Monday, September 22, 2008

Four????

I know that the number and frequency of children you have can only be truly decided between you and your spouse and Lord. Still, what is blogging for if not to solicit random tidbits of advice from friends and strangers alike?

I am at a major crossroads in my child-bearing life. Some weeks back my mother and I were talking and I asked her why "4" seems to be such a magic number of children for people that I know. Before four kids, it seems like all kinds of random people will ask, "Do you think you'll have any more?" (Maybe this is this the case after four children as well?) She said that in her generation she felt that the magic number was 5. There are four children in my family, and mom felt like my youngest brother started school before people quit asking her if she was done.

It took 20 weeks for me to adjust to the idea of having a third son. By the time Captain Tootypants was born, I was okay with it. And now, I've accepted that I have to be careful to not end up in the middle of non-stop wrestling match at my house. I've accepted that my youngest is both the meanest and the sweetest of the three. I've accepted endless hand-me-down piles of brown and blue and green clothes that are nearly always muddy by days' end. I've even accepted the boy smell that permeates my bedroom and my kids' bedroom every morning. Some days I look at my life and think, "How did I get so lucky to have a houseful of exceptionally handsome men who each think I'm the center of their universe?" Other days I think, "Where is the daughter I have long-dreamed of?" There are days when mothering is so easy and I know that four would be nothing, and then there are other days when I want nothing more than to escape the drudgery of housework and diapers and referee-ing and, well, you get the picture.

I've had all my children for very different reasons--the first was obligation, the second was desire, the third was an act of faith. But if there is to be a #4 . . . .

This baby would have to be called "sacrifice," inasmuch as one baby can be seen as more of a sacrifice than another. We would be exceptionally crowded in our small house. We would have to think of some way to afford a payment on a bigger car. My additional schooling (and therefore earning power) would have to be put off a few more years. Even after a year of being here, I don't feel like I've really built the support system that I've had in other places--so necessary when you are hundreds of miles from any family members.

When I felt the powerful prompting to get pregnant with #3, despite Plantboy's schooling not being finished and no job on the horizon, and certainly no knowledge of where would be the following year, I took the biggest leap of faith I've ever made. I gave Plantboy about four days notice on the "I need to get pregnant now!" though we had discussed such a thing as being at least a year into the future. He prayed and he trusted me, dear man. I think I always knew there would be a great blessing attached to that decision; I hoped that blessing meant a baby daughter. The Lord knew my heart. If Captain Tootypants had been a girl instead, it would have probably taken a bolt of lightning for me to have had a fourth baby, and then my sweet baby would have never been a part of my life. My 20 weeks of adjustment over his birth was not just getting ready for a third boy; I think in my heart I was coming to terms with a fourth pregnancy.

I checked the blog of a friend today who just had her fourth baby: one of several friends in the last year to make this leap. Ever since my baby was about two months old, this battle within myself emerges about once a month. Jana's newborn has triggered these thoughts today. For "ideal" spacing, if I have a baby #4, I should get pregnant in about six months. The decision I keep telling myself can wait, cannot wait much longer.

Or maybe I've already made the decision--maybe it was made a long time ago--and my practical side cannot stop thinking about the awful logistics of such a decision. I'm struggling to do the will of the Father, knowing my heart is not in the right place. If I knew a girl was coming to us, I'd get pregnant tomorrow, logistics be damned. But the thought of a fourth boy makes me feel faintly naseous. Would I be able to love a fourth boy enough so that he never wondered if I had him just because I was hoping for a girl? Is a fourth child, for me, a total act of unselfishness since on paper it is pure insanity; or is my decision based on some completely selfish desire to have a daughter on the off-chance that she'll be the best friend I've ever had?

22 comments:

Doreen said...

If the only reason for you to have a fourth child would be to hopefully have a girl, then, well, you shouldn't. But I'm sure you know that. ;o) Having #4 was a leap of faith for me. I always knew we'd have four kids, but after Kaylee, I was totally done. She was so high maintenance, the thought of having any more kids scared me to death. When Kaylee was around 18 months old, I started having this inkling that we needed to have another baby. And I was in denial for a very long time. I just couldn't do it. Then last summer, while I was in Germany visiting my family, Dave and I talked on the phone. And he brought up feeling like we should have #4. That was my clue. I couldn't be in denial any longer. It was time. And it freaked me out. Obviously, we took the plunge. And I'm forever grateful we did. Elly is the sweetest baby ever, and I couldn't imagine life without her. I was mentally prepared for my most difficult child yet (since it seems they kept getting more demanding with each one), and I was pleasantly surprised. Of course, when it comes to having kids, there are no guarantees. You take a step forward, and you don't look back. For me, the only regret I could have ever had would have been NOT having one of my kids. Parenting has been a journey, and it's often difficult. I often wonder what in the world I'm doing, what I was thinking having four kids. At the end of the day, though, when they're all peacefully sleeping, I'm filled with love and gratitude, and wouldn't have it any other way. Good luck with whatever you decide to do. Know that you're a wonderful mom, and even if you had a 4th boy, I'm sure you would do great. :o)

FoxyJ said...

