Friday, September 10, 2010

Why "Four" is the Magic Number

Well, that last post inspired some good points in the comments section. I talked about some of this there, but I am feeling like putting it all together, organized-like, here.

Q: Perhaps this wanting another baby is hormonal? How do you know that this feeling won't pass over time?

A: Babies are my THING, and always have been my thing since I was first old enough to hold one independently (at around age 5 or 6). I was the oldest of four children, and I was very hands-on with both Seester and Kiner, who are 5 and 7 years younger than me. In fact I remember an older girl in our neighborhood named Trish that also loved babies and drove me to near insanity doting on and carrying around MY sister, MY BABY.

Ah, the good ol' days of wandering the neighborhood with my baby sister or brother on my hip!

(I should have cut that bitch.)

Anyway, from a very young age, if a baby was around, I was hovering over it. I'm sure this was annoying at times, but I think my mom's friends and our relatives were mostly LUCKY to have me- a willing set of arms to hold, change, sing to, feed, and dote on their baby.

I never had any questions about wanting to be a mother. In fact, after meeting and marrying David it was physically painful to wait as long as we did before starting our family. Those were a long 18 months, boy.

I'm passionate about breastfeeding and gentle parenting. When my twins were a year old I got a job teaching childbirth classes, and shortly after became a doula to empower other new mamas. I am STILL drawn to babies and get a "mouth-watering" sensation when I see them, aching to hold their warm little bods or smell their sweet heads.

Also, I've never- not for a moment- thought of Marin as my last baby. Not when I was pregnant with her, not the day she was born, not ever. She's going to be four years old this month, so that would be a long time for it to be a hormonal craving. In fact, I'm quite sure that the longer I go without my "last baby", and the farther I get from my viable childbearing years, the more intense the longing will become.

Q: What makes you so sure you'd be willing to stop at four children? What if you want to keep having baby after baby after baby, ala Dugger-style?

A: Well, this is an excellent point, because I'm quite positive that I WILL always want "just one more baby". I don't think I'll ever stop wanting and craving babies. As I said, babies are my thang.

However, I've always said/thought/believed that 4 children was my absolute upper limit. I'm not exactly sure how I came to this number- perhaps my own upbringing of a family of four children has something to do with it?- but it is the number that feels like "enough" for me. More than four seems... like it would be more than I can handle. If we proceeded with another child, it would be our last child. I'm not saying that I wouldn't WANT more, but we would stop after one more. We just... would.

As far as comparing wanting a fourth child to bearing children into infinity like the Duggars? Friends, I have only had two (Tee Doubleyou Oh) (2!!!!) pregnancies and three children. I am miles (and miles and MILES) from being Michelle Dugger. I appreciate what Swistle said too; basically that the mindset of "if we don't draw a line here, we won't evah EVAH be able to draw a line in the future" is such faulty thinking. SO TRUE. So faulty!

And the whole two pregnancies/three kids thing? Babies are my thing, but so is pregnancy, childbirth, breastfeeding, etc. I simply love all of these things. I feel most at home- most right in the world- when I have a small human in my arms, on my hip, or in a sling on my chest. Nursing a child or carrying a baby in my arms seems exactly like what I'm supposed to be doing. And I've only done those things twice. I realize this makes it seem like I have some uneducated "breeder" mentality, but I assure you, I DO have other ambitions in life. I'm just not done with THIS phase yet.

My first pregnancy was high-jacked when I found out I was having twins. From that point on, it was very stressful (would I have preemies? incubators? breathing problems? go home from the hospital without my children?).

Also, I had a very clear image of the kind of mother I was going to be. When I found out I was having TWO babies (remember, that was 5 months into my pregnancy... five months is a long time to fantasize about how lovely my first baby- SINGULAR- experience was going to go), my vision of mothering was gone. I went from picturing myself and my cute baby having leisurely mornings at Target to OH MY GOD I'M NEVER GOING TO BE ABLE TO LEAVE THE HOUSE WITH TWO BABIES.

And ah, that much was true. I WASN'T able to leave the house much with two babies.

