When I was growing up I always said I wanted to have three children. Maybe it was because I am one of three myself.
~Meet my siblings~
Maybe it was because all three of my parents were technically one of three in their families (my stepmother lost a teenage brother when she was 13). Or, later on because my husband is also one of three. It seemed like everyone around me had three kids.
I pictured myself with a little girl, I think mostly because of the clothes. I’ve always loved fashion and dressing someone else is so much more fun than (and easy than, right?) yourself.
After I had my PPD baby (which happened much later in life than expected on my 31st birthday due to some unexplained infertility the first few years of marriage), I was certain I was DONE. I was so ill physically and emotionally from a traumatic birth and postpartum period that I couldn’t imagine having anymore kids.
Thank God, I didn’t go ahead with having my tubes tied, as I had begged my OB to do back then. Because, of course, I got well and eventually got up the nerve to have another baby. Things were totally different the second time. I had a little more difficult pregnancy, but the birth was beautiful and I only had a couple of weeks of postpartum challenges. And that’s when I fell in love with the newborn and early infant stage that sadly I could barely remember with my first son.
In fact, I remember blogging about that very thing the day that I took the above photo in late May 2011. I believe I named the post “Best. Decision. Ever.”. And it has been.
Since I had never dreamed I would have a second child, after all the difficulty becoming pregnant the first time and then my emotional challenges that had to be overcome to reconcile my PPD experience, you can imagine my surprise when I became pregnant with L2 after just a few months of trying. It was meant to be. Except, about halfway through my pregnancy I got a pretty bad bout of antenatal (or pregnancy-related) depression. Because it occurred right around the same time we had our 20 week sonogram (and this time chose to learn the gender of our baby, which we had not done the first time around), I blamed it on gender disappointment. I cried for three weeks straight. I told only people who directly asked me the gender that I was having a boy. I refused to shop for the baby or his room and denied my pregnancy in my mind, despite my expanding belly. Thank goodness my hormones leveled out after a few weeks and I began to accept and acknowledge that I was going to be the mother of two boys. Also, gratefully I was in the care of a psychiatrist (though I had decided not to medicate during pregnancy) and a therapist who helped me work through this difficult period.
I had deemed myself to be “done” prior to even conceiving L2, so it seemed obvious to me and everyone else (many of whom were also secretly disappointed I wasn’t having a girl), that I would never be a mother to a female. I made plans to give away my maternity clothes, infant clothes and paraphernalia and toys as soon as L2 and I grew out of them. I had labeled bins and bags ready and waiting in the closet.
And when that little head popped out of my belly and L2 greeted me with a wave and we locked eyes, I felt instantly that our family was complete. My heart felt full and my eyes welled with tears, and this time they were tears of joy!
But here we are 15 months later, and all of that stuff having been donated, consigned or gifted. And there’s still a little part of me that sighs when I walk past the maternity section at Target. When I catch a glimpse of a mother nuzzling those soft hairs on her baby’s newborn head. And mostly when I think about the future. I always pictured big family holidays and reunions with lots of kids and in-laws and grandchildren. With just two boys, will we always be just the four of us? Or, will my boys marry and go to be with their wives’ families, leaving my husband and me (or even just me, if something happens to him later in life) to eat turkey alone?
I know lots of things rationally. Sure, having lots of kids doesn’t guarantee they’ll be close to you or each other later in life. It doesn’t mean that you’ll get to have a child of each gender. Then there’s the advanced maternal age label and the associated risks now that I am over 35. There’s the fact that I am still taking a small dose of medication to deal with anxiety that accompanies the first couple of years postpartum for me. There’s my workaholic, traveling husband and the fact that I live far away from all of our family. I can rattle off a thousand reasons why I should be able to proclaim “I’m done!” and mean it.
I know it’s what’s right in my head. I know that my capacity to be a good mom is greater with just two very active boys. But somewhere in my heart, not down very deep I yearn for another baby. And if not for that, then for the courage and confidence to say “Just two for me.” and mean it.
Am I alone in this dilemma? How did you “know” your family was complete? And if you feel like you don’t know if you are “done”, then how do you believe you’ll decide whether or not to have more children?
Bless your heart ;-),