To three or not to three?

Photo 04-01-2016, 12 50 56 pm (800x640)

That is the question.

I do not know whether I will post this, or keep it up for long. It feels a bit personal, and also a bit obnoxious. But whenever I can’t bring myself to write a lifeless piece for the sake of writing one, I ask myself: what are you thinking about most right now? Write about that.

What am I thinking about most right now? Whether we need any more children.

Or do I mean ‘want’? That’s the issue, isn’t it? Do we want more? Do we need more? The answers might not be the same. The fact that the answer to the question ‘Can we have more?’ is almost certainly ‘yes’ puts us in a position of impossible privilege from the start. Even having this conversation fills me with guilt. It is more trivial, heartbreakingly so, than lots of other conversations women are forced to have about family planning.

What this is really about is the fear of missed opportunity, of making a decision that I might regret and cannot be reversed. That’s not the case with many choices in life, I think. You can retrain in the field you always wanted, change jobs, move house, end toxic relationships and find new ones. The possibility is there, even if it takes time and emotional resources. But you can’t get much past forty-five and decide you wanted more children after all, because the ole uterus has already shut up shop. Is there a comparable point-of-no-return decision for men? I’m not sure there is.

What a needle-sharp pressure that is for women. Tick-tock, goes the clock. Do you want children? Are you in a position to have them? Would you rather not? Either way, judgement. Either way, the clock ticks.

I had always envisioned having a big family. I’m from a tight-knit foursome and Tim is one of five. As it turns out, imagining possible future children is not the same as growing and birthing them. That stuff is hard. Having two children close together, though it was a deliberate choice, is hard too. We are only juuuuust getting to a stage where the boys play together, and one of them can be trusted most of the time not to do things that endanger his life. Most of the time. If that doesn’t seem like much of a gain, trust me: it’s huge.

In lots of ways this is a lovely phase. They still think I’m the coolest, but I’m not running between them like a rabid monkey so often. They have personalities, tiny obsessions, speech. Watching them learn things and interact with each other is out-and-out delight. My very favourite part of the day is when we roll in from school, I make them a drink and a snack, and we sit at the table and talk. It’s the sort of enjoyment I could not have imagined back in the days of newborn+toddler, where they never left me for a moment and where I would cry from exhaustion that felt like it could never be fixed.

They’re still hard work (they are four and two, after all). But we’re climbing out of chaos for the first time in some years, and part of me is not over-anxious to leap back in there. Google ‘three kids are the most stressful’ and you’ll get pages of articles including sentences like ‘Some days I really wonder if I’ve lost my mind’, and ‘everything was turned upside down’ and ‘I do not feel like I have it all together’. A proper confidence boost.

Then there’s the fact that I have my body to myself now. No sickness, no womb occupation, no saggy sore postpartum body, no weeping over the pain and stress and failure of breastfeeding: I am only myself now, with kids. I am enjoying that too.

And yet. And yet. And yet times one million.

And yet, I can’t shake the feeling that we’re a person down. And yet, the dynamics of a big family feel the most natural to me – I can’t fathom what my life would be like minus two brothers, for example. And yet, looking at babies is starting to make me hurt. And yet I imagine myself, one day, realising that I did want more, need more, could have had more, and I left it too late out of fear.

What I want, deep down, is for the good stuff never to change. I can’t bear to think of the small happinesses of today moving on when the boys do. But of course they will, whether or not I want them to. So I suppose the direction we go is up to us.

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8 thoughts on “To three or not to three?

  1. I’m currently growing number 3. I have 3 siblings myself, and having more than 2 was always something that I knew I wanted (being ready for the third after 2 demanding boys did take a while though!) Currently now having this same deliberation about whether I would really want afourth. I always thought I would, but as you say, the reality and the demands are a different story. I think we naturally deliberate these things and then always end up going with our gut.

  2. I was in your spot about six years ago. Had two small kids, agonized over having a third, really didn’t crave more new-baby chaos, felt like things were wonderful as they were.

    My three are now 10, 8, and 5. All the baby and toddler stuff is done. Diapers, sleepless nights, spitting up, post-partum sag, nap schedules, gates on the stairs, gone. Just like that. *It goes so fast.* I hate those four words, because they are repeated so often (by older ladies in the grocery store or random preachy blog commenters) they tend to lose all meaning. But really, nothing could be more true. It goes soooo fast.

    Now I am myself, in my own body, with three kids. Three people. With astonishing insights and personalities and humor all their own. And they all wipe their own bums. Think about that.

    Oh, and if you think it’s delightful having a chat with your four- and two-year-olds, just wait!

  3. To three or not to three. I already have two; my boyfriend already has two; do we try for “three”? We have all the same questions you have, plus we have no children who are a little part of both of us. The urge to be selfish is strong, to keep my own body now, to keep our oh so precious free time, when the boys are all away, when we can date as if we didn’t both come into the relationship with children.

    And yet…

  4. We hoped for four and were blessed with three. If you think it’s part of the plan for you, be open to the idea and see what happens. All these little blessings do grownup and the ideal plan is for them to spread their wings and leave your lovely nest one day … but the years they are with you are priceless. One day you will look back and only remember how wonderful it all was!

  5. Thank you for sharing such a deeply personal struggle. It is a real one and often not an easy one to come to answer and find peace in. It’s also one that is different for each and every couple. I always thought 4 was my number. My husband i both coem from familiea of 6 kids and loved it. As life and kids came along i struggled to think i could handle more than my 3, then my four amd especially after #5 arrived. (Physically difficult pregnancy and bad postpatom depressio etc etc) But thru many tears (similar struggles of want vs ability vs feelings of ,for lack of a better word, obligation), unsettled/incomplete feelings and prayer and finally quiet yet clear answers that more babies were meant to be part of our family. Here I am weeks away from welcoming baby #6. And when people ask if we’re done, I honestly don’t know, because I am afraid to ask! LOL Motherhood is a challenege, I am an introvert who craves quiet and order. And yet with each sweet baby we add to the chaos and potential noise, ha ha. I have come to hope and pray and trust God’s plan for me, no matter how challenging I find it to be, it will be what I’m supposed to do with my life and who I am to become. Good luck in your quest for answers and peace!!

  6. Certainly definitely not!! Cars, holidays, space, hands and sanity are all compromised by additional children.

    But if you just want one then all that reasoning goes out the window huh?! I think I want one #idiot

  7. Ha ha, we are a funny breed aren’t we? I am currently in a very similar dilemma: I always planned to have 2 children, and yet I have both a brother and a sister. My husband is now asking that we try for a third child, and I very reasonably explain that we simply cannot fit another child into our small house and tiny car (and we cannot afford to move/expand at present)

    And yet… and yet… I do want another baby, even though I dread the pain, the sleepless nights, the screaming, and all those nappies!

    Thank you for sharing your dilemma. It is one that is shared by many, and voiced by few.

  8. I’m in the situation of trying for number two… I agonised over that as no 1 is now four. Hubby was ready but I wasn’t, yet I think this is God’s plan for me, as I feel I have more to give as a mother second time around! Trust in your faith and see what lies ahead, what is meant for you will always land in your lap, what is not will pass you by. Thank you for sharing such a personal struggle.

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