“So why is three kids not enough?”
That is my husband questioning me again for the umpteenth time.
Why isn’t it enough? The kids are great, they are awesome, really. I can finally manage them, have gotten pretty good at parenting, and know approximately where we are all headed. My life is back to a normal routine. Kids are all in school, I can work a normal job, no more diapers to change, no highchairs to clean, no moldy bottles to scrub. The double stroller is in storage, I’m sleeping through the night and most of all, we don’t need to own a minivan (my literal nightmare).
“So why isn’t three enough?” Asks the husband who comes from a family of eleven.
The following dialogue ensues: quality Vs. quantity, you hate being pregnant, you’re not a baby person, breastfeeding was hell for you, you are calm and content, I am calm and content, why shake things up again? He is right. Every point he brings up is true, point blank. Yet, my woman organs are tapping. My heart keeps saying yes, yes, yes, while my mind shouts bloody murder no, no, no!
I look deep inside and try to understand where this tapping is coming from. Is it really my lady parts or is it guilt, AKA the voice of my Kallah teacher tugging at my integrity: The Rebbe really wanted us to have large families, the Rebbe was against family planning, our desire for birth control is the influence from the secular world, Hashem will give you the energy and sustenance, have more faith, the more children you have the more blessings are showered on your family, imagine how lonely you will be if you have a small family.
I think about the advice I’ve gotten from some of my friends: Just convince the Rabbi that you emotionally are not capable now, he will totally give you an exemption.
This is crazy…
I read the mommy groups and see the comments by some very well meaning moms who seem to be incensed: Since when is birth control the norm, it breaks my heart, the Rebbe wanted us to have many children so badly, watch the videos, learn the sichos, see for yourself, I know someone who went on birth control and now can’t get pregnant, maybe Hashem is showing her who is in charge, someone I know thought she was done and now she regrets it, you can’t turn back time.
My conscience and logic start to wind all at once: Maybe, just maybe if you have more children you will have more parnasah, blessings are promised, showers of them, but does that mean if I suppress my child bearing organ’s I will not lead a life of blessing, how is this thought process healthy, is the fear of regret or guilt a credible reason to bring a child into this world?! You are looking for the easy way out, you don’t want to bother with it again, who said life has to be so easy?
And seriously lying to a Rabbi to get exempt from child rearing, it’s like not getting exempt at all. Do I even need an exemption, this is my body, my choice, my wants, my needs? My sister says I’m being selfish. Well, heck yeah! If I am not for myself who will be for me?
And then I wonder how I even got here. Is there something wrong with me? How have I come to a place where I actually question what to many is a given? Why can’t it come naturally to me? I speak to my older sisters; I am open with them. They say they never thought, they just did, and they are fine, happy and content.
Then what is stopping me? However much I keep broaching the subject with my husband, trying to convince him, I realize that I am not convinced. Even as I write this, a voice deep in the recesses of my mind is telling me that these thoughts are nonsense and that the truth is that I know what is truly the right thing.
It’s guilt and shame that I despise. I don’t want to bring another child into this world with those underlying feelings. How could I? My sister tells me again I am thinking too deeply into this. It’s just another kid, what’s the big deal? What’s the big deal?! It’s a person, a world, who by human nature I need to advocate for and educate, and worry, and care for, and sustain. What’s the big deal?
On and on and on the voices are clamoring up in my head until they form a colossal cannon ball and all I want to do is discharge it to the other end of the universe, and free myself from all of it, and just BE! No strings attached, no culpability, no judgement or self judgement, just quiet, shhhhhhh.
I sit down in a clear moment and then a flip switches, my mind turns off and my heart takes control. I pick up the phone and call my husband at work. “I’m taking it out, I’m going to the doctor now, I have only two more days to do it for this month, c’mon let’s just have another one.”
“Really? Right now, in the middle of the day you decide something like this? Hold your horses. Let’s talk about it when I come home.”
I never end up going to the doctor, and as the day turns into night, my itch diminishes. My heart and mind are in sync and I understand, no we understand, that it won’t be this month, and maybe not next, and that is okay (although the inner conflicts keep conflicting. Tune down, I say… SHUT UP!).
Maybe soon in a moment of serene mental silence I will find the strength to say the truth to myself, without feeling the need to explain to anyone including my relentless inner self. Maybe in that moment I will be brave enough to see that the blessings are still showering down and Hashem, our benevolent father is standing right here and holding my hand showing me the healthy path I need to follow.
Maybe that moment is now, as I write these words, fingers on the keyboard, pouring out my biggest inner controversy, it being all things I have been taught and ingrained with and the actual part of living life and being human.
As my fingers tap, tap, tap, the music from my Spotify that is playing lightly in the background changes. A song dear to my heart starts to play, the words arousing stinging tears to my eyes.
“Vezkeini legadel, banim ubnai banim… chachamim unevonim…”
“Privilege me to raise children and grandchildren who are wise and understanding, who love Hashem and fear Hashem, people of truth, offspring that are holy…”
As the melody plays itself out, my heart becomes calm and I have my answer, and a moment of peace. The voice that has been pestering me all this time chimes in with the music and tells me: You have nothing to feel guilty for or ashamed of. Be proud!