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How Many Kids Should You Have?

A BLENDED FAMILY

"I didn't think I'd want more kids after I got divorced."
Lisa and Josh Merkin, Miami

Lisa's story: When I met my husband, Josh, five years ago, I was an about-to-be-divorced mom of three. Josh had no children of his own. When we started getting serious, I told Josh that I didn't know if I wanted more children. I had my hands full with three kids, and now that they were self-sufficient, I didn't want to start all over again with diapers, feedings, and sleepless nights. But the longer we were together, I realized that I wanted to share with Josh the joy of bringing a child into the world that would be a piece of both of us. Reece made Josh an official daddy and was the child that bonded all of us together as one family. Eden was our unplanned "oops," but she's blessed and welcome.

The funny thing is that my family today is exactly what I'd hoped for — even though it's a little larger than I ever imagined. I love that my kids' friends always want to hang out here — ours is the cool, relaxed house full of laughter and fun. I've gotten over the need for my house to be tidy 24/7. For me, it's all about being with my kids. Still, I get nice breaks — my older three go to their dad's every other weekend, which gives me time with just Reece and Eden. My mom also lives about 10 minutes away, so Josh and I can have a date night regularly.

The words half brother or half sister never come up; my older kids feel no differently toward Reece and Eden than toward each other, and they love Josh just as much as they love their own father. We're thrilled with our party of five.

TWINS TIMES TWO

"I had one child and wanted one more. I ended up with five!"
Aly Mandel and Jay Schwartz, Highland Park, NJ

Aly's story: Neither Jay nor I ever planned to have a big family. We decided to have one child and see how it went. One was good, so once Will turned 2, we tried for a second; I felt like I was on the normal trajectory. To my surprise, at my eight-week checkup, I found out I was carrying fraternal twins. I was devastated that I was suddenly on the precipice of having three kids. It took seven months into the pregnancy to get comfortable with the idea of twins.

After Ava and Emily turned 3, something unexpected happened: I started to feel like I wasn't done having babies. I love newborns, and our life was becoming a bit more manageable. My husband thought I was insane. We went back and forth about it for a few years, and he slowly became more open to having another child. I got pregnant, and I had a feeling it was twins again — and I was right! This time, I wasn't as overwhelmed at the prospect of caring for two babies.

It's awesome having this many kids — even though there are days when I don't sit down for 12 hours in a row. If I were five years younger and a lot richer, I'd have one more. It's fun watching my kids develop a communal sense of responsibility. There's a tenderness among our kids that's a joy to watch.

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