Last Child or Second of Many?

“Do you know what you’re having yet?”

“Yes, it’s a boy.”

“Perfect! One of each!”

The assumption, of course, is that I’m done. I can’t tell you how often I get this. People find out I’m expecting, find out it’s a boy and that I already have a girl in preschool, and they assume I’m done. Two kids, one of each, the perfect American family. It’s not that I’m necessarily not done, it’s just that having been raised in a family influenced by the ideals of the Quiverfull movement, it’s hard to imagine actually thinking that way.

In a Quiverfull family, the second child is simply the second of many. The idea that it might be the last is laughable. That second child will be the second in a stair step line of children lined up to show off, the second in command when you leave the kids to run an errand, the second helper when new children arrive, and the second to use each homeschool textbook.

And indeed, true to form, my parents and friends from growing up assume something totally different from the “normal” people I know.  When they find out I’m expecting my second, they say things like “congratulations, and my God bless you with many more!” Far from having my last child, the assume that I’m just getting started.

This dichotomy is so strange. One set of people assumes that having my second, and a boy at that, means I’m now done with child bearing. The other set of people assumes that this is just the start of a much larger family of five, seven, nine, or even a dozen children.

Does this mean that one group of people is more excited for me than the other? Not necessarily. What has struck me is simply how different the reactions are.

The other thing that’s different is the realization that after this use I could simply pass the bassinet on rather than storing it because I may never need it again. The bouncer seat, the baby bath tub, and all the rest, even the baby clothes themselves. I grew up in a world where a woman could expect to need all of that baby paraphernalia almost continuously for fifteen or twenty years. Imagining a world where I could, in my mid-twenties, simply pass those things on and be done with them forever is . . . strange.

And I have to say, it’s hard to get it into my own mind that this could very well be my last. In my mind, this is the second of many. In my mind, I’m just getting started. How could I already be finished? And yet, logically, I know I don’t want a big family. I know there is a good likelihood that this will be my last. It’s just hard when your brain has been wired one way to swap your way of thinking. I’ve made a lot of progress, but there may be times in the future when I mourn the children I have chosen not to have – not children dead or pregnancies terminated but rather children never conceived.

Realizing that this could well be my last pregnancy is also strange. After all, I watched my mother spend twenty years pregnant. How could I, in my mid-twenties, already be saying goodbye to pregnancy forever? I’ve been raised to see my collection of maternity clothes like an investment, something I’ll use again and again and again. And now, I look at my little stock of maternity clothes and realize that I may never wear them again and wonder if I should even store them again afterwards.

Growing up with Quiverfull ideals and then leaving them behind and easing into the new world requires many adjustments, and watching people’s reactions to my second pregnancy – and watching my own reactions – highlights one of the biggest.

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About Libby Anne

Libby Anne grew up in a large evangelical homeschool family highly involved in the Christian Right. College turned her world upside down, and she is today an atheist, a feminist, and a progressive. She blogs about leaving religion, her experience with the Christian Patriarchy and Quiverfull movements, the detrimental effects of the "purity culture," the contradictions of conservative politics, and the importance of feminism.

  • Resophonic

    Congratulations! Isn't it great being able to figure out what is best for your own life, based of your own wants, needs and desires. I am happy for you.Charles

  • Amanda

    Congrats! It's so exciting getting to meet that new little person — I'm thrilled for you :)One reaction you'll miss is the one I got, when folks found out my second pregnancy was also resulting in a boy: "Oh, are you going to try one more time for a girl?" The assumption being that I must have a girl, and that somehow going through the same 50/50 odds is going to net me a different result…I've seen folks who've tried that. And in most cases, they ended up with 3 boys. Or 3 girls. I'm outnumbered enough. I got a female cat instead. HER gender I could control, LOL.

  • Elle C

    Congratulations! I am happy for you, your husband and your daughter. I am so very different from you, I knew from a very young age that I never wanted children, I think I was seven years old when I first announced it. Fortunately my husband was flexible in this regard (much to his mother's dismay). Thank goodness I was able to make this choice for myself.

