Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Another reason to close up shop

In yesterday's discussion about family size, I left out one really big factor: how children affect a marriage. I'm not saying that having children makes me want to do something crazy like leave or get divorced or have an affair. But children can take a toll on relationships.

When I'm pregnant, nursing, and/or caring for little children all day, I have little emotional or physical energy left over for Eric. I'm touched out, I'm tired, and I definitely don't want to "give" any more after days full of giving and giving and giving. I tend to run away from physical touch, sexual or not. Some of it is due to the hormones of pregnancy and lactation, and the rest comes from the exhaustion of being on call night and day. It's a lot of work to connect with my spouse, and sometimes more work is the last thing I want.

I'm not generalizing this experience onto all couples. Eric has always had a higher need for physical touch and emotional connection than I have, even pre-children. Starting a family has just accentuated those differences between us.

So our decision about family size also includes the health of our marriage. If I have a fifth baby, it will be at least another 3-4 years before I'm done with the pregnant/frequent nursing/little baby stages. Whereas if I stop with this baby, about a year from now the baby will be (crossing my fingers) sleeping well at night, moving independently, starting to eat some solid foods, and playing with siblings.

I'd like to hear how you balance your relationship with your spouse/partner against the demands of raising children. How do you find time for emotional and physical connection, especially when one or both of you have little desire/energy? How have relationship concerns factored into your decision about family size?

19 comments:

  1. This was the issue that sealed the deal for me on closing up shop. I felt not done with my 4th (despite feeling really depressed and overwhelmed during his pregnancy) so we when he was two we decided to have one more. I just felt so angry, exhausted and emotionally fragile the whole pregnancy and we were definitely feeling it in our marriage (other circumstances added to that too) that we decided to do the vasectomy before baby was even born, I just knew how awful I felt but that I would forget down the road and didn't want to change my mind. I love little babies and have mourned each stage my littlest has moved beyond but I am also stretched thin and glad to be done, Incidentally, I had a mirena between #4 & #5 and insertion was not bad but I had problems feeling the string, had it cut shorter and then had problems getting it out (as in the midwife tried, a dr. tried and was on her last try before she said she'd take me to the OR). I also had problems with migraines with it in. I did love the lighter periods.

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  2. I agree that the strain of young kids and no sleep on our marriage was a strong determining factor for stopping at 2. I have often had the thought that our marriage might not survive another kid. I would definitely be choosing a bond with a baby over cultivating the bond with my partner, since he is very much done having kids.

    Really, though, the person I want to cultivate a bond with is myself! I'd like to do things for me for awhile :).

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  3. It just depends on the woman. I have six. And if money was no object I'd have more. Besides the absolute HELL that morning sickness does to our family and the depression I get during it, the rest of pregnancy and even breastfeeding makes me feel.. cue aretha... like a natural woman and I'm very happy in the baby stages of life. I know that this is just me. But I am in very serious mourning that I may never cradle a newborn of mine in my arms again. I will always want that. As for time with each other we are pretty passionate people so a dry spell sexually is less than once a week. I'd say average is three. Our connection to each other goes through the regular ups and downs of life but its generally like that even when not in the throws of babydom. We have to remember to talk to each other and not just zone out on our methods of relaxation - internet reading for me gaming for him.

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  4. We're only ten weeks in with our first, but it's definitely a problem. Not sexually - we still manage to have sex. It's uninterrupted time to really talk to and focus on each other than we don't get. Time when we're not tired, when we can be present.

    Our plan right now is to have another in a year or two, take a bit of a break after that, then at least one more. I think I'd feel quite content with three, but four could be okay, five is probably too many.

    But this is a lot of why we wanted to have children fairly young (I'm 25; he's 29) - so we have some leeway in our decisions. I like the idea of taking some time off and then having some later kids. I wouldn't want to do more than two in reasonably close succession because I really don't think our marriage would survive it.

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  5. Children definitely effect our marriage. I think my husband is SO ready to be done with co-sleeping (and unfortunately for him, I doubt that will happen any time soon!)

    But, I think, for me at least!, that looking at the big picture and the long-term really helps. Even though we have X # of years left of co-sleeping, breast-feeding, being exhausted from life with young children, etc. It's pretty small in comparison to all the years that come after that...when the kids are school age, high school, college, when we are empty nesters, etc. So, while in the short term its hard, and making extra effort like scheduling special time together when possible helps, I think that in the long-term it will all work out ok. At least, I hope. ; )

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  6. So far, we've had a kid every 2 years, starting from our oldest, who was a honeymoon baby. I definitely find myself not wanting to be touched at the end of the day. I feel badly for my husband who just wants sex (all the time, I swear!!), and I'm always too tired, or too touched out or too--something. My kids are (almost) 6, (almost) 4, (almost) 2, and we're due in March with number 4; I know someday things won't be this way, but right now...

