Sunday, January 20, 2008

To Three, or Not to Three, That is the Question

I was thinking yesterday, if I would spend even half the time writing my own blog as I do reading and commenting on other people's blogs, this thing would be a whole lot more entertaining!

So, I have been pondering over Baby #3 quite a bit lately. Before you get all excited, let me clarify that this does NOT mean I am ready to get pregnant again. What I mean is I have been wrestling in my mind about having a third child. When I was younger, I always thought I would have 4 or 5 kids. That was before I found out how challenging it is to be a mother. Now it's looking like three will be the max. Dan would be fine if we just stopped now, but I just feel like I'm not quite done. I'd like to have a son. Sure, there's no guarantee and both Dan and I cringe at the thought of three girls at once. Between Lily's drama and Amelia's strong will, I'm not sure if we could handle much more estrogen around here!

I'm not the greatest at managing the stress and demands of motherhood. I marvel at women who have 6 or 8 kids and appear to be so cool and collected. I just don't have it in me. I'm not sure if it's the stress of having to work at home while being a full-time mother, the fact that I have depression (albeit fairly well managed with medication), or if I'm simply just not cut out to have a lot of kids. Part of me mourns what seems to be a deficiency, the other part says "Hey, I've done my part, I've propagated the race." But I often ask myself, when I'm older, will I regret not having more children? I mean, the more kids you have, the more likely it is that at least one of them will like you enough to take care of you in your old age!

I was talking to a friend of mine a few days ago and she was saying that the infant stage is the hardest for her, with the lack of sleep, the constant feedings, etc. For me, (and this may be colored purely by the fact that I'm not in that stage anymore) I do OK with the infant stage. I love to photograph my babies, before they get too big and can run away, I love their small little bodies, and the overwhelming motherly feeling that says, "I can give you everything you need." But once they start walking and exert their independence, it gets harder and harder for me. The toddler years are the hardest because you have the combination of a child who wants to do everything themselves but they can't communicate what they need very well. It's extremely frustrating and I find my nerves unraveling more and more often.

Lily is at a super fun age right now (almost 6) because she's old enough to be pretty independent and she is intelligent enough to be able to have good conversation with, play a board game with (and not just Candyland, which makes you want to poke your eye out after 2 or 3 games) and she enjoys listening to chapter books. She's helpful and she loves to play with her friends, so that relieves a lot of expectations being put on me for constant assistance and entertainment. If kids could just go from infant to 4 or 5 years old, I might have a whole brood!

I often ask myself, "Am I weak? Am I allowing present challenges to hinder the long-term potential for joy in my posterity?" I think about what life will be like when I'm old and will I wish there were more kids and grandkids around? But Dan often asks me, "If you're so stressed out and struggling with the two kids you have, why in the world would you want more? More isn't going to relieve your stress; it will only add to it." Very true.

And yet two just doesn't seem like enough. So I guess the question is not whether to have a third, but WHEN to have a third. Lily and Amelia are 4 1/2 years apart. It's a bit longer of an age gap than I would like, but it has had many advantages. Lily is tremendously helpful and she loves her baby sister, but I worry about what their relationship will be like as they get older. Kids that are closer in age can play together better simply because their developmental levels are closer to each other's. All that being said, it was a very rude awakening to have a newborn, completely dependent, after getting used to a child who could feed herself, dress herself, wipe her own butt (well, mostly) and entertain herself.

Part of me says, "if you're gonna do it, just do it while you're still used to a dependent child instead of dragging it out over several years." But when I'm honest with myself, I'm not sure I could emotionally handle two super-needy kids at once. Plus, with our financial situation and our desperate need and intense commitment to getting out of debt, the next year or two would not be a good time for me to slow down working. Many of my friends have told me that three is the magical number for motherhood. Once you hit three, mothering is about all you can do. If I think it's hard to get any work done at home now, just imagine adding another kid to the mix!

So I have this dilemma. Wait, or just do it (pun intended.) And when I say just do it, the soonest I mean is probably when Amelia is 2.

And then there's the worry that even with our best efforts and intentions, the kid could come out looking like this:


(Man, am I glad Amelia had her back to the chair so no one could slap her and make her face freeze like that forever!)

The other thing I think a lot about in the kid department is how hard it is going to be when I reach the point where I realize that I won't be having any more kids. Creating a life, being pregnant, is such a magical and awe-inspiring thing. I can't imagine the void I will feel when I know that part of my life is over. My women friends who have reached that point, what did you go through and how did you deal?

