Thursday, December 11, 2008

How Many Children Can We Handle?

When Greg and I were first married we both wanted a large family. I had always wanted 12 kids (since I read Cheaper By the Dozen when I was maybe 12 years old) and Greg was hoping for 11. We had this constant little "fight" over how many kids we would have. We were so cute.

A few years later we were struggling with our two little children. When David was a newborn I learned that it was possible to shout at the sweetest little girl in the world (this is no exaggeration) when she had done absolutely nothing wrong except try to tell me something (in the most darling voice ever) while I was juggling a baby and trying to make a cake. That moment is imprinted in my mind. I sort of feel like if that moment had never come to pass, I would never, ever shout at my children, as it became all too normal after thatf (this, of course, is not true, as something else would have triggered it at some point).

Greg and I struggled with a colicky (though not very severely) baby and a two year old. We had no idea that it could be so difficult to be good parents. We are blessed to have such a similar parenting style. If he (or I) had been more of the permissive type, we would have had some really serious problems, but we both have the philosophy of giving our children very clear boundaries, and that is something we have always supported each other on and we have seen the children respond really well. Still, in those sleep deprived, stress infused moments that came all too often, we found tiny little differences to nit pick each other about. We each took our turns being either the impatient one or the one wondering why the other couldn't just calm down and pull their self together.

It was rough. I had never pictured myself being this kind of mother or wife. I know I wasn't doing everything wrong, and was probably doing more right than wrong, but it was still a shock to feel how immature I was. Greg declared that this was as big as our family would get. I thought he was just stressed and I was too, so I didn't worry about it.

After a while I started wanting another baby. Any time I mentioned it, I could feel him tensing up. He is smart. He said he would rather have two children with a semi-sane father than any more than that with a crazy one. I saw the wisdom in that and half agreed. I was afraid of what kind of mother I might be to three or more children. Would it get progressively worse with each child? I felt that my fear of finding out was almost balanced with my desire to have another baby.

Almost, but not quite. I was so baby hungry. I saved all the kid's old clothes and when David moved out of his crib onto a bed at age 2 1/2 I saved the crib. More than once Greg asked why I was keeping those things. I had stopped talking about having more children about a year before, so those were the only times I gave any hint that I was still hoping.

We were doing really well. Evie and David were best friends. They were so darling together that I almost had a heart attack a few times every day from the sweetness and cuteness of their interactions. I was taking good care of myself and felt thin and healthy and well put together. I kept the house clean and even tidy. I was experimenting more in the kitchen. I was happy. Life was excellent.

One day when David was three and Evie was five they were being as cute as ever and Greg and I were listening from around the corner and giving each other the look we did multiple times every day; the one that says,"Have you ever heard/seen anything so cute in your entire life? I think not." David said something with his darling stutter/consonant switch around and I turned to Greg and said, "Doesn't it make you want to have another one?"

He said, "Yes, it does."

Now this could have just been an affirmation of how darling David was, but I didn't think so. That was too sensitive a subject for him to drop a "yes" if he didn't mean yes.

This was seriously one of the happiest moments of my life. I started planning everything out right then and there. Greg hadn't meant, "let's get pregnant immediately!" He meant more, "let's start thinking about it." I had some check-ups, had my teeth taken care of, including the horrific surgical removal of a wisdom tooth (pretty!) and was feeling ready. Greg still wasn't, quite yet.

This is the part that will sound strange. I am the most practical person about pregnancy that there is. I have always wanted to hear every detail of everyone's story and everything about all their unusual side effects. Often women would say, "I won't go into details because I don't want to scare you." (like the woman I talked to-when I was heavily pregnant-who had just given birth and nearly died of blood loss after delivery) and I would always beg them to go into the greatest detail they felt comfortable with. I feel that the more I know, the less I will ever be surprised, and the less I will have to fear.

I knew that the rate of miscarriage is very high. 25%, I believe (but that might be for first pregnancies?). I had had two children with no miscarriage, and every sister or sister in law of mine had miscarried on their first pregnancy (I think it was always with their first). I was feeling very strongly that our number was up. I expressed this to Greg and he agreed, which is why we decided to get pregnant before we both felt perfectly ready.

Maybe that sounds awful. But I was thinking in terms of having a baby as close in age to the other children as possible, and I felt that it would be a while before one would come. I don't remember if we prayed specifically about this, but I just know that we both knew. The kind of knowledge where you pretend you don't know in case you are proven wrong but you both know that you know.

And then one day, very soon, we found out I was pregnant.
***Click here for continuation***

26 comments:

Kaylynn said...

I love your blog! You write so well. Thanks! Now I feel like I have a friend on the other side of the world.

Annette Lyon said...

This is a big question for all parents--how many can we handle? And for many of us, how many can I personally nurture and arm spiritually? Due to the world we live in, that number has to be smaller than it was generations ago.

But hey--you can't leave us hanging here! Post the rest soon!

Lara said...

Can't wait to read the rest....it sounds about like where we are right now, except I haven't gotten my teeth taken care of. :)

Melissa said...

Yes, you better post more soon. And I think many, if not most of us wonder how many children we can truly handle without losing our minds. I'm pretty sure I'm done, because my mind is half-way out the door already.

Jillybean said...

My husband was an only child until he was 15 and when we were first married I liked to tease him and say that I wanted 6 kids.
We ended up with 4, and I think that's the perfect number for us.

I can't wait to hear the rest of your story.

Becky said...

