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Four Kids the New Two?

Samantha Yaffe’s frank take on motherhood with allergies.

So there I am sitting behind the glass wall at my son’s gymnastics’ class. I’m among all the moms, and would appear to be of the same social, educational and parental milieu as the pretty lot of them. We’re all about the same age – mid-thirtyish; we’re all dressed in like fashions – designer yoga pants, over-priced jeans, big leather bags; and we all have two kids, at least one of whom is on the other side of the glass jumping, balancing and climbing to their heart’s content.

On this particular day, one of the regulars arrives after missing a week to give birth to her third child. She’s skinny and fabulous, and of course the baby, who is home with the nanny, is an angel. Everyone’s adjusted and excited about the new little bundle of joy.

This ignites the third-baby debate. Some of the mothers are undecided, some not quite ready yet, and a few are in the process. But the general sentiment, even among the undecided, is “it just feels incomplete with only two” or “I just can’t imagine that this is it.”

This is where I begin to stand out like a third thumb. As the mother of two delicious boys – a 4-year-old who is severely allergic to peanuts, tree nuts, egg and other, and a 1-year-old who’s allergic to milk and yet-to-be-determined – I couldn’t fathom adding a hamster to my litter, much less another child, now or ever. Two feels incomplete?

“Oh my God, what’s wrong with me,” I think. “Two is so-oo more than enough,” I eventually blurt out. In fact, if we lived in a single baby world, I would have probably been OK to stop at one.

“But four is the new two,” says one quick-witted mom as she refers to what’s become a common understanding among this class – my class – of women.

Taking the cue from Hollywood (Brangelina, the Beckhams, Julia Roberts), high-flying New Yorkers (Tory Burch, Brooke de Ocampo, Princess Marie-Chantal) and our wealthier friends at home who have moved far away from the ’90s “less is more” mantra, “more” is back with a vengeance. This relates to everything from the power of our SUVs, the decadence of our homes and even the size of our families.

Makes sense – it’s expensive to raise children and unlike our parents, we are a generation of uber-planners and over-thinkers. We don’t take an “it-will-all-work-itself-out” approach to parenthood and we aren’t willing to sacrifice quality of life for quantity of offspring. So naturally, rich people get to have more kids and poor rich people stop at two or three. Power, prestige and pedigree in numbers. It’s what divides us.

We laugh at the “four is the new two” statement, but I’m the only one who is left feeling badly about myself. I’m not so bothered by the babies-for-status concept (first identified by British Vogue last year and elaborated upon in a recent New York Observer article entitled, “Four’s the Charm: Young Rich Can’t Stop Procreating!”), as sickening as it sounds.

But I often wonder why I feel so incapable of dealing with more kids, or leave my kids with the nanny for more than a couple of hours without palpitations? Why I am only as happy as my most unhappy child at any given moment?

Next: The Allergy Ratio

Even if I had oodles of money, I still couldn’t wrap my head around more kids. Yet I can’t help feeling downright envious of these other moms who can pop them out without skipping a beat, focus on their personal needs without remorse, and feel incomplete without more than two. Are they more stable? More maternal?

Then I take a step back. A big step back. And realize that none of them has anywhere near the responsibility that I shoulder. Not one of them has to have five tear-jerking meetings with the principal before their kid starts school. Not one of them camps outside the classroom when there’s a supply teacher or devises emergency action plans for their children’s basic safety. Not one of them combs the aisles on airplanes looking for allergens. Not one of them has had to communicate to their 2-year-old that the peanut butter Barney sings about could kill him.

Not one of them has had to stab their baby’s leg with an EpiPen as he gasps for breath. Not one of their children is anaphylactic. Truth be told, raising an anaphylactic child is like raising 10 non-allergic kids. I would never classify either of my sons as special needs, but they do have them, in spades.

So to all my sisters out there, I tip my hat to you. No matter how many allergic kids you have, you’re not only raising a herd on your own but, for argument’s sake, your social status has apparently just climbed through the moon roof of your new Honda Pilot. But for we allergic families, whose unborn children can have up to 10 times the chance of having anaphylaxis, one is the new brood.