“This is me processing our journey, not my take on raising kids God’s way.”
Over the years, we have experienced the black hole of infertility with some friends we love the most. I’ve wept with and for other friends who’ve faced the heartache of their baby being born with certain delays or chromosomal defects. And I’ve walked- and am still walking- through the valley of the shadow of death with one of my best friends, who lost her firstborn son to a cord accident. Walking- sometimes crawling- through these times of despair has, to say the least, shaped my view of “family planning.”
I am much more hesitant (and appropriately so) to share about the woes of pregnancy because I understand that it is a gift that is not guaranteed. I am much more hesitant to share about “making decisions” about the size of our family, when I know that after carrying that baby for 9 months, there is always the chance I may not bring him/her home from the hospital. Despite the difficulty to find the right words which convey my heart and the nuances of all things related to this sensitive area- I risk sharing from my personal experience in hopes to encourage another mom out there who may be wrestling through some of the same struggles I was/am.
Let me begin with a couple disclaimers-
I’m not typically an indecisive person- to the contrary- once I set my mind on something, I’m pretty single-focused and don’t usually waver. But when my husband & I were trying to decide whether or not to have more children (and again, I use the term decide very loosely) I felt torn and confused. My husband and I prayed and had many discussions that would go round and round. One day we’d feel confident we were done… the next day, just as confident that we should try for another. I even found myself up late one night googling, “Going from three kids to four” or “How to decide whether or not to have another child.” I was looking for even some principles to lean on- ANYTHING.
As we talked and talked, weighed the pro’s and con’s, hashed and re-hashed, here were some of the pro’s we kept coming back to that tipped us over the edge to go for it: (In no particular order)
(1) Grandkids. We fully recognize that we are weird for thinking so much about being grandparents when we are having babies ourselves. But we can’t help it. Both my husband and I keep coming back to the picture. The picture in which we are sitting in the center- and our kids and their kids are surrounding us. We get that lots of grandkids is not a guarantee, but we can’t help ourselves- the opportunity to have kids all over again with none of the responsibility… and to impact future generations in the context of family is super compelling to us.
(2) Everyone has a buddy. A month after we’d had Juney (our 3rd), I saw my friend Joanna at church. Having four teenage daughters of her own, she smiled brightly and said, “Now you know you can’t just stop at three- everyone needs a buddy!” It got me thinking, when we go to amusement parks, everyone will have someone to sit next to on the roller coaster rides. I like it.
(3) Friends with regrets. We’ve had a few good friends, whose kids are now grown, say to us: “Man, we wish we had one more. The little years were rough and at the time we just couldn’t do it… but now looking back, we really wish we’d had just one more.” Hindsight is always 20/20 and hello- easy for them to say now!!! But weighed alongside our limitations, we’ve seriously considered these statements. If we can just get through these early years- especially the high chair years- one day, our kids wil be grown and I know we’ll be glad we endured.
(4) I’m already in baby-mode. For us, we knew if we even so much as tasted what it was like to be semi-rested and out of the baby phase, we would not re-enter. Plain and simple. We’ve kind of figured, we’re already in the baby phase- if we can just hang in there another year or two- a few more diapers, a few more sleepless nights, we will eventually feel human again. And we’ll have this whole other person in our family that wouldn’t have existed otherwise.
(5) Our neighbors have a trampoline. But seriously. I look at our life and all we’ve been entrusted with and all the big and little provisions and it frees me to consider adding to our family. Several years ago, God provided our home- with plenty of space and room for little ones to enjoy. He provided a finished basement for them to play and run around in, a craft room in our unfinished storage area for them to create, a swing set given to us by friends and neighbors who have a giant trampoline they can jump on any time they want. I don’t feel a warped sense of guilt telling me that I need to be a good steward and therefore must respond by having more children. But for someone who could tend to feel claustrophobic during little years where I don’t leave my house as much, these extra gifts take the edge off in a major way and free me to want to consider stretching my capacity.
(6) It’s gotten easier. You’ve heard it said that the more kids you have, the less stressful it becomes to add one more. I can say from personal experience that it’s true. People talk about the transition from one to two or two to three, but what about the transition from zero to one?! For me, just becoming a mom in general was such a huge transition where everything was new and the learning curve was unbelievable. I had no idea what an exersaucer was or how to give a baby a bath. Now all those things are just my world. And my two oldest Ginger (4) and Pearl (2) are my helpers (they unload my dishwasher- think about that for a second) and they also entertain each other. My capacity has also grown tons. Adding June (our third) to the family was by far our easiest transition. I’ll come back and delete this post if number four doesn’t go well 😉
(7) The vision of a full family. Although growing up I never thought I’d have four kids, I was impacted by a couple scenes from the movie While You Were Sleeping that I just couldn’t shake. One is in Peter’s hospital room and the other is at the Christmas family gathering. In both scenes, everyone is pretty much speaking over each other and you see both the noise and the love of the family. The funny thing is, I went back to show my husband the movie and they don’t even have this huge family. So, for some- full might be one or two. For me/us, we continued to be more drawn to the muddle of more. Six chairs taken at the dinner table. Toys falling out of the toy box. Shoes scattered around the entryway. Clothes falling out of drawers. I’m okay with it. And kind of love it. Smashed cheerios in the carpet, no. But the overall mess I’m willing to embrace.
“We continued to be more drawn to the muddle of more. Six chairs taken at the dinner table. Toys falling out of the toy box…. Clothes falling out of drawers. I’m okay with it. And kind of love it. Smashed cheerios in the carpet, no. But the overall mess I’m willing to embrace.”
(8) I’m enjoying these little years. Not every moment of every day, obviously. And again, not to say that if you aren’t called to more kids, you aren’t enjoying being a mom or that there’s something wrong with you if you legitimately don’t enjoy the little years- that’s fine too. But for me, I feel like I have the grace I need to do each day. And for having had four kids in just under five years, that says a lot. I couldn’t keep going if I felt like I hated this season. It’s a LOT of work and constant serving. Trust me, I have my days for sure (and lately my hormones are raging!) but overall, by the grace of God, I am enjoying my kids.
(9) Answering the Question: Would surrendering to the current cost lead to long term regret? The answer for me was yes. But it’s a strange thing to willingly embrace something you know is going to make your life a heck of a lot more difficult. It’s one thing to be compelled be a bigger long term vision for your family. It’s another thing to live that out and to count the cost. To agree to two more years of changing diapers. To enduring another hard pregnancy. [Side note: I’ve had more than one woman ask me, “So, do you just love being pregnant?!” No, I do not. In fact, it was probably the biggest con on our list that was holding me back. Although I still see it as an enormous privilege, it is something I fantasize about- after ten weeks from now- never having to do again] . But I couldn’t get away from the regret I know I would have felt if I hadn’t said yes one more time.
If you’re done having kids, what factors helped determine that your family was complete? If you’re not, what questions, reservations or thoughts do you have as you look ahead?