The leap from two to three

When you are married without kids, everyone knows you are constantly harassed to have a baby. That’s just common knowledge. And do you know what happens once you DO have that baby?

Yup, you get asked when you’re having a second one.

The trick comes after two babies. If you have two girls, everyone asks when/if you’ll try for a boy. If you have two boys, everyone asks when/if you’ll try for a girl.

So what happens to those of us who have a boy AND a girl? It’s about a 50/50 split, I’ve found. Half of the people (usually strangers) will said, ‘Oh, you’re done. That’s perfect. A million-dollar family!’

(Sidebar: If I had a nickel for every time someone’s called us a million-dollar family, I’d probably have … like $5.80.)

The other half of the population — usually your family members and friends — will excitedly ask/beg/cajole you to have a third. Heck, maybe a fourth, too!

To them, it’s another cute baby. (“Yes, we certainly do make cute ones!”)

To them, it’s just a matter of keeping our baby gear. (“Well, yeah, we do still have most of the gear.”)

To them, it’s the thrill of cuddling a teeny newborn. (“Yes, I do love babies!”)

But what about to us?

***

After D began growing out of his newborn clothes, I painstakingly folded them and stored them away in labeled totes. Every time he outgrew something, it was tucked away carefully in case we had a second boy someday.

True, most of his wardrobe — like 90% actually — was hand-me-downs from my awesome friend C, as well as secondhand store purchases. But I certainly didn’t want to re-buy a whole boy wardrobe if we had another son.

When I was pregnant with C, D’s outgrown wardrobe was still patiently waiting in those totes — zillions of them — stacked in my bedroom closet. We found out she was a girl (!!!) and WHOOSH! Those totes were yanked down faster than you could say “pink leggings.”

I went through each one and took out a few of my absolute favourite, meaningful pieces — enough to fill just one tote — as well as a SELECT few gender-neutral items I figured C could wear (like, uh, one black onesie and a couple of seasonal things). The rest was immediately shipped next-door to my friend B, who was expecting a baby boy.

She and her husband assured us they turned them, and Darling Husband and I were both firm — Nope, please keep them. Just pass them on to somebody else when you’re done with them. 

Little C was not even born yet, but we knew.

For us, two was it.

***

Darling Husband had always been the advocate for two kids. Many, many of his co-workers had told him “Two is perfect. Two is exactly right.”

“Vacations are made for families of four,” he would come home telling me. “Think about trying to take three kids to Disney World, and always having someone be the odd person out on RIDES!” (Yes, this was a serious concern for him)

He also told me again and again about how restaurants were easier with a family of four. Booths are meant for four people. In families of five, there’s always the need to squish, or to drag over a chair to put at the end of the booth. Obviously these are not REAL reasons to stop at two kids, but Darling Husband works with guys who have three kids and insist “Stop at two.” I think that’s pretty telling (and also hurtful to their third child!).

I had always kind of thought we’d have four kids — long, long before we actually had ANY. I had Duggar dreams, you might say. I liked the notion of a large family. But when Darling Husband pressed me on WHY, exactly, I had to admit that I mainly just liked the idea of “saying” we had four/five/six kids. It sounded cool! People would be impressed with me! And that’s not exactly a good reason for having a ton of kids.

***

Since I was having a scheduled C-section with Baby C (after the problems with D’s birth), I could have asked them to “tie my tubes” (although that wording has always REALLY grossed me out). My friend, C, had hers tied during her second C-section. She was firm that she was not having any more, having had two excruciatingly difficult pregnancies (and drama-filled deliveries).

But I didn’t want to limit my options too early. I was 26 when D was born, and 28 when C was born. Although I was 99% certain we were sticking to two kids, I didn’t want to have some horrific change of heart and regret the whole thing. For the same reason, Darling Husband has not yet gotten the vasectomy he (so eagerly) would like.

I’m still young, I thought. I might change my mind.

***

D and C are only 22 months apart, which means we had two babies in diapers for almost six months. It meant I was still getting up multiple times a night with her while D was still settling into a normal sleep routine. It meant that both of them required an intensive level of care — and still do, really — that was absolutely back-breakingly exhausting.

I started “trying” to get pregnant with C when D was about 10 months (and we got pregnant when he was 13 months old).

If you had asked me — when C was 10 months old — if I was ready to try for a third baby, I would have probably laughed hysterically and burst into tears. Seriously. No. OMG. NO.

Even if people were to ask me that today, I’d still be like NO OMG NO. I can’t. I have too much on my plate. I can’t.

***

People have said maybe we’ll want to have a third down the road, once D and C are older. But I’m not a fan of that idea. Even though it was tough initially to have them so close in age, I absolutely love it — and it continues to get easier and easier.

