The other night, I had a a dream that I was pregnant again. Since I don't quite remember and didn't understand, I'll spare you the weird, dream-like details of how this happened (something involving an evil queen, I think?), but whatever the cause, there I was, expecting another baby when my current one is just five months old. We would be having four children instead of the three we'd planned on.
In my dream, Sam and I had a reaction of: "Oh. Well, ok, then." I wasn't unhappy. I would embrace this child as I had the others, but…. But I'd have a newborn when this baby was only fourteen months old. I was just about to get rid of my maternity clothes (well, the ones I'm not still wearing, ahem). We had accepted that Karsten would be our last, and now here we were being thrown back into the thick of it again. I tried to wrap my dream mind around the concept that we would be a family of six instead of five — it wasn't what I'd anticipated, and it was a hard thought to surround, like something stuck in my throat.
When I woke up, I was relieved. Not at the fact that we weren't having a fourth baby, but at the fact that I was apparently more at peace with it than I'd thought.
If my subconscious was telling me a fourth would be a less-than situation, then stopping now must in fact be the right decision for us.
I'd been worried about it, that maybe I wasn't as much contented with the idea as my rational mind told me I should be. On the one hand, we have just enough space (well, ok, a little less than enough) for five people in our home and our car. We have literally no extra room for one more. We have trips planned out for the next decade of places we want to visit with our children, plans that would be greatly curtailed if we had another baby, and perhaps delayed to the point that our oldest, Mikko, doesn't get to enjoy many journeys with us. This last pregnancy (particularly the final trimester, when it was all I could do not to physically fall apart) and birth (weeks of prodromal labor and a posterior presentation, oy) were really hard on me. Recovering from the pregnancy has been really hard on me. I'm just now to the point that I'm not accidentally falling asleep all day from fatigue. I'm trying hard right now to knit myself back together and take charge of healing. Having another newborn? Not in my best interests, health-wise. And we're homeschooling our kids, so it's hard enough right now to split attention between three wildly different ages. How would it be with four?
That's all the rational stuff. The reasons Sam and I have both agreed upon that we're done, that he's going to get an appointment for the Big Snip, that we're happy with what we've got.
But. But but but.
Then I look at the photos on my screensaver of Karsten magically morphing from spindly newborn to fluffy five-month-old. I chuckle that I can't fit my hand around his calf, his arm, his foot. He's getting literally so big. And I look up at Mikko with his mouth half-full of unwieldy permanent teeth and Alrik with his preschooler face and limbs carved free of his baby pudge and know, my gosh, it all just goes by in a blur, doesn't it? The changing never ends. I feel in Karsten's mouth, and there's his first tooth, a tiny white razor poking through his bottom gum, and meanwhile he's pushing me off so he can kick and flap and once again perform his favorite current trick of rolling over onto his stomach and then bawling that some mean person put him on his stomach.
I passed by an upscale maternity boutique, and even though I know I could never afford one item of clothing from it, I looked longingly at the mannequins with their adorable bumps and know I'll never be that cute again. I loved being pregnant. I loved my maternity clothes. I know a lot of people don't, but I did. I'm contemplating getting them ready to sell in a lot on eBay, and it will be like saying goodbye to good friends. Every day, seriously every day, Karsten outgrows another piece of baby clothing or a diaper cover lovingly handed down from a brother, and I'm collecting them all to pass on — but not to my own child, to someone else's this time.
To think I'll someday never breastfeed again, when it's been so much of my life these past seven and a half years and I've been so good at it. (This not said to brag, obviously, but to say honestly that it's been simple and enjoyable for me and my nurslings.) That someday my baby carriers will be unused, even though I've freaking written a book about babywearing. That I'll be at a loss at some point about what to blog about here. That I'll never have another baby inside me, another birth experience, another squishy newborn and then adorable toddler and charming preschooler and so on. That a door is closing, and I'm the one closing it.
Which is why: I am thankful for that dream. I am thankful for the reminder that this is in fact my choice. That I know what my body, my health, my family, my finances, my mental capacity can gracefully handle, and I've chosen to go up to the limit and no further. I can't even say we'll someday foster or adopt, though I'd like to, because in our current quarters we have no space to, and I don't expect a financial future where we'll be gifted a larger house. But who knows?
It still makes me emotional. It still makes me want to skim over the pregnancy announcements on Facebook for awhile. But here, now, with my littlest one napping beside me, I am content with what I have. More than content: I am happy. These are my three children, and this is my family, and this is what I'd dreamed of having.
I wrote earlier in a similar vein about what it was like to be pregnant with our third child, and I included this poem, which I'll post here again:
The Last Child
Do I fold them away in an Office Depot box
to stuff into a corner of the closet,
or pack them in a plastic bag
and truck them to Goodwill?
Not ready yet to give them up,
these pieces of you,
these hopes of another,
these possibilities of
dimpled arms filling sleeves
newly dirtied diapers
small enough head to fit
the monkey hat you outgrew.
But, another or no,
you don't stay small.
You never stay at all.
One day, there will be
a last child.
And what to do with the boxes,
what to do with the hopes —
tuck them away or pass them on?
(This poem excerpted from my book, Poetry of a Hobo Mama, available on my site and on Amazon.)
If you feel like sharing, what is your story of family size? Did you get to choose at all, or has smaller or larger been chosen for you? Have you had an inner picture of your family at a certain size, seated around a table, and did you or do you think you will match your vision? Have you and your partner(s) agreed on how many children to have?