Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Our Magic Number

About a month ago, my best friend had her third baby. She and I have been staggering babies for the past four or five years - she had a baby, I had a baby, she had a baby, I had a baby. She had a boy, I had a girl, she had a boy, I had a girl.

Now she had another baby (and another boy!) and the question that seems to be on everyone's mind is

So do you think you'll have a third?

Third babies seem to be everywhere these days. The magic number for many of my friends seems to be five. Three kids was always the plan. My best friend had her third, another is thinking about trying for her third, another is pregnant with her third. The question on many mom's of two's mind is

Is it time for number three?

But two kids, a family of four, has always been our magic number, so to speak. Two kids plus two parents make an orderly family of four. Since we decided to start having kids, we've been set on this number. We've talked around and around in circles about all the reasons that a family of four works for us.

We can easily fit in almost any car. With car seats. I might want an awesome minivan with the built in vacuum and the extra storage, but we don't need one. The Forester is definitely the "family" car, but we can ride in Adam's sedan just as easily.

We fit neatly into restaurants. Now that the girls are out of high chairs, we don't need to tack on an extra chair to the end of the booth, or wait for a large table. A four top works wherever we go.

We fit neatly into our house. We've been tossing around the idea of moving the girls into the same bedroom, and having the other room serve as a play/school room - or various configurations for sleep/play/school - but again, we don't have to. Both girls can have their own bedroom, with a room left for Adam's office. Three kids would mean that a change would have to be made - a basement finished, a shared bedroom, a loss of a home office. Again, we might make a change anyway, but as a family of four, our hands aren't tied.

We can play man-to-man defense or zone, but the times are becoming rare that we're getting overwhelmed. When the girls are tough or the schedule is full, we can divide and conquer easily. Mom helps one, Dad helps the other. If either of us is alone, we're still not overwhelmed. I have two hands. I can walk the girls through a parking lot and know that I'm holding onto everyone.

Because we have two girls, hand me downs are a cinch. True, by the time Reagan is getting through with the clothes she's had as a toddler, things are definitely worn out, but most stuff has lasted through both kids. Dresses, coats, dress shoes, bathing suits - we're getting good use without trying to stretch them too much further.

I can balance the activities pretty easily. I can balance the doctor and dentist appointments. I can manage our calendar without getting overwhelmed. I can write the check for gymnastics or dance and not feel like I've signed over our life. Both girls are generally able to participate in things without much worry about if we're being "fair".

I could go on and on, but the general point I'm making is that logically, Adam and I came up with a pretty sound argument to stop at two.

But Reagan really isn't a baby anymore. She's doing more for herself. She's capable of more. She's starting to talk. She's getting close to potty training. She's into a big girl bed. She takes gymnastics and will start swimming this summer. She's becoming a kid. A little kid, but a kid. I don't have a real "baby" anymore.

When I was done nursing, I was done nursing.

When she's done with diapers, we are done with diapers.

When she's done with sippy cups, we are done with sippy cups.

When she doesn't need babyproofing anymore, we are done with baby gates and doorknob covers and cabinet latches.

And soon they'll both be independent. They'll both be able to get themselves dressed, do their own chores, play outside on the playscape without making a break for freedom (we have a looooong driveway, so none of these breaks have been successful, but it's still not possible to multi-task while the girls are playing outside. And no, our yard is not at all conducive to fencing.

We're done with bottles and baby food and high chairs and bouncy seats and playmats and exersaucers and all that "gear".

I have a big old "mom purse", but I almost never carry what could be called a "diaper bag" anymore.

We're in the home stretch of the complete dependence on Mommy stage. And when it's over, it's over,  and rather than grieve over the lack of an infant, I'm excited for the next stage the girls are ready for. It's time to move on.

Or is it?

Now that people are asking, I'm having to really think about it again. 

Am I really done? Am I ok with not having a baby anymore? I certainly don't miss the nursing every few hours during the night stage, but I do miss that feeling of having a snuggly, milk drunk infant falling asleep on you. I don't miss the aches and pains of being pregnant but I do miss the feeling of having that amazing connection where you feel the baby moving and kicking. I don't miss having a screaming baby at the witching hour, but compared to a tantrumming toddler....well, maybe I do miss having a baby who can be consoled by a boob or a binky or even just a cuddle.

Do I want a third? Should I stop giving away our baby things, consigning our outgrown clothes, selling the old gear? Am I really done?

I decided to use my friend's pregnancy - and subsequent newborn days - as a barometer. On a scale of "oh thank goodness that's not me" to "aching uterus", how jealous was I? She was a good measure - we talk daily, so I feel like I have a good sense of her day to day life. She's adding a third boy to her two who are spaced the same as my girls, so it would be a comparable situation. I'd see the baby often, so it would be a consistent measure instead of a rare "baby fix".

I was around for the pregnancy. I visited her in the hospital and held the baby for well over an hour when he was only a day old and still completely worn out from the exhaustion of being born. I've talked to her daily. I've seen the baby at least once a week and have held him, and consoled him, and bounced him to calm his cries.


I think I'm done.

She's handling the three beautifully. The littlest brother fit neatly into their family and the older two are adjusting with few, if any, issues. He's a good sleeper, a good eater, a very sweet boy who loves to be held. He's happy to be worn and her hands aren't much fuller than usual.

But I think I'm done. My uterus isn't aching when I hold him. I'm not leaving flush with baby fever. He hasn't caused me to mentally adjust our life for a third. I'm not wondering if our family isn't quite complete yet.

We are. We're complete. Our magic number is four, and I could not be happier with the four that completed us.
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