baby clothes on the goodwill pile

by G

We did some spring cleaning a bit ago. Made a nice big pile of stuff to go to goodwill. I tackled our son’s room and decided that all the baby stuff we had been holding onto just needed to go. I’m not planning on having another child, let’s free up some shelf space. When DH came in to take the pile out to the car, and saw all the baby stuff I had put on it, his shoulders slumped a bit. “Oh” he said. “This makes it feel so final.”

It’s not something that comes up too often, but I know that my husband would like more children. Just when I get feeling at peace with my family planning decisions, I realize that it’s my peace and my planning, but not the decision that my significant other would make. So, not family planning… selfish me planning.

A one child family.

It would only take one more child to appease his disappointment. A sibling. So our son would have someone to share with, grow up with, grow older with. And this is where my insecurity about my family planning concerns really hits a tender weak spot- what is best for my son. I’m tormented by the anecdotes about the lonely only child. About what my not having any more children will mean for him in his life. I cling to stories about normal healthy people who were only children.

Fecundity and procreation are all around me. At church on Sunday it seemed the bellies of every woman under the age of 40 were blooming with newly implanted life. At church, in my neighborhood, among family, I feel like such an anomaly. An ovary-ed freak of nature deaf to the call of multiply and replenish.
I’m okay being a freak.
Occasionally I get twinges of guilt/sadness over my husband’s regrets about our family. However, what really gets me is the doubt, the the worry about what possible harm I am inflicting upon my son by my unwillingness to give him a sibling. (Mom guilt. We will never be good enough. We will always be the cause of so much harm.) Sometimes, just for that, in insecure moments, I waver; Okay, Yes! Fine! Let’s make a sibling!


I keep a stash of pregnancy tests in the bathroom. Sometimes I get this wave of terror that my birth control has failed and I am pregnant. I rip out another stick to pee on, praying to my goddess mirana that it isn’t so. She has not failed me so far.

I should just get my tubes tied.

But then…

I see the slump in his shoulders;
“this makes it seem so final.”
“Well,” I say,
“If we have another baby we can just get new stuff.”

[meanwhile the clock ticks away…..]

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20 Responses

  1. MJK says:

    You should tell him to remember how Murphy’s Law works, and that if you *are* going to get surprised by a pregnancy it will inevitably be *after* you get rid of all the baby stuff.

  2. nothin’ worse than mom guilt, whether you have 1 or 10.

  3. Caroline says:

    G, thanks for this post. I sympathize with the directions you’re pulled in – making your husband/son(?) happy vs. doing what you feel is right for you.

    I am going to be facing a similar situation after I give birth in the next few weeks. This is number 2, and I had always figured I would just have 2 kids. Mike comes from a family of 7 and would like 4.

    My drive to make Mike happy by having a 3rd is strong, especially since I imagine to some extent I’ve been a disappointment (in a Mormony sense) and this would be a way to make up for that a little. But… my body, my plans, my life – those are important too.

  4. kmillecam says:

    G, I really feel for you. There is hardly anything more intensely personal than sharing your womb with another life. FWIW, I do not think that your child is doomed because of no siblings. We all have different lives, and being an only child is just one of many kinds.

  5. It is such a tough decision and one that my husband and I have been thinking a lot about lately too.

  6. Angie says:

    I completely agree with kmillecam. There is no one right way to live a life or to be a family. Thank God we have the right to make decisions about our own reproduction. From the depth of my heart, mind, soul and body I thank God for that right.

  7. Brooke says:

    I find myself working through the many facets of guilt for not having more children. A lot. Though, less and less as time goes by. I have to remind myself that it’s okay not to have a big family. That we will still surround ourselves with people we love, whether or not we are related.

  8. That can be a terrible burden, a terrible sadness, and so final.

    A lot of it is what is right over all, and only you can know that.

  9. Janna says:

    Can’t keep quiet about this one, and it’s going to come out in a raging scream…

    I wonder if the men in these situations would think differently if they were the mothers. My point – women do more physically and compromise their own interests more than men to raise children, no matter how liberal, forward thinking and progressive the man or the couple. Check out the New York Times article:

    Get ready to have the tops of your heads blown off.

  10. MJK says:

    I definitely agree with the other posters that it’s more of an issue of your vs. your husband’s feelings than how it will affect your son. See, I worry the opposite way when I consider what the size of our family should be. I would like to have two or three children, but with our limited financial resources, would it be better to just stay with one and try to make sure we give our son everything we can? All the attention and love and financial support possible? Is it selfish to want more children in that kind of situation?

  11. mb says:

    But Janna, a couple choosing to have or not to have a child is not simply a matter of who sacrifices or compromises the most. This should not be a contest of wills or of who is the greatest martyr. It needs to be a matter of two people coming to a concensus based on unselfishness and the desire to create a new life on the part of BOTH. The sadness in this essay isn’t about having or not having another child. It’s the lack of oneness and common vision between the two adults who are involved in the decision that is hard to bear, at least for me.

    Whichever way things go, G, I hope you can find that union.

  12. Caroline says:

    Janna and mb, I think you both make good points.

