Deciding How Many Kids to Have

A dear friend posted questions to  Facebook today in a “thinking out loud” way about how to make decisions regarding whether to have another baby.

Before I proceed to break down why I made the childbearing choices I did, I respect every family’s choice. I respect the choice not to have children or to have 18 children (or to have no children). But sharing our stories and rationales is helpful, I think, so here’s mine.

How many kids to have

If you know me, or have read my blog, you know I have two children.

How many kids to have

Family ties.
Credit: Mark Bass Photography

I was an only child (for all intents and purposes*). This was the main driver for feeling strongly about having more than one.

In retrospect, I went overboard in feeling sorry for myself about my only child status. My mom lost a baby at term two years before I was born. Now that I have been through two pregnancy losses (at much earlier stages than she lost my brother), I have a tremendous amount of respect for the courage it takes to keep trying.

I know that my children’s personal histories have many more years in which to grow and develop, but my fantasy was that they would be close to one another. I didn’t observe them to be especially close growing up. Maybe that will change as they grow further into adulthood.

Maybe I wouldn’t have been close to a sibling. But I always wanted to know.

I also feel the weight of having been the only egg in my parents’ basket. I can only imagine how frustrating it must be to pray for a child, lose a child, finally have a child, just to have a disrespectful, resentful daughter. (I know most teenagers go through a disrespectful, resentful stage but this still weighs on me, especially now that I have been a parent myself.)

Whether to adopt

In the comments my friend received about her decision, there were the “I loved being pregnant” people and the “pregnancy was the worst thing ever people.” I loved being pregnant. Loved it.

That said, I have seen so many positive adoption (and foster parenting) stories among my friends. I know I would have been sad to have not been able to be pregnant, but I like to think I would have been open to adoption.

I have a friend who is an advocate for foster parenting, and I admit I feel a little pull every time she posts about how great the need is for foster parents. I feel guilty for saying this, but we’re not there (ready) as a family/couple right now.

Remaining childless

My friend already has one child, so remaining childless isn’t part of her decision tree. But I feel compelled to address this. I’m not sure why society is so judgmental about people who decide to have children or not. Having a child(ren) is the absolute last thing you should do solely to satisfy a societal expectation.

For me, having kids is all I ever wanted. I have never regretted it. But it’s not for everyone at all.

On the flip side, the current spate of articles about how unbearable other people’s children are makes me wonder how we have abandoned tolerance and patience for the fact that children in public ……. are childish sometimes.

Summary: What I would tell my friend

My decision (regarding having a third) was made for me. I lost two pregnancies at early stages, then as I was trying again, I learned I was in early menopause. Boom! Decision made.

Society puts pressure on you to have a certain kind of family, with a certain number of children, a certain number of years apart. Try to shut off all that noise, confer with your spouse, and make the decision that is right for you.

Even though my children don’t (yet) have the bond I hoped they would have, I am thankful they each have a sibling. Right this very moment I am not overwhelmingly grateful that I am paying for two kids in college simultaneously (they are three years apart), but that’s one small period of time in the scheme of things that add up to a lifetime.

As I got older, after losing the two pregnancies (I was in my last half of my 30s by then), I thought often of all the things that could go wrong with my “old eggs.” My son was being tested for a developmental disorder at the time, so I was acutely aware of the increased chance of something going wrong. It turns out he was fine, by the way.

I kept asking myself, however, the opposing question. What if everything goes right?

I have a hard time in life in general not locking in on all the “what if’s.”

Even as an upper middle class American, I haven’t been able to give my children all things many of their friends had or all the things they wanted. But I did give them all the things they needed. Most importantly, I gave them unconditional love 24/7.

I ask myself every day if I have parented well. Whatever the answer to that is, I know I have parented with love. I am a person of faith, so I tend to believe I got, from a parenting perspective, what I was supposed to have.

Lucky me.

This post was written in response to the Kat Bouska prompt “Write a blog post inspired by the word: break.”

*I have two half brothers. We did not grow up together, but I love them.

Wife of one, Mom of two, Friend of many.

Mashed Potatoes: A Book Review

How long has it been since your dreams contained adventure instead of the panicked feeling that you have failed to handle some obligation?

Mashed Potatoes: A Little Brother Story rekindled my belief in the power of lofty dreams to fuel our goals and fantasies. The book was self-published by my friend/co-worker, Carrie Koens and her husband, Peter.

Book Review

Although my kids are now 16 and 19, I can just SEE their younger eyes lighting up at the idea of getting all. they. wanted. of. their. favorite. foods and being rescued from the ill effects of gluttony by the simple act of rousing from sleep.

When she was little my almost-20-year-old loved We Like Kindergarten, a book that had worked its way into our collection somehow. This classic was published the year after I was born (1965)! The illustrations were definitely not 21st century, but the story was timeless: Big sister Carol got to go to Kindergarten and her little sister had to stay home. The book was already VERY LOVED when we got it, but that didn’t reduce its charm at all. This little golden book truly was GOLDEN.

Another favorite of my kids was a board book called Jamberry. One novel feature of Jamberry was the two-page passage with NO WORDS. I would summon up all my imagination and whatever drops of dramatic tendencies I could and make the passage FUN as the characters went over blueberry falls.

When another blogger, life as mom, talked about how Mashed Potatoes was one of her children’s perennial favorites, and how when she took it out of the mothballs to take a picture recently, the (now older) children each exclaimed “oh I LOVE that book!!,” I could relate.

Book Review: Why Mashed Potatoes is a Keeper:

  • It conjures up images of how, when we were little kids, we desperately wanted more, more, more of the things we loved (even if they weren’t good for us in unlimited quantities!)
  • The disarmingly adorable yet not too sappy-sweet illustrations
  • The fact that as the reader, you feel the protagonist’s struggle between right and wrong as he tries to figure out how to respond to his dad after his act of disobedience
  • The outer space reference (because I’ve been in a big space-lover mode recently thanks to my trips to NASA)
  • As I mentioned in the beginning, the reminder that our “child” spirit, whether we are 5 or 51, has the capacity to dream big, as high as the sky!

This is More Than a Book

In addition to sharing the qualities about Mashed Potatoes that made it a “hit” with me, I also want to note that all proceeds from the purchase of this book (here’s the link) are going to the authors’ adoption fund. They are planning to adopt five siblings from Costa Rica, and of course that brings with it expenses. Read more about their adoption journey here.

Please join me in wishing Peter and Carrie blessings and success on their adoption journey. I can just imagine five little heads on five little pillows, dreaming big dreams in their slumber and knowing the big love of family when they wake up!
Book Review

Design by Rachel Royer

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Wife of one, Mom of two, Friend of many.