On (Not) Having a Third Baby

How do you know when your family is "complete?" Clementine Family Editor Lindsay Meyer-Harley shares a touching personal account of her family's tough decision to stick with two kids.
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Image Credit: Lindsay Meyer-Harley

Image Credit: Lindsay Meyer-Harley

Add this to the list of life skills nobody teaches: how do you know when you're truly "done" having kids? Families can take all different shapes and sizes, and deciding when your little crew is complete can be a complex and emotional process. Today, our Family Editor Lindsay Meyer-Harley offers her personal story, sharing the different factors that helped her and her husband figure out the family structure that feels right to them. We hope you'll find wisdom and insight in her thoughtful reflections, below. 

I'm approaching my 34th birthday this summer. I have a beautiful six-year-old daughter, Juliette, and a two-year-old son, Jack, so I “have one of each!” as I’ve been told over and over. I’m done, right? 

Yes and no. There are so many layers to unpack when discussing having or not having more children.

My husband Kevin and I sum it up this way: we wish we wanted to have a third. We wish financially we didn’t feel like we would be spreading our income in a fifth direction, lessening each child’s college funds and needing to increase the size of our home, car and vacation budget, to name just a few. It’s not a fun conversation to have as a couple--money is never sexy when you’re discussing the potential lack thereof. 

Right now, our family is living comfortably. We're hoping to save for our first home over the next few years, and we plan to enjoy traveling with our children as they get a little older while tucking more away into their college savings accounts each year. The truth is, a third baby would change that model drastically. 

But a baby, a sweet cooing baby, snuggling into hand-me-downs that both Jack and Juliette wore, being loved by the four of us as we adjust to life as five--oh, it’s tempting me at every turn.

It's not that our family doesn't feel complete, but it's still hard to accept that this is it. It's tough knowing that each little milestone Jack passes is the last time we will experience those firsts. The last first steps, first smiles, first words, first everything.

Then again, there’s something profoundly special about the way we’ve enjoyed this second time around with Jack that we didn’t with Juliette. We’re taking things much slower, parenting with more intention and attention. Above all, we are being much more present, as we know he’s our last baby. We see now what a hurry we were in with Juliette to watch her grow, to get to those monthly milestones. With Jack, I stopped counting how many weeks and months old he was, after the first few, and I had to quickly do that math when asked his age. Both of our children have benefitted from us slowing down--it’s been an awakening for us all.

I am extremely thankful to have had an easy time getting pregnant twice. After two healthy, relatively "normal" and uneventful births, why rock the boat? I know so many women and couples who’ve been dealt emotional and physical blows in their attempts at starting families--years of trying, miscarriages, lengthy IVF treatments and other speed bumps on their paths. Pregnancy was hard on me, though. I had tremendous back pain with both pregnancies. With Jack, I was congested the entire time and had severe morning sickness, not to mention extreme exhaustion and a million other complaints. Pregnancy took me away from Juliette, from attending birthday parties and play-dates, from the dinner table even, as my back hurt so badly at the end of each day I needed to lie down. I missed what felt like a year of her. I wasn’t able to hold her the same way or play with her like I was used to doing. Another pregnancy would do that all over again, but to Jack as well this time. As funny as it sounds, I missed Juliette while I was pregnant, and I know how much I’d miss them both if we had another. 

These are the thoughts that help me through our choice to stop at two children. They help me as I tuck away tiny clothing that won’t be worn by another Meyer-Harley baby and enjoy today, each and every moment I have with them while they’re little.

I heard a beautiful line somewhere, and it rings so true that I often repeat it to my husband after a particularly long day: the days are long, but the years go fast, or something to that effect. These are the days, my friends. Whether you have one, two, three or many more babies, enjoy them, because at some point, each precious childhood is over, and it’s gone in a flash. 

If you’ve had children, are you done? Are you grappling with the decision? Every parent has different layers of questions to unpack, so please don't think I'm prescribing anything here--I'm just sharing my family's story, and I'd love to hear yours, too. We’re all in this parenting gig together.

p.s. Motherhood may not always be easy, but aunties play a special role in making every family a little sweeter.