After our third baby, I knew I was done having kids. Boy, girl, boy and done—stair-step birthdays perfectly spaced two years apart. I loved breaking past the two-kid deal that make up so many families we know, but I didn’t feel like we qualified as a “big family” with three. Beyond that, I’d had a terrible time with varicose veins down the back of my thigh on my third go-round. Everything magically went away after my son was born, and I remember feeling like I’d dodged a bullet. I asked my doctor point blank if a fourth baby would be ill advised based on the state of my leg during my last pregnancy, and she told me the varicosity would be back for sure, and worse to boot.
My husband and I talked about it, agreeing that our kids are amazing and a fourth would surely be amazing too, but wow, that would be a lot of kids. Plus, it would be a lot of pressure of my veins. Plus, our house has four bedrooms. Plus, he drove a Jeep Wrangler, me a Grand Cherokee. Everything and everyone fit, including two dogs in the back. So, done. We closed that door, climbed off the fence. My husband scheduled a vasectomy and I went back on the pill after I finished breastfeeding just to cover our bases.
A few weeks later, I caught up with a friend over coffee. She had a new baby, her third boy, and she was already talking about going for number four. “What about you guys?” she asked. I shook my head and ran through all our reasons, stressing how four wasn’t just a lot of kids – it was a lifestyle change. We’d need a bigger car, we didn’t have enough bedrooms to go around, my veins were so bad last time, life with three kids was busy enough, and good Lord, was she crazy? She laughed and said she loved the idea of having a full, crazy house and she looked forward to holidays years from now, when all her kids bring their significant others and grandbabies for her to spoil. I shook my head and told her I’d babysit for her when number four came down the line, but I was crystal clear–no more babies for me.
Can you tell that I’m a planner? I like schedules and to-do lists. I’m organized with my own little systems, and one thing I do not screw up is birth control. Seven a.m. on the nose, seven days a week, thanks to my trusty little alarm clock. Daylight saving time ended that fall and I sat on the bed, hand on my clock, thinking. Was an hour that big of a deal? I thought about all the people I knew who took their pill “in the morning,” all the years of pre-baby birth control when I had been late on a pill here and there, and I figured an hour was nothing.
A few weeks passed in a whirlwind of first grade and preschool and the antics of our busy two year old. On a Sunday that October, I finished my pack of pills and made a mental note to grab some tampons on my next trip to the store. Tuesday morning dawned, still no period, and I packed up my two year-old and four year-old for a grocery store run because no tampons with an impending period is just asking for trouble. Time sped up, and it didn’t slow down again until after school pick-up and karate and dinner, as I stood in the kitchen with my husband. Someone was climbing the cabinet for a cup, someone else rode past on a balance bike – don’t judge – with a barking dog in tow and our third was yelling from the bathroom. My husband caught my eye in all that chaos and we stared at each other in that amazed, amused and slightly bewildered way we sometimes do. How did we get here again? Who are all these little people? But I held his gaze beyond that little wordless communication and told him I still hadn’t started my period.
“Isn’t there a pregnancy test in the bathroom?” he asked, grinning. I rolled my eyes, yeah righted him and headed straight to the bathroom. There was indeed a single pregnancy test stick in the cupboard, still wrapped, no box. I couldn’t remember how long to pee on this thing, so I held it there a good sixty seconds, shaking my head that I was even entertaining the idea. Totally impossible. I was on the pill. 99.9% effective, right? I capped the test, wiped, flushed and stood up to wash my hands, glancing down at the test on the counter.
Two. Pink. Lines.
I walked out, holding this confirmation of baby number four. My husband took one look at me and started laughing. “No way!”
I stared at him, completely blindsided. We were off the fence, remember? Standing on the done-at-three side. We had debated and decided and planned.
“How the hell are we going to do this?” I asked him. And I meant it. Logistically and financially as a family, physically for me—how the hell were we going to do this? He had the perfect response—a hug and a warm hand on my belly and a whisper in my ear:
“Our kids are great. How can another one be any different? We’ll figure it out. We do it every day.”
Nine months of compression stockings, three thrilled kids and one new car later, in the middle of a hot July night, our fourth was born. A beautiful, healthy baby girl. The new little landing a few feet down the staircase. The tiny bundle of joy that pushed us into “big family” territory.
And the part I didn’t even realize was missing until she was here.
Guest post written by Jessica Timmons. Jessica is a writer, editor, redhead and mom of four (none of them redheads), Jessica is eight years deep into the insane, sleep-deprived world of work-from-home mamas. Even when she has to hide in the bathroom to take a call from a client, she wouldn’t change a thing.