I was cleaning up after my younger daughter's first birthday party, tossing out the plastic forks, the balloon plates, and the baby-farm-animal wrapping paper. I propped open the garbage can, set up a clear shot for the pointy "I'm One!" hat with the pink pom-pom on top, and then it happened: I hesitated.
I started again, angling my arm so that my throw would guide the point of the hat directly into a discarded glob of rainbow Jell-O salad. This time, I stopped myself completely. I heard a little voice inside my head utter words that I never thought I'd hear: "Wait! You might need this hat again."
"What?" screamed the voice from the other side of my head. "You have two children! That was the plan!" It was true: All along, we'd intended to stop at two kids. Ours turned out to be girls. My older daughter, Blair, wore this same birthday hat three years ago, and my little one, Drew, got her turn this afternoon. After today, there wasn't supposed to be any more wearing of the first-birthday hat.
So why was I frozen over a garbage can, feeling the same rumbling I had felt at 33, when my biological clock started ticking and I found myself checking out babies in strollers as if they were hot guys?
"You are done!" reminded the second voice. "Done!"
Except for one small problem: Maybe I wasn't done.
I remember the moment I decided that there was no way on God's fertile earth I would ever have three children. It was Christmas 2003. My cousin Cheryl, who weighed approximately 98 pounds, was carrying her 3-year-old son -- her third and youngest -- who also seemed to weigh 98 pounds.
"Three is too many," she stated flatly (presumably to me, though it seemed more like a confession to the universe). "We're outnumbered now."
At that time I didn't know if I wanted even one child, but I was certain I'd never want three. Three meant that one would always be the odd kid out -- the one who wouldn't get a window seat in the car and would have to ride alone on Blackbeard's Lost Treasure Train at Six Flags.
The day Blair was born, I informed my husband, Thad, in the delivery room, "You'd better pay attention, because we are never doing this again!" But we did -- largely because I was an only child and, while it was cool having all the attention from my folks growing up, it was also kind of lonely.
The more I thought about it, the notion of having additional kids didn't seem too daunting. Once the poopy diapers and strained peas and bedtime tantrums were done, we'd have a big gang to fill the table at dinner, to wake us up on New Year's Day, and to sing "Happy Birthday" to each other. The more the merrier, I thought: If raising two kids could bring me so much happiness, imagine how great it would be to have 10 (okay, maybe not 10).