It really is hard to decide, especially with so many factors involved. We've both been feeling like we should go for #3, but right now is not a good time for all practical reasons. And after my last pregnancy and birth experience, I'm not so sure it's a good idea. I do think it's a good idea to do lots of thinking and pondering before you "take the plunge", because then there's no going back.

denedu said...

For all reason mentioned above I can completely understand where you are coming from. I, too, feel for selfish reasons that we are done. I love to travel and go places that little ones just don't do well. As well as I'd love to be done with all the diapering, etc. David went in in May to have the "procedure", and we figure nothing is 100%, so if it's meant for us to have more then that is what will happen. (I've known a few people to have procedures done and they got pregnant. OOPS!!! haha) I would just be afraid, like you, to be stuck in a huge household of all boys. 3 of them (4 if you add David..hahaha) is perfect, I feel. :)

Kimberly Bluestocking said...

Phillip and I have always assumed we'd have four because we both came from families with that number so it's what we're used to. Of course, we only have one and a half children right now, and as our family grows we'll do a lot of thinking and praying about how many we really should have.

One thing we were sure of is that we didn't want Joy to be an only child, but the big question was when to start trying for Baby #2. Some days I wanted to wait another year or two so Joy would be more self-sufficient. Other days I was convinced that the younger she was when #2 arrived, the easier the transition would be for her, and the better the chances that our kids would be buddies.

On those days, I would sometimes panic and think we shouldn't wait another moment, but when I prayed about it I just didn't feel like the time was right. Then one day the answer was suddenly different. I honestly feel that the Lord helped us know when (for reasons known to Him) it was finally right for us to invite another child into our family.

My point in relating all this is that this matter which is so important to us is very important to our Heavenly Father, too. He cares deeply about you and your family, and He knows what you can handle. He knows whether a fourth child would strain your family to the breaking point, or whether (as in Doreen's case) he/she would provide a welcome influence you wouldn't trade for the world.

Your Father will help you know what the right decision is, and I'm sure you've already discovered that when you follow His counsel, you're always glad you did.

Caitlin said...

This is such a huge subject for women, this is our entire lives that we are talking about here. I mean this literally since I can't go to the bathroom with out being interrupted.

I thought we might be done with just two children. Then after losing some pregnancies, my battle with fragile mental health during and after pregnancies-I am not crazy anymore BTW;), and then all of my daughter's struggles, sometimes it feels like our choice has been taken away. That has been a hard thing to accept. Suddenly two isn't enough, I feel almost desperate to have one more or five more. OK- not five more, but you get my point. True, we try could try to have another child, but I am not sure if I could walk through that dark valley again. Of course there is adoption but for now we have our hands full. I have had an infant for almost two years for heavens sake, I don't know if I could handle two at the same time!;)

Only the Lord knows what our futures hold. Maybe it is the journey of faith that you are meant to experience, whatever the outcome may be. That's how I try to understand things as I grapple with our circumstances searching for meaning. Of course this will take more than a lifetime because I am the most impatient and restless person I know!

Whether you decide to have another child or not. Whether it is a boy or a girl. Whether it is in 2 years or 10, the Lord will send things your way that are tailored made for your benefit. The comment you left in KBS's blog recounting your experience with #2 was amazing. Your experiences with #3 prove that you are a great example of appreciating what you have when things don't work out the way you had hoped. Clearly you have the faith to make the right choice.

I do understand your apprehension when looking at the logistics of adding another one, kids are expensive! The Lord will provide a way if this is His will. Be it a bigger car or a bus pass (hopefully the former) things will work out, they always do.

Good luck with your decision. It is exciting to think about how things could change when there is the possibility of "one more". Scary, but exciting.

Caitlin said...

That was really long and sort of rambling. Clearly this has been on my mind lately.

Kimberly Bluestocking said...

