We have three children, but we were planning to be done at two. This isn’t to say that we don’t love all three of our children; we do. And this isn’t to say that our little caboose wasn’t planned, because she was. But we had two children, and Mel and I were ready to call it a day. We were on the fence for a while about having another. We almost lost our middle daughter. She spent a couple weeks in the NICU for under developed lungs, and frankly, it was one of the most stressful moments of our lives, and it made us very scared to have another.
It wasn’t until four years later, after I’d already discussed getting a vasectomy with my doctor, and even made an appointment with a urologist, that Mel started to get a little baby fever. We just weren’t 100% sure we were done, and by the time we got finished discussing it, she was already pregnant.
You know how it goes.
But then, Mel’s third delivery was rougher than we expected. And well… this is a safe place, right? I can admit this here, can’t it? Let’s just say, if our third were our first, she’d have been our last. That little blond-headed wild child has been a serious handful.
So I got the snip over a year ago. I felt good about it.
But then, just in the past month, I’ve been feeling a little incomplete. Is that the right word for it? I keep looking at my youngest, and realizing that she is the end of the line. Every experience I’m having with her, from reading stories, to tickles, to racing her across the back yard, is only going to last a little bit longer. I’ve been looking at our oldest son, who’s now 12, and realizing I probably only have 6 more years of him living in our house. And our middle daughter is 9. Her time under our roof is already half spent.
As a man, I’m not sure if I’m supposed to admit something that in women is usually described as having “baby fever.” And now that it’s out there, I can already feel my wife rolling her eyes. The truly ironic part is that I didn’t want to have children in the first place. I had a pretty difficult home life growing up. My father was in and out of jail, and I honestly wondered if I could be a good father because I didn’t have a good father of my own. It took Mel some pretty serious convincing to get me to have our first child.
But now, suddenly, I’m feeling incomplete. I have to think that these feelings are normal, right? Because facts are facts. Mel is not interested in having another child, particularly considering how rough her last recovery was. And I know the numbers as well as she does. Mel and I both work in education. We don’t make big money, and trying to support a family of five is already hard enough. I would think one more child would easily tip our budget into the red.
I guess life is like this, isn’t it? Even when you are certain you’re done, things can change to make you second guess. And I feel like I’m there, right now, second-guessing my vasectomy. Wondering if this wonderful family I love and care for every day is complete. And somewhere, deep inside, I know it is. I I’m pushing 40, and the thought of getting up in the night again with a baby would probably kill me. And I know that Mel would never go for it, and I’d really rather not get my vasectomy reversed because that sounds like it would suck.
But when I think about all this, I can’t help but realize that this, right here, this trying to manage your own feelings of wanting another child, with the reality of what it takes to birth, support, and raise a family, is what makes having children such a personal decision. Many people don’t have as many kids as they’d like because of money, postpartum depression, hard pregnancies, health conditions, heredity, and a million other reasons. This is why, when someone urges you to have more children, you want to put your hands over their mouth, because it’s not always that simple.
Family planning is easily the most complicated equation I’ve ever calculated, because there are so many factors. And even when we add it all up, and make a decision that’s right for your family, it can still leave you second-guessing. It can still leave you looking at your children, and wondering if you’d like a few more hugs and kisses and one or two more snugglers running around the house. It can still leave you looking at a baby in the airport, and remembering how warm it can feel to have them against you, sleeping soundly, their soft wrinkly hands gripping your shirtsleeve.
Yes, parenting is hard. Yes, we all complain about raising our families of wild goobers, but there is so much warmth there too. And there is so much experience and love, and it’s difficult to not want just a little more, even though you know, it just isn’t possible. And I think this is why my family may never feel complete.