  • Anonymous

    Congrats on the new one coming :)I had a similar experience…just had my second kid, a little boy, and my toddler is a little girl. My family assumes that I will have many more, while most people who comment in the grocery store assume since I have one of each I'm finished. I honestly find both reactions insulting because, well, unless I've shared my reproductive choices and questions with some one, how could they know? Planning a family has always seemed like something very private, and I don't appreciate others assuming such huge things about me.Beth

  • Libby Anne

    Good point, I hadn't thought of it that way! I think I'm still at the stage of finding the grossly contradictory assumptions simply bemusing. :-)

  • Elin

    Congratulations! I am pregnant too with my first. I would love a big family (by big I mean 4-6 children not more) but I do not know if that will be possible for a number of reasons. One: I am almost 30 years old and one cannot count on having a child every other year. Two: My partner wants two, maybe maybe three. Three: I do not know if that is a good choice financially.

  • College At Thirty

    Congratulations! What a wonderful thing for you and your family. Little boys are just the best, so much fun, so much energy. I'm mostly amazed that anyone is even thinking about your reproductive habits at all. That's between you and your husband, no one else. Yes, it's nice that you have one of each gender at this point, but…Anonymous above is right. How is it anyone's business?

  • Molly Driftwood

    Congratulations! I wish you a healthy pregnancy with a healthy baby at the end of it!

  • ee

    It's funny, because no matter big or small families, the idea that a woman MUST be happy to have a kid is kind of…limited. Having just gotten married, I was sad about all the gender assumptions that when on. So when a student of mine (I teach college) told me she was pregnant, my first response was 'How do you feel about that?'We are all so complex, with so many different and conflicting hopes of our own that it seemed funny to impose.She was initially mixed, then happy about it, and we had a little class babyshower for her. But what if the baby was an enormous obstacle in her life worthy to consider abortion? What if she just needed a nonjudgmental sounding board to tease out her life's path? You can never know.How about rather than the aforementioned knee-jerk replies, we can say 'If you're happy, then I'm thrilled for you!'

  • Sheena

    Congratulations, Libby Anne — and good luck! I hope for health and well-being for your family.I don't know how many children I want, still. I mean, I'm not married, I'm 27, I'm interested in a career and grad school…and I wouldn't want to "give up" either (which, combined with my age, makes me a "sad example" in some circles). But, honestly, life happens — if I have two kids, I'd be thrilled. If I have ONE, I'll be thrilled. If I have no kids, I'll push a little harder to foster kids in need (or otherwise volunteer). I don't think that just because I *can* do something, I *should*.Best wishes and healthy, happy thoughts :)

  • Kristen

    Perhaps the age difference between your children is contributing to the reactions? Getting pregnant when the first child is one or two years old is a different situation than having children who will be 4-5 years apart. People shouldn't make assumptions, but when your children are that spaced out, I think more people might assume you are only having the two. Congratulations, by the way!

  • Anonymous

    Congratulations to you and your family! Yes, people can make the oddest comments from their own assumptions. I think you will know exactly the size family that is right for you, when the time comes.Best wishes as you plan for your new little baby boy.Beverly

  • Anonymous

    I had to smile at your comment. I know a couple who had 6 boys before their girl (and last) came along.It was not a secret they were trying for a girl. Beverly

  • Tanit-Isis

    Congratulations!… When I was pregnant, especially the first time, no one said congratulations. They said "omg, what are you going to do?" … Which is a whole other set of expectations. It was such a strange feeling, when somebody did finally tell me congratulations. Light and frightening and wonderful. Which doesn't have much bearing on your post except—congratulations. May you have exactly as many, or as few, children as you want. I'm so happy you can make that choice yourself.

  • ee

    It IS a nice choice! We are so lucky to have this conversation. Congrats to all celebrating families! Big or small, happy families with happy news deserve congratulations!

  • Jaimie

    Congratulations! What a fun blessing! But try not to take what other people say to heart. When my girls got pregnant for the first time I told them to expect to hear strange, superstitious, and downright offensive comments from supposedly well meaning people. It was a relief to them because they had already heard some real doozies. We just laugh at them and I tell them they will be a great mother. One of them is. The other one will be starting in May. Woo hoo!

  • Coupon Newbie

    Congratulations!I'm also pregnant with #2 due in March. My #1 is a boy, this one's a girl. I flat out tell people that I'm done. LOL I say "I have a complete set. This is it for me!" Then again, I'm 36, which makes a huge difference. When this one graduates high school, I'll be 54. Ouch!As for the maternity clothes, I'll let you in on a secret… I wore the ones I had from my son until they wore out. I have 5 1/2 years between babies, so most of them have worn out by now. I had to get all new clothes for this one. No biggie, IMO. Some were nice for business-casual work, others were nice and stretchy for gatherings like Thanksgiving.

