How are you supposed to know when you’re done having children?

For all of the parenting advice out there, nothing I have come across covers this.

My least favorite of all parenting tasks, besides cleaning up puke, is sorting and packing away clothing that my children have outgrown.

I start with good intentions in the beginning, but then the task descends into emotional hysteria. Then before I know it, I’m texting my husband, asking him how it’s possible that my child has outgrown the shirt with the robot on the front who looks like he is twerking?? How has my middle daughter grown out of the pink dress, her favorite pair of leggings and that sweater with the pink heart on the front???

We endure this cycle once every several months when there are teeny tinies in the house, otherwise it’s usually just with the changing of the seasons. My husband fields as many frantic texts and calls as he can manage, and before long he stops answering my calls altogether. Then I give up and stuff as many articles of clothing into a tote as humanly possible, scribble a label on it and set it aside, ready to be put in the attic.

This time around though, with my third child, the process has become much harder.

Ellie asleep 3

Every time I start it’s almost like the universe is silently begging the question of me, the question I don’t know how to answer yet….Are you going to give those clothes away because you won’t ever need them again, or are you going to put them in the attic to save for the next potential baby??? Is there a potential baby in the pipeline??

Universe to Ashley: are you done having children??!

When it comes to this question I am indecisive at worst and evasive at best.

I don’t know how to answer it.

Nobody tells you how you are supposed to know when you are finished having children. Like, you’re supposed to just know the answer to this question, right?  It’s like knowing what your favorite drink at Starbucks is or your ATM pin number. You are just supposed to know when you’re done having children. It’s an instinct. A spidey sense. 

Am I not tingling when I’m supposed to be? Or maybe it’s actually just a quiet knowing that you’re finished? Maybe the last baby comes out with a label attached to its forehead that says, “I am definitely the last one, LOL” and you can breathe easier because now you definitively know. 

Once you pop out a child, you’re supposed to have plans for the next one. Or you’re supposed to be certain that there isn’t going to be a next one. You’re supposed to be on one side of the fence or another.

Except nobody tells you how to get on either side of the fence. Except where is this stinkin’ imaginary fence that everyone always speaks of and why is it in charge, anyway??

How is anybody ever supposed to just know??? 

I have three children of both sexes, and the world tells me that I have everything I “need” when it comes to making babies. I feel like when people occasionally ask me if I am done having children they are just politely waiting to hear that I decided to close up shop. At least that is the answer they expect it seems. 

I’m supposed to, right?

Three babies are plenty. Three c-sections is three c-sections too many. Do I really want my nipples to be on fire again like they are during the first six weeks of breastfeeding a new baby? Do I really want to go back to sleeping in two-hour increments? 

Ellie asleep

Do I really want to start all over again for the fourth time?

When I announced I was pregnant with number three most folks were hesitant to forthrightly congratulate me. Because these days, having three children is considered having a large family. You say you’re having number three and people are thinking that you have gone full-Duggar.

For some people, saying I was pregnant with number three was almost akin to me saying that my husband and I had decided to sell every personal possession we own, pack up the children and move to South America to raise Llamas. Lots of side-eye included.

Maybe a lot of the scrutiny is in my own head, because I have my own doubts about expanding our family for the fourth time.

The only part of me that is sure I don’t want anymore children is my bladder. I’m actually pretty confident that at this precise moment, my bladder has a petition on change.org pleading its case for me to be done. My bladder says no. But sometimes, my uterus says yes. 

But we know that uteri are tricky, aren’t they?

The truth is, I’m not sure that I am going to ever really know that I’m finished having children. Or maybe I’m uncertain because deep down I really do want more babies.

The thought of having more children right now is hard to fathom. Because there are so many days right now where I feel like I’m barely keeping my head above water around here. Maybe that means it’s not time to make any decisions yet.

Maybe the decision to even have children is one that isn’t grounded in rationale. Children take all of your energy, all of your patience. They take your money. They take your time. They take up your body. They take and take and take. And it’s exhausting, but it’s beautiful.

No one could ever make the case that deciding to have lots of children is a decision rooted in pragmatism. But nobody could ever argue that having children isn’t the most worthwhile expenditure out there. 

I will never say that this is a question that isn’t worth fretting over. I have had six years of pink, chubby cheeks and bed head and morning snuggles in my bed. It’s all been the most beautiful gift. I’m kind of glad that this is a decision that I am slightly strung out over. 

I’m also kind of glad that there is still room in my attic for copious amounts of totes, filled with clothing for little people.

Even if it never gets used. 
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22 thoughts on “How are you supposed to know when you’re done having children?

