So, while all the kids were playing and running amuck at the Hallowe’en party on Saturday, all the adults sat around the dining room table and had a good chat. We were all involved in smaller, separate conversations at one point, but I tuned into another conversation when I heard one friend ask another,
“So, is two it then?”
I half listened for a minute before joining in, and they were all discussing the sizes of their families and whether or not they were done having more children. It’s something that I am asked all the time, both by good friends and by total strangers that I’ve just met. Once people find out that I have three children, the question (often it feel like more of a statement) that follows is:
“So, you’re done then?” or, “Three, wow. You must be done now.”
It’s the implication that we “must” already know that bothers me a little. Not because I think it’s invasive, but more so that I don’t know myself, and I always thought I would. When we were engaged, we had a few of the “big talks” to make sure we were sort of on the same page with finances, future children, etc. We both absolutely wanted children, but at the time our numbers were a little different. He was completely new to the big family experience, whereas it’s all I’ve ever known and all I’ve ever wanted.
…I just don’t think I could survive parenting a family as big as mine was. My mother is a saint for giving birth six times. SIX TIMES. We’re all fabulous and totally worth it, but, you know. SIX TIMES.
The number I’ve always had rolling around in my head was four. Maybe it’s because I’m #4 in my family and it’s clearly a lucky number, but it’s just always been there. When actually we started having our own family, we always said we’d take it one kid at a time and see how we survived. But even then, after S there was no doubt that there would be another. The same after H–we waited a few months longer, but there was never any doubt that we’d have a third child.
And then I had P.
I struggled with P in a way I didn’t with either of my first. He didn’t sleep, he needed to be held all the time, he screamed, and just felt like 10x more work than my first two children had been, combined. There were nights where we had both been awake for hours, with me bouncing him on my shoulder as I paced the room as it was the only way he would stop screaming. By that point we were usually both crying together, him because he liked it or something and me from exhaustion and the unmet desire to sleep horizontally (and baby free). The only thing that helped me get through those never ending nights was chanting “I will never have to do this again. I will never have to do this again” as I trudged back and forth, wearing a steady track in his carpet as I waited for daylight.
It was a hard time for me. I had some pretty dark days. I know now that a big part of my struggle was undiagnosed Post Partum Anxiety that was exacerbated by a severe lack of sleep. I didn’t feel like a very good mom to any of my children through that first year, but the sun eventually rose after those dark nights, and I eventually crawled out of those dark times and began to breathe again.
And sleep. The sleep was huge.
Sometimes it’s almost hard for me to look at P now and remember how challenging he was as a baby. I remember how hard it was, but I can’t feel it anymore. He still tests us and has a fiery personality, but honestly, he now brings so much light and laughter into our home. His temper aside, he loves to laugh and play and wants to be involved in everything. He thinks the sun rises and sets on his brother and sister and needs everything to be the same as them.
Today I had the audacity to serve him popcorn in a bowl that was not the same as S & H’s. He marched into the kitchen, went and found the matching bowl, brought it to me and made me switch it. Then he was content.
He gives the very best hugs, loves to snuggle and has taken to just wrapping an arm around me when we’re laying down or next to each other on the couch. When I see him interact with S & H, my heart feels so full it feels like it might burst.
Sometimes I quietly watch them and I wonder, “Is this us? Are we complete?” I always thought I would know we were done having kids. I mean, really know. We knew for sure after our first two that there would definitely be another, and now I feel like we’re in this weird limbo. I don’t know for sure one way or the other. I really wanted to know for sure after we had P whether or not he was our last, but even on those dark nights when I was chanting my mantra of being finished, I wasn’t sure that I was.
Do you ever really know? Or is it just a choice you make and then learn to settle with it?
Sometimes I feel like friends and strangers are just as curious as I am to know whether or not we’d ever have another–somehow having three kids has launched me into this unknown realm that people can’t imagine, and the idea of having any more than that is just too foreign to even consider. I never really know how to answer when people ask me if we’re “done”… on one hand it feels intensely personal, but on the other, often the interest is genuine and they just want to know a little more about me and my family.
So, to those that wonder and ask if we’re “done”: I honestly don’t know. This is the longest I’ve been without being pregnant or nursing a baby in a long time and it feels kind of good. But then sometimes I look at P and wonder if he is my baby and that all of his milestones are our “lasts” and I don’t know if I like how that feels.
I always thought I would just know and I don’t. It’s a weird space to be in.