"Are We Done?"
Was I the only mom who thought she had reached her self-imposed kid limit only to feel a weird biological urge for more? To find out, whenever I came across a woman with kids I asked her this question: "Are you done?"
"Absolutely," shouted Grace, a mother of three, as we chatted at a birthday party. "No more for me."
"I definitely could have lots more," whispered Emily, at the library, who looked like she might go into labor with her third child any minute.
"My husband's done," said Jenn, a mom of two, as we discussed a recent scare that sent her to purchase an early-pregnancy test. But given her wistful reaction to the result -- no bun in the oven -- I could tell she wasn't.
Then there was my friend Sally. She and her husband decided to have a third child, and they wound up giving birth to twins instead. (And they have nothing on that California mom of octuplets who had six kids, tried for more, and ended up with 14!)
"Are you kidding me? I'm so done," Sally told me.
"How do you know?" I asked.
"But how do you know?"
"If you don't know ... well ... that means you're not done," she said, raising an eyebrow, as if she expected this revelation to propel me to jump into the sack and get busy.
Despite my insistence that I was merely doing research, I realized Sally was right. The women who were finished didn't wait a single beat before responding. They knew. And I didn't. Deep down I believed I had enough kid-love left to try for another.
There was, of course, one more person I had to poll: my husband. I waited until one night after we'd put the girls to bed. We were lying on the couch watching Jeopardy! when I found an opening and popped the question: "Are we done?"
"Are we done with what?" he asked.
"Are we done having kids?"
Thad stared silently at the TV for a moment, as if he was waiting for Alex Trebek to give him the correct response. Instead he deflected it back to me: "Are you done?"
"I don't know," I said.
"But they finally both sleep through the night, Vicki," he said. "Plus, we'll need a bigger house because I don't want them to share a bedroom. And I'll need to get a minivan because I can't fit three seats in the back of my sedan. And college -- they'll have to be really good at field hockey or get scholarships, since we'll be practically ready to retire when the youngest one graduates." He thought about it for a moment, then added, "Oh, no. I'll be one of those old dads...."
I waited patiently for Thad to say, "Yes, we're done." But he never did, leaving the door slightly ajar. Not that it mattered. Because up in the attic, in a plain, unmarked box, I had already hidden the "I'm One!" hat with the pink pom-pom on it. Just in case.
Originally published in the April 2009 issue of Parents magazine.