An Announcement + Are You Done?
A little announcement for you today!
Another baby is on the way for our family, and I'm due mid-December. We are getting excited to meet him or her, and it's a dream realized to be entrusted with four little souls. We told the girls last night, after my 12-week ultrasound, and it finally feels real. It was THE MOST PRECIOUS conversation I've ever had. They're so excited!
I am also so thankful to be done with my last first trimester EVER, because as much as I told myself I'd enjoy and appreciate each "last" with our last child, it's hard to appreciate the utter exhaustion I've felt these past few months, which has been akin to the bone-aching feeling that accompanies the flu.
I had written this post a month or two before I was pregnant, and never shared it because it felt too personal. As Nick would say, this subject has become OBE (overcome by events) for us. But I know it's a topic many grapple with, so I thought I'd share it retroactively in case it helps anyone else going through this quandry.
This is what I had written:
"Are you done?"
A question I get asked often enough (usually by complete strangers), and a deeply personal matter. However, it's something I've been struggling with lately, and in the spirit of transparency and discussion, let's talk.
I've always wanted four kids. I grew up babysitting families of four, including my four cousins, all close in age, and I loved it. I loved the busy, crazy, happy household. Nick and I are both from families of two kids, and even though the chaos drives us crazy sometimes and isn't what we grew up knowing, we love it.
I always hoped we'd have at least three kids, if not four, if we were able. I've had many moments of doubting my ability to deal with this number, given my Type-A/perfectionist/introverted personality, but I also fully believe in "Leap and the net will appear."
However, now that we're at three, we are at a standstill. I never really thought we'd get to a point where we would doubt or disagree over our family plans, and it's a new and unwelcome territory.
Should we add one more baby to the mix?
The things that give us pause:
I battle guilt about how relatively homebound we still are, 5.5 years in. We are just starting to branch out into the world of extracurriculars, which is good for the kids as they get older, and a baby complicates this. Our weekends are generally spent around the house / around town. As our girls get older and express interest in things like skiing, ice skating, etc., a baby holds us back. It's not impossible to coordinate—my mom came and watched George over the winter while we took the girls ice skating; we have a sitter lined up later this month when we'll take the girls to the fireman's carnival—but with nursing, nap schedules, and the vast difference in abilities, it's not always easy for the whole family to be together for activities, and when we are, someone needs to deal with the baby. I don't want my kids to ever resent a baby for holding them back, and Nick and I both want to be able to enjoy these activities with our bigger kids.
Enjoying the children we have. This is one of Nick's main points. Our attention is already divided with three, and the girls are at such fun ages right now. Are we giving them enough attention? When we're always in baby mode, it can be tough to enjoy and focus on the children we have.
All the needs! Three kids is a lot of work. The needs are exponential. Sometimes I feel like I'm playing whack-a-mole, trying to take care of everyone's needs and messes, and as soon as I do, another one pops up. My own needs for eating, resting, etc. aren't often a consideration. I don't want to be angry mommy if I'm stretched too thin. It's not their fault there are so many of them!
The itch to get out of baby mode and rejoin society. I always knew I'd be the person who should get the baby-having out of the way all at once if possible, or else I wouldn't want to go back into diapers/sleepless nights/nap mode once I had a taste of freedom. Sometimes I get a little itchy to rejoin the rest of the world.
Money! Living on one income is no joke, especially when you live in an expensive area. I likely won't take on any kind of job until our youngest is in kindergarten (and even then it will probably be a part-time situation), and when that eventually happens, it will be nice to have some more margin in our budget. Also, feeding, clothing, housing, transporting, and educating four kids—no easy task.
Space constraints. We do have a fourth bedroom, but it's tiny, and I'm not sure how long a child could live in it before outgrowing it. Then we'd also be down a guest room.
Another pregnancy and birth. I had mostly uncomplicated pregnancies and births, but the thought of chasing three kiddos while pregnant, and all the aches and pains and sleeplessness that go along with it, seems like a huge feat.
But! There are so many reasons FOR having another one, too.
Mainly, it feels like someone's missing. A mom of three once told me that when she had two, she felt like someone was still missing, and as soon as she had the third she felt complete. I don't feel complete yet. I saw a picture of our three kids with another baby awhile ago and when I saw the four little bodies all together, it felt right. It felt like that is supposed to be our number.
Regret. Another mom of three once told me that "You never regret the kids you do have, only the ones you don't." I know if we have one more, we can close the chapter on the baby years with no regret. I fear making the decision to stop at three, never feel like our family is complete, and then want to revisit the decision down the road when we're really out of baby mode and unwilling or maybe unable to dive back in. If George is our last baby, I also wasn't totally prepared for that, and I will regret not savoring each "last" more. The last pregnancy, last birth, last newborn, etc. etc.
Sibling dynamics. Contrary to popular belief, they improve with each child, at least in our experience. A friend's sister has six kids and has said siblings have a way of "taking the edge off each other" and we've found this to be so true. Each of our kids would've been a tricky only child for different reasons, and in a little pack they all interact so well. I'm convinced another would increase this dynamic. I am a strong believer in siblings being one of the greatest gifts we can give our children.
Pregnancy and birth—as exhausting as it is, I'd like to experience it one more time. Weird?
Also, as in the trenches as we are, I know that when I rejoin society one day, I will miss these times. Society isn't that great anyway, right? I don't want to rush through these at-home years only to hurry up and rejoin a different kind of daily grind.
What to do, what to do?!
(And I have to add that I recognize we are blessed to be able to make this decision.)
Are you done? If so, how did you decide (or was it decided for you), and do you have peace about it? If you're not done, do you know your ideal number? Are you and your partner in agreement about it?
If you're out of baby mode, do you miss that time, or are you happy now that you've moved on? Do you regret not having another?
I would LOVE to hear your thoughts!