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.
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?
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.