This article is inspired by my friend, A, who has just had her 3rd beautiful daughter. She’s like a little doll, so tiny and perfect, and scrunched up in that adorable way that all newborns are. It’s made me realise just how grown up my ‘baby’ is, now that he’s 18 months old, and is marching around the house causing mayhem with his brothers. Yes, I’m broody as anything, and with my sister in law due to give birth in a few weeks too, the babies just keep on coming. I want one!
My journey to motherhood hasn’t been an easy one. My oldest two sons, now aged 9 and 4, were born following fertility treatment. In total I think we had about 8 treatment cycles across 5 years (costing roughly the same as a brand new family car), so there’s been a lot of financial sacrifice, numerous failed attempts and plenty of heartache along the way. Despite having been told my hormone levels were pre-menopausal years earlier, baby number 3 popped up out of nowhere to surprise us all!
Whilst we definitely, thought, that we were ‘done’ when we had two kids, I now realise that we weren’t done at all! And I don’t feel done even now. Don’t get me wrong, financially we are done. We spend a small fortune on groceries every week, and there’s always one of them who needs new shoes, some new sports gear, or is wanting to try a new activity. And don’t even mention the possibility that we may have to fund 3 kids through university in the future. I’m burying my head in the sand about that for now.
Space wise we are done too. Our house is just your standard 4 bed Victorian terrace. Nice big airy rooms, split over 3 floors. But now that the 9 year old is almost the same size as me, when we are all hanging out in one room together, it quickly starts to feel like the walls are closing in. We’ve obviously got the standard ‘family with 3 kids’ obligatory Ford S Max to transport our brood around in. My partner was depressed for a good while after that purchase. Like it spelled the beginning of the end and a steady descent into middle age!
And the whole world is set up for families of 4; cars, holidays, fairground rides. By having 3 kids we already don’t fit the regular family mould, so why am I thinking about the possibility of adding more kids to the mental household that we already have? Like I said before, I blame that little newborn for making my ovaries start to twitch.
I spoke to a few friends and bloggers about this, and got some really varied responses. One blogger had her hand effectively forced by learning, soon after having her 2nd child, that she had a gene mutation which put her at high risk of breast and ovarian cancer. She made the decision to have her ovaries and fallopian tubes removed, because she wanted to make sure that she was there for her two children for many years to come. She said, however, that she already knew she was done having children, even before her health became a consideration.
A friend of mine who has one child, said that as soon as he was born she knew that she’d never want another child, because she didn’t want to share herself, her love, or split her attention between her son and any more children. Several friends with two children have echoed the same – they all have partners or husbands, and feel that the ratio of adults to kids is just right when you have 2 adults and 2 children. A few wavered when I quizzed them about whether they think about that 3rd child, but they all were insistent on being ‘done’.
Other friends recall the moments they knew they were done; epic meltdowns in the middle of a crowded shopping centre, months of sleepless nights and sickness bugs which almost destroyed their sanity, expensive perfume being poured all over the bathroom floor, that sort of thing. They describe it like a lightbulb moment for them. They are definitely done, no shadow of a doubt.
A friend of mine who has two young children drew me up her arguments for and against having baby number 3:
- The love that another child brings to your family. That’s the hook isn’t it? Those newborn snuggles, the smell of a baby’s head, the way they snuffle at you in search of milk…
- Seeing your children play together. When it happens on those odd occasions, it’s quite marvelous to see!
- That inbuilt mothering instinct and growing up always wanting a big family. Snap. That’s totally me! When we were growing up, my Mum worked as a childminder, so there were always loads of kids in our house – 5 of her own children including me, the odd friend over for tea, then 2 or 3 being looked after by my Mum. So, being overrun with children is kind of my norm.
- Financial reasons. The biggy. Kids cost lots. Simple as.
- Starting again with baby stuff, sleepless nights, nappies, teething, weaning. All that stuff you forget about as soon as you are gladly out the other side. Once your kids are approaching school age, you can pretty much up and go without the enormous haul of stuff that you need when going anywhere with a baby
- Childcare costs and the burden of raising young children with no family nearby. Adding more kids to the mix just ramps up the cost of nursery, wrap around care, school holiday camps. It’s extortionate, and something I’ve blogged about before here
- Impact on (usually) the Mum’s career plans – for us, baby number 3 signalled the end to a career working out of the house for me. For lots of families, two salaries is the only way to balance the household books
For many people, it is totally a head over heart decision. Which I guess is where we are at too. If money was no object, and we lived in a massive house (haha, you’ve got to dream, right!), then I’d love to have another child. My brain likes round numbers, and 4 kids is a much more neat number than 3. I do wonder if this longing for another child ever truly goes away?
My friend with the newborn daughter said that her family never felt complete with two daughters, but now that the baby has arrived everything feels perfect. The baby has completed their family. Maybe in time I’ll come to feel the same way? I am so very, very grateful for my boys. Even if they drive me to distraction most of the time! For years we thought that we may never have children, so to have 3 healthy boys really is a blessing.
Now, if only I can steer clear of newborns, maybe my head can convince my heart that 3 really is the magic number.