  • Naomi

    Congratulations!I'm 15 weeks along with No. #2 myself. As a grad student in my mid-thirties, I am quite certain this will be our last. I don't want to be dealing with a new infant AND a job search/new job AND heading into 40 all at the same time. If I were 10 years younger, though, I wouldn't necessarily rule more out.My wanna-be-quiverful father's response was something along the lines of "It's about time." Since he didn't get the dozen quiet, compliant kids of his dreams, he now wants his daughters to produce those children. Not likely that will happen–especially when one of them (me) is training to be a "professional" feminist. :)

  • Paula G V aka Yukimi

    Congratulations!! Have a safe pregnancy and delivery. Have you already told your daughter about her possible new baby brother? I ask because I was 2 and a half years, more or less your daughter's age, when my parents had my brother and they didn't tell me much at all because I was so little and ZAP a baby brother appeared out of thin air. It was quite shocking XP

  • Meggie

    Congratulations Libby Anne.I was asked many times during my second pregnancy whether I was hoping for a daughter this time? My answer 'No. I really want another boy.' Stunned silence was the usual response.

  • Mommy McD

    I had my second child at 22, so many people assumed we'd be having more, also because they were both girls. I am not sure about it. I hate being pregnant. I feel invaded and out of control and I just really hate it. My husband wants a boy, but I am not really willing to risk it through pregnancy again. I would like to foster children, and am very open to adoption.

  • Mommy McD

    Also, congratulations! I hope everything goes smoothly. Having two feels like a whole new adventure, I tell you what.

  • shadowspring

    Congratulations! =D

  • Melissa

    I don't think anyone who hasn't grown up these circles can understand that mourning of children never conceived. My counsellor asked me to draw my feelings in therapy and I ended up drawing little children 'ghosts" floating around me. Sometimes I still get so angry thinking about how much my parents programmed me to believe my worth was in how many children I had, and that children are only valuable in large numbers. Things that are normal passage of time for most people, are heartwrenching and exhausting for me. I want to be a parent to the children I have, and develope who I am for once, and I shouldn't hindered by my parents dreams for my functioning as a perpetual breeding machine.

  • Anonymous

    Melissa said,"Sometimes I still get so angry thinking about how much my parents programmed me to believe my worth was in how many children I had, and that children are only valuable in large numbers."The message your parents gave you is so sad. I am thankful you are in counsel to work that out. You are right, we, who have not grown up in that mindset, do not know what it is like. It sounds like a nightmare. It is difficult for me to understand how parents want to spread themselves so thin, when having many children. I knew before having my own children, I never wanted the regret of not spending adequate time mothering each of my children. My job is done and fortunately that is not a regret I carry. Keep up the work in counseling. With good assistance, it will be worthwhile.Beverly

  • AmieLou

    My aunt gave up on a girl after her six boys.

  • saraquill

    Congratulations! I hope this pregnancy is easy on your health.

  • Natalie’s Life: A Work in Progress

    Good point and I couldn't agree more, Beth. I find it invasive that people would make assumptions about my and my husband's reproductive plans when I have told them nothing about those plans. That is our choice and our life and not the business of a family member or a friend or a stranger, unless we tell them our plans. I'm early pregnant with our first and am not looking forward to the "finally you're having a baby!" (we've been married 7 years) comments from his dad; the constant questioning from people I hardly know about how I'm feeling and if I'm hoping for a boy or girl; does that matter? We'll get what we get, 50/50 chance. I just want a healthy child! I guess some people just don't get it and not bother using a little discretion.

  • Natalie’s Life: A Work in Progress

    Well done. That has always been my approach to hearing about someone's pregnancy as well. Not every woman is thrilled at being pregnant or the timing or any number of things that outsiders are not aware of.

  • Petticoat Philosopher

    I know a guy who is one of NINE boys, no girls! I have to say, I think I would be kind of bummed out if I'd been his mom. :-P

  • Petticoat Philosopher

    Congratulations, Libby! What wonderful news. :-)

  • Anonymous

    I got so annoyed with that when my second child was a boy to. I really really wanted another girl, and it took me a long time to adjust (I did have another girl later) and really annoyed me that other people assumed I should be happy now because I had one of each, I'd have been really happy with all girls. I do love my son of course, he is one funny little guy, but I wouldn't have been as happy without a another little girl. Don't know why our hearts want these things but they do. It's so funny what goes into the right number of kids for anyone.

  • kisekileia

    Congratulations on the soon-to-be baby!

  • lucrezaborgia

    I'm hoping I conceive a boy so I can get away with not having anymore but my husband is dead-set on having 3 children.