"We'll need a new car." These were almost the first words my husband said after we discovered we were going to have another baby.
Wonderful, excited, surprised and a little bit shocked at the prospect of having three little ones under 4 years of age, THAT is what he thought of. Cars!
But he wasn't far wrong. A new car was likely a necessity, knowing we'd soon need three car seats across the back seat of the car. Were they going to fit? Would our car accommodate three car seats?
We already had two car seats that we were happy with for our 2 and 3 year old, but had heard from friends that if we weren't keen on buying a new car (there was LOTS of other things to spend money on with another baby on the way) then getting new car seats might be necessary. And cheaper.
From birth my eldest daughter Ava had the Britax Safe-n-Sound Meridian AHR carseat.
We opted not to buy a travel system capsule because as we live on the city fringe we tend to walk most places. So apart from longer trips, we were rarely in the car.
We invested in a car seat she could use from birth until 4 years of age, rear-facing at first, then changed to forward facing as she got older. Removing the inner padding, head-rests and adjusting the back support as she grew, it was a good investment.
When our second baby Sasha came along, Ava was only 14 months old and still rear-facing so we essentially needed two infant car seats.
Confused with choice and unsure what we should do, we hired a baby capsule from our local Council (a common service across most of Australia and much more affordable than buying one) for the early months, until we decided which seat to buy.
It suited our needs; the seats are all professionally cleaned, new and the latest models, so it's a great way to try before you buy.
After researching the next stage of car seats we eventually decided on the Britax Safe-n-Sound MAXI Rider AHR Easy Adjust.
It was the best choice because it is a fully convertible seat, from toddler mode from 6 months to 4 years then it converts to a booster seat for child mode right up to 8 years, depending on the height of the child.
So we had two seats by Britax, ones that I had researched were the safest on the market. One either side of the car, the girls were safe and happy and we were happy.
Then when the girls were just 2 and 3 years old and I became pregnant we were faced with our carseat dilemma. My toddler and pre-schooler were still in their car seats, so what would we do? A new car, three new car seats or just one seat? Would it fit? Will it be safe?
I think this is a common theme with third babies, but we left the car seat shopping a bit late. Tired for most of my pregnancy, shopping for carseats wasn't as big a priority as it should have been, and the later into my pregnancy it became, the less I wanted to start looking.
My husband spent a lot of time researching online, but to ensure it fit - both correctly and safely - we needed to physically drive the car to a babyshop and try the seat out for size with our existing seats. We just didn't find the time.
Luckily at the eleventh hour a friend loaned us their baby capsule. They were done having children and with a near-new seat were happy to see it put to good use. Not only a great time saver for us, but also a handy financial saving. And even more luckily for us, it fit!
It was the Steelcraft Infant Carrier travel system by Britax.
As I rarely drove anywhere with all three girls with me it wasn't a big issue, but I found the capsule with baby Marnie in it very heavy to lift in and out of the car. My husband could manage it quite easily it seemed, but I struggled. Instead, I opted to walk most places using the double pram for the younger two, with my 3 year scooting along on her balance bike.
Besides, having a newborn, a 2 year old and a 3 year old it just wasn't practical to take the car. It actually took longer to get them all into the car strapped up safely than it did to run the actual errand!
These three seats lasted us well into baby Marnie's first year, but as she grew taller it became apparent that we weren't going to be able to use the capsule much longer. Travel systems are convenient and handy for parents moving their baby in and out of the car, but at 12 months of age she didn't sleep as much in the car, her chin was up against her chest and her legs had to be bent instead of stretched out as they hit the back seat.
She needed a new seat.
We were overwhelmed with the range. In just over a year since she was born there had been an influx of new car seats on the market. Our 'old' car seats, just a few years in use, had all been replaced and updated with new, improved and slimline models. 'Great - NOW they do slimline', I thought. All the shop assistants we spoke to recommended we upgrade all three seats.
And given our loyalty and the excellent safety record of Britax Safe-n-Sound carseats, that meant we were looking at spending well over $1000 just on new seats. We were determined to find one that fit.
Rather than find an infant seat that fit our car, we decided to move all the girls up a seat. So baby Marnie would go into our toddler's Meridian AHR carseat, our toddler Sasha would go into her big sister Ava's Maxi Rider and Ava, now at 4 1/2 years old, would get a new seat.
After trying half a dozen seats we (or she, rather) chose the pink (!) Encore Booster Seat. It's a car seat she can use up until she's 10 years old, or older, and is then tall enough to no longer require a car seat at all. It fit, it's safe and she loves it.
So we now have all three girls happily forward facing in their car seats that are safe, they fit with plenty of leg room - but there's not much room for anything else.
Unless of course there's a number 4. In which case my husband WILL get the new car he's been hoping for!