8 comments:

John Holly Levi & Faith said...

Wow. This is such a thought provoking post. I always have the same things going through my mind. Our kids are similar ages too. Levi is five and a half and Faith is 7 months. They're nearly exactly five years apart. Not by choice either. It took us forever to get Faith here. Hence, her name. So, when it happens it happens. If I were to get pregnant right now, I would be thrilled (a little scared, yes) but thrilled. But... that said, I wonder if I'll have more than three. I always thought I'd have four kids. And I have this need (and I know it's stupid) for Faith to have a sister and Levi to have a brother. There were 7 in our family and I love how big it is. And I love having 3 sisters I can call all the time (my brothers on the other hand I'm not as close to). So... maybe that's why I want my kids to have a brother or sister that they can rely on. I don't know. I go back and forth all the time. Three is perfect for the car, perfect for maintaining, etc. But four? Four suddenly sounds like a lot. And I've heard that once you have two, what's one more? But that fourth one nearly sends you over the edge. My sister has six kids. One of whom is SEVERELY disabled, in diapers, seizures, doesn't talk. You name it. He's 10. And she has three younger than him; one of which is a nursing baby. Her house is clean all of the time and she manages it. But... her life is so so difficult and her children have difficult personalities to go along with it. I seriously don't know HOW she does it. And ya know what? I wouldn't want that hectic of a life. And I think my mom had too many children too. Man, this comment is going on and on.

Basically, I get you. It's a hard decision and I struggle with how I'm going to feel after three knowing that I may never have another baby again ( I struggle with it already too.)

Whew! That was long. So sorry!

Josh and Jenn said...

Sue, I love this post. And I will go ahead and say I think you need to have another baby! But that's easy for me to say, when I'm too scared to even have one baby! I think three kids is a good number. My brother has two, and they are done, and I keep urging them to have another because two just doesn't seem like enough. But who am I to tell them what they can or can not handle?
I've always wanted a big family and a lot of babies! But realistically who can afford to have six kids anymore? I loved growing up in a big family, but I don't know if I'd be able to handle having a lot of kids mentally and financially.
Good luck with your decision. You and Dan do make beautiful babies. Just make sure you don't feel pressured to have another one until you feel like you can handle it because if you are not happy nobody else in your family will be either!

Becky in Wyo said...

Boy, what a deep topic. I'll probably have to do my own blog post on it or something, but here goes my first impressions.

First, whatever is good for your family, is good for your family. Period. There are those women who can handle a bazillion kids, and I think I'm in the category of medium amount of kids, but a bazillion kids is not necessarily for everyone. I've got three, with one on the way, and that's probably going to be it. But, my doc has already offered to tie my tubes at the end of this pregnancy, and I'm not feelin' that vibe, either. It's probably psychological, you know, letting go of such a strong symbol of my femininity, but I just don't think I'm ready to do something that final. I think it's wise to consider what you are personally able to handle, instead of putting yourself in a situation where you can't take care of anything anymore because there is just too much.

Thoughts on spacing children: I have to say that it was major fun to have a long gap between #2 & #3, 8 years. Then, you've only got one who is really dependent on you, and the older children get to help. It doesn't make everything super easy, or anything, but it helps in little places throughout the day, and I think relieves some of the stress.

Man, it sounds like you have plenty on your plate right now. I've got my own blog post to do about that, but I digress. Sometimes there are surprises, and you just have to adjust to another child no matter what, but when a woman has the option of controlling the timing, and she wants to, I think she should. And what that is, depends on the woman, and her circumstances. Money situations matter, emotional issues matter, and physical health matters, too. I really don't think Heavenly Father made every woman to be a baby machine. Not that I want to mock women who want a ton of kids, but I don't think everyone's mortality has to be that way, or is even meant to be that way. Every family will have their own unique story to tell, and you can't let "the grass is greener..." feelings tell you what is best for your family. Yeah, it's possible to make the wrong decision about famliy size, but that doesn't mean the right answer for everyone is to have as many kids as possible. You can't jeopardize your ability to take care of the ones you already have.

And maybe that's the acid test: if I have one more, will I be able (financially, emotionally, physically) to take care of them? Sometimes sacrifices can be made to make that happen, such as quitting a high stress job to stay home with the kids (if financially feasible), or working on strengthening a relationship so that sometime in the near future a couple could have another child. And sometimes people are just ready to make any sacrifice to have more children. But I don't think all people are equal, or have to be. But if you are already stretched to the max (which it kind of sounds like you are right now), postponing another child might be a wise idea.

