We are pretty sure our family is complete after our third baby is done cooking. My husband was pretty certain we were done with two, and I had to convince him for a third. But how do you know that you are done having children? I love babies and would love to continue, but as my husband likes to remind me, “Liking babies is not a good reason to create more people.” Don’t get me wrong, I love my children at all ages and stages, but babies hold a special place in my heart, and it definitely saddens me to think about having our last baby. I don’t think I was prepared for this phase of my life to be over already.
This is a big decision that each family decides to make or, in some cases, intentionally decides not to make. Take the 19 Kids and Counting Duggar family for instance. Their faith, as with other families, contributes to their decision to have as many children as God will give them. With any family, there are many factors in family planning. Faith can definitely be an issue, as well as any health issues. Family finances, your spouse’s and/or extended family’s opinions, and the gender of your children can play a large role in this decision as well.
Health wise, a woman’s fertility begins to decrease at age 32 years, and the decline accelerates after 37 years, according to TheAmericanCollegeofObstetriciansandGynecology.org. The overall health of the parents-to-be is a definite contributing factor in creating and caring for a new life for the next 18 years. Mothers who have experienced any trauma from past births or multiple C-sections may be advised not to have any more children due to increased risk to the mother and the future baby’s overall health.
Raising children is not the cheapest thing to accomplish either. With more children comes more financial responsibility. Your own sibling dynamic can help shape how you view family as well. If you grew up with one sibling yet your spouse grew up with four, there is bound to be a difference in how many children you expected your own family to have. Extended family may think so too. In our case, we both grew up with one sibling, so to have three children is not the norm. Add the fact that we already have the token girl and boy—why in the world would we have another? Everyone, strangers included, presumed we were done having babies because of this subtle gender rule, but I understand. If we would have had two of the same gender first, it probably would have made the decision to have a third more reasonable. That being said, the assumption of “trying for that girl or boy” is a little tired. Many couples are content with the cards they’ve been dealt. Both genders are treasures after all.
As children grow, they gain more independence, which leaves more room for parents to focus on their own dreams and goals apart from parenting. Adding a new baby after some time off from the babyhood stage usually means setting your interests on the back burner for a while. As much fun as it is to look forward to a new season of life with more independent kids and more personal free time, I think I will always experience “the ache” Sarah Bessey describes in her article at SarahBessey.com.
I’m sure we’ve all been there (and probably innocently asked) the over-asked and usually unsolicited question of “Are you going to have any more children?” It can be an innocent enough question to make small talk with, but we should all be reminded of some unspoken sensitive matters. Perhaps the couple is experiencing heartbreaking miscarriages or infertility issues, or had an extremely colicky or sick baby the first time around and is reluctant to relive that experience. As a mother, I’m generally interested in whether and how other mothers know. I want to know how others know.
Abby Vanden Hull, Olathe mother of two, responds, “I can't imagine knowing. After having one child in high school and giving her up for adoption, I know that there are many children out there who need a home, so after we stop having biological children, then we are hoping to adopt to give other kids a home.” Overland Park mother of two Amy Seibert adds, “My husband and I have always agreed on two biological children. It's just been the best choice for us, so it was easy to know after our second that we were done. That being said, I would love to adopt a child from the foster care system should our situation allow for that when we become ready. There are so many awesome kids in this world looking to be a part of a family!”
A few other local moms do feel more closure to their decision to move past the babyhood season. They shed light on some unofficial “tests” that can help with your own decision. When asked how she knew she was done having babies, Jennifer Farrell, Overland Park mother of two, simply says, “When I turned 40.” Jennifer Gentry, Overland Park mother of three, says, “Well, I can't say I am for sure I know our family is done but think the reason I believe we are is I can snuggle a brand new baby and love on him without immediately wanting that for myself! And I get excited about putting some baby stuff away instead of feeling sad when I do!”
“After two children, I felt like I would always wonder, ‘what if?’ had we not had a third. Now that the third baby is here, I absolutely feel closure and that our family is complete. I know that I couldn't be the mom I want to be if I added more to this already crazy life. I am enjoying my last baby moments and looking forward to leaving the baby stage behind while doing things that were once difficult when I had a baby's schedule to follow. I am also enjoying getting rid of the baby items once we outgrow them. Done, done, done! Wahoo!” comments Julie Keller, Olathe mother of three.
Heather Foil, Overland Park mother of three, says, “For me I was asking Dan for another baby within 30 minutes of having Dane, and my husband wanted to know what kind of drugs I was on. I continued to ask and ask. And then one day I was overwhelmed and I felt God was speaking to me that three was enough, two of my own and my stepson. And ever since, I knew it would be Foil Family of Five and we were okay with that.”
These little “tests” have been evident in my journey toward this decision as well. After our second baby became a toddler, volunteering in our church nursery was not enjoyable because I still had that longing for my own baby in my arms. Someday I hope to return to happily holding babies without that yearning for my own. Another test that I am currently facing is the “Great Baby Purge.” I know it’s probably a matter of time or just sucking it up and doing it, but parting with all the baby clothes and gear we’ve used over the last five years is still sad for me. I would love the extra storage gained but that is committing to the decision to move past this stage.
For now I will focus on new goals for our family and for myself and count my many blessings. I will try to be present in the now and focus on contentment. But who really knows? Crazy things happen. Miracles happen. Adoptions and fostering happen. And maybe, just maybe, after this new blessing emerges, I will simply know.
Stephanie Loux writes from her home in Olathe and is anxiously awaiting her third baby to add to big siblings Layla, 4, and Mason, 3.