How many children is too many children?

I have a large family by many people’s standards. Nine children, and we are now growing in the love with the in-laws and grandchildren departments. Honestly, most days it doesn’t seem like that big a family – it is simply just mine or I should say, ours. After all, I did have a little help. πŸ˜‰ Usually David and I don’t give a second thought to the size of our family. Typically, a family picture with all of our children in a row or everyone gathered around the kitchen table laughing, annoying each other, laughing, teasing and laughing some more makes us stand back and truly take inventory of our large brood of blessings. We usually look at each other and simultaneously exclaim, “Wow, they all belong to us!”

Over the years, we have had just about every amusing and yes, sometimes invasive question or statement hurled at us. Don’t you know what causes that? Don’t you own a TV (some years we didn’t)? Again? How will you love them all? I have exactly two knees and that is all the more children a person needs. You know we believe in zero population control. Are you trying to keep up with the Duggars? What about college? You won’t be able to give them all they need. You know you are crazy, right? Over the years, I have gotten the sincere questions. How do you know when you are done? How many is too many?

In October of 2005, our fifth child, Lilly, ten years old at the time, became gravely ill. Physicians shared serious concerns of her imminent death on numerous occasions. She spent two weeks in the hospital and over two years on the road back to recovery. Lilly was released from the hospital one week before I delivered Caleb, our eighth child, a month early.

With Lilly’s hospitalizations, her follow-up care and Caleb’s birth, we began to know our pediatricians very well. At the end of one of Caleb’s well-baby check- ups, David and I realized his outfit needed changing. We rummaged through the diaper bag discussing back and forth about the weather and what would be the appropriate clothing to pull over his tufted-blonde head with the piercing blue eyes and onto the rest of his soft, pale, wiggly body. When the decision was made, we looked up and realized that Dr. Joanne was thoughtfully staring at us.

Dr. Joanne was leaning on the wall, clipboard snuggled between crossed arms, with her high heels crossed at the ankles as she smiled. My girls loved Dr. Joanne, not just for her bedside manner, but because the woman could wear her heels and dispense medicine in style.

“Oh, yeah,” I said as we realized she had been watching the entire let’s-dress-the-baby-decision-making process, “We know. You would think we have never had a baby before.”

David chimed in, slightly embarrassed, “We are total dorks, we know it, especially when it comes to our babies.”

“No, not at all,” Dr Joanne quietly responded. “I told my husband last week – he’s an internal medicine doctor – anyway, that there was this family that just had their eighth baby and they treat that baby just like it was their first.”

I will never forget the words she told us her husband had replied: “Well, good for them and I suppose when they no longer can love and treat a baby like it is their first, then it is time to stop having them.”

For me, his answer was golden. It really spoke to me and resonated deeply. It wasn’t the bank account, or the amount of knees we had between us, or even how old, God willing, I would be when the last graduated from high school.

Children and babies may come into our lives as the years pass for different reason. But I knew. I had one more “in me” no matter who thought I was crazy. Lydia, our ninth, would be the last to come from my womb. One more where I was confident we would fuss over her, cherish her, breathe in her newborn scent and have our hearts so full of love for her that she would never feel like “just one more.”. If she was one more, then she was the one more where life slowed and time stopped, because counting her toes, hearing her giggle and watching her smile was precious, so precious it felt like the first time I had seen a baby smile. And it was a first: it was Lydia’s first, to be noticed, remembered and cherished.

So, in my book, since I have been asked, how many is too many? When you know in your heart the last would not be loved with all the devotion, dedication and overwhelming awestruck love just like the first.

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48 thoughts on “How many children is too many children?

  1. Thanks for sharing. We just had our sixth, and I have heard all the same questions/remarks. I sometimes find myself asking how many is TOO many!! Thanks for the encouragement. I have found myself saying, wow you would.think he was our first one. He just had his first smile, and it was in response to someone we had all met for the first time. All our girls were so excited. I had to find my husband to tell him and introduce him to this women, our son found so amusing.

  2. beautiful as always ~ words to match what so many of us carry in our hearts, people often look at me and say, “WOW, you have a handful” and my answer is always the same, my hands are empty compared to the fullness of my heart πŸ™‚ ” and I will always have room for one more

  3. Hi, I could have written this post myself. With the exception of the gravely ill child (thankfully for us) I had the very same comment from my pediatrician. I have 9 children.and yes, it is true each baby is welcomed like our first one was…with great joy! (The one thing that did change was if the first one so much as hiccuped I was at the ER and now the child could be full blown choking…before I would freak out!)

    I too get many questions (some are rude) regarding the size of my family. This is a link to a post I wrote a year ago with a few answers to these questions that I have been known to use on occasion.
    Yes, they are ALL mine! Answers to those rude questions about large families! | gardengoatquote

    When people ask me if “this is it” or are you “done” with reference to this being the end of all these kids…I refrain from introducing the littlest as my “last” but rather as the “youngest.”

    A Garden Goat blessed with 9 kids!

