Deciding to have a second child didn’t even seem like a real decision to be made. Both of us knew we were on board for 2, so there wasn’t much hemming and hawing. We simply got overly nostalgic the week of A’s first birthday and took the leap into a second pregnancy.
It was a little hasty, but it was fun.
A third child, however — that’s a whole other kind of decision. Or at least it was for us. We discovered lots of very logical reasons not to. Buy-one-get-ones don’t work evenly anymore. Restaurant booths aren’t built for 5 people. Airfare anywhere becomes a nightmare. You create a middle child. Add another college tuition. You have to get a bigger car. Etc. Etc.
And in our case, a third child represents more than the simple time and expense of another child (not that it’s ever simple, not really). In our case, we know there’s at least some possibility that we might be adding another set of feet that need orthotics, or another several years of speech therapy. (That not counting the other surprises that are also possible with any new child, the things you never know to think about until they happen). I worried more than once that people would judge us for having another child when our first two have some “extras.”
Since F was a year old, we’ve talked about a third kid. Shelved the conversation. Talked some more. Shelved it again. We had each had moments where we thought “maybe”, but we just weren’t sure.
When our ultrasound technician said, “Yep, that’s a penis,” at F’s 20-week screening, I was elated. Two brothers, so close in age . . . I loved the idea of raising little boys. (Still do, though I’ve seen quite enough penises, thankyouverymuch). But I have to admit that it left a strange question mark out there that was probably a little more pronounced than if we’d have had one child of each gender. It’s hard to know if we’d have felt the same either way, but all I know is that I didn’t feel done.
It probably didn’t help that as we sat there in the ultrasound room, my darling husband said, “Somehow I just think we’ll be back here again,” in a moment of loved-up fatherly insanity that I definitely took too seriously.
A few weeks after F’s arrival, I had to go back to the hospital to drop off my nursing pump. I had a visceral moment there in the elevator as I headed up to the birth center: I knew in my gut that someday I would be back. The tears came then. I was hormonal and crazy and sleep deprived, yes — but my heart was sure.
How dangerous those moments become. And how quickly. I worked to bury that moment, knowing that you can’t base life-altering decisions on your guts. (Never mind that I had leapt into marrying Justin — my best decision — on just such a sense).
I remember how relieved I felt when, after talks with geneticists, we were told that, while we were likely to have kids with slightly low muscle tone (so: kids just like us) and there was the possibility of mild temporary issues, we had no more risk than anyone else does of having a child with severe challenges.
“I’m just so relieved to know the door isn’t closed,” I said on the drive home. That crazy hope quickly resurfaced.
I once heard a woman announce to our entire small group that she and her husband’s new year’s resolution was to get pregnant that year. She confided to us women later that “Well, I’ve got him at about 80%.” I didn’t have children yet, it wasn’t even a thought yet, but I remember thinking: there’s no 80% when it comes to kids. I knew that I didn’t want to ever have kids unless we were both on board.
For a long time Justin was not so sure about becoming a family of 5. I felt bad — for the both of us, but mostly for him. There’s nothing that’s fair about a conversation when one person wants something so huge and the other person has all the burden of saying yes or saying no. It wasn’t fair and we openly acknowledged it.
I should have guarded myself better, but the truth was that, somewhere in that year of talking about it, a third child had somehow become more than a hypothetical question. It was more like a potential person — another member of our family — was hanging in the balance. I started thinking things like, “Well, it’s not like a minivan would be so bad. And how often do we even fly anywhere anyway?”
Again: it’s so unfair to put that decision on someone. But I also knew I loved my husband more than I loved a possible third kid. It had to be both of us or none of us. And I knew that if he asked me to, I’d let it go. It was just that, after over a year, I needed to know there was a time coming when we’d have come to a decision and I could either let my heart go nuts or I could grieve some and move on. The not knowing was almost harder.
The internet being the font of knowledge that it is, I actually googled — a couple of times — “having a third kid.” One site said: “The number one reason to have a third kid is so you can stop talking about whether or not to have a third kid.” I have to agree.
I’m almost too ashamed to write what helped us land. The first was a sort-of joke: I told Justin that most of our board games are 5 player games, which he said was the most compelling item in the “pros” column. The second was an example of just what kind of man I’m married to and frankly, it humbles the shit out of me.
This one particular morning, I knew he’d landed, but I wasn’t sure what he’d say. He took a deep breath and said, “The truth is that I was already 75% on board anyway. Our kids are cool. But our life is already crazy. And with another newborn — that’s such a rough time. But when I was thinking about it, I realized it would be easier for me to run the gauntlet with another baby than it would be for you to let go of another person in our family. I’m in.”
“…I do have conditions though. This. Needs. To. Be. Our. Last. Kid. You need to feel done this time. Also, are sexual favors on the table? I’m kidding. Kind of.”
A few months later, when I was sure he was sure and our children were more reliably sleeping through the night, we took the leap.
My pregnancies have always run like clockwork and I already knew to be grateful that somehow I’ve avoided the heartbreak of losing a child in pregnancy. But this third time, we had a scare early on and I had to go in for some tests. My hcg levels were really high but they couldn’t see an actual baby yet, which concerned them. They said I’d need to wait a week, and on the next scan we’d see if the pregnancy was viable or not.
It was a long week. I didn’t sleep. I learned how quickly I get attached.
I discovered — and wept to — a newer song of Regina Spektor’s in which she sings, “the piano is not firewood yet/ they try to remember but still they forget/ that the heart beats in threes just like a waltz/ and nothing can stop you from dancing . . .”
The way it worked out, I had to go to the second scan by myself, since Justin needed to stay with the boys. I listened to that song on repeat all the way to my appointment.
The ultrasound room had a big computer monitor mounted up where I could watch the scan. There was no keeping it together when she said, “There’s your baby. And it looks just like it should.” I’ve had blurry eyes at each of my scans all through my pregnancies with both boys — can’t help it — seeing them is magic — but this time I was an absolute mess of relief. The tech had to hand me a tissue or 5, but I didn’t care.
She told me I’m due Mother’s Day.
Baby girl and I are now 22 weeks along. Once this is all over, I know I’ll say it went fast, but it doesn’t feel fast. I’m tired. Nothing tastes good. My sleep is garbage. Heartburn and headaches rule my days. And I know too much about how amazing it is to meet the baby to really revel in being pregnant like I did the first time. There will be no photos of me holding fruit next to my belly in my Facebook feed and I have been too busy taking photos of Ash & F to stop and take a bump photo yet.
Every now and then when I’m particularly miserable and sick of pregnancy I think: I must have been crazy. But then I remember Justin’s prediction at F’s ultrasound. I remember me in the elevator. I remember the morning Justin leapt to 100%. I feel the baby kick, as she does often these days.
Yes. We are crazy. No one sane ever does this a third time. But she is and has been so very wanted. I’ve been dreaming of her a long time and cannot wait to finally meet her.
Til May, little girl.