A third child

The first time Grace met Whit.  January 20, 2005.
The first time I was with my two children.

I am done having babies.

I’ll say that again.  I will not have another baby.  We are going to be a family of four.  In our community, this sometimes feels counter-cultural.  There are a great many families with three and four children.

The truth is, for a long time, I felt torn about this.  I wrestled with whether or not to have a third baby.  I considered how high my odds of twins must be, with my father a fraternal twin (and he’s not the only one in my close family).  I thought about how we would have to move, and I love our house.  I thought about how much I wanted to live those disorienting, raw, extraordinary first months with a newborn one more time.

But ultimately, I realized was that what I really wanted was for this not to be over.  I want to have this phase of my life, this golden moment, not to end.  I wanted another opportunity to live – to do a better job in – all the weeks and months and years that have already clanged shut behind me.  And that is not the same as wanting a third child.  Understanding this distinction, which was somehow blunt and evasive at the same time, clarified everything for me.

I absolutely loved being pregnant.  My two labors were the most extraordinary and empowering experiences of my life.  While I struggled with my first infant, I reflect on that time – and, especially, on Whit’s babyhood- with enormous affection.

But I don’t want to have a third child.  I want to have another spin around the rink, to feel again that gasping, outrageous miracle of small feet inside my body, to surrender once more to the incandescent pain of birthing a baby.  But all of that is because I don’t want this to be over.  And in my heart of hearts, I feel as though our family is complete.  We are L, M, G, and W.  We fit.

Realizing this is not without a sense of real loss.  It is complicated and then, startlingly, simple.  We continue down the not-deciding road of “maybe, we’ll see, perhaps one day” and time slips away.  One day we realize that not-deciding was deciding.  And, while I wasn’t looking, those days I didn’t want to end, did.

And here we are.  Our family of four.  My Grace and my Whit.  My drum and my descant.  I would not have it any other way.

If you have children, how many do you have?  How did you know when you were “done,” if you are?  If not, how do you know that?


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  1. Posted October 8, 2012 at 6:56 am | Permalink

    This post speaks to me on a lot of levels, especially this closing line: “One day we realize that not-deciding was deciding.” We struggled for a lot of years as to whether or not to have children at all, and finally realized that time was ticking away and that biology would sooner or later make the decision for us if we didn’t decide for ourselves (another way of saying, I suppose, “not-deciding was deciding”).

    So we had a daughter, our first and only. I am an only child myself, so this doesn’t feel strange to me, but it’s funny: when I am out and about in the world people ask if she’s my first, and I say she’s my only, and they invariably respond, “Oh, you say that now. But give it a few years.” They clearly don’t trust that I know what I’m talking about when I say “one is enough for me!” I did not enjoy my daughter’s infancy very much (nor did she, I’m pretty sure), and while I have no doubt that I’d do it very differently the next time around and enjoy it more, I’m not sure I have it in me go back and repeat that period again. But more fundamentally, at the end of the day, I know that I’m not a multiple-kid kind of mom (perhaps because of my own experience as an old-soul only child). I guess, as you allude to here, it’s something you just “know.”

  2. Linda K. Wertheimer (@Lindakwert)
    Posted October 8, 2012 at 7:47 am | Permalink

    A beautiful, heartfelt post on a subject that so many of us have had to deal with. For my family, it was whether to go for a second child. I wrote about this for Kveller, a Jewish parenting blog, a while book.
    We are happy as a family of three for many reasons. Would it have been great to have a sibling for my son? Of course. Was it realistic and wise for us? We don’t think so.
    Here’s the link: http://kveller.com/parent/family/having-an-only-child.shtml


  3. Allison Tate
    Posted October 8, 2012 at 7:56 am | Permalink

    Loved this, Lindsey, and it’s so true. Now that I have my fourth, I can say for certain that babies (including my own) make me achey, but only in the I-would-like-to-relive-their-babyhoods kind of way.


  4. Posted October 8, 2012 at 7:58 am | Permalink

    I was just talking about this with a friend ten minutes ago. I kid you not. She asked me if I still want a third, and I talked about money and time and exhaustion and how if I had more money or time or if I were younger I would do it. But then I hear 3 is hard because someone is always left out, so I’d want to have four. But This weekend Sam and Eva were constantly fighting for a piece of me, and in the rare moments when I got to sit down, they would inevitably fight over my lap. They each got a leg, and I actually said out loud, “I have two legs so you each get one. That’s all I have. Two legs. We can’t have a bigger family because I only have two legs.” I love what you say in this post… about wanting another go around the rink, a few opportunities to feel that newborn stuff again, or do-overs on the things you missed or didn’t appreciate because it all goes so fast. You write so eloquently about it. What a perfect post. My baby will be two next week and I struggle with that “feeling our family is complete” even though I know it has to be. What a terrific post!

