I need to do a little external processing here. And I figured, what better place to do that than with my ETMB tribe? So, I hope you’ll excuse me as I try to work through some rather complicated feelings I have about capping my family at two kids.
I have been gifted with the most beautiful three-(almost four)-year-old daughter and a most handsome eighteen-month-old son. Being their mother is by far the hardest thing I have done in my entire life. It is not because they are difficult kids, because, in truth, they are not. I believe it has more to do with the fact that motherhood calls for full-on self-sacrifice. And I am a very selfish person. So, basically, everything hurts.
Not A Fan of the Infant Stage
This past fall, my son turned one. The morning of his first birthday, I remember waking up and feeling like I had just crossed the finish line to one of the longest marathons in history. Here’s my first unsavory confession for y’all. While I adore squishy babies swaddled tight like a burrito, I do not enjoy the infant stage.
Lack of sleep does terrible things to me. I was angry a lot his first year. I struggled to place my fast-paced schedule on hold and often felt resentful. My son was often sick, rarely slept, and only wanted me- leaving me feeling drained, exhausted, and desperate for some space. It was a hard, hard first year.
The thing is that from the moment my son was born, throughout his first year, I felt, with deep conviction that there was a third baby. It was a strange feeling because I was both thrilled and terrified to know our family wasn’t complete. I would often get up in the middle of the night with my crying son and think to myself, “Am I really going to do this a third time?”
Yet, I found that I was anxious to go ahead and get pregnant so we could have the third baby and get past the infant stage. I had a distinct sense of wanting to “power through” that first year. At the same time, I would feel elated imagining my three babies all together on Christmas morning, or the fun of seeing my baby boy be a big brother.
I honestly wanted another baby as much as I did not want another baby.
I have never felt so torn. But on my son’s first birthday, I was suddenly no longer confused. It was as if a switch had been flipped: I was done having babies.
Happy With The Cap and Yet…
As my son began walking and babbling, his sleep improved and he began attending a Mother’s Day Out program. Life began to feel easier. I began to write again. I felt a lot less crazy, and I wasn’t as angry. Then I realized that I didn’t want to go through that first year again. While I still loved the idea of those three babies at the Christmas tree, my two babies felt like gift enough.
Deep down, I felt like I could be a better mom to two than I could be to three. So my husband (who never wanted a third, for the record) and I agreed- we were done having kids.
That was nearly six months ago, and I am still sure of that decision. But lately, another feeling has emerged: the dreaded mommy guilt.
I’ve watched on Facebook as three families who were on the same “baby wave” as us have announced baby number three is on the way. With each announcement, I feel a twinge of shame. Like somehow, I’m less than because I’ve chosen to stick with two.
I see my friends with three, four, and five kids, and I think, “Am I weak because I can barely handle my two while they can handle five?”
If I’m honest, my decision to have two kids feels selfish. It feels like an admission that I’m not a good enough mom to have more kids. It hurts to know that part of the reason my husband is done having kids is that of how I acted with our first two. I can’t help but think that if I was a more calm, peaceful, less selfish or driven woman, we would have gone on to have more kids. I fear that one day, I’m going to look back on this decision and regret not pushing through that first year just one more time.
Yet, most of me feels really, really good with where we are in life and is loving only having two kids. So, I don’t want to continue shaming myself for a decision I am happy with.
Learning to Give Myself Some Grace
My faith plays a big role in my life, so I have found when those feelings of shame begin to creep in, I am able to stop them with a quick prayer. I remind myself that, while I have chosen to stop trying for a third baby, God is sovereign. And if He wants me to have a third, no amount of protection will stop that from happening.
I can leave it up to Him to decide if we are done. I am also aware that this desire to have three older kids and not three babies may mean adoption is something God will bring at us sometime down the road. We aren’t there now, but crazier things have happened. We may also be done. And that’s not a commentary on my ability as a mother. It’s just a decision we’ve made. And it’s the best decision for us at this time.
I will not pretend to know how this story will end. I’m not trying to use this space to figure that out. All I wanted to do, is to say out loud how I’m feeling, and see if, perhaps, someone else is feeling those same things, too.
If you are, maybe we can both give ourselves a little bit of grace. Let’s just be happy and thankful for the babies we have without shaming ourselves for the ones we don’t.