I know I’ve written before about the gratitude I feel about having a second child and how happy I am that our family can finally feel complete. But I would be lying if I said it isn’t hard sometimes to walk away from the idea of a third kid. I don’t know where it originally came from–I only have one living sibling so it’s not like I’m trying to recreate the kind of family I grew up in by having three kids. Maybe I’m trying to have the family my parents wanted but didn’t get. My mom wanted four kids and my dad wanted two so they settled on three. But then my sister died and my mother had three stillbirths so they stopped when my only living sister was born. Maybe I wanted three kids because they couldn’t have three themselves.

Three kids is not in the cards for us. And honestly, a lot of the time I’m totally okay with that. A lot of the time I actually think it’s what’s best for our family. We live in an expensive city. The only way we survive here financially is through the very generous help of family, family we can’t depend on forever. It would be selfish of us to ask them to help us with a third child and without their help, we absolutely couldn’t afford childcare for three children.

We can’t afford it, my husband doesn’t even want it, and our fertility issues make it all but impossible. Not having a third child isn’t even a choice for us. It isn’t meant to be. Our family is complete. And yet… it’s hard sometimes. It’s hard to let go of that original dream. It’s hard not to wonder… what if?

I think it will be hard for me, when people I know start having third children. I almost asked my friends yesterday, the ones who have kids close in age to our own, if they were planning on having a third child (they have initiated the conversation in the past, which is the only reason I would ask now). I know they originally wanted four, but then decided that was too much and even said once that they might be done at two. I’m guessing they’ll have three. I’m guessing my cousin will have three. Probably quite a few of our friends will have three. It’s something I have to be ready for, people expanding their families while ours stays the same size. I will be very happy for them, but it will be hard not to consider our own family size and not think of my original dreams. Watching someone do what you can’t, but wanted to, do is difficult, even when you know in your mind that what they have isn’t what’s best for your family.

Our hearts are stubborn forces. I wish our minds held more sway over them. I wish all the rational thinking that helps me know it’s right for us to be a family of four could keep my heart convinced.

There are other feelings swirling around this issue too. One is the immense gratitude I feel that we even have two children. I really didn’t think we’d get to have a second child and then we did and he’s amazing and I am so thankful. There is also guilt, because I have TWO children and so many people want a second child, or any children at all, so who I am to want a third? And honestly, I know this isn’t a popular sentiment in this community but I truly believe that I SHOULD be grateful, JUST grateful for what I have when I know so many people who have less. I get that we all want what we want and we have our own dreams for our family and we can grieve those dreams. I get that, I do, but I also think it’s kind of selfish of me to wish I had more when so many people have less. This is just how I feel about myself, it’s a deeply personal expectation (as in, I don’t expect others to feel that way, nor do I think they should) and most of the time I live up to it, but sometimes I falter.

Like when Mi.Vida talks about scheduling his vasectomy (have I mentioned how much Mi.Vida DOESN’T want to have another kid?) and the finality of that action settles like cold stone in my stomach. I feel that tight weight when I get rid or something from Monito’s infancy, like the co-sleeper and bouncy chair I recently sold.

And then there are moments, like yesterday, when I pulled out the baby food ice trays and I thought, “When I stored these away I wasn’t sure I’d ever get to use them again. I can’t believe how lucky I am that I’m pureeing carrots for a second child.” In those moments I am flooded with this warmth of gratitude, I literally feel it wash through my body like a wave, emanating heat from deep within me. It’s an incredible feeling, one I can wrap myself in for week, and even months, at a time.

The feeling of wishing I could have a third child is murkier. It’s more distant, like a memory of something that happened in the distant past. It’s not usually a visceral reaction, like my gratitude, it’s more like that tingle you get in your jaws when you think of eating something sour. It’s intense for a short moment, but it fades quickly and then you barely even register that it’s there.

That is where my wanting a third child is now. Just a tingle in my jaw when I read a post, or see a family that might be announcing their third pregnancy. It’s a very dully ache that I can’t quite place and that disappears before my mind can linger on it.

I’m sure I’ll oscillate between these two feelings a lot in the coming years, as those we know build their families while we do not. I just hope that I swing to the side of gratitude and acceptance more than to the side of envy and wanting, because I do have so much and our family is so very lucky.

What is your experience with infertility and family size? How do you feel about it?

8 responses

  1. I am mostly content with our situation– largely bc the early years were so fraught with anxiety… But I still feel the pang. A woman from our original city play group ( they all mostly live in different cities now– exciting lives… Bangkok! Melbourne! ) announced her fourth. Four! I just marvel at the ease and assumption mostly. I do see sisters sometimes and when Z wishes for a sister… Well that about does me in.

    I get it though. It is hard to leave dreams behind.



  2. I totally relate to you here. We may be done, we just don’t know what we have in the freezer. We may have a third child, we may not. And I’m very happy with the two boys we have, but I’ll be sad if there is no third. I’ll be very jealous of friends who have 3 (but know of none who want 3).

    I do feel like I should be grateful, and I am, because of our crazy infertility. I just don’t want to hear it from others who haven’t walked in our shoes.

  3. I’m amazed at how many people say they want a third child, but for reasons similar to yours (financial, fertility) have stopped at two. It’s like it’s okay to do whatever you need to have two, but having three is considered a luxury. I always thought I wanted three, too, and sometimes I still do, but I’ve been surprised at how I feel really content when I look at my two kids together. It’s hard to imagine adding someone else into that equation.

  4. I always wanted three. We made the decision to stop at 2 for many reasons that you listed and more, and I’m mostly OK with it. But hearing about third pregnancies always hits me pretty hard, still. I used to think that was a reason to try for #3, but maybe its not. Maybe I could miraculously have a third, and then get sad/wistful when someone has #4 (much less common, of course). Maybe we really want a third, or maybe we are just afraid to put this time in life so firmly and permanently behind us. Family building has been a part of my identity for so long, it seems weird to be relegating it completely to the past.

  5. My sanity says I’m done. My ovaries scream at me, that I’m done. My wallet reminds me, I’m done. But my heart…is always open for more kids. It hurts even more when my soon to be 4 yr old asks for a brother. Last week I gave away some of our baby clothes to make space in our house…and then I wondered, what if. Right now, it’ll always be, what if.

  6. For some reason, this topic has been on my mind pretty constantly the past few days and R and have been talking about it a lot. We’ve both finally admitted that no, we are not done. We both really, really want a third child, and hopefully a lifelong sibling for Charlotte (just the sad reality of our situation). We just have to figure out the when. R would like to have said baby before he turns 40, which would mean us jumping back on the TTC train in a few MONTHS- yikes. I’m just not there yet. Right now, I’m happy to be in a place with dreaming about a third kid “someday” but enjoying the 2 that are actually here now.

  7. I hear ya for sure. I really don’t know if I could handle a 3rd pregnancy (if it was like the last one, no way could I care for my children those first few months I’m pregnant b/c I’m so damn sick)…but, I want a 3rd. It’d be a huge stress financially and I know we probably won’t/shouldn’t, but….

  8. I’ve been thinking about this post ever since I read it days ago. I’m going to blog about it, but haven’t written it yet. Coming from a different experience (and don’t worry, I’m not playing pain olympics in this matter), I find this interesting … and the comments too …

    I’ll come back and link when I get round to writing the post that is in my head.

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