I knew as soon as Otto was born that I wasn’t done having babies.
I was so emotional over his newborn days, every last first. And I knew that it wasn’t because he was the last, but because I was struggling to accept that he would be the last.
Photo by Little Kin
Having three was never a debate. From the start, we knew, if we were able to conceive, we would definitely have three children. So, I guess the fourth child is the first time we’ve had that question mark situation. The first time we’ve seriously sat down, hashed it out, gone over the pros and cons, and listened to each other’s feelings on the subject.
Ever since I was pregnant with our third child, possibly even before our third child was on the horizon, I have been teasing Sam about the possibility of a fourth. I never wanted to completely shut the door on the possibility. I wanted to keep that door open, because in all honesty I wouldn’t know how I truly felt about four until I’d lived with three. It turns out I bloody love having three, and I cannot shake the idea of four.
Sam would tease me back about how we definitely weren’t having more children. My cheeky “When we have the next baby” remarks would be countered by his overly-saccharine “Isn’t it so nice to know our family is complete – I couldn’t ever imagine anything else”. We’ve been batting back and fourth like this for over two years.
Recently, we’ve crossed the border between joking about it, and entered the territory of serious conversation about it. We spent one work from home day revisiting the topic at length throughout the day. And we’re still having conversations now – every now and again one of us will think of a point or a musing to bring up. (It’s impossible to have these conversations around our older children, who both seem to think “the next baby” is a given rather than a choice – which is where the working from home thing comes in quite handy).
Otto is about to turn two. I’ve never had a two year old and not been pregnant, or not been imminently planning to get pregnant. I’ve been merrily plodding along with a ‘cross that bridge when we come to it’ attitude, but two appears to be my draw the line point. The point when it all comes to a head and a definitive plan needs to be made. It’s not straight forward for us to conceive; with PCOS, I need months of pre-prep to get my hormones where they need to be. We can’t just decide one month on a whim. And I’m suddenly very conscious of time, because once Otto gets beyond a certain age, the subject of ‘one more’ will come off the table as neither of us are that keen to have three older ones and a tiny one. Two is the point at which I need to know what lies ahead for our family over the next couple of years.
It turns out that Sam is on a completely different page to me.
Funnily enough, neither of us cited the extra expense, the house size, or holidays as a reason not to have four children. But Sam is tired. He doesn’t want to do the baby stage again. He doesn’t want to press reset for another five years. He doesn’t want to sign himself up for yet another five years of sleeping on the floor beside a cot or toddler bed. He absolutely doesn’t want to do it.
He looks at our boys and feels content and complete. And I get that, I do, because I feel that too. They are a great little trio and we don’t NEED anything more. But another part of me wonders…. What would a fourth little person add to our family? And who are they?
To paraphrase from my most melodramatic argument to Sam on this subject; where he sees completion, I see empty spaces.
The spare space at the six-seater dining table. The bigger car that we need to get anyway because we have three growing boys. Holidays just aren’t an argument at all for me, because, let’s face it, we can’t really afford them with three children anyway. We are heading into our years of camping and caravan holidays, if we are lucky enough. Maybe once every three years we will be able to save for a bigger holiday, and what’s one more to add to those numbers? A large mobile home sleeps 6 – again, empty space. We prefer self-catered villa holidays to hotels, and we almost always end up with a spare bed – another empty space.
The house – yes we would have to get a bigger house. And that would almost definitely mean moving far out of London. But a big part of me wants to do that anyway but has been a little scared to face it when there are so many options and variables. Perhaps another child would give us the push to actually do it.
None of these are true negatives. That’s the problem when considering whether to have another child or not. Just as you know you always have space in your heart for one more, you can always find the right justification if you really want something.
The one con, for me, in having more children, is the fact that I’ve found it challenging in some regards balancing the needs of older children with the toddler stage. There are certain activities we can’t all do together, and many activities either exclude the older ones or exclude Otto. But then part of me wonders if a fourth would add balance to this scenario? Two older ones and two younger ones. A family buddy system where there’s always someone who is closer to you on the skill scale.
Of course, I have the added emotional pull of the gender thing. Do we roll the dice one more time to see if we get a girl? This is such a complex thought process, I find it really hard to unpick it and separate these feelings from the rest of the debate when it comes to ‘one more’. But I already know that I would be happy with an outcome of four boys. I am so, so happy with three boys, and I am not ready to be done with pregnancy, babies, toddlers, the whole lot – regardless of gender.
I am well aware that considering whether to have three or four children isn’t the most important of matters. And I am acutely aware of how lucky we already are. This is not, by any means, a bad problem to have. But this is my space where I am allowed to admit something that makes me a little sad. And if nothing else, having this post here will do me a favour next time someone asks the question that is never very far away, “Are you having any more?” I can just send them a link to this post.
Sam and I currently tend to alternate between asking people to cast their vote to decide our fate, or professing that this subject has caused a irreparable rift between us and please not to mention it again – both tend to work quite well ; )
One thing I know, is that four is my absolute ceiling limit for children. I know that completely and utterly. So, to me, it feels like four is drawing the line, and three is always wondering about what could have been. The scariest question to me right now is, “Will I still be wondering about this when I’m 80?”
The thing is, now that Sam has spoken honestly about his feelings, I feel like I can’t push for a fourth. It would be all on me if something went wrong, if there were health complications, or if Sam held resentment. The more children you have, the greater sense you get of pushing your luck. I can’t face taking 100% responsibility for that. And a mutual decision seems too much to ask now that we’ve discovered our opposing feelings on the subject.
We already have three wonderful children. And we are so so happy with our life. So, the only sensible answer when one of you wants more children and the other resolutely doesn’t, is that it is me that has to back down. It is me that has to find a way to move on from the possibility that for the last two years I have thought was there.
The biggest empty space at all is the one I’ve suddenly forced myself to face. It’s the vastness of the next few years, The “What’s next?” phase, that I’ve abruptly found myself looking at. If no more babies, then what? Does Otto turning two really mark the end of my baby years? The most life-changing stage of my life thus far, over so quickly? I know it’s the ultimate cliche, but it really does feel like it’s gone too fast, and I’m not ready.
As new couples and young families, we go through some of the biggest changes. Weddings, house moves, babies, growing our families. It all happens over such a concentrated portion of our lives, with barely any time to prepare ourselves for what lies beyond.
I know I will find a way to spend the next stage of my life in meaningful, contented ways. I just don’t know what that looks like yet.