There are few decisions in life that can make even the strongest mom flip-flop like a fish out of water. But ask one if she's totally done having children and, more often than not, you'll get a complicated answer filled with contradiction and confusion.
That is, unless you ask me. After giving birth twice in 16 months and adopting our daughter soon after (totaling three kids less than three years apart), the decision for my family is crystal clear -- there is NO WAY we're having more children. In fact, when my 8-year-old semi-regularly requests another sibling, I give him a choice: "Sibling or mom, because you can't have both." (Fortunately for me, he picks mom every time -- at least for now.)
But I'm not the only mom who would rather be sentenced to time in prison than have another little one.
My boss, Ricki Lake, isn't shy when the subject of baby making comes up. She's 100 percent certain that, while childbirth advocacy is her passion, adding to her brood is not. In fact, the topic came up not too long ago when she and her hubby Christian were talking marriage and their future as a blended family. With three kids between them already, they decided their priority was to build a solid foundation by nurturing their relationship and not an infant.
It's a decision that seems to be a bit simpler for some moms as kids get older. My friend Kelli has always thought having two kids was the way to go and that her 12-year-old daughter and 11-year-old son are more than enough.
"My husband travels a lot, he always has, I didn't think I could split myself in one more direction. As the kids get older, it becomes a logistical nightmare with their schedules. I went through a phase for two weeks when my son went to kindergarten and I didn't know what to do with myself -- but I got over it," she said.
But for some, it's not nearly as black and white. In fact, it can become a point of contention in some households.
Erin, also known on the Web as the popular Queen of Spain, says the decision to stop adding to a family is a very personal decision, one she and her husband never agreed on. "He's gotten a vasectomy against my wishes. He says he will never change his mind, and it takes two. I have to respect it. He's given me two beautiful children and if he says he'll never change his mind. I don't have a choice, I'm done even when I don't want to be. So while I am unhappy about it, I have to respect that even if I wasn't done -- he is."
I have no idea whether I'm done growing babies. If up to [my husband] Jon, I'm pretty sure the answer would be that we're done (perhaps emphatically so after last night's teething-induced lack of sleep). However, it's harder for me to say that. I can't help it. I loved being pregnant. I love babies. Jon and I make really sweet ones. However, I'm also pretty tired right now given everything I have going on, coupled with the fact that Violet -- now walking and extremely excited about her newly discovered ability to scamper up the stairs -- pretty much kicks my ass sometimes.
It's interesting how many parents, even those who aren't really sure what the future holds, still choose to hold on to every piece of baby equipment they've ever purchased or received, filling the garage, attic and any empty corners. But not Christine. If there's one thing she's sure of, it's that the stuff must go: "I can't bear to hold on to baby things I may or may not need in the future when there are people who need them now."
In fact, when I reached out to see if her feelings have changed since she wrote that post in May, she replied, "I absolutely feel the same, maybe even more so now. Actually, just yesterday I gave a girlfriend a bag of girl clothes for her 6-year-old. She looked a little confused and said, "Don't you want to hold onto this for Violet?" and I was like, "No, I think your daughter would enjoy these now and who knows what Violet will like wearing in four years!"
Then there's Diane, a mom not ready to give up on the dream of more children. "I am actually still (sort of when I'm not tired, which is never) trying to get pregnant. I am, however, at the point where if I get pregnant, great, but I'm also okay with only having one child too."
Diane's not alone. More often than not, the women I spoke to couldn't bring themselves to physically say the shop is closed. While most weren't taking temperatures and peeing on ovulation prediction sticks, the idea of closing that door entirely was something they weren't ready to do. My own mom never closed the door to more kids (I was her eleventh), only stopping when her uterus was ultimately removed -- some women require drastic measures, ya know?
There's no one right answer when it comes to expanding your family or not. Have you made the "no more babies" decision? How were you able to make the final call?
Follow Jackie Morgan MacDougall on Twitter: www.twitter.com/JackieMacD