Some parents have a kid or two and then feel with utmost clarity that they are really, truly, utterly done having kids.
Others never really feel done but have the willpower to stop popping out kids at a certain point because biology or financial resources just aren’t in our favor anymore.
But I think most of us fall somewhere in the “I think I’m done, but I’m not quite sure” camp.
That would be me, at least for the past few years. I’m 38 years old, I have two sons who are five years apart, my bank account is stretched thin, and I haven’t slept through the night in a decade. In my head, it has seemed pretty clear that I need to keep my uterus under lock and key.
But my heart often tells me otherwise. “One more…” it murmurs into my ear, even as I wake up at 3 a.m. with a vomiting kid, his sweaty arms bound tight around my neck.
It’s a kind of annoying place to be in, all this back and forth — your mind telling you one thing, and your ovaries spelling out a very different story. But I think I got to the point recently where my mind is kind of, sort of, definitely winning here.
At the beginning of the summer, our trusty 15-year-old Honda Civic was dying. We got the old guy when we first got married, and it chugged along all these years without so much as a peep. But then it suddenly started losing steam, breaking down in the middle of the grocery store parking lot on a hot day after I’d filled the trunk with groceries. It started constantly flashing the “check engine” light and needing subsequent expensive repairs.
Remember how I said having two kids has pretty much broken the bank for us? Well, as much as we wished we could just get away with not buying another car, it became apparent that it didn’t make financial sense to throw more money into our Honda.
So we emptied our savings accounts, got a loan from a family member, and bought a new car. My husband commutes on the train, and I work at home, so we decided it made the most sense to get another long-lasting, fuel efficient compact car — because hey, that had worked out great for the past 15 years. Why not repeat it?
So there we were at the Volkswagen dealership picking out a car, signing papers, and writing a big check when it hit me: There would be no room in our Jetta for a third car seat. And amid the hullabaloo of researching cars, pricing them, and gathering enough financial resources to purchase the thing, I hadn’t even considered that fact.
I mean, my mind would have chosen the car anyway because it made most practical sense, and so did sticking to our two children plan — but the fact was, my heart didn’t intervene. Not once. Neither did my stubborn ovaries.
And you know what? I’m relieved. I didn’t really like existing in that “will she/won’t she” sort of place. It’s pretty flipping stressful and annoying.
Yes, it’s fun to wonder about what could be — to rearrange the set-up of your house in your mind to make space for just one more, to crunch numbers in your bank account in the hopes of sending an extra kid through college, or to imagine in one steamy moment with your significant other what would happen if you ditched the condom or “forgot” to take the pill that morning.
But the truth is, often it’s better to just borrow your friend’s new cherub for an hour so you can inhale that fantastic baby smell and squeeze some buttery baby thighs. And maybe the best baby fantasy to have is of your future grandchildren — the ones you’ll spoil to no end and then drop off at their parents’ house when the sugar crash hits.
It’s true that the heart wants what it wants, but you might just find that what you want most is what you already have.
So now, when I buckle my two boys into their car seats in our brand new car, I look at that tiny little gap between their seats, and think “Oh well, that’s just enough space to store a couple overdue library books, an empty drug store bag, and some goldfish crumbs.”
And when I look at them — my two goofy, chatterbox, sweet, sweet boys — I think, “I have everything I need, right here.”