As I was talking with my grandma about the challenges of looking after two children (mine were at that moment running in opposite directions), she said, "It really gets hard after you have your third. Then they'll outnumber how many hands you have to hold them." Now, although I suspect she was using the vague "you" and "your" to refer to this imaginary third child, I couldn't help but clarify that unless something crazy happens, there would be no third child in our family. Making no judgement about people who have more than two kids (my grandma herself had four), I know for certain that my husband and I (and our house, and our finances, and our mental health) are simply not equipped for a family larger than the one we're currently enjoying (and sometimes not enjoying, because let's be real: parenting is hard).
When I type it out in black and white--"Two kids is enough for us!"--it seems simple. Uncomplicated. Rational. But where my emotions get involved, it's anything but. I'd be lying if I said I didn't get weepy at the thought that there will be no more babies in my house, in my arms. "If we lived somewhere different...," I say. "If we had family in the area to help...," I say. "If we won the lottery, maybe..." But no. No. Two kids it is. End of story. This is who we are.
But how did I know for sure? How could I ever be certain when my emotional side remains (still!) open to expanding our family? Will I ever be not sad that our baby days are over?
For me, the certainty came when I noticed a pattern in how I reacted to other people's baby news. When I heard a couple was stopping at one kid, my reaction was, "Oh. That's an interesting choice." When I heard someone was having a second, I thought, "Yay! Two kids!" When I heard someone was expecting a third, it was more like, "J&f#fdjl!! Are they insane?! Do they know how many three is?!" And of course all of those responses were totally about be and not even a little bit about the people actually having the babies. Talk about a lightbulb moment.
I once heard someone say that her process of figuring out how many kids to have was asking herself whether she felt like everyone was at the table. When she felt like no one else was missing, she'd know it was time to stop. Isn't that great? I wish I had something as lovely and poetic as that, but mostly I'm just glad that I know, for sure, that my family is now as it should be and will be.