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.
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.
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.
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. My pronouns are she/her/hers.
Amanda Nalley says
Thanks Paula. Beautifully written.
Paula Kiger says
Thank you. xo
Dealing with my parents deaths I am so glad my sister and I had each other. That is not to day that 2 sibs can get along but it worked for us.
Paula Kiger (@biggreenpen) says
I definitely appreciate your perspective, Haralee! Throughout my mom’s illness, I was torn between “I’m the only one whose opinion I have to deal with (at least compared to siblings) and “it would be nice to have a sibling to share this with.” (There was lots of extended family with support and opinions, though (not necessarily in that order LOL!). I do think if I had to crystallize this all down, it would be that I am pro-sibling (when possible) for a variety of reasons, including the things you learn about negotiating when you grow up with siblings. That has always been an uphill climb for me in adulthood. But I am grateful too. It’s a mix!
Crista Baasch says
I was always on the fence about having kids. My (ex) husband at the time really wanted kids. I gave him 2. We divorced when my youngest was 3. I remarried and then my third surprise came about into our 2nd year of marriage. It hasn’t been the easiest but I enjoy them and there are many days where I wish I didn’t have anyone to depend on me or ask me for anything! I enjoyed reading your post and your kids are beautiful!
Paula Kiger (@biggreenpen) says
Thanks for sharing your thoughts and perspective! And for your kind words about my kids. // I think there’s a whole complementary post to this one about the fact that we all seem to often focus on the “baby” and “childbirth” parts of this but …….. the parenting scenario gets so much more intense and varied and resource-dependent (in a way) as kids grow up. It’s always rewarding but also oh-so-hard in ways we can’t really anticipate when they are little, IMO.
So well said. We just never know what sort of cards we’re going to be dealt that might help determine how our families grow. I sometimes wish we had one more just to even things out and so that my son might have a brother close in age. But like, you it just wasn’t in the cards for me either. There just isn’t a “right way” to build a family.
Paula Kiger (@biggreenpen) says
This, exactly. Thanks for popping in.