Embracing the Family You Have

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Four brothers with their dad in the pool.

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The conversation started here.

A few months ago Libby wrote me and asked,

Here is the thing: do you think that your family would have felt complete if you had only given birth to boys? I ask because I have three precious sons, hard won after years of infertility treatment. They are the center of my world and I couldn’t love them more…and yet my heart aches for a little girl to complete our family.

Feeling this way makes me feel selfish! Look at my blessings compared to so many women who would do anything to conceive…not long ago I was one of them. And yet I have prayed about this issue for the last few years…I come to peace with it and then within a few months I am filled with longing again.

My husband is happy with our family size as it is (and truth be told, struggles with the demands and financial pressures of three young children) but knowing my heart, he has offered to consider adoption if “my life won’t be complete without a daughter.” I was just curious as a mom of four boys first how you feel about things, if you have a minute to share your thoughts.

I wish I had a straightforward, easy answer. But, it was only three years ago when I pined for the same thing: a girl.

I distinctly recall sitting at a friend’s baby shower. She had three boys and was expecting a girl. While I certainly didn’t begrudge her her baby, I felt these pangs of longing. I still had a deep desire for a girl baby.

(Unbeknowst to me at the time, I was, in fact, pregnant with the FishChick. God knew the rest of the story, but I didn’t.)

Four boys sitting on a bench posing for the camera.

Embrace it!

One thing that helped me at the time was to fully embrace what I did have. I tried not to fixate on what I thought I lacked, but to focus on the wonderful, wild roller coaster it is to have a family of all boys. There are unique challenges, sure, but Oh the Joys of Boys! Those are unique as well.

We developed a sort of identity as a family of boys, coining the moniker, “FishBoys,” and encouraging group togetherness. They took it from there, creating the FishBoy Alliance and other such fun stuff.

Ultimately, I think it’s all in trusting God that He is crafting your family to be the best family for you. Since we don’t know “the rest of the story,” we have to rely on Him to work the fabric of our lives into beautiful tapestries.

I think it’s a constant battle within ourselves to fight the “wish I hads” and replace them with the “I’m so thankful fors.” And, Libby, it sounds like this is what you’re doing – striving to count your blessings. And that is a good thing.

Now that pink has entered the family wardrobe, I cherish the memories of those all-boy days. And, honestly, now that I have children of both sexes, I’m still not sure I’m “done.” There’s always the thought, What would the next one be like? Girl or boy, it’s hard for me to know when to say when.

Fellow moms, what do YOU say?

I know it’s been awhile since the last installment of this series. What’s your experience in this? How would you counsel a friend in similar circumstances?

See you in the comments!

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  1. I just stumbled across this post from the archives. 🙂 We have 3 little boys, and I’ve always wanted a girl. (My perfect plan was 2 boys and a girl. Hah! 🙂 We think that God wants us to to be open to having another baby, and that is a terrifying leap of faith for me as it is because I feel stretched so thin some days. (I have had enough of crying at ultrasound appointments… I’m assuming that if we have one more, it will be a boy.) I love my boys, but sometimes they are so wild and crazy. I have thoughts that if we get pregnant, and its twin boys, I will lose my mind. My emotions about this topic are a huge roller coaster depending on the day and season of year (winter with little boys cooped up in a house is very much not my favorite thing). If you think of it, pray for me as I struggle with acceptance of being willing to do what I think God is asking me to do… even though I’m sometimes overwhelmed with the thought of it.

    1. Hey Ellen,

      I can’t do much but pray and tell you I loved having four boys. Once I got to that point I was able to embrace it more and laugh at the chaos. You can’t really do anything else really, can you? Four or five boys is wonderful. And believe me, girls have challenges of their own. 🙂

  2. I remember the feeling of “completeness” when my second child (a son) was born. My first was a girl. I didn’t expect to think the 2 would ever be enough-as a kid I thought I would have 8 kids. 🙂 When we found out that we were having our third, (I know this wont go over well) we were very sad. We couldn’t tell people about it for about 4 months because we couldn’t say the words without crying. It was a very trying time in our marriage, and in our spiritual lives. As soon as my third child arrived, he had my heart. I think he knew his dad had to be won over and was my only “daddy’s boy”. When he could crawl, he would hear my husband arrive home before anyone else and meet him at the door. Honestly, it took my husband over a year to really begin to appreciate this third child. I have always referred to my middle child as our “baby” and our youngest as “God’s child”. :- ) I had never questioned God’s will for me before this happened, and have come through stronger for it. Honestly, we really aren’t in control-He is.

