• Fri, Mar 7 - 11:00 am ET

Even Though You May Be Done Having Kids, It May Make You Sad Anyway

shutterstock_174960920It really shouldn’t have been that hard of a decision. They were only pants after all. It was the middle of winter and I had decided to do a purge of my closet. Outdated pieces were tossed in the donation bin with the greatest of ease. It was actually a very simple and enjoyable process. That was, until I set my eyes on them. The pants. Three pairs in all. What is my problem? And, why am I suddenly on the verge of tears? It was then that I realized just how special they were.  They weren’t just any pants. These pants represented a part of motherhood that I would never again revisit. They were my maternity pants. And I was “done.”  Wiping away tears, I left them in my closet. That is where they would stay. For now.

I distinctly remember the first time that I uttered those words. It was May of 2012, and I had just brought my newborn baby boy home from the hospital. Exhausted, overwhelmed, and in the beginning stages of postpartum anxiety, I felt pretty certain that this was it.  “I’m done,” I declared to my siblings, who were there visiting with us. I was 38-years-old and trying to endure the challenges of a newborn along with the feistiness of a two and a half year old girl. My husband and I were just getting by financially. We had reached our limit.  A few months later, I stood in my daughter’s dance studio while a couple of mom’s discussed the topic. One of the women wanted to know how it was that you came upon such a crucial decision. I said that you just know. I explained that while it may not be an overnight process, it will happen. I told her how, in my case, I was pushing forty. And tired. And needed more money. And I had a traumatic experience in the hospital. And a whole bunch of other reasons that I was using to convince nobody but myself. Walking home that day, I felt like a complete hypocrite. And liar. Hours later, in my daughter’s closet, I almost tripped over no less than ten large sized bags. All filled with baby clothes. The clothes that I was never going to get to use for a baby again. Because I was “done.” But here they stood in the closet, taking up way too much room.  A hypocrite I was indeed.

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  • radicalhw

    I was one of those moms who was absolutely certain that I was done after two kids, yet I still had trouble parting with the last batch of baby clothes. I think I was mourning not the lack of a third but the fact that my babies were growing and changing. The cute onesies in the box represent all that is sweet about babyhood, primarily because they are no longer covering diapers.

  • Kay_Sue

    I really oscillate back and forth. Especially since I’m still under 30, when I say I’m done, people get this look like, Yeah, right. And I doubt my decision sometimes too, to be honest. I’d love to have a baby girl, after two boys, but then…at this point, I’ll be 41 when my youngest son is 18. I’ll still be able to travel, and do things I didn’t when I had my kids young. We’ll be able to spend time together as a couple that we have never really had, since we both had kids coming into this.

    I guess for me it’s a head versus heart situation. My head, my logical side, absolutely KNOWS that having any more is absolutely, positively not in the picture and that this is the right decision, but my heart, my emotional side…it still remembers snuggling with my newborns and all of the other fun stuff from that time (and totally blots out all of the NOT fun stuff) and makes me wonder if my logical decision is *really* right.

    It is, don’t get me wrong. But it still makes me wonder.

    • Kathleen Sullivan

      Yes!!! For me it has always been heart vs. head! Great way to put it!

  • Guest

    I think it differs quite a bit for some women. Some are adamant from day one “one kid” or whatever they’re planning. Others, including several of my friends, have left it up in the air or go back and forth on “trying for a boy” and each time the answer is different.
    Also, can I just say of all the cool baby stuff I for some reason really look forward to when my kids start school? I just remember the early years and school was so much fun and simple. I can’t wait to take our kids in to find their cubby and buy school supplies. You’ll have so much fun :)

  • Valerie

    I have vascilated quite a bit too and sometimes, I heartily wish I had been older when I had my kids because after having two and thinking we were done I was still only 27 and had all of these “fruitful” years left. Not to mention, most of my friends are just now starting to have kids in their early 30′s and I have elementary schoolers. I feel like being in my late 30′s would have made the decision so easy- I have a boy and a girl, of course I would call it quits. I am 32 now and I still feel up to the baby thing physically but mentally, I have moved on from the baby stages. My kids are 6.5 and almost 5 and I am now starting to really love having “big kids”. I know I could go back if I had to but at this point, I am not sure I want to. My husband is almost 36 and he is pretty sure he is done so I guess that means we probably are. I think I will say for absolute certain by the end of this year. Leaning toward done- especially since my stomach is the closest to flat that its been since 2007 (which is still not flat by any means….but close) and I am really not sure I am ready to see it all stretchy and marked up again. Vanity will win out, I’m sure. ;-)

    • Kay_Sue

      Vanity is a really powerful force not to be underestimated!

