Monday, June 29, 2009

Are we there yet?

I have 3 kids ages 1-5. I have taken 4 flights alone with said 3 kids in the last month, so I find myself attempting to answer "Are we there yet?" often lately. But guess what? I'm actually the one who has been asking it and not just because I was READY to get off that plane (though I was READY to get off that plane, too). My husband I are struggling with our future childbearing plans. With 3 kids, is our family complete...or not?

Now ordinarily, I'm not a huge fan of the overshare and I wouldn't take these musings to a blog of physician mothers, but it feels relevant here.

My med student brother-in-law and his wife and two little girls were visiting this weekend, so I had to drag out the high chair and the pack n play and all of the baby stuff that is still stowed in our attic. And while I had a little familiar wave of nausea as I watched all of our floor space become occupied by clutter, as it has been for so much of the last 5 years, I also had a little wave of nostalgia. Actually a big wave of nostalgia. We are long overdue for a yard sale to be certain. But am I really ready to give away the bassinet? The baby tub? The smallest baby clothes? The boy baby clothes that I haven't had occasion to pull out since my first child was born 5.5 years ago? I'm not so sure.

My son would love to have a brother (no guarantees there, of course, but as a woman who can't imagine not having a sister, I do give a nod to his desire for a brother). We have the space--two of the kids would have to share a room, which none of them do right now, and I'm sure that would generate discord and some night time awakenings, and we would need to trade one of our cars in for the dreaded minivan--but we have the space. More importantly, though, we have the space in our hearts. We love each of our kids more every time we have another one. I know we would be busier, which unfortunately detracts from the individual time each of our kids get with us, but in exchange, they would get the love and companionship of another sibling, and that counts for a lot. And when my husband and I are long departed from this life, it will count for even more.

So why am I struggling? Well, the truth is that it wears me out to think about having to "start over" yet again at the career. Having to make excuses about being late because the baby kept me up all night and then I slept through my alarm. Having to take breaks from meetings to pump. Having to rush out of clinic and skip tumor board in order to see my baby before he or she goes to bed at an insanely early hour that is currently referred to as "dinner time" otherwise in our household. Having to turn down awesome opportunities and excuse myself from obligations because deadlines or conferences will occur when I am 36 weeks pregnant or when I have a 6 week old. And, most nebulously but maybe most significantly of all, having to prove that I can "still do it" as I had to prove I could still do it when I was pregnant as a first year fellow; when I had two children and therefore two maternity leaves during the course of a 3 year fellowship; when I got pregnant with my third child shortly after starting my new job. Presumably, this time it would be having to prove that I can still do it even though I now have 4 kids since I have been told many apocryphal stories of physician moms who "cut back to part-time when they had their second and then decided it was just too much and quit working after the third." I don't know what happened to them when they had their fourth. Maybe I don't want to know!

There is definitely an assumption at our jobs that we are done since we have 3 kids. I have had multiple colleagues tell me jovially and empathetically, "Hang in there. It's going to be so much easier in another year or so all of your kids are out of diapers!" It is a forgone conclusion that we are done to everyone except us. We have already exceeded the magic number (that would be 2) of kids for the two-physician family. On the other hand, I was recently told by a former med school classmate who also has 3 kids that "3 is the new 2". The question that leads me to is: So, does that make 4 the new 3...or is 4 still 4?

But the bottom line is that I just turned 37 a few days ago, and I have 3 small kids. If I am going to have another, I want to get on with it and soon. I would rather keep going with the diaper stage than have to go back. I don't want to be facing paying for college tuition at the same time I am also trying to retire. I want to be able to do things like go camping and hiking as a family, things that are harder or impossible to do when there is a baby or toddler straggling and holding back the rest of the group. I want to be able to plan days without having to accommodate anyone's nap. And I want to do it while I still have the energy to survive sleepless nights and chase my kids around the yard after a full day of work. So while I am not sure what our decision will be, I think the time we want to make it is soon.

So, are we there yet?


  1. It sounds like no.

    And happy birthday!

    I think we're there at two. Not that we don't have the room or the space in the heart. But, my husband has threatened to pack the car in the middle of the night and drive away if there's a third.

    (He's kidding. I think.)

  2. It sounds like you want a fourth child and your husband does as well - so I say, "why not?" By my calculation, your career is going to span 40+ years... my experience with familymembers who are physicians is that doctors like to cut back on their hours but no one actually retires! You cite missing work, maternity leave, etc. but there are going to be plenty of conferences, clinics, awesome opportunities you can take advantage of when your kids are all in school. I really don't think you're going to be missing out on anything. Plus, it's true that everyone assumes that you're "done" when you have three, but there's no need to follow convention. I thought having 4 was a big brood - until I met 3 women in the past year who are expecting their 5th child! (so maybe 5 is the new 4?)

    Good luck!

  3. With overpopulation being what it is, why add just to add? How about adopting, if you really want to raise another kid?

  4. We have two right now, and we get a lot of the same assumptions. That we are done having kids. But I really want a third. We will do want is right for our family, regardless of people's assumptions.