  3. @tulip, Tulip & others, have you ever looked into acupuncture to help with fertility /miscarriages? I know some people including myself who have benefited from it. It’s something to look into. If you have any questions let me know (= Blessings to each of you and the journey you are on
    (= Emily

  4. i just came across this series. thank you for writing it and for the conversation stirred up and all the mums who shared abt their families n the struggles they have/had.

    we have 3 children, a beautiful 8yo girl and then 2 boys, 6yo and 2.5yo. we’re going back and forth about having ‘one last hurrah’.

    we started out wanting just 2 but after my 2nd one was born i knew he could not be my last one. after we had our 3rd one, i was a little more unsure. my head said, we’re done, let’s move on, 3 is more than what many pple families around me have. but there was still a longing in my heart. but dh was quite happy to be done and thot we were done. but i couldn’t reconcile myself to it fully (tho i tried). i wished (am wishing) for another girl. i talked to dh and now he’s not so sure we’re done either and is liking the idea of another girl a lot (he’s always wanted girls but got his wish only once). i think we’re trying to find the courage to do it all over again n also to overcome the negative perception around us (from friends and family alike) that it would be mad for us to even THINK of having one more. plus the fact that i’m pushing 40 and my dh is 9 yrs older.

    thank you for this conversation. i still have no answers (i may never get a firm one) but i see it as another signpost while i continue to seek.

  5. Two thoughts:
    1) when I was pregnant with my 5th (a big surprise), there were SO MANY PEOPLE who told me how much they regretted NOT having “just one more baby”. I didn’t want to live with that regret, and 4 years later, we had our 6th, when we were 44. My husband, who “only wanted 2” would keep going, if we could!
    2) When my daughter was in 5th grade the teacher asked the class: if you could have ANYTHING in the world, regardless of the cost, and your parents wouldn’t say “no”, what would you ask for? Over 75% of the class asked for another sibling. Those kids understood what a blessing and priviledge babies are…. its unfortunate that adults get caught up in the negativity of a few bitter complainers.

    Have a great day, and do what everyone secretly wishes they could do….. keep going!

  6. I was reading some entries from the archives and stumbled upon this series. This really speaks to me right now. As many have mentioned, I am forever grateful and overwelmed with the joy my children give me daily. I gave birth to my first girl this past April, she was added to two boys. My husband is “done” he probably would have been happy to be done before baby girl but deeply loves her just the same. I want one more. I want baby girl to have a buddy like my boys have in each other. I thought for sure after the last one that feeling of being “done” would wash over me. It hasn’t and I really don’t want to be done. This conversation you have opened is always relevant but now it is touching me very deeply. Thanks.

  7. FishMama, thanks for posting this today. As a matter of fact, I have been pondering our family size quite frequently these days. We have 2 beautiful healthy children (boy & girl) but have also had 4 miscarriages. The other 2 pregnancies are extremely high risk (bed rest, daily injections, etc).

    My DH is adamant "we are done" and has told me all the reasons why. I struggle. As a woman & a mother, I feel "who am I to tell God what our family should look like?" Yet, is it more honoring to God to honor my husband first above my own desires?

    "the things we do"….thanks for sharing those thoughts. I'd like to get that book you mentioned. Literally, just before reading this post, the Lord & I were conversing about this topic. He sure does bring quick answers to prayers these days for me!

  8. I am on the other side of infertility. That is to say, although I have four beautiful, healthy children, I have also had four miscarriages in the last two years. It’s called secondary infertility.

    My DH and I have strongly felt God has told us we will have at least one more child. Most people would tell us we’re crazy to want more…’just get your tubes tied and be done with the heartache’, they all say. ‘Be satisfied you have the four healthy children you do have!’ And we are very satisfied….but we also feel it’s God’s decision how many we should have and want to leave it with Him. We long for another child, not because we aren’t satified with what we have, but because we are looking forward to the blessings of God’s promise and are anxious to meet this new little one. Four miscarriages have been heartbreaking, though and I feel a little silly going to a fertility specialist. I just have to trust in Him and lean not on my own understanding!

