I’ve wondered, on countless occasions, if I’d ever really feel like my family was complete. Would I ever not long for a peaceful newborn in my arms or stop feeling envious of the new mothers who got to inhale sweet baby smell rather than sweaty outdoor reeking older children? Would something suddenly click inside of me and allow me to stop holding on to the onsies and outgrown Halloween costumes and board books on the off chance that we may need them again? Would that ache ever go away?
I have friends with one child who knew the minute their babies were born that the proverbial kitchen was closed and their family was complete. I have friends who had their tubes tied after baby number one, two, three or four because there was no question that they never, ever wanted to be in that labor and delivery room again. And I have friends who knew for a fact that they never wanted to be parents in the first place.
But I’d never experienced any of those feelings of absolute certainty.
For the last five years, I’ve been pretty sure that three would be my forever number. It’s nice and round and there’s usually one child who’s not on my shit list at any given moment in time. But then, baby fever would inexplicably sweep over me and suddenly a family of six sounded more sweet than it did insane. Every late period was a roller coaster of emotion with imaginary future scenarios dancing in my head.
Until last week, when I finally had my moment.
In a weird missing-IUD-what-the-fuck-is-going-on experience, life with four children flashed before my eyes. The infant car seat. The formula. The diapers. The sleepless nights. The well visits. The precious middle of the night moments. The first smiles. And steps. And birthdays. But instead of foreseeing sibling introductions, games of flag football in the front yard or overflowing Thanksgiving dinner tables, for the first time I saw nothing but dollar signs, stress and turmoil.
And then, the moment was over. There would be no baby, and this time, rather than the familiar pit in my stomach of longing and loss and disappointment, I felt nothing but relief. Lots of it.
So, that’s when I knew for sure: My number is three.
Do you know yours?