Some Thoughts on Family Size

First I need to preface this by saying that this is absolutely not a decision we’re going to make at this point, or anytime soon at all. It’s just something I’ve been thinking about, and Christopher and I have discussed it some.

Recently I read through a fairly long thread on Hellobee on the topic of being “one and done.” And it really got me thinking and questioning some assumptions I’ve always made. This is mostly a direct copy and paste from my private journal of my musings on the topic, so it’s a bit less polished and more stream of consciousness than usual. (Note, DH is “dear husband,” a common shorthand on message boards that is faster than typing his name. I may start using it on here all the time.)

I have *always* assumed I wouldn’t be one and done. I’m essentially an only (I have a half sister and brother, but they’re 14 and 16 years younger than me, and I’ve never lived with my dad anyway), and I just always thought that I didn’t want to have my kid be the same. I’m not entirely sure why, since I didn’t hate it or anything. I did always kind of wish I had a sibling, or even a twin, but honestly I have some major issues with attention so I might well have hated it! (Especially a twin. R was due 4 days after my birthday and I was honestly worried that she’d be born on it and I would be mad.) I was super excited when I found out my stepmom was pregnant (I was 13 and living several hours away at the time), but I don’t actually think it was good for my relationship with her or my dad. I even said when I was younger that I wanted 10 kids, and meant it! Clearly I’ve changed my mind there, but I still always thought 2 or 3 would be a good number.

DH, on the other hand, wouldn’t be upset with none, is fine with 1 and will not even consider more than 2. He has a twin sister and 2 younger brothers, and he had 2 stepbrothers for a good while around late elementary into middle school age. He does NOT want that sort of thing for his kids. Not that it’s likely, but it colored his opinions. And he also saw how hard it was on his mom, trying to get them to all of their activities (he alone played soccer, year-round baseball, football, and basketball for most of his life), and how hard it was financially even with child support from his dad. He now constantly worries about money (and he makes plenty, and we live in an area with a very low cost of living, so he has NO reason to worry) because of an entire childhood of growing up with less than would have been ideal. So he also worries about the cost of raising too many kids, and worries about having kids who wind up worrying about money like he does.

So, all that to say, I’ve been reading through this thread and it’s really got me reconsidering things. For one thing, I have no solid reason to feel like I really want more than 1. As many pointed out, just having siblings doesn’t mean they’ll be close. DH isn’t terribly close to any of his siblings, even his twin. He doesn’t have a ton in common with them, so they have little common ground except a shared childhood. But we both have some best friends that we’re super close to, so clearly siblings aren’t the only source of that kind of close relationship. And I don’t know that I have any other compelling reason. (I’ll be honest, if our first isn’t a girl (which would mean something going wrong with this pregnancy, which better not happen!), I might wind up feeling so much gender disappointment that it makes me want another, but that’s a terrible reason to have another that might not even be a girl!)

And on the pro-one and done side, I actually do have some good arguments. As some others said, I have issues with patience and bouts of depression and anxiety. The pressure and stress of two little ones could exacerbate all that badly. With one, on a bad day I think I could just hand her off if I need to, or at least not feel as overwhelmed as I would with two. I nannied very briefly for two toddlers, and swore off any more jobs that were with more than one. Why do I feel like that would be any less overwhelming if the two were my own?

I’m currently on my fourth pregnancy, but have no living children thus far. Do I really want to go through any of this again? Since we technically have no reason why we can’t have a healthy pregnancy and baby, theoretically we might be able to have a second in one go. But our history makes me feel like the odds of that aren’t great, and even if it went fine, my anxiety levels during pregnancy these days are NOT good. Do I really want to go through all that anxiety, plus the exhaustion (and potential nausea/sickness, though I’ve been lucky on that so far), etc of pregnancy while taking care of a small child? I do love being pregnant, but a lot of the fun has been sucked out of it, and I don’t think having finally made it through one successfully will change that much. Also, this is (hopefully) my re-do for having had a traumatic birth experience. If this goes well, or just not horribly, I will hopefully be able to feel a bit better about that. But do I really want to do it a third time?

And then there’s the issue of being able to focus on just the one child, as many have brought up. I was SO relieved we weren’t having twins (not that there was much of a chance, but I was trying to worry about something other than there not being a heartbeat at the first ultrasound), because I was afraid that having to deal with two at once would mean that I would miss too much. I want to be able to focus on one and really enjoy every bit of it as much as I can, not be pulled in multiple directions all the time. Except why does that feeling suddenly not matter once they’re not teeny? Doesn’t the same argument apply to having a second child, no matter how old the first is? Yes, having them farther apart means the older one is more self-sufficient, and splitting up the newborn stage means less exhaustion all at once, but still, a second child will *always* mean that much less time/attention for each of them. One child means more time to focus on them, more money to do things with/for them, etc. Heck, it’s silly, but I love to throw big parties and DH will be much more on board with big birthdays if it’s only once a year!

