(The winner of our home baked Christmas cookies is Toni. Congratulations! I have sent you an email with more info. Thank you to each of you who participated in the drawing and shared your stories. We enjoyed reading each and every one.)
No, I’m not pregnant! If you had that thought when you saw the title of this post you would not be the first to wonder! What I am going to share today has been on my heart for at least a month now, and I have been jotting down ideas about this ever since. However, it is a highly personal topic, and I have considered whether it would be better suited for my journal. Obviously I decided to share it with you in the end, but I will be honest, it makes me feel quite vulnerable sharing it with you.
The subject is this: Are Papa and I done having children?
It is this question which (it seems) every stranger asks of a mom when she holds a newborn in her arms. It comes right after, “oh how cute!” Even though she is sleep deprived and probably sore, and the last thing she wants to be doing right now is thinking about whether or not she wants to get pregnant again. After Chickie was born I answered such personal questioning with a hearty yes! I even started talking with Papa about permanent birth control.
I was satisfied with four kids, and so was Papa. They say you know when you know that you are done having children, and this was that moment. Four was a good number. A healthy number. It felt like a gift we were giving to our family line… and I also felt like I was maxed out. Any more children would probably be too many for me to handle (although I was pleasantly surprised to learn that adjusting to four kids was easier than three).
This is not to say that I regretted having Chickie. Although she was a big surprise to us I was glad to have a fourth child. Mixed with feelings of uncertainty about whether or not I could be a good mom to four kids, it felt fulfilling to have four. I experienced a renewed pride and joy in my brood of young ones, and sleepless though I was, I felt like I was glowing.
So when I say I was absolutely 100% done having babies, it was not out of unhappiness with my family. Instead, it just felt like it was a good place to stop. Having kids is a lot of work, we don’t live in an ideal home for a large family, and since I was satisfied with four kids it didn’t seem to make sense to think about having more.
It has now been 20 months since I last gave birth, and the longest period of time I have not been pregnant since before my first baby. While I love feeling myself again, and not having painful hips, I can feel the proverbial biological clock saying, if I’m going to have a baby, now is the time to be thinking about it!
Here’s my baby secret – I’m not sure anymore that I really want to be done! And neither is Papa. Now, let’s get this straight. I don’t have baby fever. I can hold someone else’s adorable tiny baby and be very happy to hand them back when they poop. I like that feeling! To appreciate babyhood without missing it. I also don’t mind the idea of leaving babyhood behind – all the diapers, car seats, sleepless nights, teething, etc. But does that mean we should stop here?
I decided to share these thoughts with you because I love kids. Because I love family life (even with all the challenges it brings). Because everything we do is influenced by our responsibility and hopes for our children. The decision about whether or not to have more children is an important one; one which is affected by our lifestyle and our vision for the future. As such, I felt it was and is, a chapter of our story that should not be left out. And perhaps it could be an encouragement to some of you who might be contemplating the same decision.
Part of the reason I feel vulnerable talking about this is because we have received a few comments from people online about how irresponsible we are to live with four children in a camper, including our youngest who was conceived after we moved. One person even told us we should never have allowed that to happen. And what were we supposed to do? Abort her?!
My response to those few parents who think they know our children’s best interest would be – how irresponsible are you, to get yourself so deep in debt that you have to let someone else raise your kids? Why did you have them in the first place? Maybe that sounds a bit harsh, but many people do get themselves so indebted, often before they start planning children, that any hopes they had of raising their kids themselves are lost.
If the proverbial “they” have a problem with our family living in a camper for a few years so we can live within our means instead of selling our souls to the bank for a few more square feet, then they need to take an honest look at their own problems.
This is of course not a critique on those families who choose to have two parents working out of the home. It works for some families and I know it is sometimes necessary (although I think we have proven that if you truly want to stay home with your kids you can make it work). Loving parents can order their lives so they can both work and still make family the most important priority in their lives. However, if someone is going to dish out the insults, beware – I can dish it right back!
Back to the topic though…
I have thus far been able to talk myself out of wishing we could have another baby. Our “baby” has only 4 teeth left to cut, she sleeps through most nights, and she’s beginning to show interest in potty training, not to mention we are out of bed space!
Then, I think about the gift that a large family is. By cutting short the number of kids we have, we are reducing the potential size and beauty of our family. Each child is a treasure, and watching the fruit of our labor develop before our eyes makes the idea of having more sound wonderful.
Siblings are a blessing to each other as well. And hey, I’ve got this whole baby thing down, so why not take advantage of that experience I wished I had had when I was expecting Buddy?
There are pros and cons, and though it feels funny reducing such a topic down to this, we can’t have more kids until our house is built. At least, we can’t responsibly choose to have another before we can move into our house. Papa and I, both enjoying the idea of a big family, have talked about the possibility of planning to have more children when we move into our house, but that is simply a possibility.
Because, who knows how long that may be? By then we may be a few years out of babyhood (already almost two years). I’m not sure I want to wait that long and then feel like we’re starting over and should have two more so no one is left feeling like the baby of the family. Four is still a good number.
Another thought I have had is this. Maybe that urge to keep having babies is what every mom feels after her last baby is born – babyhood is what they feel most comfortable with – it’s what they know best. Plus they may be wondering if this will be the last time they cuddle a newborn, or hear their first words, or watch them walk for the first time.
Perhaps the melancholy feeling associated with saying goodbye to each child’s babyhood is easy to get mixed up with the sadness of moving out of the childbearing phase of life. Do I just need to push through that? I am fully satisfied with four. If I don’t have more babies that’s okay by me! This is an odd feeling, of being stuck between wanting to say goodbye and not wanting to. Maybe you moms and dads who are done with the childbearing phase of life can enlighten me by sharing your own story. I would certainly appreciate any words of wisdom from the more experienced!
Please don’t see this as a confession that we are planning to get pregnant, because we are not. Believe me, we are trying very hard with that not part. But, when I step back from the chaos that is early parenting, I see four beautiful, caring, creative children, and I think, one or two more would be nice. We’ll see. One thing at a time.
Part of me wants to have this concrete answer about what the future will hold. Will I have more kids? Will I not have more kids? Can I just know the answer so I can be prepared for it? As time goes on I’m feeling increasingly more relaxed about not having to know the exact number of children we will end up with, four or more. I like not stressing out about it – it is very freeing.