Saturday, August 4, 2012

Two or More

My week has been dominated by two things: (1) the Olympics and (2) a sudden obsession regarding a potential increase in the size of our family.

One week ago, I was secure and content in the knowledge that our family of four was complete. We have two beautiful, healthy, happy children who are each other's best friends and who go to bed without a fuss at 7:30 and sleep until 7:00 the next morning (I consider both of those things equally important). It's just... easy. Our family of four is easy. Easy and fun and generally on the ordered side of chaos, and if I got the occasional pang when looking at a friends' newborn pictures, so what? They passed and I was content.

In the weeks after Claire was born I was certain we would try to have another baby. And then she got bigger and we started putting away various stages of baby items and a little voice thought, isn't this nice? I was happy every time we gave something away- we were moving on- enjoying the hell out of whatever stage we were in, but slowly and inexorably moving on to each next stage with fewer and fewer thoughts of going back. Soon, the thought of not be pregnant again, not get up every 3 hours with a newborn again, not have total strangers ask me if I'm breastfeeding again just seemed to good to give up. And as Landon and Claire grew closer and JP and I felt our lives hit a nice, steady stride, we realized four is a pretty awesome number. One that fits nicely in your average restaurant booth, hotel room, and midsize sedan.

The move only solidified the decision we'd started to make. We sold our big house with its superfluous space and fourth bedroom. We gave away every single baby item and accessory we'd held on to just in case. We sold the big kitchen table, the baby swing, the infant car seats. We bought a 3-bedroom bungalow, a beautiful queen bed for the fully stocked and decorated guest room, and now eat at a small, square 4-person table.

I'd also left a firm that provided 12 weeks of paid maternity leave for a government agency that doesn't provide any paid leave at all. I still make quite a bit more than JP and going without my salary is not an option. When I learned of the parental leave policy I thought, well, that sucks but at least now I won't be tempted. We're done and we're going to enjoy the heck out of the two kids we have and start looking forward to big family trips, the end of daycare payments, and the start of school, sports, and all the other activities we'll want to be involved in.

But then on Monday I finally sat down to download and organize some of the video we've taken over the last two years. And I watched this.


And there was a pang. A strong one.

And then on Tuesday a co-worker casually mentioned that our short-term disability insurance could be used for a partially paid maternity leave. And the whole room froze for me. Froze. I don't think I contributed a single other thing to the conversation. I excused myself, went to my office, closed the door, and called the insurance representative. After about 15 minutes of Q&A I went home with the knowledge that yes, we could now afford for me to take 12 weeks of leave. Not quite fully paid, and not without some sacrifices, but it was possible.

And "possible" changed everything. Wednesday night found me picking out bedding for the nursery I thought could be created in the corner of the guest room - white with little grey elephants, to be accented with bright teal and yellow. I thought about names. I decided we wouldn't learn the sex of the baby at the 20-week ultrasound and instead be surprised at delivery. I thought about how Claire was such a seamless addition and how it's now impossible to contemplate life without her. I pictured a jumperoo in the middle of our living room, with a baby bouncing up and down and watching his/her older siblings play. I thought about future holidays and grown children and the bigger family JP and I were so sure we wanted before we talked ourselves out of it. I was in and I was excited.

And then, over Thursday and Friday, I talked myself back out. Two makes so much sense. Most days our lives truly are easy. Travel really is important to us and we're getting so much closer to the days we can take the big trips. We're almost done with one kid's daycare career and the loosening of the financial corset that will come with public school. We refuse to own a minivan and I don't think the Sonata can accommodate three car seats. Neither JP or I are interested in quitting our jobs and staying home, a family/lifestyle decision that starts to seem close to necessary with 3 kids. With two we'd have more money, more time, more involvement. I was one of three. Three introduces a triangle- two people in, one person out- it's harder to stay with people, to make everything, to give each one enough. Two is streamlined, two is even, two is just so damn easy... adding another seems like throwing a wrench in everything just as we've hit a stride.

And yet. Removing the seemingly insurmountable obstacle of money has shown me that I wasn't nearly as sure as I thought I was. Two may be the more rational, sensible decision, but I also can't shake the inescapable certainty that we would never regret adding another little person to our family. That we'd never actually look back and think, "man, can't believe we messed things up with baby 3." Of course we wouldn't. We'd lay in bed at night, laughing over something he or she had done and think, "can you believe we almost didn't have little baby 3?" We'd deal with a daycare payment for five extra years, we'd find a way to be as involved and give as much to each as possible. It would work. It would be awesome.

