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The Third Child We Do and Don’t Want

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For years now, my husband and I have been wanting a third child. And for years now, my husband and I have been hesitant to have another child. These two facts are not contradictory; the decision to have another child can be filled with mixed emotions, as I’ve discovered in conversations with parents of three. We’re past the point of waiting for the “right” time because, as it turns out, there never is a right time. Still, we can’t commit — which is only making the decision that much more challenging.

Dave and I had our kids within two years of each other. Our firstborn, Max, had a stroke at birth that led to cerebral palsy. We went through a lot of grief over what had happened, and despaired about what lay ahead for our beautiful boy. We’d always planned on having a second child, and going through a typical birth experience helped us heal from the trauma of the first.

Max required a lot of attention, and still does. Early on, he got more than ten therapy sessions a week. He needed assistance with feeding himself and bathing, along with learning how to crawl and to walk. Back when both kids were young, adding another one to the mix seemed beyond what we could handle; our hands were already very full.

But Max made great progress every year. And luckily, both kids turned out to have good temperaments and weren’t difficult to manage (well, usually). Eventually, we started thinking about having another kid. And thinking. And thinking.

My husband and I both love children. I’ve had healthy pregnancies, and went to a high-risk practice for my daughter to make sure everything went well during the birth, so I’m not scared our third infant would experience trauma. Yet we still haven’t taken the plunge, mainly because we’ve gotten settled into family life with two kids. Organized chaos, I call it: Our days are hectic, but we know how to deal. Now that my kids are 11 and nine, adding an infant to the mix would upend our family routine.

But then: I know we would ultimately never regret having another child, even if it does make life more challenging. This is what moms of three regularly tell me when I ask about how it felt to go from two to three. I don’t want to grow old and wonder what would could have been, to stare at the family portraits on the wall and feel like someone’s missing.

Dave and I also believe that another sibling would be good for Max — one more kid to inspire him, one more person to someday be there for him when my husband and I are gone. This is not the only reason we would have a third child, but it’s a valid one. Not everyone agrees. Once, I mentioned in an essay I’d written for a publication about our family that a third child would be an asset to Max and the editor suggested, to my horror, that I cut that point because she said it raised “ethical concerns.”

This is our decision to make. Or, rather, our non-decision.

Go for it, my heart says.

It’s going to be really hard, my head says.

I have a feeling my heart’s going to win this one.

Image source: Flickr/Maureen Didde

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Article Posted 5 years Ago

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