Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Our Family is Complete--The Decision

I was recently asked the question, "When did you decide your family was complete? Did you have any sort of revelation/answer that you are 'done' with having children?"

I remember exactly when I started feeling scared about having so many children. It was right after #5 was born. She was about a week old and I was feeling well enough to go for a walk. I had baby in a sling, #3 and #4 in the double stroller, and #1 and #2, who were only 5 and 6 years old, were on either side of me on their bikes, with training wheels, not really able to ride well yet. We started walking down the sidewalk in a big parade. I thought, "What have I done?!! There is no way I can do this."

For the first time, I had postpartum depression with this baby. It was sort of a "functional" depression--from the outside I looked like I was OK. I held Church callings, homeschooled like crazy, (I taught all of my kids to read by age 3, had them all working 2 grades ahead of their ages), and did projects like stripping all of the wallpaper off a large home and repainting.) But I lost a lot of weight and lived an entire fantasy life inside my head. My husband and I had horrible fights, I hurt myself and had suicidal thoughts constantly. It was an awful year.

How did I deal with it? After about a year, we moved, which sort of put everything into a new perspective, I read a book called "Cognitive Therapy" and started practicing it (more on that later) and I became more realistic about what "being a good mother" entails. Then I had another baby. My husband went back to school to get his PhD. We lived on less than $10,000 a year for 3 years. Here's a pic of my stairstep children that year. They are ages 8,7,5,4,2, and newborn:

In spite of all this, I have never had a revelation/answer that I was done having children. In fact, I still get twinges every once in a while that maybe I should have more. (I am 47!!) The story of why I stopped at eight children is less than spiritual. When I was 40, and #8 was 2 years old, my husband wanted to have another child. I was barely feeling healthy again, and I didn't want to. I asked him, "if I had another one right now, it would cause a lot more work for me. What would you be willing to change in your life?" He said, "Nothing, I'm doing everything I'm supposed to do already." His answer made me furious. So I decided the time was not right for another one. I think if I had stuck to spirituality, I would have 12 kids and be a raving lunatic. So basically I have no good answers on that one.

Blog friends, how do you balance faith and logic when deciding when your family is complete? Have any of you had revelations that there were no more children waiting to come into your family? Have you felt pressure to have more children? Do any of you deal with the guilt that perhaps you should have had more children, but your faith or your physical or emotional strength was too weak?

How have you come to peace with your family size?


Ann said...

I realized when I was quite young that I adore and am wonderful with babies but older kids are more difficult for me. Babies don't keep worth a damn.

It didn't hurt when I remarried that my DH is one of those guys who thinks that as consumers of (whatever percent) of the world's resources we Unistatians can do our bit for conservation by constraining our family size. Plus, we were pushing 40 hard by the time The Kid (my #3, his #1) came along.

I don't think we made it a spiritual matter. We treated it as a practical matter. I've regretted it for a few minutes a few times, because I adore babies. But I always get over it, especially if I have cub scouts that night.

Jo said...

Like Ann, it was practical for us, biologically anyway. When number 5 came along, he was quite ill, and screamed pretty much his whole first year. We decided if we were going to add to our family, we would adopt instead and he got clipped. After we adopted one, (many tries for other though) I still wanted another, but Bald Man said no. It caused a huge rift for a long time. I have made my peace with it and the grand babies have a gone a long way as balm of Giliad.

sarah k. said...

Hi, I'm here via Jo, and I love learning about others' decisions on family size. I don't think I'm the typical Mormon, in that I generally disagree with the idea that you should have kids until the Lord tells you to stop or dries up the well. I know people who have lots of kids who are happy, and some who are miserable.

I have 3, and I'm not having more if I can help it (and I believe I can!). I am not a good person while I'm pregnant. I'm miserable, hurting, depressed, unable to care for my other kids in a loving way. I haven't had any "revelations" about the size of my family, but my husband and I both agree that if we want to be good parents, we shouldn't invite any more into the fray. Parenting is very difficult for me.

And I believe that what one family is capable of sustaining doesn't just have to do with physical ability to produce a child, but with emotional and spiritual needs of those involved. And my kids deserve a nice mom.

I think the Lord is happy with us when we make our own decisions, and don't base them on selfishness. For some people that means having 12 kids, and for some, 2.

It makes me sad when there is social pressure, especially from people who profess not to "judge" one another, to have many children. We are stewards, and our stewardships are unique.

In some ways, I wish I could have lots of kids. I just really don't think I've got it. I respect and admire those who do (my MIL has 7), but all I can handle is 3. And sometimes that seems like too much.

sarah k. said...

I hope none of that sounded like I was pointing fingers, I wasn't. And I enjoyed the post.

Bored in Vernal said...

Ann, I agree that we should consider the world's resources when thinking about our family size. What do you think about the Church's position that "there is enough and to spare?"

Sarah, Thanks for your comments! I'm glad you visited & hope you come back often. I think your point that different people can handle different numbers of children is something we all need to be aware of.

I'd love to get more opinions on this subject. I hope some of you lurkers will leave a comment!

Ann said...

I think the church's position "there is enough and to spare" is wrong.

What I do think the church gets right is that children are a blessing. When another child wouldn't BE a blessing, though, then it's good to stop or wait.

fMhLisa said...

This is kinda killing me right now. I have three. In theory I want AT LEAST one more, maybe several.

Physically I could totally do it. I was born to breed.

Financially it would be a big strain, but my mom and dad did three times as much with half the resources, and I figure I'm just as tough as they are.

