So really, guys, how many kids is too many kids?
Ever since I miscarried my fifth pregnancy last March, I have been asking myself that question. Don’t get me wrong—4 kids is a lot of kids.
Next year, for example, when they are all (finally) in school, I will be packing 20 lunches a week and negotiating 4 parent teacher conferences and attending 4 music shows and a passel of open houses and making SO MANY BIRTHDAY CUPCAKES.
Even if we try to limit each kid to 2 extracurricular activities, that’s 8 activities a week. And as you know, when kids get older, their sports practice more frequently and travel longer distances and compete multiple times a weekend. 4 kids means a lot of hockey and boy scouts and dance and gymnastics and baseball and—you get the idea.
Surely we are using up our fair share of resources, too. Is it conscionable to have a large family when overpopulation threatens the earth’s carrying capacity and the effects of climate change are more noticeable than ever before?
Did I mention that I’m too old to be thinking about another baby? I turn 40 in May, and my youngest child will be 5 by then. I have made it through the slog of the preschool years with my body and my sanity basically intact. Stretch marks and mild anxiety attacks DON’T COUNT. Shouldn’t I quit while I am ahead and enjoy wearing sophisticated shoes to the bounce house place and bringing a coffee and a book and curling up on the bench because my kids are too big to need me to wear the grippy socks and prove to the world I can bounce without peeing my pants? (That’s another thing! I CAN BOUNCE and not pee my pants. Another baby would seriously tempt fate there).
Just for a minute, maybe we should talk about money. I don’t know if you know this, but kids are expensive. They eat. A lot. They outgrow their clothes. They lose their winter coats. They think gloves and hats and mittens are a (magically) renewable resource. 4 kids in college—yikes. Not to mention all of the braces and bikes and computers—I shudder to do the math.
What would another baby do to my career? To the novel I have been waiting 39 years to write and type faithfully every morning? To my marriage? To my sanity? To my sleep schedule (that’s one amazing thing about bidding goodbye to the baby years—the sleeeeeeeeeeeeeeeep)? To my relationship with my tween and his brother who is almost a tween?
We are blessed beyond measure to be happy and healthy and engaged in thoughtful, rewarding work. I am so grateful for my already-larger-than-normal assortment of children. (The assortment is large. The children are all on the small side).
No day in your life is more magical than the day a new person appears in it. Think about they days your children were born. Have you ever been that close to a miracle? Now imagine a tiny baby burrito-ed in a hospital receiving blanket in one of those weird plastic boxes on wheels surrounded by small faces and fat little hands as your rowdy pack of kids meets a new sibling. It’s sublime.
Fast forward a little bit to see your living room strewn with squeaky toys and board books and those huge plastic baby-holding accessories that you never really get to use because the baby is always right there in your arms or on your chest or literally strapped to your body. Remember how a baby smells and the warm, damp weight of a baby pressed up against you, a soft little head with flaky skin always in kissing distance of your lips. In the middle of the night when you are exhausted and stumbling out of bed, your reward for your efforts is that sweet suckling pig of a creature who loves you so much it can’t stand to go more than a couple of hours without you, and even though you move—and look—like a Walking Dead extra, you feel the same way.
Lisping little voices and their intoxicating malapropisms.
I want all of it again. One more time. The last one, I swear.
My husband points out that I have said this after every child and then after every child I want another one. Like cookies. What can I say? I am a binge-birther.
Or, I would be if my old-lady body would cooperate. It’s not infertility if you already have lots of kids, but there’s this fifth-baby-shaped hole, ache, weight, want that isn’t going away even though the stick never has a second pink line. Anymore.
How did you make peace with the end of the baby years? Tell me, won’t you? I really want to know.