Christmas morning, my sister uttered the words “I have exciting news.” Four simple words that heaved with monumental implications. She couldn’t even get another syllable out before my jaw dropped down to my knees. “No you are not!” I shouted. My two kids, who were sitting at the table with us, looked back and forth, confused. “She’s not what? What are you talking about?” And so I let my sister spell out what I’d found so obvious. My little sister was pregnant. With baby #3.
Of course I was excited. Overjoyed for her and her husband, for their two kids, for all of our relatives. Babies are amazeballs, and it couldn’t have happened to a better, more caring woman and mother—and yet, I haven’t been able to stop thinking about it since. Stewing over it, almost. Because, looking past the happiness and well wishes, if I’m truly honest with myself, there is a seed of jealousy sprouting within me.
I never wanted to have three kids. I am head over heels for the two I’ve already got. Truth be told, I’ve always found people with three kids to be kind of irritating. Like, do you really need to have three kids? The world is overpopulated enough as it is, right? What are you trying to prove? Not to mention, where will that baby sleep? Is your house really big enough for three kids? A friend once referred to the third baby in a family as the “status kid”. As in, you’re only having it to prove how well-off you are.
Obviously, people don’t really have three kids thinking, “Well, honey. We’ve got that extra bedroom and no treadmill to put in it, how about another baby?” But it’s also kind of true. If you’re going to have a third child, you’ve got to have enough money to feed it, clothe it, give it a room, and hopefully send it off to college one day. So, yeah (unplanned pregnancies and moral beliefs against abortion aside), I kind of do buy into the idea that a third kid can be construed as a status symbol, especially if you live in a big city where there’s less space. It’s no wonder that most people with multiple kids live out in the ‘burbs.
Maybe I’m pissing people off with this theory. Honestly, I’m kind of pissing myself off, too. I love kids. There is nothing like creating someone that is half you and half your partner. The pain is beyond excruciating, but it’s a badge of courage and honor, too. It’s the hardest, most rewarding thing I’ve ever done in my life, and there’s a part of me that really wants to do it again. Why should I deny myself the glory of bringing another baby into this world? Watching it breastfeed and sleep and gurgle and grow. It’s exhausting, but it’s incredible, so why should my sister get to do it again and not me?
All I keep thinking is: I still could. I am now in my late thirties, my kids are starting school, and I can hear that damn clock ticking. Friends around me are still having babies and there is this twitching feeling in my gut, whispering various scenarios. Am I too old, or is there still time? Would I ruin the dynamic I have with my two kids, or would a third bring even more love and joy into our house? And, the question I’m almost afraid to ask: My two kids are healthy, what if the third had a physical or mental disability? Half my friends have autistic kids, so how the hell did I get away scot-free?
It’s a lot to think about, and I am seriously on the fence.
Honestly, we had the same conundrum three years ago, when we were debating going for a second kid. We hemmed and hawed and ultimately decided we wanted another baby, a sibling for our son. Looking at my life now, I can’t imagine what the world would be like without my daughter in it. So, maybe I should have a third kid. Maybe it would complete our family. But then I flip the coin inside my head and think about another round of sleepless nights. The need for a bigger car, more plane tickets on vacation, dealing with the schlep to and from activities for three kids with three different interests.
For now, maybe I’ll allow myself to bask in the jealousy and enjoy watching my sister experience this moment. I’ll focus on the kids I’ve got—the ones I love more than anything and keep wishing would stay young forever. Small enough to cuddle, big enough to laugh with. They’re so perfect the way they are right now, years away from becoming sullen teenagers and distant adults. If I had a third kid, that kid would grow up, too. They all do. Maybe I want a third kid to round out my family and make it bigger and more full of love, or maybe I just need to shut up and enjoy every moment of every day with the two that I’ve got, and not cramp their style with another human being to care for. If anyone out there has the answer, I’m all ears.