Monday, May 14, 2007

Birth Order

I've often wondered if there was much truth to the theory that personality traits are shaped by a child's birth order. I know that in my own family, there is a huge difference in personality between my oldest sister and myself and I've seen similar characteristics in other families, between the oldest sibling and the youngest. The "stereotype" is that the oldest is a perfectionist often misconstrued as a "control freak" ... while the youngest is a carefree soul, often misconstrued as "spoiled".

I've also wondered if it was possible that although our children were born within 3-minutes of each other, that there are differences in their personalities based on when they were born. The more I've read up on this topic and witnessed the personalities that are emerging with our young children, the more I am convinced that birth order does infact, have an effect on personality.

Probably more so with multiples.

For starters ... I'm absolutely positively certain - without a doubt - that Carolyn and Elizabeth were switched at birth.

When I was expecting our triplets, we knew that Baby A was a boy.

Baby B was one of our girls that rarely moved around.

Baby C was our second girl, the smallest of the trio, and extremely active.

This was the baby that flipped in utero during one of my ultrasounds - was counted twice - and for a few very tense moments ... Charlie and I were convinced we were having quadruplets. This is the baby that was always smaller than the other two and the one that would give Charlie and I an abdominal acrobatic show every night.

While I was pregnant, I imagined that Baby C was going to be a tiny little firecracker when she was born. I had heard, many times over, that a baby often behaves on the "inside" as they will on the "outside".

If the baby is constantly flipping and rolling in utero, chances are, they will constantly be moving ex utero, too.

Hence my surprise that when the babies did arrive, Baby C was the larger of the two girls. Even more surprising, the baby I had been informed was Baby C, and whom we named Carolyn Grace, was the most laid back child you ever did come across. From the moment we brought her home from the hospital, all she did was sleep.

She would sleep through her feedings.

She would sleep through her baths.

While the other two would wake up howling, whenever she woke up, she did it with a coo.

Her sister, meanwhile, would never stop moving. She squirmed out of her swaddled blankets, she would scootch across her crib or floor, and needed to be held ... all the time.

Recently, Charlie created a growth stick for the children. It's a simple 6-foot wooden stick and on it, he has recorded the children's birth lengths and their lengths/heights at 3-months, 6-months, 9-months, 1-year and 2-years old.

As Charlie was transferring this data on to the growth stick - he noticed that Baby C, Carolyn, was recorded as being born a full inch shorter than Baby B, Elizabeth. Although, we knew in the NICU that Carolyn was actually the larger baby. Moreover, Carolyn has consistently been taller than Elizabeth during each measurement.

What I believe happened is that they were mixed up following the birth and enroute to the NICU.

If their size wasn't enough to convince me, more evidence to support my theory that our girls were switched at birth is their personalities.

Elizabeth is the quintessential youngest child. She is a little firecracker - the epitome of what I imagined Baby C to be. She is currently 5 pounds lighter than her brother and sister and at least an inch shorter. She was the first to roll, crawl, cruise, walk, climb, scale furniture and counters - and just today - hopped over the baby gate in the nursery. Although she clings to me when we are at home, when we are out in public, she is a social butterfly. She never cries at playdates - has little to no fear - and as a result, will get in to more trouble and faster, than the other two, combined.

She loves to push my buttons and will do things, solely to see my reaction. She loves to push her sibling's buttons. She loves to push the dog's buttons. Yet, she gets away with (almost) everything that she does because she is so fiesty and adorable.

Carolyn is the quintessential middle child. She is extremely laid back - with a cheery disposition and a peacemaking ability that her siblings lack, she can often be found playing quietly by herself (but not overlooked!!) Although her personality frequently borders on melodramatic. Whenever we raise our voice with her, it is almost inevitable that she will turn away from us, with eyes full of tears, and a deep sigh. Unless we immediately apologize, she will make it obvious that the only way she can see us, through her tears, is by contorting her face so that her eyes are open as wide as possible.

This morning, when the children had driven me to the brink less than 5-minutes after they were out of bed and I sent them scurrying off to play in William's room while I tried to prepare breakfast ... it was Carolyn that slowly approached me in the kitchen. With a cautious smile and little hands that reached out to rub my leg, I could tell that she was testing the waters before summoning her siblings to come out of hiding.

William is the quintessential oldest child. He is the leader of the pack. He is and has always been, the most vocal of the group. Now a days, he will shout orders like a drill sergeant. Yesterday, I watched as he took Elizabeth by the hand and made her stand in time-out for throwing a toy, and today, he informed Carolyn that her time was up and it was Elizabeth's turn to play on the rocking chair. He is an enforcer of rules and a 2-year old perfectionist ... although, he doesn't necessarily follow all the rules, himself.

This afternoon, before lunch, he told me that he wanted to sit in the "big chair" ... meaning, a chair without a booster seat. Approving his request, I told him that to sit in the "big chair" he had to sit on his bum. Halfway through lunch, I watched him stand up in his chair and with one stern finger - point at his sister, Carolyn, who was standing in her chair - and disapprovingly tell her "Sit on BUM, Twacie!!"

Maybe it's purely coincidence that their personalities so closely match the birth order descriptions I've read about. But I think it's interesting that many of the characteristics they had as tiny infants, they possess now. Only time will tell if their personality traits will persist as they grow older, or, as we add a new baby to the family.

One thing is for sure. William's a lot more modest than his younger sisters.


  1. "The Birth Order Book" is an awesome book! I read it when I was in college! LOL! I love tushie pictures! cute!

  2. Very interesting!! My mom and I were actually talking about this yesterday. We have always been very interested in birth order info.
    In our situation Baby C, Kyra, last one born, in many ways acts like the oldest. She is the bossy, tattletale, leader of the group, instigator......was the first to master the sitting, standing......, but in public is extremely shy and sheds big tears when left behind.
    I have often wondered if Baby A and B were not actually the same A and B as seen on ultrasound. Baby B never moved around, always knew where she was for monitoring and never even had to belt the monitor on (they just tucked it in my underwear :)) Baby A was all over the place and nearly impossible to monitor. Now our Baby A, Eryn is the most laid back, slowest to sit, walk.........and Maya who was the 2nd girl out is all over the place and VERY dramatic. Throws herself on the floor, full on tantrums or sadness when in trouble. Its all so interesting isn't it!!
    :) Glad to hear there are others on the brink first thing in the am too. :)Gotta love the twos!!
    Mom to triplet girls- 2 1/2 years

  3. Mine behave EXACTLY in the order they were born. It's very freaky, really, as I've read that birth order makes no difference with multiples. But my trio act just like the older child, the middle child, and the baby. Exactly. Before I ever wrote my blog, I sent out a detailed letter in my annual Christmas Card (novel) telling everyone about it. Now the baby doesn't really figure in to this at all. He's just the best little guy in the world!!!! He's MY baby!!! LOL!

  4. I had mine naturally (that forbidden word used in a different context). Baby A had to be Baby A, as he was headed out and kept me from my csection. Baby C had physical issues with his legs and arm. HOWEVER, Baby C and B came out in the wrong order. So Baby C became NICU Baby B. Talk about confusing! Everytime they referred to Baby B I was thinking of the wrong baby. So how does that work? Is my B really C, or is B really B?! lol

  5. I've always been curious about the birth order things especially in my family. Technically, I am second child, but I was raised as first child. (My mom gave up a baby when she was a teenager, however he is back in our lives for the past 15 years or so). So I wonder if its how we are raised/raise our children and our perception of birth order or if there is foundation even when one of the children isn't present.