  5. Christina Propst
    Posted October 8, 2012 at 8:12 am | Permalink

    Lindsey, this post sums up so very many thoughts and feelings I have had in recent years. With 2 boys, I have often been asked “Aren’t you going to try for a girl?”, as if somehow my life is not complete without another XX in our household. I was even asked this while pregnant with my sweet sensitive second boy!
    As it turns out, I am and have always been a Boy Mom and have found support from other Boy Moms. I don’t even like pink, I like to get dirty and I occasionally curse too much.
    We too live in a 3-kids-is-the-new-norm neighborhood. But I am a physician and my husband is an attorney and we live a 3 hour plane ride away from any family.
    So I have chosen to call my career and my little red ’79 Fiat Spider my 3rd and 4th kids.
    And I can live and breathe and thrive and move on with that.
    Thank you, Lindsey.

  6. Amy
    Posted October 8, 2012 at 8:16 am | Permalink

    I love this post. Maybe because I’m pondering if I’ll be lucky enough to have even one baby at “advanced maternal age.” (Thanks, dr!)

  7. Posted October 8, 2012 at 8:20 am | Permalink

    We have one. One wonderful, wise and witty one. And I remember the day I made peace with “just” one and decided I was lucky to have her. A very good day.

  8. Posted October 8, 2012 at 8:24 am | Permalink

    I could have written this whole post…well, except for the fact that I have five children and still, up until very recently, did NOT want that pregnancy-newborn-babyhood cycle to end. (I have come to terms with its passing, even embraced it, but not without pangs of regret that I’m not sure will ever completely go away.)

    “I wanted another opportunity to live – to do a better job in – all the weeks and months and years that have already clanged shut behind me.”

    Yes, yes, yes. And I think that what finally made me really REALLY finished is to realize that it’s not fair for a child to be a do-over.

  9. nancy
    Posted October 8, 2012 at 8:40 am | Permalink

    I actually remember exactly where I was when that door shut for me, when all of a sudden I stopped feeling either torn or sad: I was at the gymnastics place several of took our preschoolers on Fridays, and my best friend locally was pregnant with her fourth–just shortly before she was put on bedrest for the remainder, in fact, which was a long haul. I remember where she was in the room, and where I was, and what she had just said; and something just turned in me as I sat there talking to her; and I knew I was done, and it was okay. It was odd, but it felt very final…. We’d been through hell with my younger son, who was born at just barely 24 weeks’ gestation (and is fine), after years of trying to have him–he was supposed to be seven years younger than his brother, but in fact is less than that because he was so premature…. Anyway, lovely post–captures what I remember feeling very closely, and beautifully as always.

  10. Posted October 8, 2012 at 9:08 am | Permalink

    We were done when God said we were. To do anything less would have been our will and not God’s will in our lives.

  11. Posted October 8, 2012 at 10:38 am | Permalink

    Lindsay I could have written the IDENTICAL post. But I’m still in the not-deciding phase and struggling to come to terms with the I must soon decide phase. My husband is decided and yet I feel physically and emotionally torn. You are so very right when you say that it’s those moments you want back, not the third baby. This I know so well.
    Thank you for writing this post, these are the stories I feel so glad we share with one another.

  12. Posted October 8, 2012 at 12:16 pm | Permalink

    I emailed this to myself so I could always have it with me as it so completely describes how I feel but could never put into words. Thank you. I still have feelings now with my daughter, 8, and my son, 6, that I am yearning for another. But yes, it is a huge part of wanting to do those moments over because they went by so fast.

  13. Posted October 8, 2012 at 12:20 pm | Permalink

    Wow. This couldn’t come at a better time. Don’t tell my man, but I have been thinking about this topic far too much recently. I know intellectually that we are finished at three, but I am still longing for that fourth. I even watched three episodes of the Baby Story while on the elliptical the other day. Not a great sign. I want more than anything to embrace the next phase of our lives, to celebrate this being done, but it so much easier said than done. I think I must write my own post (or series of posts) on this topic. Thanks for the inspiration.


  14. Tracy
    Posted October 8, 2012 at 2:29 pm | Permalink

    Love this post, you capture so precisely that feeling of wanting but also not wanting. If I could be 7 months pregnant again for a month, I’d do it in a heartbeat. For many years I longed for that amazing feeling of a biggish baby rolling from side to side inside you — just indescribable. And heartbreaking to think you’ll never feel that again. But yet….they need SO MUCH when they come out, and you want to give them so much. Like you, we stopped at two — partly for environmental reasons but mostly because I was worried I could not parent three kids the way I wanted to.

