Question: When is Your Family Complete?

My last baby – Little Man at six months

Today we are headed to another “sort-of big city” for a VFW Awards Banquet. Rusty is one of the state winners in the Patriot’s Pen essay contest; we are quite proud of him. It isn’t an option to leave Dimples, so we decided it made sense to bring Boo along too. When Honeybee found out we were going, she began to cry saying, “Please Mom, I want to come. Let me come with you.” Now we are a party of six. All I can say is that the hotel pool had better be up and running because it is a long drive and the girls will have lots of energy to expend when we arrive.

This great question was sent to me by a young mom who has two little ones at home and another sweetie in the process of being adopted from Ethiopia. Please post your thoughts in the comments, or email them to me at and I’ll share them all when I get home.

How do you know when your family is complete? I suppose another side of that question is: How do you know when your family is ready to add another child?

I’m sure we’ll have a variety of opinions on this one!


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Let me introduce myself. Russ and I are the parents of twelve children by birth and adoption, and sometimes more through foster care. I'm the creator of One Thankful Mom which has been as much of a gift to me as to my readers. In 2011 I became a TBRI® Pracitioner* and have lived and breathed connected parenting ever since. I'm deeply honored to be the co-author, together with the late Dr. Karyn Purvis, of The Connected Parent; it is her final written work. I love speaking at events for adoptive and foster parents. I'm also the co-founder of The Adoption Connection, a podcast and resource site for adoptive moms. I mentor and encourage adoptive moms so you can find courage and hope in your journeys of loving your children well.


  1. MLB
    January 17, 2009

    I’m so disappointed that we won’t be seeing you on your travels to the “sort of big city.” I hope you all have a wonderful trip.

  2. Laurel
    January 17, 2009

    Great questions!

    The biggest things in this area that I share with couples are …

    #1 God’s Word says that Children are a Blessing!

    #2 Don’t limit God.

    #3 Don’t do anything permanent.

    #4 Don’t nag your spouse. God can change hearts if and when he chooses.

    #5 Pray about it, and really listen for God’s clear answer. (NOT a quick answer based on your emotions.)

    While many people assume that, with our large family, we do not believe in birth control … that is not the case. I have known too many mothers of large families that had absolutely no joy in their parenting, because they only had a large family because they didn’t believe in birth control. So, motherhood was just one big chore (a curse), rather than a blessing.

    When we got married, Jim and I both wanted to have 6 children. Everyone told us we would change our minds after we realized how difficult parenting was. Well, we changed our minds … we now have 13 children.

    After 5 babies in 4 years … Jim was DONE.

    Less than a year later, I unexpectedly got pregnant, but God changed Jim’s heart before we even found out. So, we had 6 kids in 6 years.

    Then we lost a baby in pregnancy … and Jim was REALLY DONE.

    That time, it took several years to change Jim’s heart. But, after Baby #7 he said, “7 is God’s perfect number.”

    God changed his heart a few years later, and Jim said, “Okay, Lord, as many as you want us to have.”

    When I had my 10th baby the day before I turned 40 (and the year our oldest became an “adult”), we both thought, “We’re done.” A year later, I began working full-time (while homeschooling all of the children). So, I really thought we were done.

    However, the Lord began to stir my heart. (For 2 years, while Jim said, “No.”) Then, in June 2007, Jim saw a picture of 3 siblings in Africa and the Lord told him immediately that, “Those are your children.”

    We are back to trusting the Lord for our family size … and not using any type of birth control.

    We are so thankful that we didn’t take permanent measures when we really felt that we were done. Rather, we took non-permanent measures, said, “Not now Lord, please.”, knowing that He could over-ride any non-permanent measures that we were taking (which He did, twice).

    Children ARE a blessing …

  3. Laura
    January 17, 2009

    While I agree with the comments above, I also think that the Lord can have us not add to our family when it is small. As Lisa’s sister, I admire her for having so many children–either by birth or adoption–but three is enough for us. I gave birth to three children in 4 1/2 years and felt that our family was complete. Now, when my youngest is 15, I still feel that way. We enjoy playing with neices and nephews and I love the little ones I teach at preschool. Perhaps the Lord was calling me to have a positive impact on lots of little ones through my work. I don’t know since Gods’ ways of working through us are not always clear to us, but I do know that I do not regret our only have three wonderful children.

  4. Lisa H.
    January 17, 2009

    Our family is really trying to figure this out right now. We currently have 7 children, 3 bio and 4 adopted. With each of our adopted children, it seems that God would just sort of touch our hearts and let us know that this was our child….Of course, if I hadn’t been looking, I don’t know if God would have spoken! :o)

    The issues to me are “Can I give all of my children what they need if I adopt another child?” “Can I adopt this child and still do all we need to be a healthy family?” “Is God calling us to adopt this child?” and “Are we in agreement on another adoption?”. Right now my husband is feeling maxed out (and me too, at times!), so we’re just waiting to see how God moves….I’m interested to hear others comments on this relevant topic!