  5. I kind of agree with anon - not on the over population side of things but on the adoption side. You COULD guarantee a brother (possibly) and you wouldn't have to worry about the pregnancy. It would be up to you on the age you adopt at, but you could even skip some of the other issues! So, think about that!

  6. I have one now and am pretty sure we only want one more. I don't even feel ready for that one more right now (mine is 2). I can't imagine having four.

    OK, I have to say, I find it fascinating that you say you have a one year old and you are talking about how it gives you "nostalgia" for your house to fill with clutter and think about waking up during the night. My house looks like a hurricane hit and we *still* occasionally get woken up during the night.

  7. We have one. I'm 46 and he's not quite 3. I would love to have another, but man, the nighttimes and clutter, etc.

    As for "adopting". That isn't a perfect answer for anyone. Why do people have to bring it up as if it is a panacea (for anyone). Maybe having had issues with infertility and multiple miscarriages, I am much more sensitive to those comments.

    Good luck with whatever your decision is.

  8. Adoption is not about adding another child to your family, it is about giving a child a family. Not everybody can do it, not every family would be a good match for every child.

    To the OP: Enjoy your fourth pregnancy - you know you want to :)

  9. It's up to you, but to me it sounds like you really want another. And if you don't, you'll probably end up regretting it, or deciding to go ahead and finally have number 4 in a couple of years when it gets a little harder. Someone told me once to really think if your reason for wanting (or not wanting) a child is a selfish desire, and if it is then you'll end up resenting it later. Not knowing how religious you are, so don't let me offend you but pray about it too, there's a lot of comfort and help there.

    Of course feel free to count out by advice, I'm only expecting my first. And I came from a family with 5 kids, (and yep the 3 boys shared a room and us 2 girls shared a room) and neither of my parents was a physician.

  10. Speaking from experience, do not count out the possibility of #4 AND #5. We were aiming for 3 kids (I'm 37 too) and ended up w/ twins. Our eggs either do not want to take turns and only come out one at a time or they get "splitty" as mine did (we have identicals)

  11. I think you should have a 4th... ONLY if it doesn't distract from you blogging! (I love your posts..... only I won;t read them before work b/c they usually make me teary)

  12. Don't let what other people think color your decision (easier said than done of course). You'll make it work whatever happens.

  13. At the risk of being the Cassandra here, how well would your life work with a fouth child who has Down's?? You know how high the odds are climbing for you at age 37. Your family size is clearly not my decision, but in my family of origin I was the youngest by a large margin, and my parents wanted a sibling "for me" close in age. My un-named baby sister had Downs and its most severe cardiac manifestion when she was born via emergency C/S to my then-37 year old Mother. She never left the hospital, and her death tormented my Mother the rest of her life. And selfishly, I know if she had lived MY life would not have been the same. Just some food for thought....

  14. Your post is almost exactly what I'm going through right now. I'm 36 and have 3 kids (5.5, 3.5, and 1.5) and am thinking of a 4th. I'm also thinking of an endometrial ablation. I just haven't decided which I'm going for yet.

    Since I'm in private practice though I have to consider the money factor. Every time I take off to have a child it costs me about 100gs of lost revenue to take maternity leave. Then there's the decreased energy from nursing and being up at night. I get behind on my CMEs. I'm so absorbed in the baby, it feels like I wake from a stupor a little after their first birthday and realize I need a haircut and some makeup.

    But they are so sweet and it's exciting to bring a new life into the world.

  15. Yes, it is "sweet and exciting" to have a baby and bring a new life into the world. And, health considerations are important. For me, though, this decision boils down to family logistics, sanity and economics.

    My girls are now 12 and 14 and I can tell you that I am so glad we didn't give in to that "let's have another" bell ringing. I was so naive about how much running there would be as my kids became independent and older, and how pricey activities would be, including in the public schools. All public schools now have fees - in sports and music. Budgets due to the recession have imposed those and they are steep. You can drop a couple thousand per child on sports a year and another thousand or more on music if they are playing an instrument - rental fees, private teachers. Ballet and dance are equally pricey.

    So, as you are contemplating this huge decision, flash forward and consider the real day logistics and finances. And, also consider college. People are having trouble affording the tuition for 1 already have 3.

    Both my husband and I come from big families and we always thought we'd have one ourselves but we live in a very different economic time than when our parents had all of us. All I'm saying is to take a moment to consider the stuff no one else wants to mention - because living through it, I can tell you it's important to consider and will make the difference in whether you feel grounded and happy or feel like you are losing your mind.

  16. Kellie said: "As for "adopting". That isn't a perfect answer for anyone. Why do people have to bring it up as if it is a panacea (for anyone)."

    I just wanted to respond to Kellie's comment because it seemed so...harsh. I know plenty of people who have adopted successfully (and very happily). It isn't the right decision for every family, but it can be a very wonderful choice. I can understand that Kellie was probably tired of hearing people suggest adoption (when it wasn't the choice for her), but that doesn't mean adoption isn't a great way to bring a child into your family.

  17. More is not always better. I have 2, and already feel that I don't have enough time to spend with each child.

    Good luck with the decision.


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