So, anyway, my first pregnancy was stressful. My first birth experience was awful. I was forced into a C-section I didn't want, and I was very angry about it for years. My first "newbornhood" was a blurry, numb season that lasted about 2 years. I had a hard time enjoying my daughters because I was so stressed out and so concerned about not favoring one over the other. I was also suffering from some pretty intense anxiety, but I didn't realize it until years later.

My second pregnancy was hard too, simply because I kept having preterm labor signs and was never sure if it WAS preterm labor or if it was just my "irritable uterus" (<<--actual diagnoses, swear to GAWD), and what if my "irritable uterus" suddenly gave way to ACTUAL PRETERM LABOR... how would I know? My 2nd birth experience took a turn for the douche when I hemorrhaged and suffered some pretty annoying side effects that led me to have surgery 4 (!!) more times after Marin was born.

Marin was a wonderful newborn and baby, and I really enjoyed her babyhood. BUT. It was spotted with surgery after surgery after mothereffing SURGERY, and damn if I didn't just want to skip all the health-problems bullshit and just be a mama to my three girlies.

Also, I should point out that having twins has always made me feel robbed of a pregnancy/newbornhood. Since I LOVE pregnancy and babies, I would have loved spread out those twins of mine over a couple of years, so that I could have cherished each one, instead of having them come together in one stressful, chaotic lump. Again, I've only had 2 pregnancies. I'm 100% positive that if we had only two children right now (instead of 2 pregnancies, 3 children) that David would easily- happily!- agree to one more. Neither of us ever imagined stopping at 2 children.

In truth, there's part of my brain that doesn't want FOUR children, either. I mean, I like how our little family still fits around our small kitchen table. I like how people will still invite us for dinner because we don't seem like this HUGE family; I feel like another child would scoot us into "huge family" territory. I like my freedoms now that Marin is older. I've really enjoyed having more time to explore things I love (like photography). I look forward to working again, or going back to school, to doing things that are good for just ME.

And yet? That thirst? That longing that transcends all logic? It wins, folks. It simply does. Despite all of these really excellent reasons, I still physically yearn for another baby. I do.

But David doesn't, so. There's that.


Jess said...

Man. This is so tough. I still do think that, as you say yourself, this kind of longing probably won't ever fully LEAVE you, since you are such a baby person, but it sounds like the desire for this fourth child is partly this transcendental longing and partly the fact that four is your number and always has been. So I could see David making an agreement with you wherein you have one more and then that's it no matter what and no matter how strong any future longings might be.

I do worry about the part where you want to have the pregnancy and birth experience you always dreamed of, though, because it might not work out that way even if you did have another baby, and that could make future longings even more acute and more complicated.

I hope you and David can come to a decision that you are both comfortable with.

Mrs. Haid said...

He might on, one day. Maybe something specific will trigger that longing for him. Maybe you could ask him to just be open to the possibility of a spark for a new baby happening.

I applaud you for not nagging. I am so impressed. I don't think I could not talk to him about it every minute of the day if it was on my heart and mind as it is on yours.

I don't think a family of 4 is that large. I've heard that the transition from twins first to another baby is a big one, but I've also heard that kids 3 and 4 in non-twin families are not huge changes in lifestyles for the family. Everyone kind of knows the pattern and the way to be in a family together. Maybe your husband is remembering the transitions your family did from zero to two babies, and then from twins to Marin (oh how I love that name).

Thank you for your honesty in writing about this topic. I hope its therapeutic for you because I bet your posts are therapeutic for many marriages... I bet this sparks new baby fever or family addition debates across the country! It has definitely caused me to consider how to disagree with something so BIG as number of children might affect my marriage for the long term, and also affect my own spirit.

I also have to ask... is it a baby you long for and all things BABY or is it another life in your family, another child who will be in your life forever. Maybe you could consider fostering a child? It sounds like you have so much love to give and that you have the financial ability and emotional intelligence to really share with another person.

Marie Green said...

Jess- I understand the viewpoint of longing for more babies in order to perfect it- as in, I NEED to have my IDEAL BIRTH before I can stop.

