I haven't heard the question a lot, but I have heard it--"Are you going to try for a girl?" I've discussed this topic here before, so perhaps this is beating a dead horse, but now that we're nearly 18 months removed from Carter's birth, I guess I want to revisit it a bit because I feel like things are clearer for me than even I expected they would be.
I said for years that we'd be stopping at two, though I did say that if #2 was a boy, there was a tiny chance we'd go for #3. Still, the risk of ending up with boy #3 was daunting, and while I know we'd love another boy just as much, going through all of that and not getting a daughter seems a little...I don't know...pointless, maybe? Aside from having a girl who can be my dear friend forever (without, in theory, completely alienating her spouse, as I feel like is the big challenge with boys as they grow up and get married), I feel like there's nothing about parenthood that I can't experience with my two boys. Sure, there are girl things I'd like to relive, but there are lots of girl things that I think I wouldn't like as much, so perhaps I should just take my two boys as a sign that I'm not cut out for that.
I've always heard people say that after they had a child, they felt their family was complete. I can't say that I've had that specific feeling, but I can say that I emphatically feel "done". There is a part of me that melts when in the presence of a newborn and loves all those tiny baby things--squeaks, uncoordinated movements, tiny toes--but honestly, I just can't fathom doing it all again. I'm fascinated by seeing how our genes combine, and I love watching babies grow and learn and turn into little people. On some level I'd love to see what #3 would be like, boy or girl. But to do it again for that reason would be foolish and at least partly selfish. There are so many reasons it would be a bad idea. Let's explore, shall we?
Jacob - We've made no secret of Jacob's dislike of his brother. Not only doesn't he like him, but he truly doesn't love him, which is so sad. He has no concern for his well being, and he really wants nothing to do with him. I hope that someday that will change, but geez, what if it doesn't? I can't imagine bringing another child into this family that Jacob could resent. And I have no desire to keep another kid out of Jacob's stuff. If every other reason didn't exist and this was the only thing stopping us, I might just tell him to suck it up and deal (which we do tell him anyway), but given that all the reasons below exist, this is just one more to add to the list.
Health - If the kids we had were generally healthy and didn't have any random medical issues, perhaps I'd be more open to having another. But with Jacob's behavior issues and Celiac disease, and Carter's former rice intolerance, along with the reflux and cow's milk protein issues both have had, I really have no desire to see what surprises #3 would have up their sleeve. As annoying as the issues are, I know they're not super serious, and I always worry that #3 would be the one to give us a doozy...or God forbid, we have a third and one of the other two comes out with something even bigger and makes everything impossibly overwhelming. On a more practical level, dealing with two sick kids at a time (or in a row) seems like enough. I don't need to add any more to that, nor do I have enough sick days to get through the year.
Space - If we had another kid, we'd either have to buy another house or
combine bedrooms. If Jacob couldn't peacefully share space with Carter,
then we'd have to switch rooms entirely to have Carter share with a
sibling. No thanks. We'd also have to buy a van, not just to fit all
of the car seats, but to fit everything we'd need to be able to go
anywhere for more than a few hours. Two kids have enough stuff. And
the toys...we don't really have room for more boy toys, and we certainly
wouldn't have room for a whole new slew of girl toys! I've always said that the world is built for families of four--three bedroom houses, your average sedan, booths at restaurants, two person amusement park rides, two-parent man-to-man defense--and adding a third throws everything for a loop.
Money - Daycare alone is crazy, let alone another mouth to feed...particularly if that mouth needs an unexpected couple thousand dollars worth of formula to get through the first year of life. Then add in the medical costs (per my point above), and any sports or other activities they'd want to do when they got older. And, of course, if it's a girl, there are so many new things we'd want to buy. Not to mention that we'd need a new car seat, since the infant one was technically "expired" and definitely on its last legs when we retired it. But again, the potential of a new house and/or new car adds to the cost, and if we ever want to go on vacation again, two kids is plenty to wrangle and pay for (or, quite frankly, drop off with the grandparents once in a while).
Exhaustion - I didn't find two kids to be that overwhelming early on, but the older Carter has gotten and with Jacob's entrance into school and sports, things ratcheted up a bit over the past year. I am constantly burning the candle at both ends, and I hate it. I love my kids and my husband and I wouldn't be doing this sort of craziness for anyone else, but it doesn't mean that it doesn't make me nuts to always be so harried. I can't imagine throwing yet another kid's needs and activities into our schedule. Add into it that Craig is gone most weekends for about half the year, and I only have two hands. So three kids out in public would be beyond overwhelming, meaning we'd spend half the year holed up in our house, with me frustrated at my inability to get things done. I already feel like home and work each suffer at the expense of each other, and I can't even imagine how tired I'd be with a third.
Me - I'm not exactly a spring chicken anymore, you know. I wasn't that young when I started having kids, and having #2 at the ripe old age of 34-1/2 wasn't exactly the original plan. A lot of times you hear about the risks of having kids after 35--increased risks for almost everything--and I'm not really prepared to take those risks at this point. Pregnancy was hard enough with one kid, let alone two. My last pregnancy was tough all around, with the exception of a few months in the middle, and after having Carter three weeks early, I wonder if it could possibly get worse. With two kids to take care of already, it's such a big risk. And you know, the older I get, the harder it is to maintain the energy and enthusiasm for playing and being active with them.
Progress - Remember how I posted a while back about liking progress? I think a lot of that plays into this, too. I wouldn't change anything for the world, but I'll admit that it's nice to get past certain phases of babyhood. I don't want to worry about being pregnant or preparing for maternity leave again. I don't want to set up another nursery or wash multiple bins of tiny baby stuff. I don't really want to be woken up again every three hours (or less) to feed a baby. I don't really feel like spending another year making and washing bottles. I like not having my house cluttered up with certain baby equipment like the swing or jumperoo (though there's plenty else to take their place, those big pieces are such a relief to put away). I'm ready to move past the phase where going anywhere takes a major packing effort, and where I'm nervous leaving the baby for any sort of extended time away. I like moving past those phases, where we can be more flexible and less weighed down. I guess what I'm saying is that having a baby can be hard on a practicality level, and the thought of starting over again for more years of the same limitations just doesn't appeal to me this time around. I was totally on board for doing it a second time, but I felt a palpable sense of relief when I passed by certain phases this time, knowing it should be done for good.
Ironically, I have two friends who are due for (surprise) third babies in the next couple months (though both have a boy and a girl already), and a third who just had her third. Perhaps that's why this has been on my mind a lot lately. Despite all of my reasons above, I'd certainly find a way to muddle through if we somehow ended up with a surprise third baby. Part of me would be thrilled, though I know I'd be intimidated by the logistics. That fear is what keeps me with a crawl space full of baby stuff. But for now, I'm definitely more comfortable than I imagined I'd be with being done. And whenever I have a weak moment, I remind myself of the reasons above and once again feel at peace with the decision. Part of me will always wonder, but I feel so blessed to have the boys we have (despite our challenges) and can't really ask for anything more.