“Mama, do you have a
baby in your belly?” my almost 3-year-old daughter asks.
“Nope,” I answer, shaking my head.
“Why not?” A handful of my friends are pregnant or have
newborns, and my daughter has taken notice.
“Well, because we’re really happy with our family the way it
is,” I say. “We love you and Max so much,” I add.
“Oh. Okay!” She smiles up at me.
My response to her is true; I’ve always imagined having two
children, and our family feels hectic, but right.
Five and a half years ago, our first child, Max, was born.
The adjustment to family life was tough for all of us. In those early months
and years, I thought maybe one would be
okay. Maybe one kid is enough.
But something nagged at me, and when I asked myself if our family
felt complete, the answer was a solid no.
Violet came along a few years later, a happy surprise. Though
initially a struggle to adjust to being a family of four, it felt right. With a
girl and a boy, our home feels symmetrical, balanced.
But last spring, on the cusp of turning 40, I felt a
strange longing for another child. Maybe it was the milestone birthday,
reminding me that my fertility was waning. Or the knowledge that Max would soon
be starting Kindergarten. Or maybe it’s that after five years of in-the-trench
parenting, life is starting to feel more manageable most days.
I found myself daydreaming about what another baby would
look like. Would he have the bright blue eyes of his brother and sister? Would
she be colicky? Or sweet and sleepy? Would I finally birth the dark-skinned,
dark-eyed carbon copy I’d expected, only to be surprised with my beautiful
blue-eyed, light-skinned babies?
Everything is a choice, a trade-off, a path taken or surpassed. There’s no right or wrong answers to most things.
Would a new baby fit into our mix, slipping right under the
wing of our busy, overwhelmed family? Or would it feel five times, 10 times,
100 times harder? Would I have that much less patience, that much less
attention for each of my loves?
For a few weeks, I pondered it. I wondered if what I was
going through was biology — my aging eggs, etched with an ancient code of survival,
wanting to recreate life. I talked to my husband about it, which slightly
alarmed him. I talked to my therapist too, and after all that talking and
thinking, I realized it didn’t make sense to start over.
Pregnancy and postpartum wore me ragged. All the bedrooms in
our house were claimed. Life was full and good and exhausting. Slowly, like water
wearing down a sharp stone, my husband and I reclaimed small pieces of our lives.
I had a good cry because admitting that I was done with the precious,
overwhelming, sleep-puncturing, nipple-chafing baby stage caused me some grief.
Though I have the occasional doubts and musings, imaginings
of a parallel life with three children instead of two, I feel mostly confident
in our family’s decision.
When I ask myself now if our family feels complete, it
My husband feels the same way.
Everything is a choice, a trade-off, a path taken or
surpassed. There’s no right or wrong answers to most things, and I’m glad to be
done with the up-all-night, pulsing soft-spot, breastfeeding, car seat lugging
days. And to be almost done with diapers.
How do you know when you’re done having children? For some
the choice is made for us — age or other physical limitations prevent us from growing
our families. For others, one spouse is certain they’re done, while the other
feels differently. And though we don’t talk much about it, there are also many
who find themselves unexpectedly pregnant, and they make a choice to proceed or
not, regardless of the family they’d previously planned to have. Others look at
it through the lens of sustainability: How many more people can our planet hold?
For me, it’s partly a logical decision. Our resources are
already tautly stretched — financially, physically, and in regards to attention
and patience. But it’s also something less tangible, that feeling of
completeness and fullness. This is our family — our family of four — and it just