What It's Like When You Have Way More Kids Than You Planned

Photo: Gemma Hartley
What It's Like When You Have Way More Kids Than You Planned

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.

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It would also give my husband and me 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.

Photo: Courtesy of author

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 postpartum depression. Scared that I wouldn't be able to handle two children. Scared that I wasn't enough  and I never would be.

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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 baby to our family.

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Photo: Courtesy of author

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. 

RELATED: My Postpartum Depression Turned Me Into A Woman I Didn't Know

Gemma Hartley is a freelance writer whose writing has appeared on Early Mama, Child Mode, MindBodyGreen, Role/Reboot and Mom.me. Visit her website for more.