Are We Done Having Kids?
Probably the #1 personal question I get is “are you going to have more kids?” And I get it. I wonder that often about people that I follow. So I figured it was time to give you the answer in my usual 3,794 word, “quick to the punch” way (eek that metaphor might make the male audience feel queazy upon further read). Buckle up, because we’re about to go on a bumpy ride.
This post is not about vasectomies (well, it is a little at the part when Mr. Brian Henderson makes a guest blogging appearance). No. It’s about the hard conversations you have with your spouse after a psychic tells you that if you leave your “door open,” a new soul is going to climb down into your belly and then out of your vagina. It’s about knowing your limits, more specifically me, knowing MY limits.
You might be scratching your head a little about this, but, here’s how it went down.
Two years ago, I got my palm read, and she said that I was going to have a third child. Haha, hilarious.
Then last year, I went to a tarot reader on my girls trip to Ojai and the second I sat down, she said, verbatim:
Her: How many kids do you have?
Her: You want a third?
Her: Then you need to close that door because otherwise, you are going to have a third kid.
I freaked out and said, “well, am I supposed to have another kid?” And she said, “No! Not at all. There are souls looking for an open door, you simply need to close your door before one comes down! They’ll find another door.”
Now, there is a lot to unpack and explain here. First off, do I believe this? I don’t NOT believe anything. I’m open to literally all religions or non-non-religions and there were other things that certainly were convincing in both readings. I’m currently shopping for a belief system, but open to all. But what it did do was make me really ask myself that question: Do I want a third child?
When Birdie was 6 months old, my period was 8 days late. EIGHT DAYS. After day 3, I was physically trembling with fear, and I would sob and sob to Brian, saying “it’s like I’m awake, but living a nightmare.” Look, I love children, and this might sound like hyperbole but at the time, I was so swamped with caring for my two TINY kids coupled with my intense desire to be a super involved mom despite my increasingly demanding career. And I DON’T WANT TO PHONE IT IN AS A MOM. I want to be an excellent mom. Maybe even the best. I’d say that my desire to be a great mom far surpasses my career ambitions. I was raised Mormon in a family of six by an excellent mom (and dad). My standards for myself are high, and I want to meet them.
I knew that a third kid—3 kids under the age of 4, specifically—would mean that I would have to shift my parenting goals in order to keep my career. Or shift my career goals to be the type of parent I imagined. It’s not that it hasn’t been done (bravo and applause for all the moms and dad out there that are doing it), but I was already drowning. I didn’t know how I would possibly manage unless we seriously packed it up and moved to Portland. I’d write the blog but stop pursuing more work. We’d live off the profit from the LA house sale for a while and I’d start designing houses and maybe flipping. I didn’t know…but this is what went through my head. Not being an active, present parent just wasn’t a possibility for my particular personality, again, because of how I was raised. (It would be like being raised by academics and not caring about your intellect; we are taught what to value early and that shit is hard to shake even though there is not one right answer).
But, this time, it was just what felt like a close call. It turns out that going vegan (which I’m not currently but was at the time) affects your hormones so I was in fact just VERY ALARMINGLY late. (I had taken four tests and they were all negative, but still, EIGHT DAYS IS REMARKABLE for me.)
Okay, so cut to two years later when madame tarot card told me my “door was open,” and I had flashbacks of the whole “living a nightmare” episode. I told Brian, and while he’s far more of a skeptic about anything spiritual, because it was the second time that this theoretical third baby came up, he freaked out. You see, at this point Birdie was over 2 and while most people give 2 a bad rap, my kids are great PR for 2. In contrast, if they were sent on Good Morning America to represent what being 3 is like, they would inspire a generation that put their 3-year-olds in a one-year boarding school, ’til age four. THREE IS NOT THEIR BEST AGE. But when Birdie was 2 and Charlie was 4, we were in a REALLY good place and I, well, kinda missed having my baby bird.
It’s not that I wanted a third child specifically, it’s that I LOVE HAVING A FAMILY. I love babies. I love being a mom. I love the sibling relationship. I love traditions and rituals, and feeling like this unit that is impermeable. I love how young being a mom with a newborn makes you feel. I didn’t want a third kid, nor did I want to be pregnant (I HATE BEING PREGNANT) but I wouldn’t have said “no” to a newborn little baby if it landed in my lap (uterus?) at that point. But Brian REALLY didn’t want a third. He was and is extremely happy with our two kids, with our family of 4. He feels satisfied, happy and in his mind, it’s a “why rock the boat?” situation.
So after months of being not as smart as we should have been (and the memory of this “open door”), Brian finally made “the” appointment. He felt that after I had already gone through two births, he should be the one to have surgery near his privates. I didn’t disagree. Plus, I was feeling less motivated to prevent a third. The recovery was a bit rougher than we expected, but not a big deal and now the option is taken away.