    I'm not sure right now how we feel about limiting family size; I have diabetes, and my mother and sister have a history of infertility and female problems, and I feel like I've been seriously blessed by NOT having those issues, so I don't want to start limiting my fertility (plus, how much longer am I going to be able to have babies, really? I'm in my 30s now, and with the diabetes, I just don't see us having a whole bunch more kiddos). However, it *is* an issue for us, and I don't quite know how to deal with it. Yet.

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  7. Thanks for being so honest, Rixa. I think many women and men can relate to your experience.

    As a generalization, it seems like women find the whole pregnancy/baby/toddler years much more fulfilling than men do.

    I had 3 kids in less than 4 years. I want more, but my husband is DONE. He did not find the early stages nearly as fulfilling as I did. He missed me during those years bc I was not as fully present to him as before.

    My kids are 3/5/7 now and he is loving this stage. Everyone is potty trained, semi-independent and he feels like we have our life back. We can focus on our marriage in a whole new way now.

    While I still feel sad about stopping, I have to respect my husband's feelings and desires too, because really, the best thing I can give my kids is a close and connected relationship with their daddy.

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  8. I felt going from 0-1 was a huge change for our relationship and then 1-2 was really tough, too. Now that we're at four, we've learned to embrace the chaos and to have very few expectations about time together - and make the most of what time we do have. Now that our oldest is 8 (tomorrow!) we see how fast the time goes, so we know these days of having a baby in our bed, in our arms, etc are fleeting. My husband also works 60-70 hours a week so he's tired and not at all needy for my attention. But I adore the man, we are best friends, and I know we'll relish having more time together someday.
    Regarding relationships, where we have felt the biggest impact is socially. When we had 1-2 kids, we entertained a lot and I felt like I had the energy to give in that way. I enjoyed cooking and hosting people. Even with three kids, we were still pretty active in our church community and we went out fairly regularly. (But our third was adopted at 10.5 mo old, so I was not breastfeeding and it was too much sensory input for her to co-sleep, so she slept in a crib. she was a fab sleeper!). But with four, it feels infinitely harder to get out. The older two kids are in school and bring home various germs and it feels like this winter, someone has been sick most of the time. It's a lot of effort to get all four kids out the door for church and a baby in a church service is a TON of work. She is a terrible sleeper. We haven't gone to church much at all this year. Also, it's somewhat socially isolating because most people don't have four kids. So it's a lot of kids to bring to someone else's house. And friends will often be at a different stage of life - having older kids and on to the next stage, or having younger ones and being new parents - which is a lot different than being a more experienced parent. I don't really care if you co-sleep or not, vax or not, etc I'm just kind of over those being monumental decisions. It's also very hard - and expensive- to travel to see friends and family (all 1,000 miles away) with this many kids. It's sooo disruptive.
    I'll never forget when we told my parents we were pregnant with #4, they were disappointed, saying they thought we would inevitably become an "island" like other big families they know. That comment has stuck with me. I'd really like to be intentional about not becoming an island. Now, we're considering homeschooling, but one reason I am unsure about it is because I definitely do not want to become even more isolated than we already are.

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  9. Lots of pros and cons. The biggest consideration for us was the concept of pre-mortal promises we may have made to our spirit brothers and sisters to provide mortal bodies for them. Is there another child you once chose? I often wished we could just have a peek so we could be sure! May you be blessed in your decision.

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  10. My husband was adamant that he wanted only 2 kids. I am one of 4, (so is he, two sets of twins!)and I always felt 4 would be too many for me. My first one had really bad colic but after 5 months he improved and was a lovely toddler. Husband wasn't ready for planning another so they could be 2 years apart (seriously!! I was gutted!) but as soon as he was ready I conceived easily so number 2 is 3 yrs and 1 month younger. She had special needs and was a LOT of hard work for many years (23 surgeries to date, nearly 24 y.o. now)

    My epiphany on being done came one day when I tried to cross a busy suburban street with Mr 6 and Miss 3 and my blind 85 y.o grandmother. NOT ENOUGH HANDS to cross the street safely!!!!! And then I knew!

    You should have seen my husband's face when I told him- such relief!

    He got a vasectomy when our kids were 13 and 10. I have since had a Mirena for other issues (fibroids) and can reccomend them - insertion is not too hard in the Drs rooms.

    And since we have become empty nesters (last year) we are REALLY enjoying our renewed time as a couple. Finding adult time was a LOT harder with young adults in the house!