They enjoy the same toys. They’re playing together more and more (and, you know, FIGHTING together). They like the same activities. The older C gets, the more they seem to be the same age. It’s kind of wonderful, and that’s exactly what we’d hoped when we planned our family.

When C is done with her crib, we’re turning in into a cool bench (thanks, Pinterest!). When she’s done with the changing table, we’re either selling it or remaking it into something, too. We’ve already gotten rid of a lot of baby gear. We’ll probably only keep one (fold-up) high-chair, just for when visitors come with babies.

The idea of hanging onto that stuff for years as a “maybe” — or buying it all again down the road — just makes me shake my head. I sold all of my nursing and maternity clothes, too.

I almost didn’t, in case of some kind of accident or change-of-heart, but then I reminded myself that re-buying those things would only be a SMALL chunk of what having a third child would actually cost. If we ever changed our mind and went down that path, buying a new pair of maternity jeans and a secondhand playard would be the least of my concerns.

***

When people ask me today if we’re having more kids, the answer is a happy but firm “No, we’re done.” Some people respect that, or say that they agree, two is perfect, etc.

Some people — with the best intentions — still try to cajole us into having a third, and my answer changes depending upon the day.

Truthfully, there isn’t just one reason. Well, there are lots of reasons, but I suppose they all sort of meld into one big answer, which is: “We can’t.”

Not that we can’t physically — I’m sure we could, since we’ve been (very very) blessed to have gotten pregnant in our third month of trying, both times. I know that is a complete blessing, and my heart hurts for people who struggle with infertility.

I mean “we can’t” in the sense that we … just … can’t.

We can’t afford more than two kids. Sure, yes, we would (probably) not be homeless or destitute, but it would certainly be a hardship for us. We both bust our butts working in order to raise our family the way we want to, and having a fifth family member would be difficult. It would greatly affect what we could afford, and what we do, and how we would live. I don’t think it’s fair to bring kids into family that isn’t really in a position to provide comfortably for them.

We can’t (logistically) handle more than two kids. Yes, I know we COULD handle it. We have a minivan. I’m super-organized. I would certainly figure it out. But I don’t think I want to. I find dealing with my two can be an immense struggle some (most?) days. Getting them into their carseats can be hard. Herding them safely through parking lots can be hard. Doing the day-in-day-out routine mostly by myself (since Darling Husband works so much) can be extremely hard — and physically demanding.

We can’t (emotionally) handle more than two kids. I pour everything I have into being the best mother I can be. I give everything I have, often to the point where there is nothing but shreds left for myself. While I could I could — and would — of course have the capacity to love more children, I also know that with every child you have, you have a little bit less of your time/energy to give. I honestly don’t feel that having more than two children would be beneficial to my marriage, or to my own well-being. I just feel … tapped out.

***

I know people with three children, and I know people who are currently expecting their third child. I also know people who plan to have a third child. I hope this post doesn’t upset anyone, because it’s truly not my intention. Once upon a time, I was sure I’d have at least three kids. This post is just to explain my situation, basically, and to let other moms know that it’s alright to say “two is enough.” Every family has to do what’s right for them.

Sure, when I see a newborn baby, I do what every other woman does. I coo and admire them. I comment that I can’t believe my own babies were ever that teeny-tiny. I feel that little longing for a soundly-sleeping baby, heavy on my chest. I think ‘Ohhhhh, that’s such a nice feeling, snuggling with a little baby.”

But you know what I’ve come to realize? That feeling passes. That fleeting feeling doesn’t mean I want to actually have more children of my own. It just means that babies are awesome and adorable! Because they are! Until they’re not, of course, because if we’re honest we can all admit that babies are a crap-ton of hard work and frustration, too. I can always have access to a baby snuggle here and there, via other people’s babies. And then they cry, and I GET TO PASS THEM BACK.

I used to wonder how people would know when they were done having children. But now I know that it’s just sort of a peaceful feeling. A “done” feeling. It has nothing to do with not wanting “more” of the children you already have. Yes, your kids are wonderful and amazing, and if you had 30 more of them, they’d all be wonderful and amazing and you’d love them to pieces. But it doesn’t mean it’s a good idea for you to actually have 30 more. As my very wise friend A (a mother of two) once told me, “You have to stop sometime.”

It’s a feeling that one stage of your life is over — the pregnancy/little babies stage — and that you’re settling into a new stage as a mother of young children who still need you very much. A stage of growing together as a family, and maybe — just maybe — finding pockets of time for myself again. A “self” I haven’t had much time for since becoming a mother 3 1/2 years ago.

I’m 30 years old, and no, I’m not planning on having more babies. I’m spending every day focusing on raising my son and daughter, and building a strong marriage. I’m focusing on being happy. I’m focusing on making our lives happy and productive and comfortable and fun.

And it feels pretty good.

xoxo

So what do you think?

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