I think I'm strong enough, that I could do it, I could have five more, and I would probably make it look good. People would say, wow, you're amazing, how do you do it? (or so I like to think)

My kids would probably be happy and normal and mostly clean. And I would love them all, oh yeah, that would be awesome.

BUT, for all that I think I'm a good mom, a capable mom, a strong mom. I don't like it. I love my kids, but I feel so trapped and unhappy. The youngest is three now, I see a light at the end of a long dark tunnel. I can't wait until he can dress himself and make a PBJ and say words like "consequently". Babies are horrible. They smell good, and they're darling, and they are beautiful stunning miricles, but the thought of caring for another baby, 24/7 for years, it makes me want to crawl in a hole and never come out. And toddlers, oh my, they're ug. The dirty fingers and the poop and the clinging. Also fantastic, and it's glorious to be the center of their universe, to have one's own fan club in constant attendence. But the pleasure/pain ratio for me is heavy on the pain side of things.

I like to think I'd be strong enough to not let those negative feeling overwhelm me, that I could still cling to the lovely mommy moments and that would be enough. But I worry, deeply worry that I'd be dying inside, and it would never end.

I want out. I want out.

And also, PPD, I don't want to do that again. It's scary and horrible.

sarah k. said...

I think the "enough and to spare" thing would be right if we (all humans) would just learn to manage our resources and quit being so selfish. We think we need so much stuff and space.

I love fmhlisa's comment. I totally know what she's saying. I don't love it. I love my kids, but geez, it's hard.

Ann said...

Oh, Lisa, beloved, you're allowed to take a break. Nothing says you have to crank out babies every two years for the next ten years. You can take a break! Your youngest is three; maybe when he's eight, or ten, or twelve, the thought of another baby will seem like a blessing and a delight, and not like a soul-death sentence.

My children are 27, 20, and 7. When I was 30 and my marriage was crap and my little guy was 4 the thought of another baby made me despair (false alarm. Whew!) Ten years later, with a new improved husband a baby was a delightful hope, and now I'm the oldest mom in the 2nd grade and a den mother and The Kid is an uncle twice over. It's been wonderful every single step of the way - a blessing. And believe me, fifteen years ago I was SO done...

I'm just using my story as an illustration and not as any kind of implication about Mr. Lisa, who I'm sure is a prince among men.

I'm just saying, you don't have to have another baby NOW, or next year, or the next. If a baby would not be a blessing now, you can wait until s/he would be. You've got time.

Ann said...

And furthermore, it's not some CONTEST, where you get better chocolate on Mother's Day if you have more kids. Maybe if you did get better chocolate it would be worth risking the PPD.

m&m said...

You won't believe what a difference a couple more years will make in terms of your sanity level. Really. If that helps any. Also keep in mind that if you do have any more, you will have older ones to help and that can make a BIG difference. Three in such a short time means three irrational, completely dependent creatures all at once. At any point now, your experience would automatically be different because you have older someones who can fetch things and help more...and your older ones will just keep getting older! Anyway, just some thoughts.

I would really like to have more, but health issues and a big NO twice from heaven have made that dream a non-reality for us at least at this point. Health doesn't look to be getting any better, and I ain't gettin' any younger! (How weird that has been...righteous desire, willing heart, and a no.) I keep hoping it's a "for now" thing, but I'm runnin' out of time biologically. Sigh.

I remember reading a book by Pat Holland which said something like this: "I wanted eight and got three; some of you wanted three and got eight." I think sometimes the Lord tests us in ways we don't want to be tested. Those who ache for children sometimes can't have them. Those who struggle with motherhood can. One cannot simply look at one's life and desires and natural inclinations and assume that that will be enough to make the "right" decision, IMO, because sometimes the Lord has other plans for us and our growth and experience and missions. But I do believe we can get the Lord's guidance in these decisions, and that He's willing to listen to our concerns and what we have "studied out in our minds." Because having children is a commitment and challenge, I can't fathom making choices about this without some heavenly guidance. But then again, my greatest fear is making the wrong decisions in this area (either way, now considering my health), but my experience has been that the Lord can guide and direct -- and also intervene when He deems appropriate. (#3 was the foundation-shaking surprise of my life and I was mad at first (three in three years was hard!), but hindsight is 20-20 and now that I can't have any more, I thank heaven for our precious littlest (not so little now) miracle. So I'm trying to hold onto faith that hindsight will again show that God had a bigger view of things and that this "no" will someday make sense. Or maybe change in the next year or two? :)

Anonymous said...

When I married at age 30, I didn't really want any children. I had come from a dysfunctional home with a clinically depressed mother and had already basically raised my six siblings.

Within a couple of years I really started desiring a child. He turned out to be an extremely difficult baby, toddler, etc. When he was a year old I was diagnosed with muscular dystrophy and decided that he would be an only child. When he was 16 mos old I got pregnant with #2 even though we were using birth control. When #2 was a year old my husband and I were discussing who was going to get permanent birth control, when I got pregnant again (while using birth control). We found this out a week after my husband had a major car accident.

I was always extremely ill during pregnancy and I told Heavenly Father that if there was an additional child that he better send them with #3, because I wasn't doing this again. A couple of months later, sure enough, the ultra-sound revealed twins. I had my tubes tied the day after they were born and I have never regretted it. The twins inherited my MD and the neurological problems that go with it. My husband and all four children have been diagnosed with ADHD and life has been a living hell for the past ten years. Still my husband will sometimes bemoan the fact that we won't be having any more babies (even though he never took care of them and I am now 46 with a recent hysterctomy.) I have told him out right that I will not have any more children in this life or the next. He looked very shocked. I told him that one of his other wives would have to do the childbearing.

Signed "Too Many Children"