I've thought and prayed about this a lot, and at least for now, two seems to be the magic number.

I don't know whether to be relieved, or nervous that I'll get hit with a bombshell at 35...

Erin said...

Wait a minute...did I write this post and just forget that I actually wrote it? Oh wait, I only have a 3 and a 5 year old and just last night my husband and I were talking about whether we could handle another one. So I guess I only wrote 2/3 of it.

I look forward to the next part of the story, so that I will know what my own personal future holds.

Barbaloot said...

Why---why the TBC? I must know!

Heidi Ashworth said...

Arghhh! Do I have to wait until Saturday to hear the rest of this? (because, I suspect there is a twist to this tale.)

MelancholySmile said...

I'm dying to know the rest! As for miscarriage stats, I'd like to know those myself. I miscarried before I had Little Miss C, again before I had E, and then was sooooo nervous throughout the entire pregnancy with L, because I was sure the pattern would continue. Also, I think I've become resigned to the fact that it probably doesn't matter how many children I have, or even how well they behave. I am simply not the mother I always thought I would be. That's just going to take practice, self discipline, and lots of prayer. Might as well pack 'em in while I'm at it. :)

Sue Q said...

You and I are so much alike, it's SCARY!! I went through this same scenario -- TWICE -- with my hubby, and our experience became so sweet and tender and spiritual and completely, intensely personal that I could never share it on the World Wide Web.

Or, at least, I didn't think I could. Maybe I can, now that you've inspired me to rethink my Four Darling Blessings. Perhaps it might give some other baby-hungry mother hope!

Abra said...

Hmmm, Interesting.
I love your blog.
If you ever want to hear my labor stories I'll freely tell you. I like telling people weird I know.
Is that too much information for a second comment?
I guess we're even :)

charrette said...

I felt like Baby #3 put me right over the edge! I'm pretty sure that right along with the "Not Pioneer Material" they stamped on my forehead in the spirit world, I also got a stamp saying something along the lines of "Not equipped to handle large amounts of children." That said, I mourned the loss of babies #4 and 5 (a still-birth and a miscarriage) so deeply, and I still pine away for just one more baby, even when life is at its craziest.

On a lighter note, I have a friend who said they wanted twelve children, until they had one. Then they wanted six. Until they had two. Then they wanted three. Until they had three. Then they wanted two. :)

Great post. I'm living this with you and semi-dreading what comes next.

JustRandi said...

Wait! You can't leave the story there!!!
I knew it was time to stop when every single time I prayed for an answer about another baby, I would have a horrific day.
It's a new one, that "prayers answered by bad day" thing. But it really did happen every time. So yeah, game over.

Kazzy said...

I enjoy order, but I must admit that I also enjoyed the spontaneity of deciding to have a baby and then getting pregnant quickly, with no real idea about the feasibility of it. It was part of the rush that came along with the unknowns of potential motherhood.

I never had a miscarriage, but even my doctor told me that the numbers were about 25%. I always feel sad with those stories.

Excited to get the rest of your story!

Erin said...

Thank you for sharing your beautiful story. Our bishop told me that a professor at BYU told him that the wife will always want just one more and that it is the husband who will have to say we're done. I think it is definitely true for us. No matter how many kids I have I think I will always want a baby. The problem is that the baby will grow up and start throwing tantrums and talking back. and that is when I will lose my sanity.

McEwens said...

HEY you.... I am bummed, I hoped on to look at the List of Sue and I didnt see you there! I AM SO BUMMED! you are so very talented

Bebe said...

I won't say congrats--but I'll still send you good wishes. My Mister and I decided on one more--we thought we could finally handle a third child. Boy were we surprised when we found out we were having triplets. Three wasn't such a stretch--but I am sure I wouldn't have signed up for five! Glad to have them, though it is crazy!

Kimberly said...

That To be continued... was particularly cruel. This post was so fabulously written I am just itching for more!

Heather said...

I love how you tell your family's story in a way that is so easy to read and relate to. I have had the same thoughts about how I'd rather raise these kids with sane parents than have any more and go insane. I have also often had answers to prayers subconsciously that I don't quite want to acknowledge consciously until I see the outcome.

Heather of the EO said...

This is so interesting. I love being inside a person's head (sort of) about these kinds of things. It's just so intriguing to me.

can't wait for more!

-oLiViA said...

My parents tried to have us all very close in age so that we could play together.

It turned out that we we're only like that until we realized that some toys belong to us- and the others to our sisters. It was arguing 24/7 after that.

Well, that only partially happened. We we're so close and always played together and were just bubbly giggly little cuties. When we grew up, we were so cut off from the world that it's what made us...simply what we are today.

That's my little slice of information today.If you didn't understand something, don't worry, people don't understand me a whole lot. It's because my brian is just so genious sometimes it's just un-comprehensable. (Like my spelling.)

Anne said...

I think it might be important for you to know that more chldren means MORE dust!!!

Alison Wonderland said...

Aren't baby negociations fun? I'm just trying to figure out if they ever really end.

Me plus 3 Hecks said...

Oh, I know where this story goes...so hurray for the little guy coming sometime later. And remind me to tell you something about those negotiations myself sometime...

Moody said...

I remember not feeling done until my little Nat came along. then I finally felt like my family was complete and quit getting babyitis. I think you're right about the miscarriage percentage. It is fairly high, but you don't realize how many others have gone through it until you go through it, then everyone seems to have a story about it as well. I lost two babies to miscarriage. It was very difficult.