    That was a great article, Janna. Thanks for the link. It is crazy to think about the huge number of additional hours women spend on housework and child care in marriages where both work full time. Unbelievable! And even in marriages where the man is the primary wage earner, and it’s agreed that housework/ child care is part of her ‘job’… well, even then, a woman would ideally have to really like that kind of stuff given the intense hours it takes to raise a child and keep a household going. I think the article did a good job of showing how intensely the burden of child care/ housework generally falls on women, no matter their working status.

    mb, I agree that the real tragedy is the lack of shared vision. But I think it is helpful to think about the possible reasons behind the lack of that shared vision. I don’t know where G is coming from in this decision, but I think it’s feasible that the intense child care burden that would fall on G is a factor.

  13. Janna says:

    MB – I fully agree! Things “should be” that way.

  14. mb says:

    Thanks, Janna. And certainly, Caroline. I don’t disagree with you. The sad thing is the inability of a couple to see, with compassion and understanding, the feelings, sacrifices and perceptions of the other in a proposed course of action. The temptation is for each one to retreat into feeling of being misunderstood and of having their concerns or desires counted as secondary, thus making communication and consensus harder to create.

    Certainly the burden of pregnancy and childcare is often a major issue. But the larger issue is that burden not being considered fully and completely by the less burdened parent. So also, the desire for another child can be a major issue, but the larger issue is the diminunization and dismissive response to that desire by the parent who does not desire another child.

    Certainly it is good for all issues to be considered by both parents, but more important is that BOTH parents feel fully and compassionately understood and supported by their partner. Only when we take the time to fully understand our partner and treat their perceptions with as great z consideration as we do our own can we begin the process of having such dilemmas be resolved with peace of mind on both fronts. That takes more unselfishness, compassion, communication and courage than many people are able to muster at first. But it’s worth working towards.

  15. Gigi says:

    Am I oversimplifying here? It sounds like if you and your husband are on opposite sides in this situation, I say bring it to the Lord.
    He’ll let you know.

  16. Starfoxy says:

    Gigi- While prayer is certainly worthwhile it isn’t guaranteed to bring clarity and consensus to the situation. It is possible that both parties could receive different answers. Or that the answers conflict with deeply held desires, or expected responses (would God ever tell a young, stable, desiring fertile couple to hold off on the kids?) creating even more internal tension. And in my personal experience quite often I get an answer of “Meh, you decide.”

  17. Vada says:

    G, this post makes me so sad. When we gave away all the baby stuff a few months ago I was rejoicing, and while I don’t think my husband was quite as giddy as I was (he, after all, doesn’t get pregnant), he was not at all sad about it. It feels great to clear out the clutter and think about never having to use that stuff again. But I can’t imagine how I’d be feeling if we had different opinions on how many kids we wanted. I hope the two of you can find a decision you’ll both be happy about.

  18. G says:

    sorry it’s taken me so long to chime it… thanks everyone, for your comments and input.

    I should also say that I hope this post didn’t make anyone too sad (sorry vada!)

    In the reality of our everyday life, this is not a hot topic for us. A good deal of the conflicted feelings are mostly my projections. Like Caroline, I imagine I’m a bit of a disappointment as a Mormon wife. Knowing he’d be fine with more children I easily compound this into deep regret then shoulder the burden of it.

    I had DH read this post, and his reaction was that I had over-dramatized his sadness a little bit. Which was a relief to me, as well as a reality check about how much I project my own guilt onto his reactions towards me.

  19. LucySophia says:

    I really hate to burst anyone’s bubble here, but as the mother of nine, yes, nine children, I do need to agree that bearing, birthing, and raising children is the most DIFFICULT thing any woman can EVER do with her body/life. I am no longer married to the father of said children, long story – he wanted me to have MORE kids, along with other abuses… AND my kids are not perfect – some missions and temple marriages, some jail time and porn use, you get the picture. BUT – being a mother has taught me to be VERY unselfish, VERY creative, and VERY real, traits I may not have learned any other way. Motherhood tests one to the very core and soul of being. I do agree with prayer in these decisions, altho’ X did not believe in BC: i used it for last three kids and was glad to exercise some control over my body. I see many mothers younger than me, my kids’ generation, declining to have kids because it is SO HARD and I often wonder if they are missing out on opportunities that only come thru motherood. I know I risk alienating some of you, but it is so easy now to NOT have children, so many things we want to do with our lives/bodies. My youngest is 12 and has grown up most of her life w/o siblings as there was a large gap between her and next child. She is SO lonely even tho’ we have more money and time. I compensate with her friends, but if she had a sibling it would be better on many levels. I struggle with raising on “only child” when I raised so many together. Conclusion – mothering children, plural, gives you the opportunity to grow in ways that cannot be had elsehwere. It’s scary to be a mother now – many high expectations and much potential guilt. BUT it stretches your soul and is such a joy to see your children become productive adults. My grown children are my best friends, even tho’ some have left the church. Our is not a perfect family by any means, but I am grateful for the blessings of being a mother of many.

  1. July 12, 2009

    […] baby clothes on the goodwill pile « The Exponent14 Responses to “baby clothes on the goodwill pile”. RSS Feed for The Exponent Comments RSS Feed. You should tell him to remember how Murphy’s Law works, and that if you *are* going to get surprised by a pregnancy it will inevitably be … […]

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