    • Valerie

      Especially after age 30….I still relish the occasional (wonderful) person who tells me I look 25. I am terrified of that not happening anymore if I mess with my body by having another baby. I AM SO VAIN.

    • Crusty Socks

      I have vascilated quite a bit too…

      I’m just gonna take that quote out of context

  • LocalMom29

    I feel l like I could have written this piece. I, too, had a daughter first (older than yours), and then a son in May 2012. I also had a very difficult time during and just after my son’s birth. Because of that, and because of our financial situation, 2 is going to be the magic number for us as well. I’m okay with it the majority of the time, but every so often I get that longing and sadness that I will never again experience being the mother of a newborn. I’m having a harder time than usual at the moment because my SIL is preparing for her second baby. I’m so happy for her and her husband, and thrilled to be an auntie again, but it does give me a pang once in a while. My husband says we should have a third baby if we win the lottery, but since we don’t play the lottery, our chances are especially slim ;)

    • Kathleen Sullivan

      Yep, I know how it feels to be hit with that “bug” when those around you are having new babies. And, funny, my husband also makes the lottery comments too!

  • C.J.

    I didn’t have a hard time getting rid of the baby clothes after I was done because I knew a family that really needed the help. Giving them to someone who really needed and appreciated them made it less sad. Now that my kids are 8 and 11 it doesn’t make me sad anymore to be done with babies. They are independent and self sufficient and as much as I loved it when they were babies, I don’t miss it. I love being able to have real conversations with them and hearing their ideas now. I don’t really miss each stage as it passes, I just enjoy the new stage.

    • Bethany Ramos

      I love this attitude and so far am feeling the same way!

    • Angela Brown

      This is awesome.

    • Kati

      I gave all my boy clothes away so of course, my last baby is a boy. Screw.

    • C.J.

      Aww, now that would make me sad.

  • val97

    I might be done with having kids of my own, but I really hope to have grandchildren one day way in the future. That thought made the decision so much easier – I decided I didn’t want any more, but I hoped for nieces and nephews (got one of each) and grandchildren. If my kids decide they are having none of that, I’m sure I’ll mourn their decisions a little. I understand why my best friend’s mother gives her grief over her childfree choice. Not that I agree with it, but I understand.

    • jane

      Yes, yes, yes. I know that I will be devastated if my kids don’t have kids. I will respect that choice, never give them a hard time about it, never push, but will be very sad nonetheless. Partially because I want to be with little babies again, partially for payback (let’s be honest here) and partially because my children have brought me immeasurable joy and I want them to experience that too.

      We had planned on having more kids, but my husbands cancer diagnosis and radiation treatment made biological kids a physical impossibility, and adoptive kids a financial impossibility. I was a little sad when my sister was pregnant, but now that the little guy is here, it’s so wonderful to hug and snuggle and then give him back :) If definitely tempers the loss, for me at least.

  • Crusty Socks

    Beth, I know you wrote this article.

    ##3willbeagirl #wellesleycollege

    • Bethany Ramos

      Noooooo. Ha!

  • Megan Zander

    Love this. It’s way selfish for me, but I struggle with wanting another baby because of the pregnant part. I was put on bedrest with the twins at 27 weeks and they were born at 33, so I missed most of my last trimester, didn’t get to do the birthing classes, was worried and mostly in the hosptial. So even thought I always wanted to only have two, a teeny self absorbed part of me wishes I could be pregnant again more ” normally”. And also for that new baby smell. Now they’re cute, but they smell like old milk.

