I never thought it would be this hard to decide how many children I want to have. When growing up, it is always such a simple answer... "How many kids do you want?" Three. Four. Five. We spit out these answers as if we have ANY clue what motherhood is really like. It's really easy to spit out numbers when you have no idea what's in store for you. :) After your first comes along, your life changes and the thought of having another baby (at least, right away) seems very overwhelming. I am sure there are a lot of moms out there who have moments when they change their answer to "one" after having their first child! Having a baby requires a major lifestyle adjustment and it can take a while to get comfortable. For me, I had the desire to have a second baby after just three months. We started to try right away, but it was not until five months later that we were successful.
When Henry came around, life once again changed. Having two children that close in age (Lucy was 16.5 months old when Henry was born) was a lot of work. But, as most moms will tell you, I adjusted to it and after a short period of time it was hard to even remember what life was like before Henry was born. It was like he has always been here! We made the necessary adjustments to our lifestyle to accommodate our growing family and things smoothed themselves out.
Then while on vacation in Florida, little Charlie sort of just "happened". It's not that he was an accident as much as it was just that we were not being extra, extra careful. We knew we wanted three children, so it was not a big deal. It happened a little sooner than we had anticipated, but we were excited about having a third. We knew it meant things would change once again, but it was something we knew we could handle and work through, just as we did the first two times.
Now that we have three children, this is where things get cloudy. I have always wanted four children. My husband has always wanted three. I come from a family with three kids. He comes from a family with four. I think three is not enough. He thinks four is too many. We've disagreed on the "magic number" since we got married, but it was never an issue until after our third baby was born. Are we done? Do we want more? Can we even handle more? Could we afford more? How long would we even wait if we did want a fourth? All of our other kids are close in age, so would we keep the same pattern going for a fourth? If not, would we be up for passing the baby stage for a few years only to start it all over again? There were just so many questions.
At first, we tried to just ignore the issue. We were so consumed with infant care that it was too early to even think about all those answers. But, since we tend to get pregnant very easily, it was something that needed to be discussed. I did not want to be in a position where we ended up pregnant again if it was not something we wanted, could handle, or could afford. So, the discussions began. What do we want? And what are we going to do about it?
Although I was the one who originally wanted four children, having Charlie sort of changed my mind. He is not a difficult baby at all! It was not that. It was more just a shift in what I wanted in life and what I wanted to be doing. Now that Lucy is getting older and starting preschool and participating in dance class, I am seeing the light at the end of the tunnel. I have had a glimpse of what is to come after we leave Babyville, and I like what I see. I like the idea of being able to take family vacations without having to worry about a baby needing to nap twice a day. I like the idea of being able to just pick up and take the kids places without having to pack a full diaper bag just to get out the door. I dream about being able to go places and not needing two strollers so that all the kids have a seat. I look forward to bottle-free days and jar food-free days. I can imagine us actually enjoying a family dinner at a restaurant some day.
As my friend and I have discussed, it is not that we want to wish away their short months as babies! They are only little like this for a short window of time, so I want to enjoy it now while I can! That's not what it is about. It's just about deciding whether or not I want to start the process all over again... again. When it came to Henry and Charlie, there was no question that we wanted to have them and expand the family. But now, things have changed. Life has changed, and I am not really sure I want to go back this time. Before, all it would take was the sight of a newborn or a pregnant belly to make me have this sudden urge for another baby. But now, when I see a newborn or a pregnant woman, I can't help but think, "Thank God I am done with that part." or "That's an adorable baby, but I am so glad we are past the sleepless nights." I am of course happy for others who are starting on this journey, but I am just sort of content to be in the place I am right now.
When I told all this to my husband, he immediately told me I would change my mind. I wanted him to make some "permanent changes", but he was dragging his feet. I asked if he was just worried about the pain of the procedure, to which he said he was of course a little concerned but that it was not the reason. Then I asked him if he even wants a fourth child, to which he said no. So, I could not understand why he was dragging his feet. He told me that I change my mind all the time and that he did not want to do anything permanent if I was going to change my mind a few years down the road. I get where he is coming from. I mean, I do change my mind a lot. But in this case? I don't really see that happening.
I do see myself having moments of weakness, though. You know, when Charlie is 2 or 3 and the baby stages are far behind us, I worry that I might get this idea in my head that having a baby would be a good idea. Because at that point I will have forgotten what it is really like -- baby gates all over the house, monitors, nap schedules, bottles, jar food, really early bedtimes, sleepless nights, doctors visits constantly, the always messy house, all the transitioning, the expenses, etc. All that will be a very faded memory. This is why I am pushing for a more permanent solution now. I worry that I will forget all of that and pressure my husband to do something that I know right now I won't want to do (even if I try to convince myself otherwise later). I can be pretty convincing when I want to be, so I worry that he won't be able to put up a fight against my desire to have a baby in a moment of weakness! LOL!
So for me, the permanent route would just give me a sense of security in knowing that the decision has been made and there is no going back in a few years. I can hold my friends' babies and relive the glory days by hearing about their experiences, but at the end of the day, I want to know that those are in the past. I love my kids with all my heart. I am not wishing to jump to the next stage without enjoying this one. I am simply wanting closure when it comes to the decision of how many children we will have. If three is going to be it, then I would like to lock in that answer and move forward. My husband has not said he will not get things taken care of, and he has actually agreed to start the process by going in for a physical with his doctor (we've got an HMO, so he has to start there in order to get a referral).
I want to give our kids the best in life. What parent doesn't want that? And part of what I want is to be there for them. I have really enjoyed my time as a stay-at-home parent, and I would like to continue to play this role for as long as possible. But life on one salary requires a great deal of sacrifice. I am definitely willing to make those sacrifices (and I do every day!), but I think that having a fourth child would really limit Lucy, Henry and Charlie's life experiences. I want them to attend preschool. I want them to be in sports or dance or whatever other activities they decide they have an interest in. And all of that stuff costs money! A LOT of money, to be exact! I honestly think that having a fourth child would mean that the sacrificing would not end with me and Ryan... it would extend to Lucy and Henry and Charlie. That is just not something that I am willing to accept. I don't want them to have to give up life experiences because I had a moment of weakness and missed having a baby around the house. I have three, healthy, beautiful children. I feel blessed and I am very happy with where our life is right now.
I can honestly say, though, that I never thought this decision would require this much thought... especially after all those years growing up, being asked time and time again, "So how many kids do you think you'll have when you grow up?" But after thinking about it quite a bit, I can honestly say that I think we're done. Three is our magic number. :)