“How do you know when you’re done?”
I think this is a pretty common question women – and maybe just families in general – wonder about. When do you know that you’re done having babies, and that your family is complete? I’m in a ladies group that meets once a month, and at our last outing, we were actually discussing this very topic. As a group of 12 women, we are across the spectrum when it comes to life experiences, careers, family goals, etc, so it’s always fun to discuss big topics when there are so many perspectives.
Many of the women in our group have more than one child, some are just having their first, and some haven’t yet had children – and may not even want to. Some women are still growing their families, and some feel that their families are complete, and are ready to move on to the next phase of life. But we have all had to answer the same questions along the way… do I want kids? If so, how many? And – how will I know when I’m done?
It seems like a really cliché answer, but in my experience, truthfully – you will KNOW when you’re done. Now, to be fair, in this case, I’m talking about women who have a choice in the matter. I know there are many heartbreaking stories of people who have wanted to have babies, or to have large families, but for whatever reason, have not been able to do so. In that case, I can only imagine how difficult it must be to come to terms with your hopes and dreams not lining up with the reality of your situation. I know many couples that have chosen to grow their families in other ways when they have faced obstacles with biological childbearing, and I think everyone needs the freedom to figure out what works best for them and their family when it comes to having children. But even in these cases, I think eventually, every family has to face the decision about whether or not they will continue to pursue adding children to their family unit, or be done.
For Jeff and I, we really thought our family was going to be complete once Molly arrived. I had had a rough final trimester with her, and had actually been induced early to relieve strain on my heart (I have a congenital heart defect – which is another story for another day). Although our journey to growing our family hasn’t been without loss and heartache, we felt really confident in those first months after Molly was born, that our family was complete. We never did anything “permanent” to ensure that we wouldn’t have any more babies, but we did start to sell off baby items as Molly outgrew them, and spoke to others as though she would be our last. I also began to look ahead to my future career goals, and took steps in that direction.
And yet – here we are – pregnant with baby #4! So, when did it change? And how did we go from “knowing” we were done, to “knowing” we wanted one more? To be honest, I think maybe the fact that we never took permanent action to prevent another pregnancy was the first sign that we, as a couple, weren’t actually 100% committed to the idea that we were finished growing our family; we just never felt comfortable taking the steps necessary to make it official.
Additionally, as Molly has grown, and I’ve watched her watch her older siblings, I’ve become convinced that she needs a little buddy of her own. Don’t get me wrong – I think all sizes of families, and all age gaps, are wonderful and there is no “right” or “wrong” family unit. But for our family, the friendship that Isla and Ben share, being so close in age, was something I wanted for Molly – who is nearly four years younger than Ben. It’s not that she doesn’t have a special relationship with her older siblings – and to be fair, I also wrestled somewhat with how it would impact Molly to go from being the clear baby of the family, to having another little person in her world competing for our time and energy. But at the end of the day, as the months went on,and Molly neared her first birthday, I really began to reconsider trying one more time for one more baby.
I should also say, that this desire wasn’t just for Molly – but also for myself. I am one of those women who loves to give birth, and the idea that I would never again go through the journey of pregnancy and childbirth was almost painful to think about. To top it all off, Jeff and I are both from families of four siblings, and from the beginning we have always said we would have three or four children. So – long story short – in my heart of hearts, I think the door was never really closed after Molly was born, and I think it was good for us as a family that we gave ourselves permission to consider all the possibilities, and then go with our hearts on the decision.
The main reason that I really think that you just KNOW when you are done, is because now that I’m pregnant with baby #4… I KNOW I am done. I feel so certain this time around, and I’m trying to really embrace all of the “lasts” that this pregnancy holds for me. I am not in mourning over the fact that this will be the last time I do this… I feel really content and secure in our decision. It feels differently than my pregnancy with Molly – the finality of this experience is clear to me this time around. It’s hard to explain, except to say, “I just know” that this will be the last time I am pregnant.
So… how will you know when you’re done having babies? Lol… I’m not really sure this blog post has answered that question, outside of my own personal experience. It’s a completely personal choice for every woman and family unit to make. But if I would leave you with once piece of advice – don’t let anyone or anything pressure you to make the decision if you aren’t sure. Take your time, chat with your spouse, consider all of your options and the many paths you can take to growing your family, as well as what you hope for your family unit, not just today, but in the future as well. Give yourself permission to feel all the feelings when it comes to your decision. For me – I now know in my heart of hearts, that my family is complete.
I would love to hear how you came to this decision for your family, or if it’s a decision you are still making! How did YOU know when you were done adding children to your family?