Also, at risk of stating the obvious, remember that if you do have a girl that doesn't guarantee you'll be best friends, or even share the same interests.

My mom and I have gotten along well all my life, but I wouldn't call us bosom buddies and our interests differ widely (she's a trendy extrovert who's never enjoyed reading, and I'm exactly the opposite).

My sister (who, appropriately for this conversation, is Mom's fourth of four kids) matches that description of my mom precisely, but the two have butted heads for years. Fortunately tensions have eased now that my sister has graduated high school (and matured a bit), but I wouldn't call their relationship "close." Not yet, anyway.

By contrast, my uncle who always dreamed of having a son to go hunting with him was blessed with six daughters instead. So . . . he took them on hunting trips and they all had a grand time. Even if you never have a daughter, there are many things you love that you can share with your sons. It looks like you've already shared your love of the outdoors with them.

And don't forget, someday you'll have daughters-in-law. And probably granddaughters, too. :)

Christie said...

I'm really glad that I didn't leave a comment yesterday. I'm kind of in Caitlin's camp where the choice to have another child has been taken away. And, unlike Caitlin's post which was thoughtful, supportive and kind, mine would have been a bit caustic. So, Whew! I'm glad I waited until today. Caitlin and KimBlue really gave you spot-on advice. You've got great friends! (And one who will try to be better. :)

Karin said...

I think about this all of the time, along with all of its implications...what birth control is appropriate for me, how do I make my decisions, how involved is my husband in our BC, etc.

When I only had #1, I was told I shouldn't have children anymore (due to my "condition")and with #2, he asked to tie my tubes at *every* prenatal and the birth. I was incensed, I was only 25 at the time.

Now I can no longer pretend I am a hippie like all the other zero population hippies in my town. They look at me a little weirdly now, especially when they know #3.

I always knew that she was not the last and when #4 was expected, people kept telling me how brave I was, but they had no idea. How do you question when you've already been told by God? That's not brave. If you haven't received that revelation, that's one thing, but I already knew that there were more children and #3 couldn't keep the rest from coming. How terrible would she feel when she realized that? (Which may not be in this life) How terrible would I feel?

Having children to fulfill your own hopes and dreams is not a good idea. You know that, I know that. They come out being themselves and you just have to run with it. We've all been through too much life to even think that is a good idea, although it doesn't keep us from still hoping and dreaming. :-)

You are a mother. You have a mother heart. You will be a mother regardless of what your future childbearing decisions are.

"spacing" isn't all it's cracked up to be either. I have a very dear friend who didn't have any more children after two as her family life was nowhere near stable enough. Once it got better and stayed better for a while, she had another baby. Her children are 15, 13, and 2. Her olders dote on the baby and she is an essential part of their family now. Spacing is whatever you make of it. My sister and I are 17 months and we hated each other until we graduated high school. We're still not as close as some would assume. We love each other and spend time together, but I feel more "connection" with some of my other sisters.

Just like you said, it is an important decision between you, your spouse and the Lord. Your whole childbearing philosophy has to be in line with all of that. I realize that mine is different than some, but it is the right one for us.

Just one more thought...someone close to me had decided only two children would be best for her. She has endo (which should curb her fertility) and was also on the pill. She got pregnant again. I don't know if he was the child she envisioned, or if she had been disappointed, but now that he's here, he is loved and just as important as the rest. You adapt. Years later, when/if the children ever know that there were only meant to be two, what will they think? Which one would she give up now? Are any children ever really accidents? Marriage exists (I believe) as a safe place for spirits to come.

I hope this doesn't necessarily sway you in any direction, just a clarification of some of my own thoughts.

Only you know what is best for your family.

Science Teacher Mommy said...

Wow, what a lot to think about here. I am aware of the un-liklihood of the best-friend thing. That is why I said "off-chance" a bit tongue in cheek in the post. As an adult, I certainly wouldn't say that compatible personality wise my mother is my soul mate, and my sister is definitely not in that camp. In fact, my closest sibling is likely my youngest brother. Having said that: when something comes up in my life or I just need a chat, it is always my mother or my sister that I call first.

And life is very real. I already sweat buckets nearly every month over making ends meet. Karin is generous to say I have a "mother-heart." I sometimes think I would have been better suited to being a career-girl, actually.

"Marriage exists as a safe place for spirits to come." I am going to think a LOT about that in the coming months.

I'm really hoping for Desmama to weigh in here. She is the only other one I can think of with kids of only one sex. Does it influence your thinking?