It seems like an appropriate time to throw to the man of the hour. The male with the two-kid trail. The worm with no more sperm (DEAR GOD I HOPE SOMEONE ELSE EDITS THAT OUT)—Editor’s note from Arlyn: that’s too good to take out, sorry Em—…
Mr. Brian “no-more-kids” Henderson…
EH: Why did you want a vasectomy? How did you know you were sure that two kids were enough?
BH: We were in the thick of two kids that both needed a ton of attention and time, and it was daily chaos. We had a toddler who was transitioning into being a big kid but was still having trouble sleeping or doing things on his own without meltdowns. And we had a smaller toddler who still needed a TON of attention and focus. And I think I may be a bit of a helicopter parent, which means I focus on them a lot. We both do. But when you focus on your kids so much, it can become overwhelming. It felt like we deserved a bottle of wine to congratulate ourselves every night when we finally got them to fall asleep. But like each of us though…a bottle of wine each.
The idea of adding another child into that mix felt like adding a jetpack to a skydiving trip, which is already terrifying enough. So we talked about it then and decided it would probably be a good idea, but I kept forgetting to book an appointment. So cut to us slowly getting out of the dark kidscape as our kids grew up a bit more, and the chaos was less, but still, adding a third kid just never felt right to me. I came from a two-kid household which probably influences the decision, but I think it always came back to the fact that Emily and I are constantly trying to find ways to reduce the chaos of our lives, sometimes by doing rash things like swearing we’re going to move to a mountain town permanently and raise our kids in the forest, but also we were really happy with our four-person family. I also just knew that my wife needed me to take the option away so that she didn’t have to manage even more because her personality insists on doing a lot herself. I admire that, but it’s a lot. We were GOOD.
Plus, I was getting tired of having to find ways to NOT get Emily pregnant, none of which are fun, so off to the doc I went.
Emily: Were you scared?
Brian: I wasn’t scared of the procedure because I talked to my friend Paul about it and he said the most painful thing he remembered was that he forgot to shave, so they had to do it at the doctor’s office and they only had like a generic Bic razor and water, so he got razor burn. So I took care of that before I got there. I was fine. But then sitting in the waiting room, I started thinking about what I was actually about to do and I asked for the “relaxing drug” that they had previously offered me. I think it was Valium. I don’t do well with drugs, so I only took half, but I should have taken the whole thing because as soon the doctor settled in next to me and I saw the needles, I definitely started cold-sweating.
Emily: Did it hurt? Any surprises?
Brian: The first step is the shot. They rub iodine all around your junk and then shoot you with what I will call novocaine for your nuts, or nutocaine. They do it on both sides and it sucks. So they shoot you up, then test to see if you still have feeling in your ball bag, then they make the cut. First side, totally fine, no problem, the Valium was doing its work, my right nard was numb and the doctor finished up quickly. The left side, not so much. He shot it up with the same amount as the other side but when he started cutting, I definitely felt it. And feeling a slice on your nutsack is kind of up there with fear of drowning for most men, so I made it very clear that I needed more nutocaine. He obliged. Nope, still feel it! A little more, and one more shot for good measure… and then I felt nothing. Snip snip, burn, and sew it up. Oh did you catch that I just said burn? Yep, that’s not a mistake. They cauterize the tube so there’s no chance of it growing back together. I actually live streamed the puffs of smoke on my phone to some of my more squeamish friends. They didn’t think it was as funny as I did.
Emily: How did you feel after having it done?
Brian: I was sore for like a week after. Actually much more sore than I had expected. I had to lay down a lot and ice myself. My baseball night was like a week away and I really didn’t want to miss it, but the doctor said no strenuous activity for a couple weeks, so I had to call it off. That was the biggest bummer of the whole thing. Not to get into the details too much, but it took a while for things to feel normal down there. Like it didn’t feel as good as it used to, if you know what I mean, and I was worried that that was the new permanent normal. But I’m happy to report that it only a took a few more weeks for things to get back to how they were before and now there’s absolutely no difference. Mentally there’s a big difference, in a good way. I no longer have a fear of an accidental pregnancy, so in a weird way it takes out a mental roadblock that I think all people have, which has made things a lot more fun and spontaneous. God, this sounds like a Cosmo article. Let’s just say I have no regrets about it. It only hurt for a bit, and the pros have outweighed the cons massively for me. I know it’s not for everyone, but it’s definitely made things better for us which is ultimately better for our family.
