An only child was all I wanted, but we ended up with three.
When my husband and I talked about having babies, we always thought we would end up with two kids. It seemed like a safe number, manageable. I always imagined myself with two children — the same sort of family dynamic that I grew up with. I couldn't imagine I would ever want more children.
Once our son was born, however, I knew our previous plans meant nothing. Becoming a parent consumed me in a way I never expected.
I was overwhelmed by motherhood. There were moments when I felt like I wouldn't make it through the day, or even the next ten minutes. I suffered from postpartum depression and anxiety for over a year after my son's birth. Once I was finally through to the other side, I knew we were done having kids.
I didn't want to experience another long and difficult pregnancy or traumatizing birth experience. I wasn't willing to risk another round of postpartum depression. I had no doubts or trepidations. One was our number. It was the best choice for our family.
I felt wholly comfortable with the idea of my son being an only child. I spent most of my life feeling like an only child, since my younger brother and I have a seven-year age gap. I knew I would be able to give him more love, more attention, more financial stability.
It would also give my husband and I a level of freedom we wouldn't otherwise enjoy with more children. Beyond my fears, I knew it was the right choice. There were plenty of pros, and since we didn't have the desire for more children, zero cons.
When my son was 18-months old, I started looking into MFA programs and my husband started working aggressively to finish his undergrad degree. We paid off our debt. We took a vacation alone together. It finally felt like we were moving forward in life; we were past that impossibly hard stage of infancy, and we would never be back there again.
Except we would, because I became unexpectedly pregnant after switching types of birth control, mere months after deciding we were done having kids.
When I found out I was pregnant with my daughter, I was a mess of emotions. I knew a baby wasn't a bad thing, but I was terrified. It felt like my life was derailed and heading for ruin. I was scared of the postpartum depression. Scared that I wouldn't be able to handle two children. Scared that I wasn't enough — and I never would be.
But the moment she was born, everything changed. My eyes were opened to what motherhood was meant to be: full of love and wonder and joy. It was still hard, yes, but I had the chance to experience her infancy without the horrible weight of depression pressing on me.
She gave me my life back. She saved me.
I no longer lived in fear. My anxiety eased until it was barely noticeable. I was enjoying motherhood, something I didn't believe was possible until she entered the world. It was so good, in fact, that we decided to add another to baby to our family.
Even after two miscarriages before the birth of our third child, I feel grateful for the winding and unplanned road that brought me the big family I never knew I wanted. We adjusted to our bigger-than-planned-for family, and now I can't imagine life any other way.
I feel like this is the family I was meant to have, and I wouldn't change a thing.