But so would keeping things as they are now. I'm content, truly. I look at L&C and think, this is so very good. I want to stay like this. No, I want to want to stay like this. But I don't know what I want. Ten minutes ago Claire was crying on the floor for no reason we could deduce and last night Landon was in our room at 3:30 crying because he'd had a nightmare, and I think, no, two is good. But now they're both sitting on the floor, hunched over a truck book, and Landon is pointing out the features of each one, and an hour ago they were in their room, freshly awake from their naps and jabbering on about who knows what before JP and I went in to release them, and this morning there was a big tickle, giggle, cuddle pile in our bed, and when I think of those things, adding one more seems like exactly what we should do.

It's a win-win, I think. Our family as it is now is wonderful and I don't think I'd look back and regret not expanding it. Our family as it would be with a new, currently unknown member, would also be wonderful and we'd be so glad we'd made the jump. But knowing it's a win-win doesn't help me figure out which win we want.

34 comments:

  1. DO IT!
    Call me crazy, but all your mentioning of being done with babies made me a little sad. Reading this post put a smile on my face. I have always imagined you with 3 kids even back in our high school days.y

    As you said it is win-win either way.

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    1. Ha, you mention high school days so now I totally want to know which anon you are :)

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    2. :-) I am two years younger and we were on swim team and went to the same church. Any guesses?

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  2. I always wanted three children. Had daughter one in April 2004, daughter two came along in April 2006. Then we waited and waited and tried and tried and baby three never came (unfortunately one miscarriage). Then this February the opportunity to adopt fell into our laps. Now we have an 8 year old daughter, a 6 year old daughter, and a 4month old daughter....and I couldn't be happier. Go with your gut!

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  3. What does JP think?

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    1. Interestingly, his pro-3 stance has faltered a bit since I mentioned I might be changing sides. I think we're both figuring out what we want, and he's a little surprised that he's less certain than he thought.

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  4. I sit here with my 5 month old in my arms and my 9 year old on the couch and 7 year old on the computer. We had our two and loved them and cherished them, but someone was missing. We tried to debate it for years (thus the age difference), but it came down to the fact that simply - SOMEONE was missing from our family. We both felt it strongly in our hearts, no matter how happy we were with our little family of 4. So now we are a family of 5, complete with minivan (they aren't bad, I promise - the storage is FANTASTIC) and we couldn't be happier. The joy that Jack brings to our family is incredible. I love watching both of my kids with him too. We had gotten rid of everything also, but I find with the 3rd, I am so much more laid back and borrowed things from friends, took hand me downs and don't care about all the matchy matchy stuff that I was obsessed with with my daughter and older son.

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  5. I hear you! My hubby had a 4 year old when we got married, and we had twins 3 years later, so we were done.... until the twins were 6 and our "accident" arrived. I couldn't imagine our lives without the "baby", who is now 3, even though it meant going back through the lack of sleep, diapers, and now preschool. I wouldn't recommend the 6 year age gap for everyone, but it works for us. My youngest is beautiful and the light of our lives, even when she cuts her hair without permission, like tonight. :)

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  6. My husband and I are having the same debate. I've always wanted three (was one of four growing up), but two seems so easy and, as you mentioned, two fits with cars, hotels, tables, roller coasters, etc. However, I keep thinking I will regret only having two. We're also looking at private school for K-12 so that adds to the cost. However, if you take money out of it, I'd have three in a heartbeat. No advice....just in the same place as you.

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  7. It was hard for me to stop at two kids. But my husband and I felt that this is what we can afford, and neither one of us truly wanted another child. We love the two we have. It all comes down to trusting in your gut. If two makes sense, great. If three makes sense, you will find a way to make it happen. I don't think there's a right or wrong answer or choice.

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  8. It sounds like that day at work when you realized you could afford it was a big moment for you. I agree with the others, go with your gut. Someone once told me "You're not going to regret having a third." Even as crazy as my life is sometimes, I don't regret it. I love having a "big" family. And just like anything, there are good days and bad days. An extra kid doesn't change that much!

