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How Many Kids Should You Have?

COMING TO TERMS WITH ONE

"My husband can't have children."
Jody and Chad Alexander, Racine, WI

Jody's story: I was 23 and in college when my daughter, Caila, was born. At the time, I thought I'd have three or four kids; I was raised in a family of many siblings along with lots of stepbrothers and stepsisters. Caila's dad also had four siblings, so we used to joke around about having a family big enough to make our own baseball team, with a lot of love and a lot of teammates to play with and back you up. But I never ended up marrying Caila's father, and after four years, we split up. Then, five years ago, I met Chad, who has three kids of his own — now ages 18, 12, and 10.

Early on in our relationship, Chad told me that he'd had a vasectomy, so I knew we'd never have children together. Still, I loved Chad and wanted to spend my life with him. It's hard knowing that I'll never have a biological child with Chad. And while Chad's kids stay at our house once a month, half the summer, and on holidays, my daughter will never have a full sibling of her own. I felt cheated for a long time, and we considered sperm retraction and IVF over the years, but I've finally come to a state of peace about our situation.

When Chad's kids stay with us, our house is full. We have a pretty large family when we're all together, and even though it's not full-time, there is a great feeling of togetherness when they're here, and I love that Caila has them in her life. I think of my stepkids as my own and hope they feel the same way about me. There are some real upsides to the way things turned out. I get to spend more time with Chad and provide for Caila. I've discovered that you love the family you are given, even if it's not the size you imagined.

FAMILY OF FOUR

"One boy and one girl is perfect."
Lisa Reneé and Russell Thomas, Annapolis, MD

Lisa Reneé's story: I was a kindergarten teacher for many years, so it goes without saying that I love kids. I always wanted two children, and luckily Russell did too, even though he's one of five. I was raised with my cousin Rashida, who is like a sister to me, and having great adventures with her shaped my sense of family. I wanted to have two children so that each would always have a friend for life.

Within three months of being married, I got pregnant with Dylan. Two years later we tried again, and I quickly became pregnant with Allison. After I had Allison, I had my tubes tied. We knew for sure that we didn't want more children.

If Allison is with me, Dylan is with his dad. It's always one on one. If we had one more child, one kid might feel left out. Plus, I don't think we could afford for me to stay at home if we had more than two kids.

But, most important, we feel that our marriage comes before the children. We take care of ourselves first, believing that if we're happy, then the kids will be happy. For example, Russell and I take three trips a year by ourselves. When we come back from our vacations, we're always so refreshed.

I tell Dylan that I had Allison just for him. I tell him that she's going to be his best friend for life — even though right now he pulls the heads off her Barbies and she breaks his Legos.

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