And Then There Were Four

This is so hard to write about, because I’m not really over it and it feels like I’m feeling it all over again every time I talk about it, and I haven’t once talked to anyone about it without starting to cry. But I need to get it out there so I can move on and do something else with my life.

I would have named him James. I would have named her Remy.

If we had had more babies, those would have been their names.

I am not sure how much I explained about what was going on around here for the last few weeks, but after a few days of forgetting to take my Paxil to disastrous results, I started taking it again, to disastrous results, and then I quit it cold turkey, also to disastrous results.  I might talk more about it later, but for now you just need to know that for almost four weeks, my life sucked complete and absolute metric tons worth of suckitude, and that yes, a person can poop that much, and that at least for me, the symptoms of Paxil withdrawal so closely resembled the symptoms of being pregnant that I took three pregnancy tests while I was having my period.  I am not pregnant.

And as much as Paxil withdrawal was one of the top ten worst experiences of my life, and I have had some doozies, there was one blessing that came with it and that I am profoundly grateful for, because every night when my husband would come home at five and I would dose myself to the gills with Dramamine and Unisom and Zofran and pray for it all to end, I would also think to myself “I can never do this again. I can absolutely without a doubt no question in my mind ever do this again. No matter what no ifs and or buts, I can never do this again.” And I can’t, and I will not be.

And the thing is I thought I wanted to do it again. When Erik and I got married, I told everyone I wanted five kids. I wanted a big crazy loud family, and I wanted holidays where people were bursting out of the house, I wanted tons and tons and tons of family all around me to make up for the empty feeling I sometimes had as a child, and then I downgraded it to four, and then I experienced what pregnancy is like for me with Eli and I thought maybe three. I always knew I’d have at least two but I really thought three sounded like a pretty good number. I never really thought I’d end up with just two.

And here we are. We’re done.  We’re just gonna have the two.

And the thing is that I know how damn lucky I am that I can just decide these things. I know that there are people that would give their left arm to be sick every day to be able to have another baby or ANY baby. I know all this.  I think of them every time I think of this. And I know all this and still, I just can’t do it.  I just can’t do it.

It would destroy me. It would destroy me to go through a pregnancy like I had with Katie while I have two children and a husband and a life. I don’t know if my kids would survive it intact. I don’t know if my marriage would survive it intact. I have no idea how I would survive it intact. I don’t think I would.  I missed Halloween and Eli’s Parent Teacher Conference. Erik had a huge work test that he didn’t get to study for. I almost missed the Blathering.  I feel like I was in a four week long coma, like four weeks of my life are just GONE.  I don’t want to miss a year of a five year old’s life. I just don’t.

All the rest of it, I can work out. If someone gave me a baby tomorrow, I could figure out the too small car and the too small house and all the rest of it, but I can’t work my mind around how to be incredibly unbelievably sick for ten months and not have it ruin everyone’s lives who is already here.

So I stood in my kitchen and tears ran down my face and I told my husband I couldn’t do it again, that this would have to be it, and I apologized that he ended up with such a dud, because honestly he’d be the best father to five children or eight children or however many children ended up here with us, he’d be such a good dad to all of them, he really would. He was meant to parent a gaggle of the creatures, and I just can’t do it.

The thing I told Erik is that I just wish I had known. I just wish I had realized that Katie would be the last one. I just would have smelled her head more.

But the interesting thing is that I can’t remember any other decision I’ve made that so instantly made me a better parent, because in that moment I realized that THIS IS IT.  I am not getting any other chances.  And these children I DO have? They’re pretty damn wonderful. And that next day when Katie woke up from  her nap crying, I sat and I rocked  her and I smelled her head and I memorized that half an hour we sat there together as hard as I could, even though there was laundry to fold and dinner to make and other things I could have been doing with my time. Instead, we sat there together and I put that half an hour in my heart and I locked it up forever.

Sometimes I think maybe God tried over and over and over again to send me the message and I just wouldn’t get it. He gave me a two bedroom house. He made me hate minivans.  God knows how I feel babies (strongly pro) but that I don’t really care for toddlers and that four year olds make me crazy and that mess stresses me out and that loud noises aren’t my jam and that I like order and neatness and I am tired tired tired of baby jail.  Sometimes I wonder if God has just been waiting around for me to get the message that it’s not worth making everyone else’s lives so much harder just so I can name something else.

No one is happy when you tell them you’re done when they’re waiting to hear that you’re having another one. I feel like I am disappointing so many people, but all the people who really know how hard it was for me to get through being pregnant twice understand.  I think sometimes people forget I went to the emergency room twice, that’s how sick I was. It was not a minor deal, for me, to be pregnant.

And still, I am very very sad. I just really wanted one more. I really did.  I really don’t ever want to be pregnant again. I breathed a sigh of relief when I sent all my maternity clothes off to Sarah Lena.  I am going to donate all my kids clothes to a women and children’s shelter.  The thought of someone with almost nothing putting her own babies in my babies rompers helps a lot. It helps.

