How Do You Know When You Are Done Having Kids?
People always told me I would know when I was "done" having kids, but until recently, I didn't believe them.
I always imagined myself with a big family. Maybe it was because, as an only child, I grew up feeling jealous of my friends and neighbors who came from bigger families. From my vantage point as an only, siblings brought drama, sure. But they also brought fun, constant companions, activities, and a kid-centric lifestyle that was missing in my home, where we watched 60 Minutes instead of the Muppet Show most nights.
My husband and I married young and we planned on having four children. There would be two close together and then another pair, later on. A family big enough to be called "big," but small enough not to overwhelm. And we stuck to that plan quite well...up to a point.
Our first daughter was born in early 2007, followed just 18 months later by our son. We still lived in a small apartment then, so we waited to have our third. Once we moved into a bigger home in the 'burbs, we pulled the goalie and there she was, seven years younger than her sister and five years younger than her brother.
My husband said: "We are almost done! Just one more!" But a funny thing happened to me on the way to our "goal" family. I discovered I was actually already there.
Maybe it was the pregnancy. I don't want to be one of those women who complains about a perfectly uneventful pregnancy. I have always been lucky that I get pregnant easily and have always been able to exercise and feel generally comfortable throughout. But this third time I was sluggish, exhausted. Part of it was age -- I was in my 20's the first time. But part of it was something else, the general exhaustion of sharing my body yet again.
By the end of my third pregnancy, I'd spent more than two years of my life pregnant. That meant gaining weight, feeling nauseous, being exhausted, and being elbowed in the ribs. For two years. I was done.
I am done.
They say you just know when you are done. And now, I, the mom who said I'd never stop wanting babies, agree. When you know, you know.
It's not that it's been easy. I have still cried giving away my last baby's clothing as she outgrows it, and every leap she makes into toddlerhood and away from babyhood is like a dagger in my chest. But I know the difference between the grief I feel as my last baby gets older and the longing for a new one.
I look at our family now and I feel content. I feel like our family is a perfect unit. When we go on outings, I feel like we have just the right amount of humor and noise. I feel like I have the space to give each one individual attention and love while also getting that "big family vibe." We don't fit perfectly in a booth at a restaurant, and we needed to go to the full minivan, but it's still not absurd to consider flying, and we can go see a movie without breaking the bank.
We are perfect. Our family of five.
My husband wishes we could have another and while I wish we were on the same page, I also know my limits. I know I want to watch this baby grow and relish the moments with just her. Without the distraction of yet another newborn.
I'm done. I feel complete. I love what we are, right now. In this moment. It's just as I always pictured it. Minus one. But not everything turns out as planned. Sometimes our hearts tell us things our brains simply can't.
You know when you're done, they say. I know that now. And I'm thrilled with it.