  15. Margaret
    Posted October 8, 2012 at 3:49 pm | Permalink

    I think I’m one of the few who kind of always knew I wanted to have two children, was lucky enough to bear two healthy children (a boy and a girl)almost three years apart, and felt done. I loved the baby phase with both of them, they were great, easy (well, my second was easier than my first)babies, and we were pretty relaxed parents who BOTH enjoyed babies. I came from a happy family of four, so maybe it’s because it felt familiar that it felt so right to me. My husband is from a family of six and would have loved to have had more children. If we had a lot more time and a lot more money, we probably would have considered having another, but the work-life balance has always been a little stressful for us and I think we both understood that it was probably best all-around if we stopped after two. We did recently get a dog (and also have a cat), and we have all enjoyed the new “baby” of the family (clearly not the same, but a very important new family dynamic). I am the most indecisive person on the planet, so I find this topic fascinating. It is one of the very few decisions I have made without a struggle! I’m glad you are at peace and have clarity that your family feels complete. Such a very personal thing for us all!!

  16. Posted October 9, 2012 at 8:33 pm | Permalink

    What a lovely post. We are a family of three with one wonderful daughter. Our original plan was two kids, but God decided that one was the right answer. The honest truth is that very shortly after our daughter’s arrival, we too realized that it was indeed the right answer. Can’t imagine our family or our lives any other way!

  17. Posted October 10, 2012 at 3:25 pm | Permalink


    Yes. First off, a gorgeous post.

    Secondly, as you know, I will write a post, too, because this very topic has been knocking around in my mind so much lately.

    Whenever I would waver on whether we were done at two, my husband would say, “You know, hon, one of the children *does* have to be the last.”


  18. Posted October 11, 2012 at 2:45 pm | Permalink

    Oh, you’ve put into words what I’ve been feeling for the last year or so. So beautifull said. Thanks for the light.

  19. Posted October 12, 2012 at 4:34 am | Permalink

    I don’t know if I’ll ever feel as though I am finished with this dilemma. We have three little girls, aged 5, 3 and 21 months. When my youngest born, we decided our family was complete – logically it all makes sense – in terms of the energy we can put into each of our daughters – it makes sense for us to just stop at 3.

    Still, I find myself thinking about another baby EVERY day! I don’t know if I can discern whether I am wanting to relive my babies’ babyhood or I really want another little one – maybe at the moment it’s a little bit of both.

    I do hope that I can come to peace with our decision at some point – but it is such a momentous thing to decide your family is complete.

    I loved your post, Lindsey, it really struck a chord with me – and maybe if I meditate on it a little longer, I will be able to find a way to come to a clear decision.

  20. Natalie
    Posted January 29, 2013 at 6:31 am | Permalink

    What a beautiful piece – it really struck a chord with me as I have been wrestling for some time now with whether or not to have a third child. In my heart I know our 2 daughters make our family complete and that we will not have a third. It is the sadness over the passage of time, and the knowledge that you can’t get those moments back or do it over that I am feeling. It is a great comfort to know others feel so keenly the nostalgia for the past as I do – thank you! And your blog is a true inspiration and reminder that living well and in the moment is an admirable goal for us all.

  21. Sue
    Posted April 2, 2013 at 3:30 pm | Permalink

    After the delivery of my first 2 children (both girls), I remember saying “There’s so much that people don’t REALLY tell you about parenting!”. I feel the same way about the decision to have a third…Noone told me this would be so difficult!!! That, or everyone I know is blessed with just ‘knowing’ how many kids they are meant to have. I have been grappling with this decision for over a year, and seem to obsessively think on it every day. Now that the girls are 5 and 3, I find myself relishing the thought of getting rid of all the baby gear and gaining space in the house, and I love the bit of extra ‘me time’ I get while they play independently, and I’ve been sleeping through the night for years given my 2nd was a great sleeper. The idea of going through the infancy period, late nights, and lugging a car carrier around is unappealing to me….YET…I come from a family of 4 kids. I dearly love having my 3 siblings (all brothers,I’m the youngest) and very much enjoyed our bigger family, so then I feel like if I stop at 2 kids, I’m depriving them of the joy of a bigger family/another playmate and I’m just being selfish with my time and wanting to keep things ‘easier’. Another concern…I know I have more love to give, but not so sure I have more patience.

    Reading this post helped me feel like I’m not alone in this indecision. I pray every day that something will make the right answer clear to me. As of right now, it continues to ellude me.

    admin Reply:

    Definitely not alone! Plus I think you are psychic because this particular post has been on my mind lately, for some reason – glad you found it and commented. And good luck to you with the deliberation… xox

  22. Posted April 10, 2013 at 7:05 am | Permalink

    This is on my mind now too. I have two daughters, 5 and 2 years old. Recently I weaned my youngest with all the return of hormones that that has brought and while for a while I thought I really might be done, now I am not so sure. I told my DH before I married him that I wanted three children so this is also not new for me, but my pregnancies are bad and dangerous and place a huge strain on the entire family. The people who were with me during the last pregnancy still advise that I not do it again, but I am not ready to give up my dream for three children and am hoping to find medical information that could lead to an easier pregnancy next time. I know if my husband were to express a desire for a third I would just go for it, but for now it is trying to persuade him that a third would be a good idea and that the hard times would be temporary.

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