A third baby might make those questions moot, at least for a few more years.

We ordered Emi's crib after copious research. I consulted manuals and informal consumer satisfaction reports online, visited stores in person, polled email friends. When it came, the deliverymen assembled it and I watched, my eight-months-pregnant belly excusing me from that kind of labor. We realized only afterwards that the crib was larger than the doorway. It was lucky that it was assembled in the correct room; we couldn't get it out the door without taking it apart again. I remember remarking to my husband that the crib would have to stay there until the baby was grown, until there were no more babies left, if we did indeed plan to have more.

Emi moved from her crib to a "big girl bed" when she was two and a half. The crib sat in the corner of her room, filled with stuffed animals or toys or laundry, a holding pen for things I couldn't be bothered to put away. Eventually we'd need to dismantle it, but then I became pregnant with my surprise baby, Nate, the baby I hadn't planned for and hadn't realized I needed until after he was already here. We raised the crib mattress to newborn levels again, tied the bumpers back on, cleared it of its accumulated household items, readied it once more for a baby.

Nate has used the crib for two and a half years. He is now the size that Emi was as a four year old. With his heft and his height, it's not surprising that he recently figured out that scaling the crib and climbing down was something well within his realm of accomplishments. It was time to move him to a toddler bed.

This posed a problem. Emi's "really big girl bed"--the loft bed with a slide we purchased last summer--took up most of the room. With the crib wedged into the corner opposite, there was no room to accommodate the "big girl" toddler bed we needed to repurpose as a "big boy" bed for Nate. The crib would have to come out. It would have to be disassembled, taken apart and rendered back into the form in which it existed when it first came to us, before there were babies.

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