How we know our family was complete.
I once read a novel in which one of the characters, a mother, explained to her daughter that she never felt her family was finished and, therefore, felt compelled to have a second daughter. She said something to the extent of "You just know when your family is complete. Until then, someone's missing."
This puzzled me and has stuck with me years later. Does that happen? Do other moms just know that they need another child?
I know all the reasons that people decide to start a family. Biological clocks, pushy in-laws, the hunger to hold a child that’s a magical combination of you and your partner… all of these reasons, plus the love you can have for a family you haven't started yet, make sense to me.
Will I know when my family is complete? Here are some reasons why other people stop having children:
1. Finances start piling up.
It's no secret that children are expensive. I once wrote an article about the true costs of raising a child, and it made me appreciate the fact that each of my offspring is a tax deduction. Occasionally, I mourn the vacations I'd be able to afford if only I wasn't raising kids, but the thought is always fleeting.
No travel would be glamorous enough for me to be willing to trade having my children to come home to. Lots of parents I know have one child because they want to be able to afford to give them the best of everything: private schools... designer threads... Finances are a logical enough reason to reach for the permanent birth control.
2. Divorce is always lurking around the corner.
While this is a sad reason to stop procreating, it's a truth that with so many marriages ending in divorce, people stop having children because they no longer have a traditional family to bring them into. I love, however, that so many divorced folks remarry and create the blended families that are a huge part of our American culture.
It's a sweet thought to me, too, that single divorcees may never know what bonus children are lurking in their futures; stepchildren can be a surprise blessing that extends their family unit into the large group they always wanted.
3. Health issues prevent infertility.
Sometimes, no matter your Duggar-ish aspirations, nature puts an abrupt end to thoughts of additional biological children. My heart always hurts for people who struggle with infertility, especially because it seems a topic that many people don't realize is incredibly personal and sensitive. And adoption isn't for everyone, so I can grasp how infertility would signify the end of the growth of your family.
4. Religion doesn't support birth control.
I have a friend who is kind, patient, loving and an amazing mom. She is a strong Christian, and felt called as a young adult to go off birth control until she heard from God that it was time for her to go back on it. The result? At one point, she had five children under the age of 3. (I didn't even realize that was possible.) I thank God daily that He has never put a similar conviction on my heart.
5. Stamina declines.
This, I think, is the category that I fall under. I have an 8-year-old and a 15-month-old, and I'm 7 months pregnant with our last child. We could probably afford another child. Unless there's something my husband isn't telling me, our marriage is rock solid. I'm surprisingly healthy for someone who enjoys sugar and red wine as much as I do. I try to be a strong Christian, but have never felt guilty about using birth control.
(Side note: Have you ever heard the joke about the man in the flood? He climbed to the top of his house and sat there as the water rose. A boat came by, but he refused to get in, saying he had faith God would save him.
A helicopter came by, same response. So, of course, the man died. He went to heaven, came face to face with God and said, "What the hell? I had faith you were gonna save me, and I drowned?" God cocked an eyebrow and responded, "I sent a boat and a helicopter; what more did you expect?" This joke illustrates my thoughts on birth control. I think God gave it to me for a reason.)
But I know, without a doubt, that I will do everything in my power (and that includes blackmailing my husband into a vasectomy) to avoid being pregnant again.
I guess it boils down to one simple fact: I'm tired. I have loved being pregnant with each of my children. But it would take a miracle for me to voluntarily do it again. And sure, I know that God has a sense of humor and may lead me to adopt a child someday. But for now, I think that once I have this baby, my family will be complete.
I miss my ass. I miss wine. And I really, really miss sleep. Maybe that's selfish, but I'm gonna give all three of my children as much love and energy as I can muster until they go away to college. Then I'm going to take those accumulated tax returns and travel the world with my smoking hot husband.
But with three great kids to come back to, I know my heart won't be lacking in love for the children I didn't have.
And maybe having that much love, so much that you're full to the point of almost bursting when you look at your kids, is how you know that your family's complete. And if so, I'm there.