“How many children shall we have?”
This has been one the top issues for my wife and me over the past ten years. When we got married, we agreed to have at least three children. My wife and I both have three siblings, and so we wanted the same for our kids. We enjoyed being DINKS (double income, no kids) for three years after getting married. My wife was 29 when she gave birth to our first son. The second and third children were born two years apart. Having pretty quickly achieved our minimum objective, we wondered about what to do next.
Having our children two years apart meant we started thinking about a new child around the time the youngest stopped nursing and started to walk. We love children, and it’s so much fun to play with and help ours grow. My wife has been blessed with wonderful health, and our family budget, once been rather tight, now has some leeway. When discussions began about a fourth child, we decided to go for it.
Son number four came along in April 2003. Four kids, all boys. I know there’s a little parental bias here, but this son is really cute, too.
At the end of spring in 2004, we once again had a series of conversations on what we were going to do about the next one. My wife had spent the last eight years either pregnant or breastfeeding. She had completely committed her life from her late twenties to mid-thirties to childbearing. But she has other interests: travel, tennis, and work. She even had to occasionally stop the operations of a translation venture company she had launched. It’s natural that she would want to start living her own life again sooner or later. She was approaching her late 30s, but with today’s medical technology, age is no barrier. The only thing stopping us from having a fifth child was our own feelings.
Or really, my wife’s feelings. At this stage, the man doesn’t have any say in the matter. He can do what he can to help with childrearing, but he can’t demand that his wife go through another two-year cycle of being pregnant and going through the pain of giving birthーespecially with four other kids running around. It was all up to her, a lifestyle choice for my wife.
That decision was this: “If we stop here, we may regret it. Just look how cute all the kids are.”
So our fifth son was due at the end of September 2005. As the time drew closer, there was no sign of her going into labor. I have made it a policy to be at her side for every birth, and so I didn’t schedule any business trips two weeks before or after the due date. And anytime I scheduled an appointment, I warned them in advance that I may have to cancel.
Other fathers will know what I am talking about: around the delivery date, you’ve always got your cell phone close at hand. You feel like shouting, “Why can’t we just make an appointment to have this baby?” But unless you have a Caesarean section, there’s no way to control the timing.
Then my wife took control. She wanted to attend the school Sports Day events of the other kids, no matter what. “I’ll give birth the day after the Sports Day on September 26. After a little rest, I’ll be able to take part in the pre-school sports day on October 8.” That was her plan.
Then a typhoon swept in and postponed the September 26 event.
My wife quickly regrouped and made a new plan. “On the first of October, I will attend the elementary school Sports Day, give birth that evening, and then be discharged on October 8 in time to attend our preschool son’s Sports Day.”
The children and I really wondered whether things would go as she expected.
The October 1 sports day arrived. The sun was shining, and the school event was going ahead as planned. My wife woke up early to prepare eight lunchboxes for the kids and grandparents, then headed off to enjoy the day.
Without any rest, she prepared dinner afterwards, fed everyone, cleaned up, helped the kids take their baths, and calmly declared that the time had come.
I was coming down with a bad cold and was not feeling particularly strong, but I piled the kids in their pajamas into the Land Cruiser and drove my wife to the hospital. On the way, she said she expected to give birth either that night or the next day. I was impressed that she could so calmly analyze at a time like this. An examination at the hospital revealed that she was rightーthe time close. She was immediately moved to the delivery room.
I phoned my wife’s mother, who was on standby at home in Chiba, and arranged for her to come to our place in Sanbancho. I took the four kids home, put them to bed, and waited for my mother-in-law to arrive, then headed back to the hospital. Around midnight, my wife was ready for labor.
Around 2 am, my wife asked me to stay by her side as the contractions got closer together. I called in three nurses and put on a blue gown, mask, and cap. It seemed as though the baby would arrive at any moment.
Our tiny infantーour fifth sonーwas born at 2:25 am.
People often ask whether we kept on having kids with the hope of having a girl. But we had wanted a boy right from the start. No one else that I know has five sons. With the birth of this son, whom we had expected and hoped for, it felt as though we had completed a “royal flush.”
I immediately called the family and was greeted with congratulations, followed by “Is it a boy or girl?” When I told them it was a boy, they all laughed. I returned home to pick up the other boys and brought them to see their new brother. They were overjoyed.
Over the next week, my wife stayed in the hospital, so it became a life of Dad and the four kids. With a little help from my mother-in-law, I was able to manage it.
Here is an excerpt of the email I sent to friends announcing the birth:
The Hori family will now move from the production/incubation stage of the last 10 years into the growth stage. Please welcome the new addition to our clan. With this, our family structure is complete with five sons. I dare say we did better than expected for our initial “production stage.” I guess our conversations will now shift from how many to how best to raise them.