I am the oldest of four. I have a sister and two brothers. If you’ve known me for more than 10 minutes, you know their names, ages, professions, and I’ve regaled you with at least one funny story. (Like the time the four of us got stuck in a hotel’s revolving door, and the resort’s staff had to break it to free us.)
I loved growing up as part of a gang, even though it was chaotic and loud at times. We fought. We played. Sometimes we even shared. We made epic messes. We got into trouble together and bailed each other out. Some material things were sacrificed, but I had my siblings, and in many ways, that was better.
For most of my life, I wanted to recreate that family. I always pictured myself mothering a group of children. My husband initially wanted two, but was tentatively open to more. We had our first daughter, and then a second, two years later. As many Target cashiers noted, I had my hands full. Even so, I wanted more children, just not right away. We set the idea aside for later.
When I went back to work, it took us a while to get into a rhythm. Trying for a third baby was put on indefinite hold. We bought our “forever house” last spring. We settled into our new place, and made it feel like our home. Our life was still busy, but it started to become more manageable.
And then, one night at dinner, my oldest daughter asked for a baby brother.
My husband and I launched into a series of discussions about having another child. We talked about all the things we’d need: pay for five more years of daycare; make peace with the insane logistics of three drop-offs before I drove to work; figure out the probability of three car seats fitting into my SUV. I checked out furniture stores for the best bunk beds for young girls sharing a room. But I felt like I was doing research for someone else. I pushed the feeling aside.
The time came to do more than just think about it. My husband was suddenly unsure. So was I.
I closed my eyes and visualized my family, and saw only the people who already existed. I suddenly couldn’t imagine an additional child, but I couldn’t quite figure out why.
One night, curled on my couch, I came across Sally Abrams’ Kveller post, “In Defense of Having a Big Family.” I loved it, and shared it with my parents. It made me reflect on my childhood, and it made me think about my children. But there was something more that resonated. I read the post over and over again, eventually realizing that it was a single sentence that struck me:
We are put in this world to live life fully and deeply, to do hard things, to dig in, and use up what we have.
I recognized myself in that line, because I am already doing everything she mentioned. I am giving chunks of myself to my children and my marriage and my job and my relatives and my friends and my house, and it is hard. I am already using up what I have been given. I am already digging in. How deep can I go before I crack my foundation? I realized that I don’t want to know.
And in that moment, I was finally able to let my big family fantasy go.
I am grateful to have two healthy daughters, who will continue to fill my world with cracker crumbs and music and purple glitter. As they grow up, I hope they always love each other, though I know there are no guarantees. I am raising two very different girls, and I pray I can parent both of them well. There will always be new surprises and new challenges for us all.
Perhaps it’s fate that my husband and I are making this decision now. I’ve always associated the early spring with growing my family. This year, the seders will take on a new meaning. We’ll celebrate our completed circle. Dayenu. We are enough.