Congratulations are in order for Blake Lively and Ryan Reynolds, it seems! On Super Bowl Sunday, Lively posted a picture of herself in which evidence that she had been gestating a baby was noticeably diminished. Perhaps she’s the kind of woman who can wear high-waisted jeans while nine months pregnant, but if she’s entered the “land of four,” I have some extremely unscientific and very important advice to offer her, as a member of this parental minority. Here goes.
Do you remember those ’90s Volvo station wagons with the third row that faced the cars behind it? You saw them sometimes on the road, their rearward passengers inhabiting a universe of their own. You will now be driving the 2023 version of that whenever you attempt to go anywhere as a family. “What?” you will constantly be calling, as whichever child is relegated to the rear row attempts to tell you something over the din of the second. You will occasionally think you can fit into one normal-sized car and summon an Uber, but then sheepishly dismiss it when you remember, once again, that you’re in XL territory. You’ll probably get a second car (or a third or a fourth, you Lively-Reynoldses probably have a long driveway). I hope you know how to install one of those roof racks that makes your car look a little bit like a high-speed turtle. I hope you never, after driving 10 hours to your Airbnb, realise you have lost the key to said roof rack, and cannot retrieve all the beach and baby gear you have packed in it.
Invitations to spend the night may be a thing of the past. I know you’re a world-famous actress. I know you know people who have places to house you. But nobody really wants to host four children. One, no problem. Two, sure. Three, perhaps for the host with a strong stomach. Four, a bridge too far. We had an invite once for a weekend out of the city. We couldn’t make it. I’m still waiting for another.
You will now and forever more be known as a mom of four. I know you are also an entrepreneur of sparkling mixers and a regular attendee of the Met Gala. In all likelihood, the impact of your first season on Gossip Girl is far greater than the cultural influence most of us will exert over the course of our entire lives, and yet I still believe that this label will stick to you like velcro. And why fight it, I say! It’s a trophy. It’s a gesture toward the epic proportions of your days, even before 8 in the morning. It’s evidence of battle scars—physical, mental, and emotional. There aren’t that many of us: just 14% of all moms, according to PEW. At a public event the other day, when I was introduced and that central factoid was articulated about my life, it elicited an audible gasp. Quite right, I thought.
“There is no limit to the love that you will feel—it will expand beyond the space allotted and then it will keep on expanding”
And speaking of those early mornings: You will occasionally arrive at work (on set or wherever else) having essentially run a marathon—feeding four bodies, clothing them, delivering them to wherever they need to go. You will bite your tongue, your lip, your cheek—the whole inside of your mouth will basically become a chew toy—in order not to laugh and scream when your childless colleague yawns and complains about the subway.
You would suppose that the hand-me-down chain keeps going, but even the most carefully constructed clothing, by the time the third child is done with it, has probably given up the ghost. An excuse to buy baby clothes all over again! You will be subject to many, many, musings on “how you do it,” to which the answer will be “I don’t”—or some variation on “I just try not to drop too many balls or the baby.”
Whatever the gender of your new baby, you will be subject to unsolicited inquiries that reduce childbearing to an exercise in genetic engineering. Prepare some responses to the inevitable “Finally got your boy!” or “Gonna try again for a boy?” It’s good to remind people that gender is a construct, and watch them squirm.
You will witness the absolutely delicious joy of seeing your oldest child become a parent to your youngest. “I’m like the second mom,” my oldest son is fond of saying, and the baby believes it too. (Again, gender is a construct.) He is also a teacher, mediator, occasional chef. In many ways he will grow up faster than you ever thought possible, now that you have an infant in the house marking the swift and brutal passage of time with her ever-approaching developmental milestones. And it will break your heart a little, in the sweetest way possible, every time he does something helpful without even being asked.
Your kids will have wonderful, distinct, charming, and sporadically annoying personalities. And then there will be one who is just kind of hanging out. You’ll know her when you see her.
No matter how happy the family picture was before your littlest entered it, you will have the strange and uncanny sense that it was not complete until he or she was present. This does not mean that you will avoid the “Where’s Kevin?” Home Alone moments, after which you will chant, “don’t forget the baby”. I mean, you’re not sleeping—you’ll never sleep again—so you can be forgiven the occasional lapse in diligence when you’re tallying up who has made it to the car.
And finally, do you recall that idea from high school chemistry that a gas expands to fill the space allotted? Child-related anxiety works the same way: There will almost always be something that feels at least like a minor concern, even if you are the most chill parent of all time. I actually mean this as something of a comfort. Yes, concern is a constant. How couldn’t it be, once you dispatch these little defenceless guardians of your heart into the big, bad world? But I have found that there is only so much worrying you can do over the course of the day, the week, the year. There are only so many fires you can put out, and—for the most part—you can only put out one at a time. It’s useful to remind yourself of this. And the good news is that some kind of inverse is true as well: There is no limit to the love that you will feel. That love will expand beyond the space allotted and then it will keep on expanding.
This article was originally published on Vogue.com.