Well, Brian feels GREAT (and yes, he’s been tested twice and it worked). Here’s how I feel…
Me? I’m so relieved. I also feel genuinely satisfied, in fact overwhelmingly satisfied. I didn’t feel like there was a third out there that would somehow complete our family. Maybe I’ll feel differently later but my two children are exactly what I want in life. I know that my inner desire to keep going was mostly selfish. It’s kinda fun to have that mountain of attention that pregnancy, birth and newborn-hood brings. It’s also fun to fantasize about a different version of your life, one that involves three kids. But ultimately having three under 5 would have potentially been extremely unhealthy mentally for me. I would have survived, because what other recourse do you have, but at what cost (for me, personally)?
I know that love multiplies, but TIME DIVIDES. I already didn’t feel like I gave each child, and my husband, enough one-on-one attention and that gave me stress. Add in a third that young and one of us would have had to stay home full time, though neither of us wanted to take that role, so really, adding another little human would have been actually irresponsible for our family. It’s a very individual situation whether you have 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, or like my parents SIX. ON PURPOSE
I’ve said this before and I’ll say this again, thinking about life in opportunities is helpful. Yes, having another child would have been eventually potentially great, but what about the opportunity to spend more time with the family I have now? What about prioritizing the kids I have today and being solid and okay with where we are? It’s one thing if I had started a family earlier, at 25 (instead of at 34). Sure! I’d probably have four kiddos by now, but imagining that now, with my career and personality type is the situation I’m talking about that I know wouldn’t have been optimal. (Obviously, I’m very sensitive about others internalizing this and feeling judged by having more kids than my family chose, but please know it’s really about your personal situation and what you can handle—I can only handle two).
It’s hard for me to know my limits. I’m an optimistic enthusiast who sprints until I crash (but then sprints again). So while I knew I was drowning, it took Brian to really ensure that I get closer to land.
While I worry this might be a hot button topic (seriously, I was texting my team last night to read and re-read this to make sure it didn’t come off in a way I didn’t intend), I really don’t think it should be because I’m only sharing my own experience. The hypothetical situation of running a company, financially supporting my family with THREE CHILDREN UNDER FIVE while actually wanting to parent with a heavy hand may have been almost impossible. I have a very strong maternal instinct that is already a source of disappointment for me. Add in another small child and I seriously think I might have had some mental health issues, or scaled back drastically at my job. If you believe that kids need their parents to be present and around, then you’ll have no choice but realize that someone like me probably should stop at two (unless we had spread them out by starting earlier but we didn’t and I’m almost 40).
So yes, Brian getting snipped was the best decision for us and no, we are not having more children (naturally). And you know what is even better? We can always foster and adopt. It’s something we’ve talked about consistently for 15 years and while we aren’t ready yet, we feel like it’s in our future when we are ready and the kids are a bit older. If/when we want to expand our family, that’s how we’ll do it. My family did it (they fostered a lot, no adopting) and we feel like we are well, a solid family that can make a huge difference in the lives of some who have none.
But for now, my door is closed. And it feels soooo goooood. It’s also been GREAT for our marriage. Knowing that we are past that point kinda gives us some freedom to enter the next stage of parenting, with kids, instead of babies and toddlers. It’s exciting and empowering and we can see a light at the end of a tunnel. I’m back to being ambitious in my career, thinking about projects that I want to pursue, not just the ones that fall in my lap. I have a bit more mental space because they are actually sleeping and it’s exciting to actually use parts of my brain that were too tired to function the last OH SAY THREE YEARS.
It’s a lesson that sometimes your partner, whom you trust, might know what’s best for you more than you do.
So that’s where we landed. Two kids, a solid marriage, and we are still struggling to stay afloat. My best advice when it comes to how many kids you should have is to stop when you are happy. I KNOW that having a third (under 5) would have brought more happiness in some ways, but possibly decreased other happiness. The Hendersons as a family of four are happy and that’s how it will stay (unless that door didn’t fully close and we have a vasectomy baby which happens all the time but he tested it twice and no sperm-o so we should be fine, right? right? RIGHT???)
Thoughts? Feelings? DO YOU WANT MORE OF MR. BRIAN VASECTOMY HENDERSON ON THE BLOG????
But wait, there’s more…before we “wrap it up,” a few inquiring minds on the EHD team had two, ahem, logistical questions about the “after” here, and because I felt like maybe you might have the same questions, we squeezed it in.
Team EHD: When you get a vasectomy…can you still…ejaculate? (I feel like Carrie Bradshaw.)
Emily: Ha. Yes. But it’s clear…if you are lucky.
Team EHD: Can it be reversed?
Emily: It can technically, but it’s really hard. The first question they ask before it happens is “how is your marriage?” in an “are you sure you aren’t going to marry a younger woman later and regret this choice because you are exhausted right now but maybe it’s because you are actually unhappy in your marriage” kind of way.
Granted, these questions were asked in an “EHD After Hours” text chain with far too many inappropriate puns and eggplant emojis, but we’re all adults here.
So, again, thoughts?? Feelings?? I’m dying to know what you guys are thinking about…it all. Xx