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  9. So weird...I knew from the day #2 was born that I wanted a third, and since I was so sure, it was all I could do to wait to get pregnant again (and I guess it took a few months to convince my husband!). I plan to get pregnant with #3 (and almost certainly, the last) very soon, and we just talked a few weeks ago about how this time we would wait to find out the gender until the baby was born. Of course, this made the grey elephants and yellow polka dot sheets appealing when I was browsing PBK nursery collections the next day at work. I'm glad to know I'm not the only one planning for things that haven't happened yet ;)

    It sounds like you have sort of already made up your mind and are just waiting to get used to the idea. I'm not sure I agree that paid-leave versus unpaid-leave makes that big of a difference in whether another child is affordable, but you and JP both have good jobs and live in an affordable area. You'll make it work. As you said, it's a win-win.

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    1. We are generally on the same path. :).

      And for us, the paid leave makes all the difference in the world. Without it I could only have taken about 2 weeks off with the baby and I wouldn't have considered it. It wouldn't be enough and going longer without pay is simply not an option.

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    2. That makes sense, I guess I just meant in the big scheme of things, that money is a drop in the bucket of what raising a child costs. But in a way, I'm right there with you. I am definitely staying at my firm job through another maternity leave even though I would otherwise look to move sooner because it's about 5 months paid leave and that's just too good to pass up.

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  10. Don't let the minivan stop you- it's not near as awful as I thought it would be. My three have never complained about another sib touching them, lol, and you'll have room for carting around out of town guests, or the kids' friends.

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  11. OK, minivans, while not on the top of your automobile list, are SO easy to get kids in and out of, even with car seats. Plus there's a little extra room for the dogs.
    Having said that, you two are the only ones who can make this decision and the only ones who know, or are trying to figure out, what your heart is telling you.
    I'm not speaking from my own experience, because as you know we have 6. But I can tell you truthfully, especially after losing my heart/best friend/soul mate/husband so suddenly 4+ years ago .... we never regretted having 6. Even though we never planned 6, I can't imagine being without them. Especially during the last 4+ years.
    I have never heard of any of my friends regretting having that last child. But I have definitely heard from friends with only two, that they wished they'd had more. I have been surprised by the number of those who've felt that way.
    Of course I also have friends who have 2 and have never wanted more. But then, they were always sure about that decision, back in the days when they're children were quite young, and now that they are not.
    You and J.P. need to keep an open line of communication about this, while you try to figure out what your heart really wants.
    I don't think, knowing the two of you, that you'd ever regret having a third. But you very well might regret not having that one.
    Take some time. Don't rush it. Don't decide to soon because you now know that it's more possible than you thought. Weigh it carefully.
    And then go with your gut.
    And your heart.
    You're a great family of 4.
    You'd be a great family of 5.
    :)

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  12. The ancient Athenians (or someone) took every decision twice - once drunk, once sober.

    FWIW - good excuse for tequila?

    And, of course, you're young enough that you've got 10 years or even 15 before it's an impossibility, so there's time.

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    1. good point re her age

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  13. I could pretty much have written every word of this post. I think it takes a lot of selfcontrol to stopbe at 2. I know 3 would be a stretch in every way. But I also know we wouldn't regret having a third. And we wouldn't regret stopping here either. Hard choices.

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  14. We did the same thing. Gave away all the baby stuff, sold the minivan, and started thinking, "Maybe three?"

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  15. Can you post a little more about the short-term disability insurance option? I'm also a federal employee thinking of starting to try to get pregnant and feel terribly uninformed about maternity options.

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  16. I have wanted 3 since the minute I had #2. There are days that I think - it would be so much easier to stop at 2, but I feel like there is someone missing. I hold on to "You will never regret having a 3rd, but you might regret not".
    And we are taking the mini-van plunge this month. I always said I never would - but we rented one on a trip last month and you just can't beat the ease (or the price!) of one.

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  17. You make beautiful, wonderful children....GO FOR IT!!! (And have fun trying...:)))!)

    Patty from TX

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  18. Sometimes, although nobody says it, you do regret the third. Forever grateful for that person of course, but sad for what was lost in the changed dynamic. The bond between the other two that was altered, the experiences missed or ruined.

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    1. I do think sometimes, even with 2, I feel not quite regret, but certainly jealousy of my friends who have one kid (and are done), who happens to be a great traveler. they go to Europe, they go to Asia, they even went to a Les Miserables show in the city DURING THE WEEK. my two kids could never do that. so while it's not regret, it's a sort of pang that, right now, my life just can't be like theirs . . .

