Knowing My Limits: Deciding Not to Have a Third Baby


third babyUpon getting engaged to my now husband, we talked about so many plans for the future. Of course, we talked about how many kids we wanted, and we agreed three or four would be the perfect number. We both came from large families and wanted to give our children the gift of multiple siblings. We married and soon welcomed our firstborn, a sweet baby boy who slept well and was overall a very content baby. For me, the transition into motherhood was not a terribly hard one. I mean, there were sacrifices and hardships, but I welcomed them and felt prepared for them. The biggest hurdle was my husband’s sadness over the loss of freedom and personal time. We lived in California at the time, and my husband’s pre-baby weekends were spent sleeping in, playing sports, hanging out at the beach, and going to the bars. Weekends were now needed to catch up on obligations around the house and also spend quality family time. Our marriage suffered because I felt like I was dragging him along for a journey he signed up to embark upon with me. On the other hand, he felt unprepared for the sacrifices he would have to make as a father and didn’t feel fulfilled in his new role.

We agreed that this was a stressful season of life, and we should lean on each other and trudge forward together to have a second child. We kept telling ourselves that if we stuck it out, “this too shall pass.” While pregnant with my second, my husband told me he would like this baby to be the last, but he was open to discussing things if I felt differently. And I did. I knew I wanted a third. I had never considered only having two kids, and I was honestly a little upset that he had changed his mind. I kept telling him, “No one regrets having another baby. We need to just lean into this hard time together, and then things will get easier down the road.” Our sweet and feisty daughter was born when our son was 2.5. We then made a cross-country move to Indiana to be closer to family, have more space, and have an easier life as a family. My easy-going baby boy turned out to be a challenging toddler that required endless attention and co-regulation. I worried about how I would meet his emotional needs and also the needs of my baby girl. Giving each child what they needed felt like it was stretching me to my limits as a mom. Slowly the kids got older, and things did become less intense.

And as the kids settled into more sleep and more routine, so did my husband and I. We were making time for each other, and our marriage got stronger. We reflected on how we had some low points but were stronger now because of them. The urge to have a third slowly faded into the background. Every time I thought about having a third baby, I was filled with anxiety, worry, and dread. I realized I needed to make space to divert from plans I made before I understood parenting. I was content and so in love with my son and my daughter. I was fulfilled. Nothing was missing. My family was whole and complete.  

In the end, it was an emotional “knowing” that sealed the deal not to have a third baby.  However, there are a plethora of cognitive reasons I came around to realize in the end. For example, now we have even teams for family game nights, everyone has a partner for roller coasters, and hotel rooms are easy peasy when taking a vacation. Ok, those are a little superficial, but, in all seriousness, I like that I can give my kids more of me. Some moms truly can be present and giving of themselves with 3,4, or 5 kids. I am someone that needs a break. I am someone that gets overwhelmed when I feel pulled in different directions. I am someone that is better suited to have a small family-and that is ok.