    Good luck with your decision making, thanks for the honest discussion

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  11. I feel a lot like you do, Rixa. First trimester I'm too exhausted, second trimester I'm getting aches and pains, and the third I'm just not up for it. Then comes the total lack of libido while breastfeeding. I had to tell my husband that I love him, but sex just isn't on my mind so he will have to initiate it and I'll do my best to respond. Can't say that I'm very into it though. My libido came back after my first was around 18 months, so it's going to another 9 months at least before I start feeling any real desire again. Yes, for me, the effect on my relationship with my husband is an important factor in not having more children. I want to want him again.

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  12. Finding your blog so timely lately!

    I read this holding my 1 week old, knowing he's most likely my last one. Sort of waiting to feel sad about that but knowing it's probably the right choice for us. I find it intereesting how parents' family size as children seems to effect that decision about their own children.
    Two weeks age watched Inga's birth video again- and then had a suprise unassisted waterbirth myself! That video imparts courage.

    And in between I was reading here about posterior tongue tie after my midwife discovered baby boy had one - she clipped it for me but he doesn't know what to do with his tongue yet!

    Thanks for all the great info and thought provoking discussion.

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  13. Nothing in your post stood out to me more than the phrase 'high needs.' That describes my husband to a perfect, I mean PERFECT 't'. I go back and forth so much over wanting another child. On one hand, I long to have that experience again, but on the other hand, another child would absolutely require him to step up in the parenting field. I'm not sure if that's possible, given that his own needs are so high and he requires so much attention/validation as it is.

    We've talked at length about what would be required of him should another child enter the picture but I think it's so much theory to him and no matter how much we talk, I know he'll still act brand new when he actually has to make good on the 'promises' he made. Some days it makes me more than content to have only one baby, because between him, the dog and my actual child, my hands are more than full!

    But then my uterus starts aching again....

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  14. We are also on the fence, but much later than anyone here. Two kids, two homebirths (one 20 minutes), two cats a dog, and two stepchildren in their 20s... yes. We are older. We had our first at 39, and I am now 45. We would love another, but we aren't too sure of the health stuff. We are just exiting the high need time and I am finishing my MS, so ... we need to decide soon. I wish we weren't under the biological clock timetable so to speak.

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  15. Our family size has more to do with not compromising on the negative effects of birth control than imagining ourselves with lots of children. our 4th baby is going on 8 months now and though we are both feeling really *done* I think we both suspect the universe might have other plans... The nursling phase (which went into our last baby's 3rd year) does put some distance between us. I get very touched-out! But this time around, I think it's been a lot easier because we've seen three boys' baby-hoods fly by, and our relationship (and sex life) bounce back stronger each time. "I miss that & look forward to having it again" feels a lot better than "OMG what happened to us??"

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  16. I just finished the 5 Love Languages and it explained what makes my husband and I tick. He needs sex and physical touch like that more than me to feel loved - I'm happy with a hug. Pregnancy and all of that has sent my libido packing - as of June we'll have 4 under age 6. The book also gave my husband insight into what makes me happy - do the dishes please :) He's doing more for me and I'm willing to do more for him in regards to touch, instead of bristling from it. I have fibromyalgia and sometimes my nerves are just on overload and the slightest touch makes me want to jump out of my skin, far from a pleasant experience. I have had to tell him that I don't want to be touched because it hurts, not that I don't want him. We've learned to connect by just spending time with one another, sans kids, and just enjoy being together in the same space. Marriage and family is about adapting, you may want what was in the past but you can't go back and need to work with what you have now.

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    1. I've heard that book recommended in other places; I should probably check it out! More and more, I'm thinking that 4 will probably be the last for us, too. When I let myself think of being done with X or Y at a certain point in the near future (even though I also like X and Y), it honestly sounds kind of nice :)

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  17. And this the last baby for us, I'm tired!

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  18. I'm pregnant with #3. And I'm 34. And I do NOT want to be an old mom. I'll be 52 when this baby graduates HS and I want to have enough youth and energy to enjoy my life at that point.

    Honestly, I'm so ambivalent about this pregnancy, that I don't know if I want another. I can't really imagine only 3, but how could I be happy with 4 if I'm not sure I'm happy with 3?

    When I'm pregnant I don't want sex. My libido is higher, but I am so self conscious and insecure about my body that I do not want to have sex in the positions that are necessary when you're pregnant. And then when the baby is born I don't want sex for a good long while. My poor husband. I know he misses me. But I feel like I'm barely hanging on.

    So yeah. Tough call. I have no idea what to do.

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