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  19. I knew from the birth of #2 that I wanted a #3, and I am already too old to contemplate a #4. Except if our eventual #3 is another boy, I may try to convince the husband to adopt a girl! We'll see how that goes . . . :) I think, as with anything, you will have costs and benefits to both choices. I grew up as one of 5 - and I absolutely adore my gaggle of siblings, even though we never had new clothes or went on vacation as kids. My husband was one of two, and he loved that experience. It's a tough choice, for sure.

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  20. I remember how, when you were studying to be a lawyer, and Landon was still small, you were studying several different climate models, yes? I know where you're coming from, really. I have 2 kids, would LOVE a third. Children are the most fun evar.
    But. Our current trajectory is not sustainable, and I'm not talking about a 3rd kid using more resources. I'm talking about, it's probably too late already. The kids we have today will not be as priveleged as we are as adults. Simple as that. Our kids are possibly the last generation on earth that are experiencing a normal childhood (by Western standards). With everything we know now (record drought anyone? Wildfires? Crop failure?), and the lack of true initiative to rectify it, and keep us anywhere near a safe threshhold of a 2 degree (Celsius) rise, I think 2 kids is enough.
    Not to be negative, gosh, we must enjoy the lives we live now, of course, as we already do. But really, the future is right around the corner. That must be taken into account. Unless you're a climate denier, which I never took you for, since you're a Dem, and intelligent ;)

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  21. The biggest bonus for me in reading your post was that it gave me the pang + the incentive to talk to A about it. I assumed a lot of things about his program, his stress level, and where babies fit in his priorities that turn out not to be true. Seriously, thanks for that. I think it's so much clearer to consider adding a baby now that we're *finally* at a manageable/normal place with B. Toddlers are pretty awesome.

    I have no idea how to help you with your decision. Very different experiences, very different process. You're right that it's a win-win, and hopefully you'll just know one day. Or JP will?

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  22. DO IT!!! I am a mother of three, ages 7, 5 & 2. I work, kids are in school/daycare, I drive a minivan, it's not so bad. We travel lots. I could write a whole post on traveling as a family of five, one of them under age two.

    Three is hard sometimes but oh so worth it. You're smart and you'll figure out a way to make it work. It brings me to tears to think that we almost didn't have #3 just for financial reasons. Every single day, even two years later, I look at him at think how glad I am that we decided to go for a third.

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  23. Nice post. I totally agree with you that two is just an infinitely more rational number of kids than three - for all the reasons you cite but foremost financial. Our financial planner (who has one kid) was like "ohh, you are pregnant with a third? ohhhkay, revisions to plan." I think the irrationality of it - and yet the fact that i knew in my heart that i wanted three despite a demanding lawyer schedule and living in a high cost area - is what made me have an "oops" third baby, due in a few weeks!
    I also think that everyone I know who "isn't sure" they are done or that they want to wait a long time ... ends up having another sooner rather than later (in the MILP world, LEO springs to mind). So I look forward to an announcement in the next year or so! Yay for cute babies!

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  24. Just keep reminding yourself that someday they all turn 13. If people knew the truth about middle school kids nobody would have kids.

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  25. This is truly a tough decision, but coming from a family of four kids many of your concerns don't really ring true to my experience. Travel is still very possible- we travelled and travelled as a family, all over Europe even when the little ones were babies. Sure you have to make some adjustments - some camping in the place of hotels, some sharing of beds, some picnics in the place of dinners out- but it was totally doable and totally awesome. Most importantly, now we are all in our twenties we still travel together all the time, and having more than two makes a critical mass of family members all the more easy to get together.
    We never owned a mini-van but fit 3 car seats in a station wagon.
    You are right though, it wasn't always "easy" , especially in those early years, but after that initial investment it was, and continues to be, oh so much fun.

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  26. My friend sent me here after I told her that I keep waivering on having a 3rd. Thank you for summing up EXACTLY how I feel! I've talked about having a third for almost 3 years now and I've recently gone as far as getting my IUD taken out. However, a part of me just freezes because life is SO GOOD right now. My kids (ages 6 and 3)are easy. We all sleep. We can afford them AND still travel. But, I keep thinking -- would I regret NOT having another? And the answer is always yes. So I guess that's my answer. But man, it is NOT as easy as I thought it would to decide. Good luck with your decision -- in the end, it will all work out, right?

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  27. Just one comment -- you can fit 3 carseats in a sedan. You need to buy Diono carseats and I was able to get 2 Diono's plus a chico keyfit for my newborn in our prius. I found a local retailer in Los Angeles that sold Diono carseats and installed them in the prius.

    Good luck dude! I friggin love love love having 3 kids.

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