It never fails. My husband and I walk into a baby store like Carter’s to get our tots new clothes. I grab at the newborn outfits and proclaim, “How precious is this?!? Look how tiny.” My ovaries ache. And then tot 1 or tot 2 throws a holy hell tantrum fit because we drag him away from the block table when it’s time to leave. I look at my husband, eyes hooded, “We are DONE having kids,” as I drag along whichever rug rat is proclaiming that he just wants to play, “I don’t wanna leave!”
When I had my second child, I had two boys under two. I will not lie, those first months were hard. They felt like prison. The first time I ventured out alone with them my youngest was almost six weeks old. I was in desperate need of soy formula as his dairy allergy and my low milk production had brought me to a crossroads where I was done living off twenty minutes of sleep here and there. I was done watching my baby cry in pain, telling my oldest that ‘mommy can’t play right now’, and taking a billion supplements to try to produce more milk when it just wasn’t working. It was the turning point where I actually enjoyed being a mom. My baby was full, content, no more screaming. He was sleeping for hours instead of minutes, and I started to enjoy BOTH my boys. But I was unsure if I wanted more children.
Before I even had my second son, people were asking if we’d try for a third. Try for that girl…Those words always angered me. I didn’t need ‘a girl’ to complete my family. I just wanted healthy children, that’s all that ever mattered to me. And I said just that to nurses, sonographers, family, strangers, and friends. Gender was not important. That we had beat infertility and that we had healthy thriving children was.
I am currently not interested in being pregnant or having another child. I get asked at least twice a month when I’m having another. Parenthood is hard. It just is. Being at the beck and call of two other small, demanding human beings is tough sometimes. It doesn’t matter if I’ve got a fever or if I feel awful. My children are too young to understand that. I don’t have family living close by to just stop in and give me a break. I don’t even have a babysitter…Their care is almost entirely my responsibility while my husband is at work. Barring a hospital stay or major illness, I don’t get a break too often.
Sure, my kids are cute. They’re funny. They’re also messy, sometimes irritable, and highly impulsive. They’re prone to fits of giggles and tears. They share their love of discovery…and their germs. It’s a known fact that one of them will throw a fit every single time we go somewhere. It might be small, it might be big. They’ll embarrass you in a public restroom, “Mommy, you pooped!” Even if you didn’t. They’ll make you so proud when they say thank you or excuse me to complete strangers. They’ll be your hero when they offer a hug if you get a boo boo of your own or they see you’re sad. Parenthood is hard…but it is beautiful. It is rewarding. It is inspiring.
I’ve asked other moms how they knew that they were done having children. Some weren’t sure that they were. Others gave me the look – the ‘are you kidding me, do you want one of mine’ look. But the most important answer, the truest I’ve heard, is that I will just know. And I get that.
When my first was about nine months old, I knew I wanted to have another. And my husband agreed, although not as enthusiastically. I conceived my second around the time he was eleven months old. Now that my youngest is growing close to two-years, I’m still not ready. Some days I truly believe that I am done, that our family is complete. Others, I long for our missing puzzle piece. That other being, that spirit baby that is meant to be brought to life. I’m in limbo. I’m done but I’m not…
The beauty of life is that not everything has to be decided all at once. I didn’t have to fill out a form saying I’d have x amount of children. I’m allowed to change my mind as long as mother nature will let me. Even after that, there’s adoption. There’s foster parenting. There are options.
If you see a mom with young children, don’t assume that she wants to be asked if she’s done. If she wants to discuss family planning, she’ll likely do it with her husband, maybe a doctor. If you wouldn’t ask about her sex life, don’t ask about having babies.
Motherhood, womanhood, can be a touchy subject. We give our bodies up to another human being for nine months. They borrow those bodies as they nurse, climb, sleep, seek comfort. They leave their mark on our bellies, hips, hearts. Childbirth and pregnancy can be deeply empowering, but for some there is pain. These are not always smooth experiences, some are left unable to have more children. And being asked is painful.
For now, I am embracing the countless blessings that I have. I am content and happy with what life has offered and what it has in store. I’m still wiping bottoms and sticky hands. I often find picture books and toys tucked into my bed or shoe after my children are asleep. I will miss these things one day, and perhaps decide that I’m not done with that part of my life. But more importantly, I will foster every stage I have with my children. I will pray that the stages never stop advancing and growing.
Whether I’m done or not, I’m going to love the children that I have. And I’m going to pray that they’re always so happy to see their mama and greet her with kisses, hugs, and smiles.