Sunnie said...

it's funny because i've been contemplating the best timing for a fourth child, also. it's hard to know exactly what is right and what to do. on days like today (aka- crazy) i am left thinking why on earth do i even want another child. but i know i do. i just have to figure out the best time. do we wait and have a bigger space?? do we just knock it out and get it done? do we have more if the fourth is a girl again? so many unknowns... i'm happy with what we have for now, but eventually we will want more. i just don't think i'm to that point yet. although maybe i should be because then we would have to buy a bigger car!

kanaboke said...

I thoroughly enjoy reading your Blog. I click on it everytime it turns "Bright Black"....the reason why is because you are very candid in all of your writings. I have no advice for you, I only wanted to stop in and say, thank you for sharing your Life with us readers!

Desmama said...

I've been following the dialogue, but I'm not sure I'd have much to add. I'd have to think a bit.

Z. Marie said...

As a mother of one child who is constantly facing the reality that there likely won't be a No. 2, 3 or 4 -- and as the oldest of 11 -- obviously I'm solidly in the camp of this being a strictly personal thing. But I also think most people who wonder whether they should have another baby (or two or three or four) are meant to have them. If the answer was no, I think you'd know. But that's just me!

chosha said...

If the advantages of having a girl outweigh the disadvantages of having a fourth child in your mind, then chances are the advantages of having a fourth boy would also outweigh the disadvantages of having a fourth boy, once you got to know him.

If you honestly believe it's only worth it to create a mother-daughter bond that you crave, then consider adopting a girl, or maybe fulfil those cravings by helping a girl with long term foster care or in a big sister program or something of that nature and stick to three kids of your own.

Dickey said...

My favorite missionary companion just had her sixth boy. How wonderful! When she was pregnant people would make comments such as "What if it is another boy?" Wow. That sweet baby boy is so blessed to have five amazing older brothers.

Dickey said...

My favorite missionary companion just had her sixth boy. How wonderful! When she was pregnant people would make comments such as "What if it is another boy?" Wow. That sweet baby boy is so blessed to have five amazing older brothers.

Dickey said...

My favorite missionary companion just had her sixth boy. How wonderful! When she was pregnant people would make comments such as "What if it is another boy?" Wow. That sweet baby boy is so blessed to have five amazing older brothers.

Dickey said...

oops! Sorry about the repeats....

Amy said...

I have to say that reading your blog and then reading Doreen's comment has put me in tears only because you guys BOTH describe EXACTLY how I feel. We were adamant that after Connor, we were DONE. My mom kept telling me that we were supposed to have another one and to go off birth control and I kept telling her that if it was meant to be, I would get pregnant no matter what. Aaron and I both "joked" that we were supposed to have another girl, but put it aside. I was like Doreen, in denial and then when I started having all my problems on birth control last spring and knew I had to go off, I didn't think anything of it because it took me 12 months to get pregnant with Callan after going off birth control after Christine and it took me 3 years to get pregnant with Connor after going off birth control. So, I didn't worry about it. The funny thing was is I was going to go back on birth control in August and then found out I was pregnant. That would make 3 months to get pregnant. This pregnancy has definitely proven that Heavenly Father has his plan for us. I am scared everyday because, like Doreen said about Kaylee, Connor is my challenge and sometimes it overwhelms me to think of 4 children to take care of. I guess all I can say is if it is meant to be, it will happen.

Ashlee said...

If you play your cards right, you might end up with sweet, loving daughters-in-law. Granddaughters are the ultimate: sweet, adorable, and mom and dad get to deal with the teenage years. You'll have daughters, just maybe not by giving birth to them. I'm right there with you on the obligation/desire/faith thing. Four would definitely be sacrifice. I would feel very content with three. Of course you will love your last child. If my brother would have come in the middle instead of at the end of five girls, I'd bet numero quatro and cinco wouldn't be here. And thank heaven's they are, because they're wonderful. You'll do the right thing.

Genjunky said...

Oh boy...the forever question. I too enjoy my two boys, but I'd like a girl to shop with, talk with, you know - girl stuff. You can bake with the boys and do those fun outdoors, scouty things, but it just isn't the same. I've never had a revelation about our family numbers or whether to have more or not, but everytime I think maybe we'll quit - be it adoption or pregnancy seeking - something keeps me on the market so to speak! Even after all it took me to come around to the idea of #2, I can't see life without him anymore!

You'll know...you're that kind of gal! Either way will be right for you and wonderful to boot. Thank you for adding sparkle to my day!