    Lisa H.

  5. Laurel
    January 17, 2009

    I hope my comments weren’t misunderstood. I do NOT believe that everyone should have a large family. I have just known too many people that have made permanent decisions and later regretted it, and others that got so caught up in “what do WE want?” without asking “what does the LORD want?”

    I hope that couples can be open to what the Lord wants for them, rather than to be set in their box of “this is exactly what our family is supposed to look like”. For some … the Lord will change their hearts later on (as He did for my husband). For others … the Lord will show them that “3 is the perfect number”.

    As for Lisa H. … keep seeking the Lord for answers to your questions. His answers are different for every family. His answer for your family may be …”Yes, adopt another child.” or “No, 7 is the perfect number for you.” or “Wait. I will tell you, in My time, whether to add to your family or not.”

    We did NOT set out to have 13 children. If someone had told us when we got married 26 years ago that we were going to have 13 children, we probably would have run away from each other. 🙂 But, we are excited that we have continued to seek the Lord, and that he has blessed us beyond belief.

  6. Sandee
    January 17, 2009

    Big enough?

    Wheny my heart stops tugging, or when the means of support is maxed out and God does not provide more.

    Time to expand?
    When my heart starts tugging and won’t quit, and with prayer and surrender to God’s will, I feel his peace.

    I had two sons, become a single mom, and my heart toughed for my daughter from China. After she joined us, I thought there, I am done, I have my girl.

    Two years later my heart toughs for my daughter from Ethiopia….as we await a court date, I say, there two and two …good..

    We fail court and wait for the next court date, I am approved for two…my heart is tugging….
    I accept a second referral from Ethiopia.

    Five, 2 boys, 3 girls, full house, as my oldest son says….

    Am I done?

    I have not clue. I think yes. Still I would not bet on it, if I was a betting momma.

    The older I get, the harder the paperwork is. What I would LOVE is to now enable and encourage OTHER families to increase their boundaries!

  7. Amy Rankin
    January 18, 2009

    I have 6 kids now…2 bio and 4 adopted through international special needs programs. My last two were significantly delayed from institutionalization and neglect/abuse. So our rule has become “don’t add another until the last one is fully attached and caught up.” It would just be too hard otherwise. Getting this child on track becomes the priority…it takes a lot of time/therapies/nutrition/attachment work/help from the medical community. I wouldn’t be able to manage 2 at a time. One at a time is hard enough! I hope our youngest can get there before we “age out” of international adoption…so far it isn’t looking good!

  8. Farmboy and Buttercup
    January 18, 2009

    For us, it was ALL God. We thought that someday, think ~years from now~ we might foster older kids, or something like that, but after adopting our 4 yr old twins last April, we were sure we were done for now. Then, our agency called 4 months after we brought the twins home, informing us their birth mother had died, and asking us to consider adopting their 2 yr old sister with special needs. This was a wrestling match with God for 6 weeks. When we finally completely opened our hands in surrender to this, God filled our hearts with AMAZING peace, and we are now on the journey to bring this little one home. So for us, it is all about what God is leading us to, being OPEN and never saying “we’re done”.

  9. Bonnie
    January 19, 2009

    I think that the key is to be open to what God says in each season. When we got married my husband was adamant we would have 2 kids (I wanted a big family – maybe 3 or 4). After we had 2 bio kids and adopted 1 more we thought we were done. But then God had other thoughts and we had 2 more – well 5 was a big family and for years we were done. Then God clearly said I have more for you – and we have another one from ET – and are back in process for 1 or 2 more – maybe we will be done, but we will wait on God to speak. I never thought we’d have such a big family but we have grown in ways I never would have expected when we began our marriage! God is good!!

  10. Ann
    January 22, 2009

    I was sure I would feel “done” once we adopted Vu but strangely, I actually feel like God has TWO more kids in store for us.

    My husband, on the other hand, felt we were “done” with three. He negotiates contracts for a living and he says I should go work for the company instead of him!

    At the same time tho, he is so thankful that I kept praying and we kept adding more. It took seven years of prayers this last time tho so we might be too old by the time I pray enough for another two!

    One thing I would say tho, as tempting as it was at times, I never really pressured my husband into adding another. I used to bring it up tho and then I received good advice from Nancy Campbell of Above Rubies magazine. She said that as long as he knew my heart, don’t bring up the subject, just pray, pray, pray.

    About the time I accepted the fact we wouldn’t have any more kids, despite years of prayer, my husband brought up the subject one day! I gave him the legal three days to back out–then HE put the call into our social worker! 🙂

    I’ll keep praying!


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