Abraham, Rachel, Soren and Liam. Our life together in Smalltown, Idaho.

Saturday, September 08, 2012

To Breed or Not To Breed

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!


Anonymous said...

Maybe you should follow the example of Jesus. He didn't have any kids that I know of.


kate said...

No answers here. Just questions.

We thought 6 was a good number too. Actually, Matt had something like "4-8" in mind. My family had 4. His had 8. (Though one died of sids.)

6 seemed good, but I was up for as many as we could have by the time I was 30ish, or my oldest was 12. I thought it would be lovely to have a whole bunch of kids all really close together. They would be great friends. It seemed easier to be able to raise them all in the same phase. Little years. Elementary. Teenagers. You know.

But it didn't work out that way for us, despite no birth control. Breastfeeding is all the bc we need, apparently, for at least 15 months, and then all the miscarriages--made it so my babies are all almost 3 years apart.

But wow, I think Heavenly Father knew I was in over my head with my plan and He stepped in and saved my sanity. I needed that space...

But even as I write that, I'm unsure. I feel like it was a good thing for my kids to have "more" of me available, because of the spacing. I know for sure I was able to be more patient and thoughtful and deliberate as a parent because I had so much time to figure it out with my first two. I for sure have less time, energy, and thoughtfulness to give to my last two, just because life is busier now.

But I know these last two are being blessed in other ways BECAUSE of their siblings.

And I have some really good friends (and a mother-in-law) who have lots of really-close-together kids and THOSE kids are blessed because of the way their family is.

Am I making sense? I really shouldn't be posting when my eyes are half-mast as they are, but this is a topic I am dealing with too right now, and wanted to write about it.

I think there aren't any definitive answers because there are lots of ways to have a family, and each provides blessings in different ways.

I would really, really like to be done having kids right now . . . But I'm pretty sure I'm not. AND also? If I go deep down, there's a big part of me that DOESN'T want to be done. Isn't that weird? I can't explain it. I'm terrified to have another baby. I feel maxed out. Four is a nice even number. I don't feel like I'm able to give enough attention to my older girls because I'm always having to go put the littles down for naps or get them out of trouble or something. I think I need to move past the baby years. How nice that sounds!

But to never have another delightful little baby around?!! SADNESS.

On the other hand, to be able to sleep at night again? SIGN ME UP!!!

Ginger said...

Oh, the great question. Good luck with this one, Rachel. This is just my experience, but I would let go of notions of proper spacing. Maybe it's not right now but maybe it will be in three years. Not now doesn't have to mean never again. :)

Lara said...

Four children are best, 3.5 years apart. There is your answer.


Been there, done that.

I don't have any advice, but an anecdote. Well, two anecdotes. When my mother was considering a fourth child, the thought of another baby in her cramped tiny house was too much for her. She prayed about it and made a bargain with the Lord that if He could facilitate a larger home, she would have a baby. It all worked out and to this day my sister is known as the Bargain Baby.

My other sister had a similar experience in making a bargain in exchange for reproducing. I think her bargain was, "I would like to wait because I am really overwhelmed with my three children under the age of four and if I wait, I will have more than one child. But if you feel I need to have a baby now, make it happen, but then all you get is one more." She had her fourth child on her oldest twins' fourth birthday. :)

So maybe bargains works? Bargain for a full time job for Abe or a docile girl. Or a winning lottery ticket.

Oh, a third anecdote. I've tried bargaining many a time. It's never worked for me as I don't have the reproductive leverage. :)

Lara said...

ONe more thought. I have a good friend with two littles. Her husband is just beginning medical school and she is maxed out - emotionally, financially, etc. She wants more children, but has decided there will be a six year space. She can't do anymore during medical school. So she has her two which are pretty close in age. Then, presumably, she'll wait six years and then have a couple more close in age.

Might not be the right answer for everyone, but I thought it was an inventive compromise between the spacing issue and the sanity issue. If we can't space them the way we wan't doesn't mean we shouldn't have them at all. I think.

Natalya said...

I used to think families had to be a certain way to be happy or at least good enough. But now I see it is situational and personal.
I think good answers will come to you as you look for them.

Pamela said...

Oh Rachel honey, you know my opinion on this one. One is good two is a handful and more than that is just insane... Lol.. You know I love your two boys like they are part of my family... Just like you and Abe. But I think there are more than just one question here. Look at the profession you are in. The amount of issues in the world today. I know that I struggle daily with the issues of money... The increasing cost of raising children is above and beyond what I ever imagined. But your struggle isn't with the issues financially, your issues are really whether or not your happy and content with what you have now?!
If so, why change that? If not, what exactly would make you happy and content? If having another child is about evening out the breeding pool, is that really a fair reason to bring another child into the chaos that is our society and world. Please don't get me wrong, I know that you would love another child with all you are! But what is the REAL reason you would like to have another child... That is what you should consider.
I know the saying all to well... "God doesn't give you more than you can handle" But some days I wonder what is he thinking. My life hasn't gone anywhere that I have wanted or have hoped it would. My family struggles on a daily basis to just keep our heads above water. For some reason I feel like God is really trying to drown me. A husband who is diabetic and works himself into the ground just to provide something for us. Two children whom I love greatly, but sometimes I really don't like sometimes :) and an extended family that for some reason doesn't want to help out ever. You know my family... We are just a grouped bunch of chaos.
In my opinion, really look at what you have... What and Why are you not happy and content with what you have? What will and Why will it make you happy and content?
Hugs my darlin!

Natalya said...

I read this again. You put down so well all the thoughts I've had, and some I haven't. You're so good at writing. Now I've got to go fold some clothes or start the dishwasher.
And I'll put in another plug for turning off your word recognition thing. It's really annoying.


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