  1. Jellyfish Mama says:

    I have one daughter and when I tell people I want to have at least 3 kids, they always look at me like I’m crazy and then soothingly tell me that have the second one first and than decide. The implication being of course that after 2 kids, I won’t want any more babies. I don’t know about that though. Will I ‘know’ that I’m done after baby#2? Will I know after baby#3? I guess only time will tell :p

    Liked by 1 person

    • ashleylecompte says:

      RIGHT?? It’s almost like people think you’ll come around and see the light of day after you have more than one. It’s absurd. There is nothing wrong with wanting three children and you aren’t going to prove them right if you guys decide to only have one or two and not three like you originally planned. People make plans with it comes to having children and sometimes, those plans change. But children are always worth it. No matter how many we decide to have!

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Alma Mater says:

    I always wanted four, but by the time I had my fourth, I wasn’t ready to be “done.” We had two boys and two girls, so the world certainly felt that we should be done. But if the Lord had another child in mind for me, I wanted that child! I certainly didn’t want to be preventing it. So we decided to just let God handle it for us, and we didn’t try to conceive or try to prevent conception. We had our fifth baby last May, a beautiful girl. Now the doctors are telling me I am done. I am so glad that I didn’t stop until now. I wouldn’t want to have missed out on a single one of these blessings!

    https://newcreatureinhim.wordpress.com/2015/08/17/trusting-the-lord-with-all-my-heart/#more-1894

    Liked by 1 person

  3. shelahmoss says:

    It’s a good thing that you have space to store those little people clothing. It’s wise to keep your options open. If you want four kids just ignore those strange looks, it’s none of their business.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Theresa says:

    It was easy to know how many kids I wanted before having kids. Then, we had four at once and I cannot imagine our lives any other way. And there are days I feel we could have more and days when I feel like we are busy enough.

    Liked by 1 person

    • ashleylecompte says:

      It is definitely easy to know how many you want before you have any kiddos at all. I always thought that I wouldn’t ever want to do three. Because I was one of three and I was the middle child, never the first, never the baby, just hanging out in the middle. I didn’t think I would want that for my kiddos because I didn’t want two to gang up on one or a clear cut “middle child.” Now, I be like, “they all alright.”

      Like

  5. momentousmom says:

    I am with you, I don’t think I will ever know I am done. I know that financially it might not be the smartest idea and I know that family size equals bigger headaches but I also know the joy of having a baby. I want that joy so badly and I don’t think that will ever go away! We have been trying for #2 for a long time and if we are lucky enough for that to work out I may not get to make that choice, it could be made for me. Might be for the best because I would have more kids easily.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Alana says:

    I couldn’t have put this better myself. I really don’t like the societal expectation to only have one of each. I always dreamt of more than two, but as you said, three c-sections is three too many. The clothes break my heart too. I just don’t know when you “know”. I’ll tell you affirmatively though, three is not a crowd when it comes to siblings, as the oldest of three, it’s nothing short of awesome!
    Shared this on Facebook I loved it so much!

    Liked by 1 person

    • ashleylecompte says:

      Thank you, Alana!! So glad you enjoyed it. Procreation is such a personal decision, but some folks don’t see it that way. I say folks keep going and stop when they’re ready! And three c-sections are too many, but it can always be done, though I don’t know your personal story. They are no cake walk and it’s hard to imagine a fourth. All in due time!

      Liked by 1 person

      • Alma Mater says:

        They are no cake walk, that’s for sure. I recently had my first C-section, and it was definitely harder than the others.

        But just to add some encouragement, my cousin has had five C-sections with her five children. They are 15, 13, 10, 4, & 2. And she is open to having more. She and her husband are open to as many as the Lord bless them with. I just thought I’d throw that in there for anyone who thinks 5 or more C-sections can’t be done!

        (Although of course every woman’s situation is different. I’m not saying it would be safe in all situations, but her doctor is fine with her situation.)

        Like

  7. Rebekah says:

    Prayer. Lots of prayer. I have some friends who say they felt complete when they had a certain number, others, like me and you, aren’t so sure.
    We tell people we’re just taking things one child at a time. We will see how each adjustment period, pregnancy and momma’s health are after each child and go from there. Right now I can’t see myself having more than six, but maybe when we get to six we’ll still feel okay with another. Maybe after five we’ll feel okay with our family size.
    I do know children are a blessing and a gift and I don’t think we would ever do anything permanent to reject that.

    Like

  8. Erin says:

    Thank you! I found this article today and your thought process seems similar to mine. I have totes and a crib we just put away for our third. He will be three soon, and I just cannot stop thinking about the possibility of a 4th baby. I feel some guilt in thinking this, but I am not sure why. I feel like I need reassurance that it’s okay to feel that way regardless of whether we have another baby or not. I have not been given a “sign” or peace in my heart about not having more children. I’m sure that at some point there will be, but for now we too have space for more totes and baby things.

    Like

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