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My Seventh Baby: My Marriage

My Seventh Baby: My Marriage

All I wanted was another baby. My husband wanted us to go to marriage counselling instead.

by

My sixth birth was my favorite of all. It was a water birth like I had always dreamt of having. I had my close friend Sarah with me, holding my hand and encouraging me every step of the way. It was an amazing and very healing experience after my other births that were medical and unnatural.

At the time there was no doubt in my mind that I would have more kids. And I got the question often. Almost every day friends, family and even complete strangers would ask me:

“So...are you done?”
“It looks like you have your hands full with six!”
”Woah, they couldn’t all be yours!”

If I had a dollar for every time someone gave me an unsolicited comment about having more kids I’d be able to buy the fanciest Bugaboo stroller on the market! I’m not sure what I answered all of those well-meaning people. Usually I just smiled politely (not knowing quite what to say) but sometimes I just said, “Yes, I’m done!” just to get them off my back. But in my heart I knew I was not done. I didn’t even understand the question: How could one ever be done? How can one make that decision? It just boggled my mind.

It was as if with each new child born to me I grew another chamber to my heart.

I wanted at least one or two more children. It wasn’t merely a religious choice for me to have so many children; it was something I felt passionate about and good at doing. It was as if with each new child born to me I grew another chamber to my heart. I was 32 years old when I gave birth to my sixth child and I was loving the “two year plan” that seemed to be working well for me. (Of course having or not having children should be done in consultation with the guidance of one’s rabbi and mentors.)

Except for a few spontaneous miscarriages in between my second and third, I was going strong and giving birth every two years. I would nurse each baby for over a year and then naturally fall pregnant again when my body was ready. It was great. It was bliss. I was so high on all those good-feeling oxytocin hormones and I was in ‘baby la la land’.

I loved those years. I loved every smile (even though it may have been gas), every burp, every sleepless night as I lay awake watching their little chests rise and fall in soft even breaths, and I even welcomed every dirty diaper. I loved it all.

But then things changed. We moved to a new city. Life got more complicated. Kids got older. My Bubby had always told me, “Little kids little problems, big kids big problems.” Well it was true!

They didn’t go to sleep at 6pm anymore. They started to have opinions. They needed more from us emotionally. Responsibilities weighed heavily on our shoulders. Tuition kept climbing up and up. We became friends with this awful thing called debt. Finances suffered. Shalom bayit (harmony in the home) took a back seat often. Stress was very real and at times survival mode set in.

But I still wanted another baby. Badly. I cried. I prayed for it. I thought about it numerous times a day to the point where I was worried I was going out of my mind!

My husband told me that we can eventually have another baby, but first we needed to get to a place in our marriage where we would be best friends. I thought he was crazy. We had a decent marriage and I wasn’t looking for a best friend; I already had my little cuddly sweet smelling angel snuggled right next to me in my bed each night. I was good, thanks!

I was ready to do whatever it took to get what I really wanted, a seventh baby. In the end, I got so much more.

But my husband stayed strong and level headed. He was sure that only after we were in a stronger relationship with one another would we be able to handle the storm that comes along with having another child. My husband suggested marriage counseling.

“Okay,” I said, “how many sessions?”

I was ready to do whatever it took to get what I really wanted, a seventh baby.

In the end, I got so much more.

I sat in the first few therapy sessions stealing glances at the clock. How much longer? I have things to do. This is a waste of my time. I felt this counsellor couldn’t fully understand me, my dreams and where I was coming from. I was rolling my eyes inside my head. This was harder than I had imagined.

But I stayed with it. Learning new communication tools after 15 years of marriage is very humbling indeed. At first I was holding back, not able to fully let myself change. But then, over time, I let my walls come down. I realized that I desperately wanted another baby because it would be easier to have a baby than to do the inner work that I needed to do. Being busy with another pregnancy and then with another baby would have been a pleasant distraction to avoid looking myself in the mirror and seeing all the work and growth that I was avoiding.

I realized how much healing needed to take place. It scared me much more than the most colicky baby.

That was a while ago. We still go to marriage counseling from time to time but now I am not going for him. I am going for us. I am going for myself. With the help of an amazing marriage counsellor (who I now consider a dear friend) it became clear to me that marriage is like a baby – it needs constant nurturing and attention. It needs lots of love and time, and it takes lots and lots of hard work.

Marriage and babies are like lumps of clay ready to be molded into something amazing. The potential is endless. The more you put in the greater it can become. Marriage can be fun and deep and incredible. Who knew?!

I am enjoying my seventh child – my marriage – intensely. It only took me 16 years to see the gift that I had all along. So wish me a mazel tov on this new baby! It’s a keeper! I think I’m gonna hold onto this one for the rest of my life.

And you are all probably wondering...so nu, are you going to have another baby? Only God knows. But for right now I have my hands full.

January 14, 2018

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Visitor Comments: 11

(9) Sarah, February 16, 2018 7:02 AM

Concerned about the message

This article is beautifully written however I feel that it doesn't emphasize the importance of having guidance from a qualified Rabbi or Rebetzin before making decisions about whether or not to have more children. While this is obviously a personal decision for everyone, in my opinion to publish an article which normalizes and rationalizes not bringing another neshamah into this world purely because the couple are in therapy without emphasizing the halachic position and prerequisites for this decision, is incorrect. My two cents :-)

(8) Anonymous, January 23, 2018 2:54 AM

we each have our own path to personal growth

This article is beautiful and puts forth a crucial point: that a marriage must be attended to and nourished like a child is. I'd like to add that for some of us, limiting the amount of children that we bring into the world is not always necessary or beneficial to working on our marriage. In my own experience, it was a real help to have a baby in my life when I was dealing with a challenging chapter in marriage. Babies have a way of bringing out our nurturing side, as well as providing perspective as to what's really important in life. That is why, as Eve mentioned, each couple should have a rabbi, who knows them well, who is able to guide them in these very personal matters, through a Torah perspective

(7) Anonymous, January 21, 2018 8:06 AM

this article scares me

as a not-yet-married man, with hope of having a family like the one i grew up in, with many children, i feel very uncomfortable with the thought that a seventh child is too much, or that handling marriage is contradictory to having children. from another perspective, i feel also that the thought that anything is more precious than another life is painful. it's not that i disagree that sometimes having a child can be a wrong decision, but i think that the default should be that a child is the most precious thing, and if we can't - then we need to take care of it. i know that i am talking from my perspective as someone who is desparate to have a family of his own, but that's what scares me even more - that after starting a family you might need to struggle for every little bit more of family that you want.

Yael, January 21, 2018 12:40 PM

I hear your worry.

In general, you can think of the marriage as the foundation and each child as a beautiful floor or bedroom in the house. Keeping the foundation healthy is the most important thing for everyone, including every child, born and unborn. The foundation needs to be healthy before anything.
It's true what she's saying. I do think there area some women who attach themselves to their baby as a substitute for that close, incredible love relationship with their husband that they don't have.
But I don't see it a lot. There are many happy families where the marriage is healthy and wonderful and the couple is bringing another child to the world because they feel their healthy foundation can gladly support another wonderful gift!
It's nothing to be scared of. You see, this woman found a therapist who helped her. If you're concerned, you'll also find a wonderful therapist to guide you. You just will do it sooner.

(6) Chaviva, January 19, 2018 6:55 AM

I can relate

This article seems to have been written just for me. I just gave birth to our seventh baby four months ago and we're enjoying her immensely but I'm also overwhelmed by our other six children, the upkeep of the house, the mountains of never ending laundry, and most of all a marriage that's on the rocks, and a very needy and hypercritical husband. I can smile through everything but him.

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