I've been contemplating family size lately, since we're getting close to being a family with more than one child. (Holy moley whoa. WHOA. I'm slightly less in shock now than I was before but still.)
Here's where my original thoughts come from: watching my parents and their siblings. My mom is the middle of three and my dad is the oldest of 5. On the spouse's side, my MIL is one of just two and my FIL is one of...6 plus some given up for adoption they've since met (oh the complexities and how the world has changed in 50-60 years). Because my parents are on the older side and one set of my grandparents were also "very old" parents, I've gotten to see much more how end of life stuff goes down in a family than most people my age.
My observations have really shaped how I see family size and what's desirable as far as siblings. When my dad's parents started to decline and need lots of care, there were 5 siblings and 2 of their spouses to share the burden. When my MIL's parents had the same sort of decline, there were only the two of them and one spouse, so the burden was so much greater and it was more of a struggle to decide what to do. You'd think that with 6 sources of ideas, it would be harder to decide on a course of action, but because there were so many more folks giving input it was easier to see the clear choice to make. With only two people making hard choices, it took much longer to reach a conclusion about continuing care.
Maybe it's selfish of me to think about the day soon when I'll be the person deciding what's the next step for my parents, and how there's only the four of us (the sibling, spouse, and sibling's attachment plus me) to handle all of the mess my parents have gotten into (and believe me, I am thrilled to let them take care of themselves as long as possible, but it isn't going to last as at least one memory vanishes and health declines). It hurts my head to realize that we (me and the spouse) will wind up with the responsibility for my parents as their health declines because my sibling just isn't there in life yet. It is reality that smaller families mean increased elder care burdens when the time comes. There won't be a way that we can split up care with everyone getting one day a week like my dad's family did. We'd get well more than that.
All my life, my mom has gone on about how awful it is to be the middle child of three, and I can see that too. It's been challenging for them because you wind up with three ideas, or just two and someone has to pick a side, and having to pick a side your whole life is no fun. Someone is always losing and feeling like everyone else has sided against them.
So if I have my say, I think that 4 children makes for a great family size. There's enough folks that you can have two versus two in family feud scenarios, nobody is the middle child alone, nobody is the odd one out, and you aren't only two where you get the terrible dichotomy of someone being right and someone being wrong.
The spouse hasn't seen so acutely how hard it is to be just two siblings, but has over time been convinced that a third child wouldn't be so bad and would probably be a fine idea. But then, there's the consideration that we had a surprise 3 year gap with those three very sad losses mixed in. Are we willing to have 8 years from child one to child three or longer, if it means we have to wait to retire? Are we willing to suffer more losses? Can we manage if I have to be on bed rest again at some point while pregnant and couldn't work for weeks? What will it do to us to go through more losses? What sort of fortune would it cost to get all the testing to know we've ruled out any reason for those losses? How much are we willing to spend on a dream of the right family size (and knowing we won't have the money to spend on it for two years, does that change things, and what would we go through in the meantime)?
At the moment, our thought is that we'd like to adopt at least one more child and maintain birth order, because there are children out there who need stable families and we'd like to expand ours. But then it gets complicated and expensive and there are other things to consider, like do we want to match skin tone or do we work at being a multicultural family, and how ready are we to have an open adoption, and how does that work with presumably two biological kids hanging around the place too? Knowing that adoption costs at least twice what a healthy pregnancy costs (domestic, from foster care, in our area, as well as I can make out from a bit of research), money is again a thing to consider unfortunately. Not a big fan of money and how much it influences our family building choices, but life is what it is. We'd be less broke if I hadn't been in school forever or if we'd waited longer to acquire the kid so we had some solid income under our belts before her arrival. Then again, there's no sense looking back and wishing away how you got to wherever you are now.
Life happens and sometimes it's surprising. I suppose that for all this consideration and planning, there's another surprise again just around the corner. It's just strange to me to realize this is very possibly the last weeks I'll ever be pregnant. I didn't think about it until now and it's almost as surprising as it is that this is 33 weeks. Whoa.