And still, I am very very very sad.

But a thousand times a day, I do feel relief. I feel relieved that I don’t have to figure out how to pay for another baby. I don’t have to wear elastic waisted pants ever again. I don’t have to figure out how to live my life with a giant explosion in the middle of it. I can take my kids to the Grand Canyon soon, and not some day. I can keep driving the car I love instead of a car I’d hate.  I can stay in my favorite house and the thing is that this family of mine is the absolute best. It’s the absolute best and a thousand times a day I think “Oh my god, I can’t believe how lucky I got when I got you.”

And the thing that helps the most are all the people I know who chose two like it was no big deal, who think it’s the perfect number.  That helps more than anything else in the world, watching Emily live her life and watching BFF Sara live her life and watching everyone else makes it ok.

But still. I’m sad. I’m very very sad. I’m ok! I will be ok.

But I just really really wanted one more. And I think I will always always miss a little bit what could have been, little Remy, little James.

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19 Responses

  1. I am sorry this decision was so hard but I am glad you have made it. I think we will make it to two one day maybe but never three. Now you can go forth and live it!

  2. I always thought I wanted more, too, to be honest. But adding up the pros and the cons when it came to pregnancy (certain death!) and the newborn haze (postpartum depression!) and the cost of living in DC ($600K for a very old, ugly house!) made the decision FOR me. I don’t want to risk my life to pregnancy. I don’t want to risk my marriage to depression and anger and tension. I don’t want to sacrifice opportunities for the two kids I have. And yet, I would have loved to have been one of those people who can have a messy house and who sticks a boob in a baby’s face like it’s no big, and who doesn’t need the amount of “me time” that I apparently do.

    So I made a choice. I started talking about my choice, and I got more comfortable with my choice. And the peer pressure, I think, is the worst. Hearing about OTHER people who want/get what I once wanted makes me… envious? I guess? Except I don’t really WANT a newborn, so I don’t know what it is that I want.

    Your life will be full. Make no mistake about it. Your life will be fulfilling and it will be beautiful, and there’s no reason NOT to grieve for what you might have had, as long as you can appreciate and embrace what you do. Which is exactly what you are doing. LOVE YOU, E.

  3. Just want you to know that I really really know how huge this is and while I wish you hadn’t figured it out in quite this way, I’m glad you HAVE figured it out and now you’ll go to the Grand Canyon. I’m sad with you and for you, but it doesn’t feel disappointing, it feels freeing.

  4. I think back to when my husband and I first started discussing the if/when we wanted to start a family, and how tough that decision seemed at the time… and then later about adding a second child, and then a third. Now after having three boys, I get lots of pressure about having a fourth *specifically* to try for a girl, and… no. I would love to have one more child, but there are many factors in our decision to be done, none of which have to do with a hypothetical future baby’s sex. Maybe others are disappointed, but we can’t try to live out someone else’s idea of a perfect family/life… and maybe now and then I wonder what it would be like, but we all have to consider the Getting There part, too, and do what is best for ourselves and our loved ones. If the Getting There is going to ruin the Being There, it’s just not worth it. And whatever we choose it’s something to both grieve and to celebrate.

    Thank you for sharing this. Sending hugs your way.

  5. Oh, Elizabeth. My heart is just breaking for you; it seems like some people make huge decisions easily, but I am not one of them (and so many many decisions feel huge to me), so I know both the terror and the relief that comes from settling on a decision.

    Your kids are so lucky to have you and to have you think about them and their lives in this situation. Oh, you’ll be the best family of four there ever was.

  6. I thought I would have one more. The first two just happened; I thought a third would just happen, too. It didn’t. All that time I feared pregnancy and childbirth again–they was so awful for me. Such a dark, dark time. I didn’t want to walk through it again. Anyway, yeah, there’s still a lump in my throat when I think about it.

    It sounds like you know what you need to do, and there’s something to be said for that. I hope that soon the pain isn’t so raw.

  7. I am so sorry that this has been so awful for you. You are lovely and so kind, and you are an amazing mother to two kids. I am sorry it hurts so much right now.

  8. oh lady, I’m so sorry you had to come to this decision THIS way. It really was taken out of your hands, in a way. That’s not how it should be. Try not to worry about disappointing others in the decision- because SERIOUSLY, there will ALWAYS be someone who thinks the number of kids you choose to have is incorrect (PEOPLE ARE STUPID. heh) I think it’s amazing of you to make such a hard decision like this based on thinking of your current kids- you don’t want to miss out on their lives and THAT is what’s important. That makes you an amazing mother! xoxo

  9. We stopped at three (for medical reasons as well) and I am so grateful that I knew this while pregnant with #3 but it still doesn’t get rid of the what-ifs and the desire for #4 that sneaks up on me. I’m guessing you get this feeling no matter when you stop? I don’t know…maybe some people don’t but I think I would. For me that feeling is all tied up with having a daughter…not that I would change any one of them for an instant, but sometimes it just hits me that I’m actually never going to have a daughter…like for reals…and it sort of takes my breath away. In any case, thank you for sharing this. And it IS sort of freeing….that moment when you realize that your family is complete, although you never know who God will throw your (non pregnancy related) way. Rock and smell sleepy baby heads and let the laundry wait!

