'I felt overwhelmed with my 4yo at the playground. Then I saw a pregnant mum of 3 under 4.'

We are going to the playground.

It takes me approximately 30 minutes to leave the house, juggling a lukewarm coffee, a library book I won't get to read, and enough allergen-friendly snacks to feed a small soccer team. I return twice because I forget things.

One of the things I forget is the four-year-old child who wants to go to the playground.

As we reach the iron gate, just before us, a very pregnant woman presses open the lock and allows two children under four to enter before her. I say very pregnant because the only time I was that pregnant was when I was a week overdue and in actual labour. My uterus must have had the sense memory of her uterus and it got all tingly when she was in my general vicinity.

It is approximately a million degrees out. It feels like we'd all be more comfortable without clothes. Or skin.

The very pregnant woman is pushing a stroller, ostensibly for the two little ones in front of her, when I realise, no, there is another child — a third child under four, in the stroller. The woman is unharried and totally at ease, wearing only a bathing suit. (We are near the beach, so this is not an oddity, and also, rock on, pregnant woman, even if you wanted to walk around naked, you do you.)

But she has three children. Under four. And one more that will also be under four — in a matter of days, in a matter of moments, it's hard to say.

They are not a daycare. They are a family.


My single child tugs at me to push him on the swings. I feel overwhelmed.

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Maybe my imagination is too vivid; maybe I think too much. Maybe reality and mind space vie like contrary siblings always trying to one-up each other in my head and there isn't enough room to manage more than one thing at a time.

As I push my child on the swing, the gentle rhythm lulls me into a dreamlike world where it becomes impossible not to follow the very pregnant woman and her expanding family. It feels like we are at a zoo, but I'm not sure which of us is behind glass.

The mother calls the kids Brother and Sister as if the words are names and not descriptors. I capitalise them in my mind because the cognitive dissonance of the terminology brainwashes me into thinking they are terms we all use. Not your brother or your sister.

It's like the Berenstain Bears have come to life in front of me, but they are human and possibly pro-natalist.


At the top of the play structure, the tower, the newly designed playground equipment I, as a non-pregnant person with one child, am determined not to climb, Brother and Brother have gone down the slide. But Sister wants to go down the slide too. Sister is maybe 13 months old so I'm not sure how we know her desires, but let's all agree that life is part mystery.

So Mother — and I call her Mother in my mind out of respect because I can only imagine that's how this family naming works — Mother picks up Sister. Now Mother is holding two babies — the one out of her body and the one inside her body, and if this doesn't blow my mind enough already, she actually puts Sister on her lap, and literally 10 months pregnant, she goes down the windy covered slide with the baby. Babies.

I half expect her to start at the top with one child in her lap and one in her uterus and end up at the bottom with one on her lap and one in the crook of her arm still attached to the placenta. Like the covered slide is some kind of grand metaphor for the birth canal.

I suddenly feel like I wouldn't be surprised if every woman that goes down that slide comes out the other end holding another baby. It feels like star-bellied sneetches territory over here. Except instead of a star, you get a baby. And you get a baby and you get a baby!

Earlier this morning, a mother — a different mother (not Mother with a capital M)— rode her bike up to the coffee shop. The bike then disgorged two additional tiny humans — one from the front, one from the back. Did you even know that was possible? There's a backseat attachment and a front seat attachment — as if the act of balancing over the age of childhood isn't challenging enough. And this woman was riding like some kind of Valkyrie, towing them both.


Alternately, when I biked to the coffee shop — alone, carrying a backpack — I wasn't sure I was going to make it because my quads felt like they were burning up from the inside and the portion of my body connected to the seat felt like it was a portion of my body that never wanted to be in connection with something that uncomfortable again.

The plucky mother plucked two identical children from the front and back like she was playing some kind of trippy mirror game. I told her she was awesome. She said her husband requested multiple items from the cafe. We both laughed while I helped her prop up the bike so one of the identical children wouldn't fall out of it. She pedaled off, somehow also carrying a coffee.

I am amazed by parents who manage children on their own. It seems like a tiny miracle in full view but no one seems to notice.

Are these parents extremely talented? Are they independently wealthy? Are they micro-dosing?

Are they able to focus one million percent in the moment unworried about careers and inflation and climate change? Are they in denial? Are they just a lot younger? Do they scream at their children behind closed doors or lock themselves in the bathroom for five minutes of peace several times a day claiming it's a bowel movement?


Are there women for whom pregnancy is not a miserable slog during which you feel sick and uncomfortable every moment of every day, even the ones where you are unconscious? Is labour for some — gasp — not the most painful experience of anyone's lifetime after which you actually said, I would pay one million dollars never to have to do this again?

It's something I desperately want to know but also don't want to find out.

Are some people better wired for the chaos that is parenting?

I honestly do not understand how parents do it. With one child, I feel like a duck, my little webbed feet treading water at an impossible rate while my duck body floats placidly on the lake. Or more accurately, I probably seem like a duck, treading water at an impossible rate whose feathers are also spontaneously combusting above the water.

Part of me is looking for answers; part of me wonders if what I am seeing is a mirage. Either way, you cool-overtaxed-somehow-calm-possibly-micro-dosing parents who are toting tots: I see you.

I see you and I am amazed.

For more from Kate Brennan, subscribe to More Humor, More Humanity.

This story originally appeared on Medium and has been republished with full permission. 

Feature Image: Getty.

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