It's a loaded question for sure. So much to consider and process, emotionally and mentally. There is the reality: what can we afford? How will we as parents manage another child? There are the emotions involved and the feelings of having that little newborn in your arms again, going through the baby stage all over again with its ups and downs. There's the future to consider: how will we afford daycare and college bills someday? But how will we be with just the one or two we have, not having another, would we feel complete or missing something? So much to think about.
Everyone's story is different. Everyone's financial situation is different. Everyone's capacity to handle certain things is different.
Like I could have not have had another child if my big kids were younger, but some people have kids back to back year after year and it works for them. This type of decision is one that's not made lightly, and it really depends on who you are and what your family structure is like.
Here is my story, in hopes that it helps you in figuring out if you are done having children.
When my son turned a year old, we talked about having another baby. I wasn't ready. I'd just stopped pumping and wanted my body back to run for a while. So we waited until he was 18 months old before getting pregnant again. It worked well for us. We knew we wanted at least two children. That was such an easy decision, not much to consider.
When my second, daughter, was a year old I was NO where near ready to think about having a baby. So we said probably when she's two years old. Well two years old came around and I wasn't ready either. Just felt like we were getting into our groove, I was figuring out the two kids thing, couldn't think about adding another one, wasn't sure we could handle that. So we waited longer.
We reached a point in the next year or two where I questioned if we'd ever have a third child, if we really could handle that in our family, financially and otherwise. The time period came around in the fall when we'd said we'd start trying for a baby and I was really not ready to start trying. It was my decision. I thought our money situation was a mess, trying to pay things off and earn more money. I thought our kids behaviors and ages were chaotic and we were just trying to manage that without getting super stressed. Everything seemed off timing wise to add another into the mix.
So I started picturing, what if we don't have another one? What if we're a family of four? Can I be happy and content, complete with that? Can I move on from this dream I've had in my head of another child? Do I really want another one, or am I missing the baby stage like so many moms do once their youngest is walking and talking and running into toddlerhood at the speed of light?
I started picturing not having another one. I became depressed, honestly. I was so sad and moody those few months when I felt not ready to have another, but not sure if we'd be ready some time soon.
It was then that I realized, yes, I absolutely wanted another child. I was not OK saying no to that dream. And here's the thing, when imagining another child, that's what I imagined: a child, not a baby. Not the newborn phase where they are cute and cuddly and stay in one place. I wanted the child, the person, the sibling for my two big kids.
I envisioned my children someday, all three of them, standing side by side at a graduation party or taking care of me and my husband when we're older. I envisioned the Christmas pictures every year. But I didn't picture the one where my kids were young and there was a third baby. I pictured the photograph of three kids in elementary school sitting, holding hands, laughing. I pictured the people they'd be, their personalities and the things that made them uniquely ours.
I wanted more than another baby to cuddle. I wanted more than that feeling of a baby kicking in my belly. I wanted the person, the family member, for a lifetime. I wanted that bigger family. And that's how I knew.
To me this is a distinct difference from just reminiscing about the past and missing the baby phase. Every mom goes through that. But usually it stops there when they cuddle someone's newborn and then move on, thankful not to be the one getting up in the night. For me though, after a few months of not being ready to start trying and picturing, what if this doesn't happen for us, am I OK with that or no? And then picturing the vision of my three children sitting side by side, I knew. I just knew.
So we planned for our third child and I was so utterly happy. The fog of sadness and confusion, questioning if we would do this, it lifted instantly when I decided that yes, this was what I wanted. We have never been in denial: we knew it'd be chaos and hard at times. You never have the right timing or enough money for these things, that's for sure. But we decided we wanted it for the long term and started preparing.
My husband got a raise at work, thankfully. We paid off more debt to be more financially stable for a third child. We sold a lot of things in our house, downsized and decluttered, knowing what a third baby would bring into the already tight quarters of our small house. We talked about getting a bigger car that we could afford. We considered the baby stuff we already had saved and anything we thought we'd need to purchase, and how that would fit into our plans. We talked about how this may affect our two big kids. We talked and planned and dreamed. And then made it happen.
