I grew up in a family of 4-a mom, a dad, a sister, and a brother. It seemed perfect to me, most likely because that is all that I knew. My mom's sister had 5 children. I remember going to visit them and being overwhelmed at times with what seemed, to me, to be overwhelming chaos. I realize as I look back on it that that's not what it was at all, that my aunt and uncle knew how to pick their battles, and that a house with five children in it is going to have to be louder and crazier than a house with two children in it, and they liked it that way, and that is why they had five children.
Si and I got married and we knew eventually we'd have kids. And, after being married four years, we had Alison. We always thought we wanted three kids, sometimes I entertained the thought of four, but three seemed more realistic. It seemed like a big family to me, but not huge. Two years and four months after Alison was born, Oliver came long. I was so ready for another baby, I couldn't wait for him to be born and have more than one child. Oliver grew from a tiny, helpless infant into a bouncing baby boy and I couldn't have had more fun. I had my chatty, adorable little toddler and my chubby, happy baby boy, and life seemed pretty perfect. Really, it was. I remember talking to my mom on the phone one day, Alison sitting in her booster seat eating lunch, Oliver on my hip as I walked around the kitchen doing this and that, and telling mom that I was afraid I'd be one of those women who never knew when to stop having children because I loved having a baby in the house so much.
Oliver continued to grow, he (finally) learned how to walk, started talking a little, and before we knew it, it was time to start thinking about trying for number three. We wanted them all to be two to two and a half years apart. The problem was, neither Si nor I wanted to start trying for another baby. We seemed to have things pretty good. It was getting easier to take them places, we were done with bottles and nursing, and we were enjoying things just the way they were. We had a talk and decided that maybe we just weren't ready YET, that this last one would be spaced out a bit more than the other two. So we gave ourselves a deadline, because I need a plan. Without one I feel adrift, and I hate that feeling. So, our deadline came and we had a very tearful (on my part, anyway) talk, and decided that we did not want another child. And for a little while, although I was sad I would never be pregnant again or nurse another baby or go through that magical baby phase, I felt a bit of relief. We had made a decision, and it seemed right. Until two weeks later when we were standing in church and I suddenly got a feeling that I HAD to have another baby.
We had another talk and decided to start trying. So we did. This time it was different, though. [Warning: this part may be TMI for some people, read at your own risk. The three people who still read, that is.] The first two times we made the decision to start trying I couldn't get pregnant fast enough. I felt like it was my job to get pregnant, so basically, I treated Si like a piece of meat until I achieved my goal. It worked, it took two months to get pregnant with Alison and with Oliver, well, I can't tell you because I think as soon as we made the decision to have another baby I was immediately pregnant. This time, though, I was much more casual. For the first two months we used the whole "well, we're not trying to prevent it" plan rather than the trying plan. To be honest, since it had been so easy to get pregnant before, I wouldn't have been surprised if it would've happened right away again. After two months still no baby, so we decided to actually 'try'. And still, my heart wasn't in the same place it was the first two times.
After four months of trying I still wasn't pregnant, and I wasn't all that sad about it. I tossed and turned at night thinking that I wanted to be done. Trying wasn't fun anymore, it felt more like a job I hated, not like the fun job the first two times around. A job I hoped wouldn't be successful. I was disappointed in myself for feeling this way, and sad that I may not have another baby, but I didn't know why, because I didn't think I really WANTED another baby. After talking it through again and again roughly eleventy million times, we decided we were done trying. That was it. We were going to be a family of four.
So, I made my appointment and went back to the doctor to begin birth control. My doctor, and let me preface this by saying that I like my doctor, laughed, asked me if I was sure, gave me some friendly gentle ribbing. She couldn't have had any idea how it was tearing me up inside. Because while I knew that I was sure, I was still so sad about it.
That was nearly two years ago now. We're still a family of four. My baby is going to turn four in a couple of weeks. In a few short years both of my children will be in school full-time, and I still know we made the right decision for our family. Now I can finally tell you all of the reasons why I know it was the right decision, and I'm not sad about it anymore.
Having two children for me has nothing to do with the fact that it's easier than having more. That children cost lots of money. That I would have to be pregnant for another nine months. The fact is, I wouldn't mind being pregnant again. I liked being pregnant for the most part. I also wish I was the type of person who could have a large family, maybe three or four kids, or maybe more! The truth of the matter is that I'm not that kind of a person. I can't stand chaos, at all. I'm not saying that every person with three children has a chaotic household. I'm saying if I had three children I'd have a chaotic household. I'm also the neurotic mother who is constantly afraid I'm not giving enough of myself to my children. I mean, in my head I know I am. I'm giving them a lot. I work part-time for the purpose of staying home with them as much as I can. I go on field trips with Alison's class and make dinner almost every night. I play with them. I have fun with them. I read books. I play cars. I pretend to be a doggy. But still, in the back of my head, I think "is this enough?" Because I could stay home full-time. We could cut back here and there and make it work. Am I selfish for working at all? I ask myself this all of the time. I have been asking myself this question for six years, even though I realize that working part-time really makes me a better mother. Silas can tell me I'm crazy 40 times a day and I will still wonder, it doesn't matter.
I also am constantly worried that I'm not giving them enough individual attention. While Alison is doing homework I feel guilty for telling Oliver he needs to play quietly by himself while I help her. Then I start feeling guilty that I'm trying to make dinner at the same time as I'm helping Alison. See what it's like inside my head? It's not easy. I'm crazy. I understand that. If I had the added pressure of another child I would go completely insane. As it is now I'm just barely containing my crazy enough to be out in polite company.
So, although I wish I was the kind of person to have a large family, I realize I'm not. I have finally realized that two children is perfect for me...for us. We are active, we love going places together and doing fun things, and I love that the kids are at ages now where they are like little people. Every year we say "this year will be great, the kids are at perfect ages", and every year it seems like we're right. It just keeps getting better. I'm happy we went through everything we did to come to our decision, because if we hadn't, I think I'd always wonder. Going back and forth and back and forth again and again made me really dig deep and question myself, and I am finally at peace with it.
It does take a long time to be at peace with being crazy.