And DH’s reason for being fine with no kids (well, he used to be. I think after losing R he’s more determined to have at least one) was always that he wanted to be able to travel, and retire relatively early, and just have some freedom as we get older. Assuming this LO is healthy and on time, we’ll both turn 30 within a few weeks of her arrival. That’s not old by any means, but the clock is still ticking. If she’s out of the house by 20, we could have most of our freedom (however much you ever have with a kid, even a grown one) back by 50. And without the extra financial burden of a second, retirement would be easier to swing at a younger age. One could be a compromise between the 2 we’ve been planning and the none he kind of wants, at least financially.

So lots of good reasons. But a couple of worries, and interestingly not all ones I’ve seen addressed in the thread so far. First, I’m currently a housewife and plan to be a SAHM, including homeschooling at least for a bit. I’m sure it’s ridiculous, but it almost seems wrong to be a SAHM for just one, with no plans for more. Like it’s lazy or something? I’m not sure where that’s coming from, aside from the fact that all the SAHM’s I know have at least 2, but I feel like I’ll be judged. But honestly, the idea of being a SAHM to just one is kind of exciting! I’d have so much more time to really do fun things, and go fun places! It seems like socialization would be harder, but I’m not sure that one makes sense either. If I’m homeschooling, I’ll need to put more effort into being sure they spend time with other kids no matter what. A sibling is not a replacement for outside friendships and learning about relationships. Part of me also worries that it will be harder because if DH keeps his current job, it will mean moving every few years. That’s part of why homeschooling is helpful, but will also make it even harder to form good friendships. A sibling would give them some consistency, seems like. But I moved multiple times growing up, and while yes, it was occasionally lonely, it wasn’t that big of a deal. Most of the friends I had growing up varied even when I wasn’t moving (by which I mean, we didn’t move for the first time until I was 9, and at that age I was not still friends with the same people I had been friends with at 5 anyway). Hopefully I can get LO into something like Girl Scouts or a particular sport, so there can be sort of an “easy in” with other kids, rather than finding new types of groups to join each time.

And my other concern, is that I just don’t know what I’d do with myself on some level. I’ve always known that our kids would eventually go to school, or just grow up, and I’d need to find my own identity/purpose outside of parenting. I never finished college, never found a career, and as I said before I’m now a housewife. I find a lot of satisfaction in just being a good wife and homemaker, but I also don’t think it’s enough, especially since if something happens to DH where does that leave me? I’ve kind of been counting on being a mom to give me more of an identity (wife and mother seems better than just wife) and to help buy me some time on figuring all that out. But with only one, that’s less time. It’s going to be an issue no matter what, but part of me sort of panics at the thought of having to figure it out any sooner. Though I will say that I’ve been volunteering at the library for a few months, and I LOVE it. I’m not sure there’s ever going to be a career in that (I’d need a degree, and it’s not like it’s a growing job market), but maybe volunteering is enough. If DH does keep his current job, there would be no major financial pressure for me to work. I don’t know. I do know that’s a really bad reason to have multiple kids, but it still is something that comes up when I think about it.

Anyway, like I said, this isn’t something we’ll even consider making a final decision on for a LONG time. It’s too important to decide in haste. But… honestly it’s so freeing to think of only having one! On some level I’ve been worried about how I’d handle two for a long time. It just feels so overwhelming, and when I see moms out with more than one I feel zero jealousy (unlike when I see them with just one). I actually wrote this last week some time, and since then I’ve considered some more drawbacks, but none of them seem compelling, just things to be aware of and work to overcome. (For example, when you only have one you can wind up focused on them too much, and too attached, and it can be overwhelming for the child, especially as they get older and are trying to find their own identity and break free. Your relationship with your only child is likely to be one of the closest you’ll have in your life, but you can’t let yourself become too dependent on them.) I’ve been reading the book “One and Only,”  (because I don’t do half measures, if this is on my mind, I’ll be researching for weeks!) and it’s really good and has been helpful in really thinking through all the different aspects. The more I think about it, the better I feel about not having a second. And DH is totally fine with it as of right now. When I told him I was thinking about it, his response was exactly what I predicted, “we can retire earlier and travel more.”

 

So that’s where we are for now. I’m glad it’s something I’ve come to think about sooner than later, since it makes me that much more aware of the need to enjoy my pregnancy. It might be my last! I guess we’ll see. 🙂

 

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Liz Is Pregnant, Take 4

Yes, as pretty much everyone who reads my blog already knows, I’m pregnant again! This time we waited a bit to tell people, so I’m already 12 weeks, which is out of the worst of the danger zone for miscarriage. We’re feeling pretty positive! I’m due August 9th. In case you were wondering, this is also why I haven’t been blogging! All I had to talk about was related to being pregnant again, but since we weren’t telling I couldn’t post any of it. I did do some journaling that I’ll use to put together some more posts, and I’m planning some guest posts, so expect more updates in the future.

I’ll probably wind up splitting this into more than one post, so let’s start with the part that’s most exciting (aside from the fact that all is going well)- IT’S A GIRL!!!

