While I wasn’t always completely sure that I wanted children, I did know that if we had kids, I wanted more than one. To be honest, I either wanted zero children or I wanted four.
I grew up as an only child for the first ten years of my life and can remember begging my mother for a little brother or sister. I felt the very lonely existence of being an only child and while I adored my little brother, ten years makes a big difference as a child. Even today, he’s still in college while I’ve been working as an attorney for the last eight years and am married with two kids. We’re in very different places in our lives and I don’t know when that will change, if ever.
My father is the oldest of six children and the youngest in his family was born a mere five-and-a-half years after he was (my grandmother had twin boys before the last one). I have always admired their relationships with one another and they have truly demonstrated to me the power of family love. They are all very close to one another, even when some have, at times, lived in other states or even other countries. While I think there are many contributing factors to why they have such close relationships, I think the closeness in age helped when they were growing up.
So, not only did I want to have more than one child, but I wanted them to be spaced closely together. After we had Lion, we actually tried for Irish twins, but it took awhile for my cycle to return. Our kids are 18 months apart, which I think actually worked out well. Lion adores Panda and is always trying to read to him, give him toys, and hold his hand. The toughest phase for us (so far) with Lion was actually when he was 12-15 months because that’s when he had massive tantrums. A big problem was that he had several ear infections during this period and that caused his moods to spiral and he would end up on the floor crying because we wouldn’t let him eat chalk or some equally horrible slight from his perspective. His tantrums decreased at around 15 months when his language started developing very quickly and I am glad we ended up with an 18-month gap.
Now that we have two, where do we stand on having four kids?
My husband was never totally on board with having four, but three was a distinct possibility. However, given the high cost of daycare in our area (the cost of having one child in daycare was as much as our mortgage and now we have two kids in daycare, the costs of which rival Mr. Dolphin’s take home pay), we know that it simply isn’t financially possible to have three kids in daycare at once and we both want to continue working.
We could wait until our oldest is ready for kindergarten and even get pregnant the year before he turns five, since we’d spend nine months pregnant plus have some maternity leave to get us to the point where kindergarten starts. If we have another child, this is certainly what we’d do unless we win the lottery (highly unlikely since we’ve purchased exactly two lottery tickets during our marriage). And because of this timeline and our financial situation, four is basically off the table.
Part of me thinks that we will absolutely try for a third child. I was blessed to have relatively easy pregnancies with both kids. Despite pregnancy complications and enhanced monitoring due to high-risk factors, I felt great. I have more energy when I’m pregnant than when I’m not, I’ve never had the aching back that some women complain of. With my first, I had zero morning sickness. I love being pregnant. I love feeling the tiny kicks, seeing the tiny baby movements on the ultrasound, hearing the heartbeat.
We were also lucky in that our second child started sleeping eight hours straight by the time he was a month, never cried, and was truly the “easy second baby” that people talk about, especially compared to his colicky older brother. Even though Panda had acid reflux, he was never particularly bothered by it. He might projectile vomit, but he’d still have a smile on his face. When he joined our family, he entered it seamlessly and there was no transition period. He just fit in perfectly. Given that we didn’t go through the sleepless nights, are enjoying all facets of having an easy baby and dealt with zero jealousy from Lion who was likely too young to understand exactly what was going on, it’s easy to imagine having a third.
I’d love to have three children because I am drawn to big families. Part of it is my experience looking at my dad’s family. Part of it is looking at some friends that have two or three siblings and their family dynamic. I hope that with three kids, there is even more support for each of the kids through their siblings. I truly believe siblings are a gift and I want our children to have the joy of multiple siblings.
I also become very nostalgic for the newborn phase. Every time I cuddle with Panda, I think about how tiny he is and how much I already miss the days of him falling asleep on my chest. I even feel a little bit of sadness when I think that we’ve finished nursing, even though I never really enjoyed it. I look at Panda and wonder how he got to be so big. There are days that I want one more newborn phase. One more first smile. One more chance to nurse an infant. Just one more child.
BUT. Part of me also fears starting over again. Restarting the clock where it’s another eighteen years before the kids are out of the house. I’ll be five years older than when I had Lion if we wait for him to enter kindergarten and the pregnancy risks go up, plus I might not have the energy I have now.
During my third trimester with Panda, I wondered if we had done the right thing by having a second child. I selfishly thought about how much easier (and cheaper) it is to travel with one child instead of two. I thought of all the things that were already hard with one and multiplied it by two. We’d have to go through all the diapers again. And the teething. And the tantrums.
I worry about how a third would fit into our family dynamic. While there was no transition period for Panda, somehow I don’t think that would be true if we added a third. For one thing, both Lion and Panda would be older than Lion was when we added another child to the family. I only know the 18-month age gap and I loved it so much, that I worry that a different age gap will be harder.
Also, while Panda was an incredibly easy baby, I feel like there’s no way we would be that lucky twice. I think back to Lion’s colic and how he would sometimes cry non-stop for over an hour. We tried everything, but he would still cry. I think about how Lion still doesn’t sleep through the night sometimes and can’t fathom starting that process all over again.
There’s also one other piece that I’m almost afraid to admit and is simultaneously one of the reasons I’d like to try for a third and why I’m hesitant. I want to have a girl. I never thought that I’d have strong feelings about this. In fact, when we were pregnant with Lion, I really wanted a boy and was ecstatic when the ultrasound technician told us the gender at our 20-week appointment. With Panda, I thought I had no preference between having a boy or a girl. While I am thrilled to be a boy mom, part of me wants to try for a girl. I was surprised to find that I feel this way because I was sort of a tomboy growing up. I never played with Barbies, but loved football and legos. Yet I can’t help but wonder how raising a daughter might differ from raising sons, and I want that experience too. I am scared about how I might react if we try for a third and it’s another boy. I can’t help but think I’d be disappointed and I don’t want to have a third without feeling like I’d be 100% okay with either gender. I don’t ever want my hypothetical-third-son to feel like he wasn’t wanted or that we were disappointed. I think I’m 90% of the way there because I love having two boys, but I need to be 100% okay with it.
We still have time to make a decision, but I feel like it’s on my mind constantly and has been for months. Most days I really do want to have a third, but I want that third now and not two or three years from now. Maybe in two years time, I’ll be more certain one way or the other. Perhaps I will be loving life with two kids and absolutely dread the thought of restarting the clock. Or perhaps I will desperately want to hold a newborn in my arms once again and strongly feel that our family is not yet complete. Or maybe I’ll have no more clarity than I do today. For now, I’m trying to enjoy every milestone and moments, with Panda in particular, just in case he is our last.