Fast forward seven months into pregnancy and my doctor was asking about a long term plan: birth control? tying tubes? Were we done, would we have a fourth? When I was younger, even before having children of my own, I wanted four. My husband wanted four. We both come from families of four siblings. Then we had one child and instantly said, "uh, no we're good with three!" Then we had two kids and thought, "well, maybe just 2 and a half kids..." on the fence, not sure what we could handle as parents.
When pregnant with our third, the pregnancy was so challenging. Much more tiring, difficult, and more ailments than the first two. It hit me early on, I was done. I was grateful for what we had. We were really complete. It wasn't just a financial decision or a logistical decision based on our small house, though those mental things came first for sure. It was something I actually felt inside, I believed, I was content with: we were done. Our family was complete with three kids.
I never imagined I'd be that woman. The one who actually knows when she's done. They told me, "you'll just know." And I thought to myself, "Not me, I'll be the person who will always want more kids even though we make a mental decision to be realistic and stop at 2 or 3." I didn't know if I'd ever lose that longing feeling to hold a baby in my arms after carrying them in my belly for nine months. I really wasn't sure I'd ever feel that.
But I did and I do. I know for sure that we're complete. It's bittersweet some days. There are moments now where I'm putting away newborn and 0-3 clothing or the infant bouncy seat he is way too long for, where I reminisce about all three babies who wore those clothes or sat in a seat like that and it's sad. But it's not the type of sad that makes you want to do it all over again. It's the "we're content and blessed" type of sad and "we can move on to other fun stages now with our awesome family."
I'll admit that when it was time to sign the paperwork to tie my tubes at the doctor's office, I cried on the way home. It was just so final. That chapter of my life, the one where it was possible to get pregnant and possible to carry life (still the most amazing thing I think I've ever done or will ever do again) was over. Forever. It was my decision, I was ready to make the decision, and yet it was so sad to do so. I held my growing belly tighter that night and tried so hard to memorize each and every jab and kick from the inside, knowing I'd miss that most of all when it was no longer a possibility.
I text my husband saying how sad it was, that it was hitting me. He wrote back something so sweet that I'll never forget. He said that yes, it's sad, that part of our life is over, but how amazing it is that now our family is complete and we get to watch them grow and move forward toward all the fun things in store for us and our beautiful children. We get to start really living our life now knowing we're ALL here together now. I love that... it's so simple, but true.
So to you, if you are wondering if you should have another baby or not... don't just think about finances and don't just imagine what daycare is going to cost or where on earth you'd fit more baby stuff in the house. Those ARE important, I'm not going to deny that. You should consider those things. But they aren't everything. Don't just imagine timing... there's no perfect timing. I had this last baby at the worst possible timing for my job, and it's all working out in the end. It is what it is. You cannot control all of it.
To those of you who aren't able to make the decision for yourself, because of health issues within your body or health issues within your children, or some other major life experience that means adding another one is too much to bear... my heart breaks for you. It's hard enough to actually make this decision on my own free will, I can't imagine the decision being made for me. Make sure you process this, grieve the loss of the choice to have another child, and talk through it with someone you trust.
To others, if you can live with picturing NOT having another one for a few weeks, then perhaps you're ready to close that chapter of this long motherhood book you've been writing the last few years. If you are devastated by the thought, actually feeling depressed and with this deep longing inside that you just are not ready to be done, your family is not complete without one more child in it someday... then perhaps you are ready to add another one to your family.
It's not an easy decision either way. Be sure you put time into processing it both on your own and as a family or couple.
I'll leave you with this, something I tell many moms, something many moms told me and wrote about in blogs and books and discussion groups before I got pregnant for the last time: you'll never ever regret having another child when you lay eyes on that sweet little blessing that you created.