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I’m so happy. I’ll be honest, I’ve always wanted a girl. That doesn’t make a ton of sense, given we’ll be practicing gender neutral parenting, and that there’s no guarantee she’ll turn out girly like me (or heck, she could be trans and wind up a boy, who knows!), but yeah, I’m really pleased. Seeing how happy and relieved I was to find that out, I would say I definitely would have had some major disappointment if it’d had come back boy. Not that I wouldn’t have loved a boy just as much, but I’ve just wanted a girl my whole life, and I was so happy we were having one last time. Not having one now would have made having lost a girl a lot harder. Plus, we have all the girl stuff already, so financially it’s easier. And we got these itty bitty sparkly shoes that I was so looking forward to putting on a baby, and I still can! (Without people worrying I’m gonna make a boy gay or something ridiculous.)

You might be wondering how we know the sex so early. We had early an early genetic screening done (specifically the Panorama test). It was able to tell us our risk levels on several common genetic disorders, several of which are fairly nasty. Thankfully, they all came back clear! Since it’s a screening, not a test, it can only tell us that we’re low risk, not for certain whether she has anything, but it puts the odds very much in our favor. Especially since we’ve been tested and have no genetic problems we could be passing on, so the risk was low to begin with.

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The only drawback here is that it doesn’t actually tell us anything about whether she could develop a hydrocephalus like R. While some of those conditions can cause a hydro, R’s wasn’t related to any of them, so she would also have had a clear genetic screening. We knew that and chose to do the screening anyway. At this point, the more information we have, the better, and most especially, the more good news we have, the better. Plus, it let us find out the sex early. It seems a little weird to be in such a hurry to know after we had planned to not find out at all with R (before we found out about her hydro), but because of that loss we (I) needed time to process it. Mostly because, as I said above, if it had been a boy, it would have been harder. I didn’t want to be dealing with disappointment or anything else in the delivery room. And if I was going to find out, I wanted to know now! I also found that last time, it really helped me to feel like I was having a baby, not just that I was pregnant, to know that R was a girl. Since my instinct (for fairly obvious reasons) is to not feel too attached to this baby too soon, I thought that it would help me to overcome that some to know if it was a girl or a boy sooner rather than later. (I will say, however, that next time, if there is a next time, I may wait till I’m a little further along, and past the main risk of miscarriage. It would have been (/will be) much harder if something went (/goes) wrong once we knew she was a girl.)

As far as finding out I was pregnant goes, it was fairly non-dramatic. We had originally intended to wait one more month before trying. We had reached the “earliest we were allowed to” per the doctor, but we had a cruise scheduled already that I wouldn’t be allowed to go on (can’t be more than 23 weeks along) if we got pregnant right away. (In case anyone is wondering, we rescheduled it just fine.) But out of nowhere Christopher basically pulled the goalie on the same day that, unbeknownst to him, I had gotten a positive OPK (which meant I would be ovulating within around 12-24 hours, basically the best possible timing to try and get pregnant). I was impatient to be trying again, so I certainly didn’t mind. And similar to my last pregnancy, a few days later I started to feel just really optimistic that this was the month, that I was pregnant again.

Somewhere around 7 or 8 dpo (days post ovulation), which is too early to test, Christopher decided spontaneously that we should go visit R’s brick in the memorial garden in Indiana (about 7 hours away), which I’ll write about more in another post. During the drive up there I noticed I was feeling really crampy. At first I dismissed it, but at some point I realized that I hadn’t felt crampy during PMS since before my first pregnancy, but that I always feel crampy in early pregnancy. At that point I was pretty much certain, but I kept that to myself. We visited the garden the next morning (we had arrived much too late the night before to do it then), had lunch with Christopher’s cousin and her husband, and headed home. We also stopped at Cracker Barrel for dinner and got the cutest little fox bib. At this point, I had told Christopher that I was feeling pretty confident I was pregnant, but I’m not sure he believed me. Still, the bib suggests he might have been feeling hopeful too.

When we got home, I tested pretty much immediately with a cheapie test. Again very similar to last time, there was a line, but it was SOOOOO faint that I didn’t even bother to show Christopher. (I did show it to him later, once he knew for sure, and he agreed that he wouldn’t have said it was positive if I had shown him.) But that didn’t matter, at that point I knew 100%. Later Christopher said that it was nice that I found out I was pregnant again on the day we visited R’s memorial for the first time. Fitting somehow. I somehow managed to keep it to myself (okay, I might have texted Jo) until the next morning, when thankfully I had a good test I could use. And unsurprisingly to me, it was clearly (though a little faintly) positive!

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I took it to Christopher, who pulled the same, “that’s not positive” as I handed it to him as he did the very first time I told him I was pregnant, almost two years ago. But he couldn’t deny that there was a line!

Since then I’ve had 3 midwife appointments (one was actually on that day, except it was supposed to be a preconception appointment, whoops!), and an ultrasound. We’ve seen our little blob (there’s not much to see at 6 weeks!), and heard her heartbeat (165bpm). Everything is looking as perfect as can be. I’ll be honest, my anxiety will be high until the anatomy scan, and I won’t really feel entirely confident that we’re really going to have a baby this time until I’m holding her, but we’re really excited!

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