Monday, September 30, 2013

Just knowing

The eternal question: How do you know when your family is complete? Google produces few helpful answers. The most common response seems to be "you just know." I've asked moms who have declared their families complete how they knew they were done. Evidently, they "just did."

Phil and I always talked in terms of three kids. Scratch that. When we started dating we talked numbers right away. He said two. I said three or four. I knew my family line up while they were just a twinkle in the sky. Boy, boy, girl...

I miscarried my first pregnancy at 7 weeks 5 days. Upon seeing those glorious pink lines I began shopping right away for gender neutral baby apparel. It seemed a real possibility to have either a son or a daughter. Speculation ran wild for those three short weeks.

The pregnancy ended in a blighted ovum--the earliest of stages of a baby that was not meant to be. My only pregnancy during which I never had any gut feelings about the baby's gender.

When I became pregnant with our son, I wasn't more than eight weeks along before I purchased the bedding for his bedroom: antique police cars from Pottery Barn Kids, in honor of his dad. It would be months before the baby's gender would be revealed in an ultrasound but, in my heart, I knew the child growing inside of me was my son. My baby boy. The firstborn I had always imagined.  It wasn't even a true surprise during my 20 week ultrasound when my suspicions were confirmed. I had known all along.

As my pregnancy with baby number two bumped along, my heart told me from the beginning that this child was our second boy; Philip's baby brother. But this time I let doubt creep in a bit more as the anatomy scan drew near. Maybe it could be a girl? So many strangers, upon seeing me pregnant and out and about with my one year old son, even went so far as to ask "is it a girl?" before they even knew how far along I was. Possibly this could be our daughter? Maybe we would have one of each and be done? But I knew better. And when the tech confirmed that Andrew was a boy, I thought to myself, of course he is. I always knew that.

Now I had two sons and well-meaning family assumed (sometimes even decided) we were done. Statistics even told me a third child after two children of the same gender was more likely to be the same gender as its siblings than the opposite gender. But my heart longed, nay ached for a daughter (a subject for another post). Of course, I knew I wanted three children, be the third boy or girl, and expanding our family was a decision made on our desire to add another member to it rather than to "try for a girl." I didn't feel complete after my second child was born, at least I know that for sure. I knew that, God willing, I'd be back on that maternity floor delivering our third child. It was just a matter of when.

I got pregnant with our third child in April of 2012 and the desire to know what we were having was all consuming. So much so that I couldn't wait for the anatomy scan this time to find out. Instead I went at 16 weeks and paid to have a gender reveal scan done. I'm not ashamed to say that I wanted to know if we were expecting a boy or a girl before everyone else would also expect to know. If we were having our third boy, I wanted to deal with any feelings I may have had over not having the girl I was hoping for in private. My sister-in-law had a baby girl in 2011. My sister found out she was expecting a girl in 2012. It was a club I was so hoping to become a member of. And when the tech typed the words It's a... GIRL up on that screen my heart seemed to both stop and explode at the same time. How lucky was I to have the family I had always imagined? Three beautiful, healthy children. Two boys and a girl. My dreams made into my reality in four and a half short years' time.

Now our family would feel complete. Right? Surely I would leave that hospital the following January with the feeling that everyone was present and accounted for and my husband could finally breathe a sigh of relief. ;) But almost nine months later I still don't have that contentedness I was hoping to have. While I know that if we were to be done having children right now I'd feel more peace than I would have felt had we stopped after Andrew was born, I know I would not feel total peace. And as much as the idea of another nine months of sickness and agony makes me want to call up my O.B. and ask for that birth control prescription he keeps reminding me is available, my thoughts of one empty seat at the kitchen table, one open seat in the back of the minivan, continue to creep into my mind on a daily basis. Maybe someone is still missing after all?

Thankfully my husband continues to be open to the possibility of just one more. Neither of us has made up our mind either way; only time will tell. In the meantime, I'm not parting with the baby clothes until I too "just know."

My new job title: Stay at home Mom

I got my first real job after college at the end of December 2007. Days after my interview, I got pregnant with my first child. At the time, I was working a part-time job for the local county government while trying to find something full-time. Morning sickness set in, and I ended up leaving that position in March of 2008. It was nice to be able to rest when I wanted to and not worry about getting dressed during the day if I wasn't feeling up to it. I was sick for the majority of my pregnancy. I was still waiting on my security clearance to go through for my new job and didn't know when that would end up happening. I didn't start work full time until June of 2008, right before my third trimester began.

Philip was born when I was just three months at my new job and I went back full time in December of 2008 after my maternity leave when he was three months old. That same month, we also bought our first house and my position as a working mom was solidified. It was hard. I worked full time for the next two years, always around Phil's work schedule. At the time he worked 6 pm to 2 am five days a week so we made it work without childcare. In 2010, he changed jobs, and was put on a 2 on, 2 off, three on, schedule. As a result, I had to switch to part time work in order to fit in my hours on his days off. From that point in time up until August 2013, I worked between 20 and 30 hours per week around Phil's schedule, without childcare. And it was a logistical nightmare. One that resulted in my frequently being stressed out and unhappy. I couldn't be a good employee and a good mother at the same time when I was trying to be both things at once. But being married to a civil servant and not making a boatload of cash myself, paid child care for our two children was out of the question. We had to press on, making it work, often at the cost of my mental health.

In May 2013, Phil was presented for an opportunity to take on a part-time position, at twice the pay of my hourly wage, to work around his full time job. With him working this new job while also working a full-time job, and being a part-time college student, it made the most sense logisically for one of us to assume the role of breadwinner, while they other assumed the role of full-time care taker for our soon to be three children. Thankfully this was an arrangement we both arrived at happily and that felt right to the both of us. Although I was anxious about no longer earning a regular paycheck, I was more than happy to leave the stress of my ever-changing, constantly stressful, never truly part-time, part-time job of five years behind.

I've been at home full time for a month now and while being a stay-at-home mom is by no means easy and certainly has its own daily stresses, not having to also be a working mom, often at the same time, has been such a huge relief. I am a happier, nicer mom and wife. I love being able to be more involved at Philip and Andrew's preschool and not having to see the sad look on my children's faces when I leave for work. I like the traditional role of at home mom. I have never been a career-minded individual. All I have ever truly aspired to be in this life was a mother, and there's nothing wrong with that.

I still very much feel like I want and need to be bringing in some kind of an income, but I am looking forward to having the time available to figure out how I am going to go about doing that in the future. I in no way, shape, or form wish to go back to the line of work I did before. While the benefits and flexibility were great, the monotony and pressure of the work were soul-crushing. If I have to work for a living, I hope I can find something that brings in a paycheck and also makes me at least moderately happy. In the meantime, I am enjoying being right where I have wanted to be since the moment we brought our first child home from the hospital--at home with my kids. It's a blessing I will not take for granted, even on the toughest days.