So a funny thing happened the other day: I realized I didn’t want anymore kids.
This might not seem like an Earth shattering revelation to some–especially when it is revealed to a woman who can’t have any more kids–but I can assure you that it was, in fact, rather Earth shattering.
You see, I was worried that I’d never really know how I felt about having more kids. Not really. I feared my history of secondary infertility and the cold, hard fact that we couldn’t afford anymore children (oh, and that my husband didn’t want anymore, even if we could) would always stand in the way of me knowing how I felt about it myself. I worried all the barriers standing between me and the family of five I originally coveted would obscure my ability to recognize whether I still wanted it.
People change their minds when it comes to family size all the time. I have been the first to admit that parenting is way harder than I expected it to be; it would make sense for me to revise my original “ideal number” at some point along the way. But then it became clear that my husband was already overwhelmed with two kids and our mortgage was, for all intents and purposes, our third offspring, at least financially, one that would be living with us long after our kids graduated from college.
And then secondary infertility happened and we realized how lucky we were to have a second child. Wanting a third seemed absurd, and there was some underlying relief that the question of whether or not we should try again had been deemed irrelevant–any disagreement on ideal family size could no longer rock the already half-submerged boat of our marriage.
And yet, a part of me pined after that never-to-be final child. I wondered if my family would always feel, in some small way, incomplete.
It’s such a relief to recognize that I don’t want that third child after all. It’s such a weight off my heart to know, deep in my soul, that if the choice had been mine, my family would look the same.
I wish I could say what triggered the revelation, but I’m not sure. There was the piece my husband wrote (at my behest) for the magazine. It was on family size and I appreciated knowing his thoughts on how we became a family of four. It was clear, reading his words, that our experiences didn’t diverge as much as I suspected.
Then there was the moment at the magazine meeting when two women announced unexpected third children–one via a surprise pregnancy (her two youngest will be 11 months apart) and one via spontaneous twins (not discovered somehow until 16 weeks). In the past my reactions to news like that would have been edged, ever so slightly, with the familiar tinge of jealousy, but that night I felt nothing but trepidation for these women who were so clearly overwhelmed by the unexpected news of their expanding families. I felt genuine empathy for them and I was very thankful that we weren’t dealing with a surprise third child of our own.
Finally, there is the simple fact that having two children is already kicking my ass. My son is amazing and I adore him, but he’s also a raving maniac. His pterodactyl shrieks are frequent, ear piercing and completely unprovoked (and not at all a signal of his discontent). He crawls everywhere and fast. He’s constantly getting into trouble and he needs to be watched closely; he gets very upset when someone interrupts his plans. He leaves chaos and mayhem in his wake. Between the contrasting needs of my daughter and my son, I am drowning in the simple daily responsibilities of tending to two children. Every night I go to bed exhausted. The idea of having a third child is terrifying to me; I absolutely could not manage it.
My dream of three children doesn’t fit anymore and in its absence I feel light and free. Passing on maternity clothes no longer conjures a wistful desire to be pregnant. Giving away baby clothes and other accoutrements I focus on the space we’re saving, the stuff I’m thankful we no longer need. I’m eager to leave the baby phase behind. I’m eager to move forward.
A couple of weeks ago we lugged our family of four to a local amusement park to revel in the splash pad and kiddie rides. Not even three hours after clearing security we were packing up the car to head home. As we waited for a break in the parking lot traffic, I spotted a family with two elementary school aged children and I had to acknowledge that they had most certainly enjoyed the park more than we had (despite encountering no problems of our own). I realized then that I’m ready for that part of parenting, to be able to do things that only older kids can do, to move past all the aspects of toddlerdom that makes it so challenging. I know parenting older children brings with it different issues, but I’m eager to attempt parenting in a new and distinct arena. I’m ready for my kids to grow up.
My son is only 11 months old, we still have to navigate the terrible twos and tantrum-throwing three’s all over again. And while I’m forever thankful for my son and all I get to experience with him, I have no desire to do it all a third time.
I recognize how lucky I am to feel fulfilled by my family, to know that we are complete. I do not take it for granted, in fact I cherish it each and every day.
And then I cherish my IUD, and the 99.99% certainty that I won’t ever have to confront a surprise third pregnancy.
Does your family feel complete? Did your ideal family size change along the way?