And do you feel that Heavenly Father is okay with your decision? I kind of think of Him as a practical being, where he expects us to think about our decisions, and it's totally feasible that He would agree with postponing another one, in my opinion. But again, that's between you, your spouse, and Him.

And you have to realize (and I'm sure already do), that initially (first three to six months, or so) you will not be able to accomplish much on a day to day basis with two little kids under the age of three, or even under the age of four. Making sure everyone got fed, and had their basic physical needs met, is what a lot of days are going to amount to, and are you okay with that? It just might not be feasible to be in the kind of situation you're in right now.

I know I've said this before, and you already know this, but it is so hard to work a business at home. There are so many things pulling you in opposite directions when you work out of your home, and it ramps up the stress a lot to feel that pull all day long between your kids and work you owe to other people. It is very difficult, if not impossible, to do that with two very young children.

Well, those are my first impressions, such as they are.

KT2 said...

My dear friend! As the mother of a one and only child - it's hard for me to be objective. There is not a day in my life that goes by that I don't say "I wish, I wish". When your choices are removed and you are required to deal with what you've gotten - it's hard to not wish your life away wishing you could have had as many more as possible. I'm sure there is a reason I was only given one, but I can't figure it out - I've been a good mom, and just look at how well he turned out!

I am the baby of four and 9 years younger than my next sibling and my dad has a better relationship with me than any of his other kids.

I say - if you are supposed to have more... you will!

Kris said...

I think you'll know when it's time for that third baby. (or it will just happen!) There's no rush. It sounds like in another year or two you may be much more ready to really think about it.

I actually felt like going from one child to two was a bigger adjustment than going from two to three. You are already used to dividing up your time and attention, and the older two have each other to play with. So when the time comes, it will be fine!

As for knowing when you are 'done', people talk a lot about that but I haven't really experienced that. For me, I just haven't had that, we need to have another baby!! feeling, like I did before I got pregnant with our kids. Now my baby is almost 3, and I can't say for sure we won't have another one, but I also feel content with our family as it is.

(That is, until I start comparing our family with so many other families that have more, and I start feeling guilty... I think comparison is just a bad idea and especially in this area!)

You are a great mom. Just wait until you feel ready for another, and don't worry about "the gap." Every family is different!

Kris said...

I think you'll know when it's time for that third baby. (or it will just happen!) There's no rush. It sounds like in another year or two you may be much more ready to really think about it.

I actually felt like going from one child to two was a bigger adjustment than going from two to three. You are already used to dividing up your time and attention, and the older two have each other to play with. So when the time comes, it will be fine!

As for knowing when you are 'done', people talk a lot about that but I haven't really experienced that. For me, I just haven't had that, we need to have another baby!! feeling, like I did before I got pregnant with our kids. Now my baby is almost 3, and I can't say for sure we won't have another one, but I also feel content with our family as it is.

(That is, until I start comparing our family with so many other families that have more, and I start feeling guilty... I think comparison is just a bad idea and especially in this area!)

You are a great mom. Just wait until you feel ready for another, and don't worry about "the gap." Every family is different!

Spymommy said...

Who doesn't have these same thoughts at some point? We always question ourselves when the results require leaving our comfort zone - the familiar and somewhat normal to us. What we don't realize is that after the uncomfortable adjustment period that comes with change, what we thought was unfamiliar becomes our new normal and we do fine.

Having said that, I have to tell you that for me, the leap from two kids to three was scary, but I knew our family wasn't done. Three has actually been much easier than two. I don't know why, but it has.

Now that we desire more than anything to have a fourth, our hopes are met with trial and heartache. The years between Soren and a "next baby" grow longer and I wonder if I'm crazy to want another at this point. Here's the thing: I still have that feeling that we aren't done. I can't make it go away. I can't ignore it. I sometimes wonder if that is Heavenly Father's way of telling me I'm doing a good enough job with the ones I've got and I can take care of another.

We'll see. You know what to do - make it a matter of prayer. He'll let you know.

Christianna said...

As a soon to be first time Mom I really have no experience in this area, but what I can tell you is how fast we went from not having any kids at all to maybe having two, when we were unexpectantly expecting. But it changes everyday depending on how sick and large I feel.
What I can tell you and I am sure that you know, is how great it is to have a sister that is just two years older. Katy and I went to high school together, hung out with the same people and she is just old enough to have the wisdom and experience but close enough in life experiences to still share the excitement with me. So if we do have another child we will most likely do that in the next three years. If it doesn't happen by then it probably wont, but never say never.