About a year after we began dating, my husband and I planned out our life together. Normally, two 21-year-olds who have been dating for a year, long distance, talking about the future is destined to stay well within the realm of fantasy. But through some adorable twists of fate, my dude and I wound up not only staying together, but seeing each of the plans we'd made come to fruition (sometimes by accident). When it came to deciding how many kids to have, the magic number was three: We both declared our intention to have three children spaced 18 to 36 months apart and that was that for about a decade.
Child number one came along and all was going according to plan. While we weren't aching for another newborn right away, we already talked about "the next baby," knowing that's still what we wanted. I got pregnant again days after our son's second birthday, and that's when things started deviating from our time-honored plan. Because almost as soon as I got pregnant I knew, in every atom of my being, that this was my last baby.
There were non-mystical factors at play: finances (#always), the practical experience of knowing how much one child takes out of you, and the fact that my husband and I were both cystic fibrosis carriers, which meant that our children had a 1:4 chance of being born with the chronic, often fatal illness. But even outside of all those factors, I was struck by the overwhelming certainty I felt in my decision.
In talking with other parents about when they were done having children, I was surprised that many felt the same degree of certainty I did about the completion of my family. Whether they were "one and done" or "two and through" or "three and... no more babies for me" or "four and...uh...shutting the door" or "five and... OK, no, I'm barely alive," the point is, everyone seemed to have an "a-ha" moment.
So how did they know their families were complete? Let's take a look.
"Once I started mending from postpartum anxiety I realized I was happy with what I had."
When they told me it was twins.
"When the kid started sleeping, stopped crying so often, and became kind of fun to hang out with. Reminded every day when we sit down as a family for dinner."
"The moment I went on bed rest with #1."
After four years of paying daycare and barely making ends meet we knew we couldn't be so selfish and do it for another (what feels like) million years... it totally sucks when money dictates your ovaries. But that's adult life.
"As a mommy, when your child wakes up crying at night your thought should be to comfort your baby. The first time my baby (18 months at the time) woke up sick and my reaction was to wonder why she wouldn't go back the f*ck to sleep — that's when I knew I was done."
"When I found out I was pregnant and had a [9-month-old] baby! Done!"
Around the time our second was born. All the infant stuff is not my favorite, and I thought, 'I never want to do this again.' That's also when my biological impulses stopped pushing me to muscle through that feeling and it was like, 'Nope. That's it.'
"I knew I was done when the hyperemesis gravidum was even worse the 2nd time around. When I was in labor for two and a half days with my second after everyone had assured be it would be easier than my 35-hour labor with my first ... Thankfully, we felt complete at this point anyway."
"When my heart SANK (and how) at the sound of my baby shuffling in bed...10 seconds after I put her down."
"We "knew" for a long time, but my heart wasn't totally sold on it. We "agreed" (more quotation marks, I know) since our youngest has a lot of health problems and we felt we couldn't go through all the stress that entails again. But I held out...for all the selfish reasons one could have. Then, this summer we decided to take a family trip to Legoland completely last minute. We decided on Thursday night, Friday I packed, shopped, and planned, and Saturday at 5 a.m. we were off. Since we (then) had a 2.5 and a 4.5 year old, we were able to leave the stroller at home, skip nap times, not bring any diapers, and not stop every couple of hours to nurse or sit to eat (we snacked on the go)..."
The four of us had real conversations and were able to listen to each other. All these things would have been much harder and not nearly as enjoyable if we had an infant in tow. Then I realized we all fit — the four of us. We are a perfectly good working unit. We are complete.
"...My need, desire, or whatever to have a third evaporated on that trip (and my husband rejoiced)."
"When I had to walk around tethered to an IV pole and Zofran pump. I knew there was no way possible I'd ever do this again."
"The second I held my last baby in my arms and felt the relief of knowing he belonged to me and I never needed to question/wonder/fear if I would get to hold all the babies I felt like I was supposed to. After three miscarriages and two health babies and many pregnancy complications, the sheer relief of seeing that healthy baby in my arms told me it was enough. Now I just have to spend the rest of my life worrying about the two I have."
Were it not for health issues, I might have had more...UNTIL my youngest went to preschool. I'd forgotten the freedom of having even a few hours to care ONLY for myself. That was it. From then on, I was absolutely 100% over the wish for more babies.
"After the first I really didn't know if I ever wanted a second. Then we got pregnant and knew that was it. I've been snipped and am pretty fine with never having another spawn."
"When I held number three. I'd left a gap of 14 years between two and three and always wanted one more; one with my second husband [whom] I adore. We'd been married 10 years when we finally leapt and when I held her I was complete. Either then or when a tiny foot didn't get out of my ribs for 3 months and heartburn ruled my days and restless legs ruled my nights."