    The only way I would know how to counsel a friend in your circumstances is tell her to just trust in God. Jeremiah 29:11 says “For I know the plans I have for you,’ declares the LORD, ‘plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” He thinks about you all the time and knows the pains and struggles, the joys and thrills of your heart. There isn’t anything about you He doesn’t know and He wants you to talk to Him and trust Him. He loves you so much because you are His child and He always wants the best for you. Don’t believe the enemy’s lies that God is vengeful or far away or doesn’t care. Rest in the Maker of Heaven and Earth and He will do great things for you.

    Be blessed!
    In Christ,

  9. I just wanted to say. We have four children (so far…) I say so far… because acording to my husband we were “only having two children”. Two boys 22 months apart, we were “good”. Then, we found out were pregnant again (same birthcontrol for two years) they are 33 months apart. Okay, so we have three boys. Great! 16 months later, we have a girl! I got an iud. I had it for a year and half when I found out we were pregnant again. (we miscarried and then I had my iud removed). I had my iud removed and we are currently letting God have his way. Are we “careful”? sure… BUT if God can get past a 99.4or higher percentage he surely can do whatever he pleases. We are content with what we are blessed with. There are people that come after us (and we have lost tons of “friends” for how many children we have (really folks, it isn’t that many). I was having some health complications and if I would have had to go under I was going to have surgery to be steralized. But we are currently praying a ton trying to just let the Lord do his will. Do I want a whole bunch more? NOPE. BUT, remember, I was “good” with two! If something were to happen to make it 100% that we could not have anymore I think I would be sad. I guess that I would like to say, I have never struggled with infertility (two miscarriages) so I can’t know how your heart feels. Just remember that these decisions are for you and your husband. Your MIL, your neighbor, your “friend” can’t tell you how many you should or should not have. Pray about it. It really helps!
    Happy day.

  10. We have a little girl and are pregnant with #2, due next month (we’ll find out the gender then!). At times now I feel like our family is complete and am a little scared as to what another kid, boy or girl, would do to change us. BUT, at the same time I can’t wait to get past having our girl as the only child and teaching her how to be a big sister.

    I think God gives us certain kids for certain times and that only HE knows. Our family is complete for the time being, but when we have our next kid, it’ll be complete for that season as well. If it’s a girl, praise God that we’ll save money in hand me downs. If it’s a boy, praise God we get to experience both genders.

    At the same time, I don’t see how adoption could ever be wrong. There are plenty of kids out there that aren’t being loved in a “family” and could majorly benefit from being adopted. As long as you see adoption as a way of enhancing your family, not completing it, your kids shouldn’t have major competition with a new one.

  11. I have two kids and now have permanent infertility due to a hysterectomy to treat a disease I have and yet I long for something that can never be. I thought after surgery since my fertility would then be decided for sure that the feelings would go away…silly me. I feel your pain and can’t offer much other than….these few thoughts…

    ~when I ask my husband to pray for God to take away my longings he tells me “no, I won’t pray for that because those are the same longings that make you a good mom”.

    ~we can’t adopt (that will take too long to explain) and my husband is also content with our family size but I was encouraged by the book Created To Be His Helpmeet by Debi Pearl to honor my husband’s leading in family size as a way to honor him…I could have 10 kids of all the genders I want and still have a longing….

    ~I have a friend who has 7 daughters and always wanted a boy but heading into her 50s she felt that a boy was probably not in their future. God surprised her I think though because her first grandbaby is a BOY! Let us not forget that God’s plan or timing may not look like what we envision but maybe He has tons of grandchildren planned for me, or tons of granddaughters planned for Libby, or some other way of bringing little ones into our lives to have us bless them…they just may not be ones we birth but we’ll have a hand in raising them.

    I would encourage all women to follow their husband’s lead in adoption. Adoption is a long and sometimes difficult process that takes a strong team who are both desiring it. Adopted children deserve to have two parents that strongly desired them. =0)