“Are you going to try again for a boy?”
It’s a common refrain. I have two daughters, the youngest still in diapers, and this is the question I get all the time. It’s as though having two children of the same gender isn’t the complete set. I doubt I’d be asked nearly as much if I had a boy and a girl.
And, to be fair, up until recently, I’d left the door open. Some part of me really did wonder what it felt like to be a “boy mom,” even though in all likelihood I’d have another treasured girl instead. It's just that I've heard friends gush about how much boys love their mommies and wondered if it really would be a different experience to have a boy, (and I'm all about having experiences in life).
Then, one day, out of nowhere, I woke up. Maybe it’s the dropping hormones from breastfeeding my toddler less or the pick-up in activity at work or the realization of what lies ahead with bigger kids, but something in me has shifted. Where before I was on the fence and kept telling myself I’d wait until my youngest was two to make a decision, I now feel confident in my desire to stop having babies.
And, that’s the thing so many of us forget, babies grow into children. It’s easy to get so caught up in the baby fever we forget we have to then raise a child. We get so mesmerized by that desire for a squishy bundle of joy we lose sight of everything that comes next: the preschooler, the elementary school kiddo, the teenager pushing into adulthood.
This has all hit me as I’ve watched my four-year-old become more and more of a big kid in the last few months. Already, we’re grappling with some of life’s hardest questions, like what happens after we die, and I’m left with a deep awareness of how soul-shaking it feels to navigate the range of human emotions.
The other night I held her in the darkness as she wept, scared she’d have to go to heaven by herself.
“Can’t we go together?” she wailed. “What about my favorite toys, maybe I can bring them?”
It was impossible to hide my own tears, confronted by the weight of mortality and the prospect of someday having to leave or lose my children. While taking care of a baby isn’t easy, being responsible for the inner well-being of one of the people you love most in the world is seriously challenging.
It’s so easy to overlook how everything in life comes in seasons. The sadness I’ve felt in imagining life after the baby phase is the same hesitance I’ve experienced in letting go of other memorable periods, like college, my twenties, the year of planning my wedding. Each time I’ve worried this was as good as it gets, but each time I’ve been awestruck by whatever comes next. I’m keeping faith having older children is no different.
And, I’m excited. Both times I’ve had a baby, life has crept to stop. I’ve scaled back at work. I’ve learned to survive with few showers, no makeup, my house a mess. I’ve given up a part of myself and it’s been beautiful and downright magical, but it also feels really amazing to reclaim my identity outside of motherhood. I’m writing again, I've been exploring new career paths, I generally sleep through the night, and I’m going to yoga for goodness sakes. It feels damn good.
I’m also looking forward to the future. Pretty soon we’ll be able to travel more easily (at least compared to having a baby) and I’m already making lists. Sweden, Hawaii, New York, Montana… They all await. Two kids means I don’t need a minivan. Two kids means we can likely afford that private school I love and still save for retirement. Two kids is easier than three. I’ll have more focus for a wider range of things.
Still, there’s a little part of me haunted by a third child. We joke he plays tricks on us, hiding the remote, plastering his name on our frozen television screen and our autocorrected text messages. He’s there when I hold friends' babies and when I see a pregnant woman on social media. He’s there when Grandma laments the passing of time and the growing of my youngest child.
So, should there ever be an accident, my life won’t be ruined. As my husband likes to say, “Fate is inexorable.” But, I think we’ll choose our own fate with our cozy family of four. We’ll see a bit more of the world, we won’t be stretched as far, and I’ll have more attention to focus on the two little loves who already need me, (not to mention all those moments I think three would be pure insanity for us). Letting go of the baby season isn’t easy, but I’m excited for what lies ahead.