  10. Oh, I’m SO sorry. This must have been incredibly hard to decide, I can’t imagine. I’m praying that peace will come to you soon. Just because you don’t have complete closure (yet) about this doesn’t mean you aren’t grateful for what you have, we know you are! You had to make a choice, which was the right one for you and taking your family’s needs into consideration. No one can fault you for that. I really, really hope that you can begin to heal now.

  11. Sometimes hard decisions are hard (duh) and you make them and they’re done but they’re still hard.

    The thing about kids, we had 3 and people say “Have an even number!” Etc etc but I know — I KNOW — I am at my emotional and mental limit with the family I have. If I had another baby I would be a much worse parent to all of them and a worse wife, not to mention the financial constraints, etc.

    But the family size that gets a person to their limit is different for everyone. For some people it’s five, for some ten or one or none. You figured out your limit and though it makes you sad, I think it will also enable you to be happy.

  12. I’m sorry it’s been so hard. I hope the sadness will be short lived, and I hope the upsides will quickly overshadow any downsides. I’ll be thinking of you!

  13. Heidi and Hugo. They would have been my two other children’s names.
    But the months of morning sickness and breathtaking white hot back pain and the migraines 3 times a week that I just knew were doing damage to my brain, mean no more babies.
    Unless I find a set of twins on the street of course.
    I’m sorry and I hope you find peace.

  14. God, girl. You can make me cry like no other blogger. I get this. I have three but wanted five. But for the exact reasons you give, Jason is in the process of getting a vasectomy (counseling, insurance, etc). Woody or Sadie.
    I wish I could hug you.

  15. I never really wanted more than two — and then I had my boys and oh! I wanted more. But Mike didn’t and our lives are good and so we’re done, and as happy as I am about that, it’s still bittersweet. Always, even when it’s the best, right decision.

  16. Hugs to you. I understand. I always wanted five kids. Five would have been my perfect number. Five fits into a commercially available car and into a reasonable number of bedrooms. But I have already accepted that I will never get five. It was just too hard and took too long for us to get to two. But I wonder if I will always be sad about not getting to five, no matter how many kids I have in the end.

  17. I am really angry on your behalf that you had to go through this, to find this decision in this way. There is no way this doesn’t suck. I am still really sad (packing up little boy shoes to give away!) about not having three, and I cannot speak for other women with broken uteruses (uteri?), but I would not give up my left arm for another baby. No way, no how. I could not have another miscarriage. I’m sure if we kept trying, we could have, but…no. I think that’s the same decision, too, in a similarly awful way.

    I still think about that post you wrote a while back, about how the person missing in your family was you. So now the whole internet is waiting to see what you do next.

  18. You wrote about this so poignantly and beautifully. Take the time you need to grieve this decision and be gentle with yourself. To me it sounds like absolutely the right path for you and your sweet family. I remember the post in the last…year? Six months? When you wrote that you felt that someone was missing in your life, but instead of being another child it was *you*. Perhaps this is the universe’s way of validating that feeling, and telling you that it’s ok to find yourself again. I also think it’s so important to know yourself and your limitations so that you can be the best person you can be for the people who are here, those two awesome kids you have and your great husband.

    Incidentally, sometimes I feel this weird guilt over my desire to have a single child, because the decision is entirely in my hands. My husband and I had always intended on two, but I just don’t think I have it in me. I don’t have a medical or physical reason not to have another baby — I’m oldER, but not quite too old to have one; pregnancy wasn’t that bad for me; we haven’t had an issue with fertility (though maybe we would now that we’re older). So I feel like our family size decision rests entirely on my shoulders, and I don’t have a “valid” reason not to have more babies, except that I don’t want to (for all sorts of personal/practical/financial/emotional reasons). The best I can do is say that I don’t feel overwhelmed with the desire to have another, and I feel like that is the kind of motivation it takes, because it is a HUGE DEAL to add to a family, and I feel like I already fall short of being the best mom and (especially) wife that I can be, and I owe it to my existing family to try harder, be better, and be present with them. Maybe that doesn’t make sense; and perhaps if I didn’t have a choice at all, it would be worse, but sometimes I wish I had one solid, unquestionable reason that seemed like it wasn’t just about me and what I want.

  19. This is hard. I still want a third, but Thomas definitely doesn’t. I don’t know what will happen. I love our family as is and have been wrapping my mind around the fact things are already perfect and I don’t NEED that third child. But if I knew for sure I wasn’t going to have another? I don’t know how exactly I’d deal with that. It does help, that while not quite as sick as you, I also get extremely sick while pregnant and I don’t want to go through that again. I missed a lot while moaning on the couch for six/seven months and reeeeally don’t want to get into it again.

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