However, I *work* in the birth world and have a very- VERY- clear view of what exactly childbirth entails. Since- and especially because- my last 2 experiences were stressful, I simply don't feel "done" with that chapter of my life yet. I'm not looking for any specific birth experience, and the birth itself isn't really the root of my desire. I really enjoy the magic of the ENTIRE experience- the pregnancy, birth, adding a new person to the family, newborn, infancy, toddler, ALL of it. I'm not ready to be done. Does that make more sense?

(I think you are absolutely right that if I were chasing a specific set of experiences, I would only be disappointed and increase my longing. In truth, though, I'm LESS (far, far less) idealistic than I was the first time around.)

Marie Green said...

Mrs. Haid- thanks for your thoughtful comments! I think for us, going from 0 to 2 kids was MAJOR. We probably both have PTSD over it. But adding Marin (minus my yicky health problems, which btw are not predicted by my physicians to be a problem this time around) was really REALLY easy.

I am totally open to fostering or adoption. David says he "has even LESS desire for that than another pregnancy and baby". He simply is not called AT ALL to adopt. Fostering in our county is not easy- we've had a few friends who've tried and spent YEARS with ZERO placements. So, that's not encouraging either. But really, fostering for me would come after having one more biological child. I'm not ready to close the "childbearing" chapter yet.

Tess said...

The twin element of this is so interesting to me. Tosc has mentioned several times that he often feels "robbed" by having twins: of their babyhood, of knowing them separately, of full-term healthy babies, etc.

I can really feel your passion for this, which, creepily, makes it upsetting for ME! There's nothing I hate worse than feeling trapped by another person. WORST.

Emily said...

This is so interesting and so right on for me right now, as I am wrestling over 3 v. 4 myself. But I JUST had my third (11 weeks), and I'm having some post delivery issues that are really really annoying, and surgery has been mentioned, but they told me that I need to be sure that I'm done having kids before deciding to have surgery. But I have always thought 4 was the perfect number and the upper limit. So should I give that up in order to have surgery? Also, unlike you - I want 4 KIDS, but the pregnancy/newborn/nursing part is NOT my favorite. I wish I could knab (sp?) a 1 yr. old.

So all of this to say that I feel you - the desire for babies and all of the various elements that play into the decision are complex. And I can understand your intense desire and therefore anger for being kept from it.

Swistle said...


I definitely felt like my twin pregnancy in some ways didn't COUNT. We'd planned on having four, so when I found out my third pregnancy would include my third and fourth children, I was THRILLED to be having twins but I also felt gypped out of a pregnancy/baby experience. One reason (of many) I was so happy to have Henry is that it gave me that last baby/pregnancy experience I'd been wanting. Twins are more like a FOG.

Lawyerish said...

I find this so fascinating, as someone who didn't know for AGES whether I even wanted kids, and never had that physical draw toward pregnancy.

It truly seems that you were born for motherhood and baby-having, and it makes me happy to hear how much you love having a tiny one around. I do think twin pregnancy/newbornhood sounds like it is SO MUCH harder and involves fewer transcendant moments because it's just so MUCH, so it seems like another chance at savoring all those wee-baby moments is a reasonable desire.

I hope you get to have your fourth baby. I do.

Emily said...

I jumped over from swistle. I am a first time mom to 9 month old twin boys. I can't tell you how comforting it is to read about your very similar pregnancy/birth. I find myself still struggling with my sense of loss over having a c-section. I realize how lucky I am to have two wonderful children, but I still feel cheated. I find myself feeling envious of friends who are able to rock and nurse their one baby to sleep. I often feel overwhelmed with guilt and worry about them not getting enough individual attention. I feel like my desire to have another baby in the future is partially to experience a normal pregnancy. How did you plan the timing of your third daughter? I have enjoyed your writing and feel frustrated for you. I hope your husband has a change of heart.

Sunny said...

I totally understand hun..I am newly married and wish to GOD I could change things and have a baby with my new hubby. But I cant.
I was very hands on with my Bros and sisters...Two each- all younger too...