  4. Sweet Friend, I am in awe! Every time I read one of your posts, I think, “Wow, that’s my friend, Jamie, and this is her life.” You make me laugh and cry, sometimes in the same article! I am so excited that you are sharing with the world what I’ve always known, you think and feel deeply about so many things! God has put you here, right here and now, to share your gift of seeing life as a glass half full, no, make that a glass spilling over, and encourage us all to do the same!

  5. Oh how I remember when you and I belonged to the same babysitting co-op and there was a certain someone who refused to babysit for either one if us because the number of children we had was too large (I had 4 and I think you had 5 or 6). Makes me sad to think of how lonely and quiet this individuals home must be.
    Thanks for your writings! They make my day.

  6. I’m a dad (widower) with six children, all still in school. I would say it differently. I would never want to say I was done because I couldn’t love another child enough. We did say that we weren’t ready for another child because we were not able to care for another baby…yet. Usually, this just mean recovery from childbirth and getting back in the groove. In the end, illness prevented a seventh child, but if things had gone better we would be hoping for number seven. I’m sure that your perspective is pure, but many could truthfully say that they would not love a second or third child as much as the first and perhaps selfishly and permanently close the door. Truth is, I have never known how much I would love the next baby until I met him.

    • Bob,
      I appreciate your thoughtful response. My prayers are with you on the loss of your wife as you raise your six children. My intentions were pure and I stand with the thoughts reflected in my post. For me I knew without a doubt that Lydia would be the last child I would birth. I think my post left the door open to love another child as God would open it. I do think there are many children who are short changed in families-overlooked. One of my points was as you have children, giving them love above everything else should be something the parents are able to give. For some people, one, two or three may be it. We are all wired differently and God has unique plans for us all. Blessings, Jamie

  7. i havnt read the book but i just came across this article on facebook and thought it was wonderful, i only have the one child myself but i come from a very large family and ive always loved the fact that there are so many of us and we are very close. as long as you have that bond it doesnt matter if there where nine or ninety of you.no matter what anyone says i say the more the better x

  8. I love your family. That’s what love is all about. Keep up the good work – growing happy, healthy people. Is there more than that???

  9. Thanks for your wonderful article. Once, when I was packing away little onsies and a few tiny stray diapers, I wondered how anyone could ever part with such adorable little things. Then I realised that what how I would know I was done having babies. Some times now, I am a little sad that I’ll never give birth to another child because it is all so amazing. But that passes and I know that I ‘ve had my time and the next phase is just as amazing as the last. And I have 8 kids so I’ve had a lot more amazing than a lot of people I know.

  10. Brilliant!!!!
    I have 11 children , our 8 th died at 3 days old .our last two are twins ( again) we are soooo blessed they are loved and cherished and fussed over by brothers sisters nieces !! And everyone else in our wondeful large family πŸ™‚

  11. We have been blessed with nine, as well, and our little caboose came along six years after his next youngest sibling (who was a miracle birth in that my water broke at 15 weeks, and she & I were never expected to survive). What a delight it has been to become parents again with him and feel like a first time parent all over (wow, so much changes in six years!). LOL He is 3 1/2 now, and it is surreal to have preschool – college children. I wouldn’t change a thing!

  12. I am 1 of 7. The first Christmas after I married was spent with me new family, my mother in law told me she was glad her son & I were spending the holiday with them because if we were with my family, she would be missing 1/2 her kids (she only had 2) while my mother would only be missing 1/7th. Seriously! I don’t think she truly understood what she had said and how insignificant Sheaffer me feel. My mother’s response when ai told her later was “when one piece of the puzzle is missing, there is a hole that can only be filled by that piece”

  13. We have always felt the same way, that the decision was not economic, or even logical, but in the end comprised of two parts: 1. Prayerful consideration 2. A mutual sense of completion.

    Every family needs to prayerfully make a decision. Every other family needs to respect that decision.

    (BTW, we have it narrowed down to two causes…)

  14. Beautiful article. It reminded me of a couple I know who adopted twenty-four children later in life. When someone made a remark about it, the mother very graciously responded, “There’s always room for one more at my table.” We also have nine children.

  15. Omg! I cried because that is the exact way that I feel about my babies. Ppl think I am strange b/c we have so much love to give. Thank you so much for sharing. It’s not rocket science… we multiply our love!

  16. This post brought me to tears, because I have two boys and still feel like I am meant to have more, that they are waiting, but have let doubt and society dictate how many children I have (so far). I want so badly to have a large family!

  17. I needed this article so very much. I am pregnant with my 6th and I am to the point that I don’t want to tell anybody. We planned this and I want to enjoy every possibly moment before I have to listen to the negatives. I have said since I was a child that I would have 6 and now that I am finally there I feel complete. Why are people so mean? It just astounds me that people think it is okay to say whatever they want.

    • Dana,
      Congratulations on baby #6! I am glad the post encouraged you! People can be mean or at the very least insensitive, but I hope you can put in ” ear muffs” and just enjoy this tremendous blessing! Best to you!

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