The day we decided to stop having kids, I dragged all the old baby stuff out of the attic. There were onesies and faded blankets, stroller parts, and bouncers. We were already a family of four, and my husband and I were in the throes of that kind of exhaustion that comes with making it just one day at a time.
Eventually, I collected all our “stuff” in the yard. I sat on the front porch step and stared at it. The pack n’ play sat forlornly in the grass. The bright colors of old baby toys shone garish in the outdoor light. Everything looked old and well-loved. The pieces of our lives ready to get thrown out, a chapter definitively closed.
We were done. Two was enough.
I had a good cry, wiped the tears away, and drove to Goodwill.
For my husband and I, the decision to close up shop arrived from my health issues. Kids were tough on my body. I battled postpartum depression and chronic pain. My issues made me feel like I was not enough. I harbored secret resentment towards myself, and wondered if things could have gone differently if I had been a more “whole” person.
Over the years, I watched as the baby shower invites continued. My friends made their own decisions to stop at two, or three, or four kids. I felt lucky to have the two kids I had, in all their glorious wonder. And in the meantime, they grew and grew. Soon, I had elementary-age kids. Baby life felt like a distant dream.
And then, life changed. My husband received a job offer that gave him better work-life balance and a new title. I switched jobs and found that I was able to balance a bit more with a new schedule. My health issues resolved themselves.
It felt like the clouds parted, and the sun was shining. One day, my husband and I looked at each other. We locked eyes over a baby taking their first wobbly steps at the playground and I could see in his eyes the same thing reflected in mine: maybe we could get another chance.
It has been a whole seven years since our last baby was born, but we are ready to try again. Here’s why:
“We locked eyes over a baby taking their first wobbly steps at the playground and I could see in his eyes the same thing reflected in mine: maybe we could get another chance.”
Our Kids Are Getting Older
Our kids are getting older and we are able to do more: travel, spend time as a couple, and overall life is much easier. Instead of making us feel like we are “home free,” we both realize we have room in our lives and more to give.
Plus, our older kids made us realize how deeply fun and personal parenting is, and how much we enjoy it. When the kids were babies, it felt like the exhaustion would never end, and that we wouldn’t survive the heroic feat of meeting a baby’s needs. But with time, and older kids, we found perspective that gave us pause. Maybe you feel this way too: there is a bit of space you are ready to fill.
We Are Surrounded by Others in a Similar Stage
We were lucky enough to start having kids in our twenties, when few of our peers were on the same page. While they traveled the world, we woke up at 5 AM with toddlers to watch Elmo. But because we had kids so early, by the time our kids were 6 and 8, we were only in our early 30s, and still in that window of fertility. Many of our friends were just getting started with having kids, and it felt natural to try and have another baby at this stage in our lives.
We Had a Shift in Perspective
In my twenties, with two small children, I was convinced I was missing out. As I mopped up spit-up and vomit, I secretly resented the bone-deep exhaustion and neediness that came with young children. But time changed my perspective. What I didn’t realize was that I wasn’t missing out on all that much. Those early years were precious and we enjoyed being young parents. As we looked back at photos, we saw a little family with lots of love, and a cozy household we had built.
We had dreamed of days when we would get to be together and rekindle our marriage with just the two of us. But the idea of traveling alone in our forties, while tempting, wasn’t as novel as we had once thought. Even being able to do our own thing once our kids flew the nest lost some of its luster. Over nine years of parenting, we gained perspective on what we wanted in our marriage. We asked ourselves: What was our mission? Both my husband and I agreed that dedicating our lives to family life was both a valid and beautiful use of our time.
“We asked ourselves: What was our mission? Both my husband and I agreed that dedicating our lives to family life was both a valid and beautiful use of our time.”
Our Kids Are Too Excited About a Sibling
Our kids wanted a sibling. They told us this when we casually brought up what they would think if we became a family of 5. We told them it wasn’t a given, but that we were considering it. They were excited and thrilled by the prospect. It made the idea of growing our family feel even more precious to us. After all, how fun would it be to have kids who could feel the heartbeat of their new sibling in mommy’s tummy and rejoice through all the milestones with us? We shared age-appropriate details of our journey, but kept more adult conversations to ourselves as we made the crucial decisions about our family’s future.
We’ve Had Time to Build Financial Stability
Adding more kids to your family can feel daunting when it comes to financial planning. For our family, nine years of building our careers had helped us reach a stable financial position. We are by no means wealthy, but we have the stability and financial security that allows us to have options.
We had some difficult conversations. One practice we used: we budgeted out how our finances would change if we added a new mouth to feed. We considered the ways we might have to cut back and any sacrifices we would need to make. It helped us realize that we were serious about our decision, and made the outcome feel more tangible and real. If you’re thinking of adding another, having these difficult conversations about money may help. In any case, it will cement how you feel as you discuss what you’re willing to do to make family life work.
What Happens Next
Well, we’re actively trying for a third now. Perhaps you are also wondering whether it’s the time to add to your brood. I was surprised by the conflicting feelings I felt as we made our decisions. It’s okay to feel scared, and it’s okay to have both that feeling of excitement and that terror at how momentous the decision is.
But think about it this way: in my conversations with mothers of all ages, women have always given me the courage to believe that life is full of surprises and challenges that both make us and break us. I sometimes feel like I’m jumping off a new cliff without a parachute, but we’ve made it this far on prayers and a second cup of coffee, so I take comfort in that.
You know what? Maybe there is one more chair at your dinner table, one more room to fill with a crib, one more baby snuggle. Maybe.
When I look into the eyes of my 7-year-old and 9-year-old, my heart has room. I’m happy to say, I’m ready for a new unknown, whatever it brings.
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Reviewed by Chaunie Brusie, RN, BSN…