Something I have been obsessing about since for the past year or so: when (or whether) to have more kids.
I never thought I would only have two children. Never. When Abe and I got married we decided that six was a good number of kids. Then we had one. We brought him home and all through the first night we watched him sleep, terrified he might stop breathing or get caught between the bars of the crib. Suddenly our tune changed from "We're going to have six kids" to "Let's take this one at a time and see how it goes." Soren, as you can imagine, was not an easy baby.
When Soren was about fifteen months old, he started sleeping through the night (yes, you read that right. At fifteen (separate word) months he started sleeping through the night.) and we started to feel like we had a fairly good handle on the parenting situation, so we decided to try for another baby. Eleven months later, we had Liam.
Liam was an easy peasy baby for the first few weeks-- until he got reflux. Then he, too, became an incessant crier. So between protecting the whiny new baby from constant physical assaults made by his extraordinarily jealous two-year-old brother, caring for the needs of said (needy and tantrum-prone) two-year-old, breastfeeding every three hours, changing two kiddos' diapers, cleaning up 15-20 spit-up messes a day, working part-time, and waking up constantly at night, I nearly lost my mind.
The only thing that saved me was working. It was with great relief that I went each day to a place where there wasn't constant screaming and crying and where I could put something down and return a full fifteen minutes later to have it still be there.
Let's just say I'm not in a huge rush to go through that again.
I mean, I looooove babies, and I am gut-wrenchingly thankful for my two handsome and precious little boys, but I have no desire to endure months of constant on-the-edge-of-vomiting nausea. I really, really, really, really don't want to have to wake up with a newborn baby every couple of hours for several months (or a year. or more.) I don't think I could handle another heavy crier. I honestly haven't even worked up the energy to potty train my 3 1/2-year-old. I'm clearly not equipped to manage the needs of a third human being.
And then there are financial considerations. I have a full-time job. I can't afford childcare for my two children. I am lucky to have a husband and family members who take care of them while I work, but I would feel awful asking anyone to watch not one, not two, but three children for me for free. If Abraham could find full-time work, maybe I could cut back on my hours and then consider having another wee one.
But on the other hand, I kind of like just having two children. Life is not as hard now that they're three and five years old. And I imagine it could just get easier! And we could afford to go on more trips with just two children! Maybe even visit the New Hampshirine Grandparents now and again! Maybe we could decorate the house! Maybe I could pursue a PhD!
And then I think, "It may be harder temporarily, but the sacrifices we make in having more children are compensated by the gift of love that will come through the addition of another child." I'll look at pictures of families-- especially families with grown children-- and think, "Oh my goodness. Look at all that life and love brought into the world by two people. What a joy to grow old and know that you raised these beautiful children and that they are raising beautiful children." These people count wealth in posterity, not dollars, and are very rich indeed.
I also feel an obligation to have children for the sake of the gene pool. Not to be all vain, or whatever, but I feel that Abe and I -- while certainly not perfect-- possess the ability to bring healthy, contributing people into the population who will, in turn, bring more healthy, contributing people into the population. With abusers and druggies breeding like there's no tomorrow, I feel there should be some sort of counterbalancing breeding force from the healthies of the world.
And then, of course, there's the question of faith. This speech provides good insight regarding the religious significance of bearing and raising children. I read this and think that maybe we should just trust God to take care of everything, let go, and (fertility willing) have another baby. And yet, I don't want to put myself in a position where I've stretched my resources so thin that I can't give my already-existing children the love and attention and care they need. And I certainly don't want to end up like Andrea Yates. And, I'm just sayin', last time I asked God if we should have another baby, Liam woke me up four times in the course of the following night.
Sometimes I find myself thinking, "Well, maybe if we had another child, it would be a girl. A nice, well-behaved, docile girl. Maybe we could try again and have a peaceful little girl."
But here is the truth: having a baby isn't like walking into a store and picking out something new you want for your collection. You don't choose who your children are, what their personalities are like, what their challenges will be. You can't choose their gender or personality or intelligence level. When you decide to add a child to your family, all you can do is just open yourself whoever that child is-- give your heart to a whole human being and be willing to accept and nurture that particular individual. And-- I hate to admit this-- I'm not sure I'm in a position to do that just now.
So I brood. I wonder if and when we should have another one. When I look at other families, I compulsively figure out how many kids there are and how many years are between them. I evaluate the closeness of their relationships relative to their age spacing. I yearn to know if people spaced their kids out like that on purpose-- or if it "just happened." I ask myself if there's an optimal family size or child spacing. Will our family be better off if we have all our kids right away? Would it be okay to have one every five years or so? Will we regret it someday if we only have two?
It's a question that's been driving me crazy, like an incessant itch, or ever-present white noise. Will someone just give me a definitive, specific, correct answer? Thanks in advance!