The aspiration and the reality don’t necessarily line up.
How do you know how many children you want, if any? Is there a number, an image, you’ve fixated on? Did you just know the answer was “children,” or “a child,” until circumstances – health, finances, a partner – pointed you in one particular direction?
“Our decision to have children were pretty much calculated,” said Janil, who has two children, ages 7 and 11. “We considered economics of it all – can we afford it, how will we maintain the lifestyle with kids with me not working for some time, all that. We also thought about if we had the emotional intelligence to deal with little ones. And there was my age – I was in my 30s when I got married so the bio clock was ticking, so I had to time my first pregnancy and consider the space (year gaps) and time for the second. Three years was a reasonable gap to have an old enough kid before another baby came into our life.”
I spoke with many women like Janil, who planned for a certain number of children and got them, basing their decisions on factors like finance, and also in the quality of life they could provide and maintain. “It was based on the number we thought we could manage while still being the parents we wanted to be,” Sarah told me.
Kelly has one child, by design, and she constantly finds herself the subject of criticism for her decision, which was based in environmental concerns. “The number of times people told me and my child some iteration of how ‘selfish’ I was not to ‘give her’ a sibling or how sorry they felt for her being ‘all alone’ was mind-boggling.”
There’s so much that can alter our carefully made decisions, including the possibility of us changing our own minds. Hannah had always imagined herself with five children. “I was waiting for the moment when I knew I wanted more or that I was done,” she said. There was no exact moment, as it turned out, but after her third was born, she began to feel content. “I don’t want more kids, I’m happy exactly with the ones I have.” Her decision to honor her instincts has helped her in her work with pregnant women. “I can connect even deeper with them knowing this about myself and my family.”
Growing up, Kiedra was more interested in adopting than in giving birth to children. Her husband, however, “was set” on having children, and though she continued to be unsure, she gave birth to their first and only child. “Our marriage was strained and didn’t last. My son is now eight years old, I am a single mom and would love to have another child with a future husband or adopt.”
Stephanie, who’s 32 and the CEO and Relationship Coach with the Good Love Company, said she wasn’t interested in having kids until she met her fiance. She urges others to be mindful about their decisions.”The idea of having children must be made from a longer scope viewpoint. How do you want to live? Needing babysitting for ten years? Where do you want to be? Changing diapers at 36 years old? I think people forget that babies become kids who become teenagers. It’s a forever thing — it’s a beautiful thing, but it will have a major influence on how you spend your days and there is nothing wrong with taking a serious look at the real life, non-sexy aspects of parenting.” She and her fiance now have one child, and after a lot of thought, they’ve decided not to have anymore. “The lifestyle we want overrules the desire to “give our son a sibling.” My fiancé and I want to be able to have our lives as well as raising a tiny human.”
And sometimes, it’s your body that decides for you. During her first and only pregnancy, from which she had twin daughters, R was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis. “That seemed to determine the number of kids I would have, thinking it wouldn’t be conducive to have another pregnancy, especially knowing I was dropping two eggs at a time.”
H had a difficult pregnancy, suffering from hyperemesis gravidarum, and by 6 weeks, she said, she was pretty certain her baby would be an only child. When her son was a year old, she had a heart attack resulting from Spontaneous Coronary Artery Dissection (SCAD). While her cardiologist gave her the go to have more kids, she wasn’t interested, after two more heart attacks and developing deep vein thrombosis, her husband had a vasectomy.
“I’ve always been a planner and growing up , I had this idea of how things would go,” said Angela. Growing up, she was the oldest of four children, and when she thought about having kids of her own, she knew she wanted “no more than three.” Her first child, a daughter, came with relative east – she said they weren’t trying, but they weren’t preventing it, either – but when they tried for a second child, things didn’t go so smoothly. After four miscarriages and two failed attempts at IUI, she and her husband are still “determined” to have more children, although she’s starting to come to terms with the fact that it may not happen. ” So, I laugh when I hear of other women planning out their families – I want to tell them it doesn’t always work like that.”
Cover image courtesy of Getty Images