Photo: Courtesy of Jen Schlumberger
I’m an only child, so before I even knew how babies were made, I was daydreaming about and naming my unborn future children. I have paper notebooks filled with scribbled “name lists” that later migrated over to the “notes” section of my smartphone. I may or may not have even named my ovaries at one point (Eggjelica and Eggnes, if you’re wondering).
In the early days of dating my husband, when I was 19 turning 20, I would openly discuss my desire to have children one day (“Maybe two? Or three?”) and share my list of names (“Cole if it’s a boy, and Raya if it’s a girl”). I’m still not sure how that didn’t scare him away, but he smiled and listened as I happily rambled on. He agreed with my name choices but was firm that he only wanted two children. At the time, I was OK with that, too, since I wasn’t certain I wanted three kids. All I knew was I had to marry someone who was as passionate about having a family as I was.
Ten years later, our daydreams became a reality. We had our first baby, a little boy, and, yes, we named him Cole. Two years later, we had a little girl and named her Maeve (though Raya was still a contender on the list). We had the “million-dollar family,” according to everyone we talked to (I had never heard that term before because, apparently, I live under a rock). But in my hormonal-love-filled first few weeks as a mother of two, I felt a very strong conviction that our million-dollar family would soon be a thing of the past because I knew we were meant to have a third child. I remember looking down at my newborn and knowing, deep down in my heart, that she was going to have another sibling one day. I smiled to myself knowing that I was going to be right (I like to pretend I’m psychic sometimes).
When I shared this prediction with my husband, he looked horrified and sad. “But you know, I’ve only ever wanted two,” he whispered. My heart sank. How could he not feel the same way? We’re always so in sync with each other, so how could he be so far off with this one (very important) thing?
We began to discuss the idea of a third child at length. I came up with all the reasons why it made sense to have three kids:
OK, so my arguments were weak. Admittedly, my husband’s reasons for not having three kids were more logical:
I was able to argue all of his points, except the last one. How was I supposed to change his heart? How was he supposed to change mine?
I decided that he just needed some time and that, eventually (with wine and lingerie perhaps?), I would convince him that a third baby was the right decision for our family.
Six months later, we had a 2½-year-old and a six-month-old and I was in sleep-deprived-I’m-going-to-lose-my-mind hell. I felt depleted and exhausted and was constantly on the verge of rage (mostly directed at my husband). I eventually broke down and painfully admitted to him that I was OK with having only two kids. And guess what? For 2½ years, I mostly believed it myself. I thought I was cured of my desire to have a third child and truly accepted our lives as a family of four.
But (you knew there was a but, didn’t you?) when my son turned five and my daughter turned three, it hit me again—hard. I wanted that third baby, but I knew that it had to happen soon before I started enjoying sleep too much again (though, in all honesty, my kids were still waking up, just not as often).
I told my best friend at work that I had a new mission. I called it “Operation Baby” and, every few days, she would ask me “How is the convincing going?” Every time, I would sadly report to her that my husband was still a firm no and that Operation Baby was failing (even after many wine- and lingerie-filled nights, dammit).
Spring was approaching, and I started to feel panicky. Both of my kids were conceived in late spring, and I felt (irrationally) like I only had one chance to make Baby No. 3 happen. It was obvious that the tension was growing between me and my husband and, one night before bed, he came to me looking broken and sad. “I’m so sorry that I don’t want a third baby,” he said. “I wish I did. I hate not being able to give you what you want.” My eyes filled with tears. Even though he was telling me no again for the hundredth time, I finally heard him, and I heard how much he loved me, even with this rejection.
When I told my work BFF what my husband had said the night before, she also offered me some insight. “Jen, you’re very driven and used to working hard and achieving your goals,” she said. “This is probably the only thing you can’t do on your own, so that’s making it hard for you to accept.” And she was right.
I could feel how deeply my husband loved me and our family, and I knew in that moment that I wouldn’t compromise all of that just to have a third baby. It wasn’t worth it. Instead, I focused on being grateful for the two beautiful and amazing children I did have and decided to convince my risk-averse husband to do something else impulsive instead. “Want to go to Cuba next week?” I asked. “Maybe that can be our third baby? It’s cheaper!”
So we went. On this trip, I made a conscious effort to see this as The Next Chapter. No more diapers or sleepless nights. No more sleep-deprived raging at my husband (just the regular you’re-driving-me-nuts raging at my husband). More time together. More time to focus on my goals and make time for myself. As we sat by the ocean, sipping pina coladas in Varadero, I knew that we had made the right decision. This felt right.
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