    • Kathleen Sullivan

      Megan, you made such a great point. My first baby was diagnosed with a heart defect in utero, and it made for a tough 3rd and 4th trimester. With each additional child, I was hoping to erase some of the sadness that went with pregnancy. You hope, “It is going to be better this time.” And feel you can finally do what you missed on. But, then you it goes so fast. As life sure does!

    • http://wtfihaveakid.blogspot.ca/ jendra_berri

      Despite not wanting more, I kind of want a do-over in a way, myself. I never went into labour, even at 43 weeks, so I have no idea what that even feels like. Then I had a C section. I don’t know anything about giving birth, really. I experienced no flood of happy hormones whatsoever at any point. And then I couldn’t breastfeed as there was barely any milk. So I don’t understand let-down or the bonding part…
      There’s a whole world of motherhood biology I have no experience with and though I don’t want to try again, really, I’ll always be curious and a little bummed.

  • StoppingBy

    I loved this. We completely know we are done, but that doesn’t mean i don’t grieve every baby stage we leave. But doing so really helps me intentionally appreciate every one. My doctor made me laugh when she said “Wanting another baby is a very different thing than wanting a whole extra child! ” So true.

    • Angela Brown

      That is so, so true! I can’t help but wonder how many people end up completely overwhelmed with extra humans when all they really wanted was a baby. There is a difference.

    • FormerlyKnownAsWendy

      I want a baby to babysit for like a week so I can get my babyfix and then send it home….

  • TngldBlue

    I struggle with this too. My husband has no desire to have more but some days I feel the pull. Mostly because it’s not a decision based on what I want, it’s one based on circumstances (money, job demands, etc) so there’s always this little voice in the back of my head saying do it, circumstances be damned. Also, I kind of want the chance for a do-over. The first year of our daughters life was very hard so on her first birthday I felt like we only got there by sheer will and determination. I want to experience it when I’m not an anxious mess. So it makes me sad but I am incredibly thankful for our crazy little family of 3 and whatever will be, will be!

  • Ellie

    Your conversation w/ your hubby sounds just like mine. “Fine either way,” kinds of comments all the time. Kept us in limbo for a while on whether to go for #3! Finally we just decided to leave it up to fate and then ONE TIME LATER, here we are ready to deliver baby #3 next month! Someone told me that no one ever regrets having that last kid. People do regret NOT having that last kid.

  • http://wtfihaveakid.blogspot.ca/ jendra_berri

    I find this sort of viewpoint so fascinating. I think the baby gene skipped right over me. I see my son and I love him, but that overwhelming love stuff of newborns never happened. The relationship built slowly and I feel nothing but gratitude the baby stage is ending. The idea of starting all over again gives me a sinking pit feeling in my heart.

    So, I know I’m done. But even so, giving away the baby clothes has been sad in a way. I’ve been doing it slowly.

    • AlexMMR

      Same here. I desperately wanted that overwhelming wave of love but it didn’t happen. I thought it was because I had twins and was too miserable or because I lost my first set so I was too freaked out to bond, afraid they would be taken from me the moment I loved them.

      I don’t like babies. But I like kids. I consider babies kind of like the end of the pregnancy. It’s a pain in the ass miserable step in the process to getting kids.

  • Diane Harrison

    This is a hard topic for me. In my head, I KNOW I am done….but in my heart…oh the heart…I want more. I’m not ready to be done. However, I realize it’d be a terrible decision…I’m an older mom who waited to have three kids closely together, all three were c-sections, my marriage is on the rocks, I’m struggling financially, having physical problems, etc etc etc..
    Everyone told me the same thing about you “just know” when you’re done. With my youngest (who’s 19 months right now), I was scheduled to have my tubes tied at the same time as my c-section and I just froze when it was time to sign the consent forms. Doc didn’t do it. I really shouldn’t have another baby….so I don’t know why I didn’t just make the right decision and get it done. I cry pretty much every day at the idea I won’t get to do the baby stuff again. :(

  • LiteBrite

    I had my one and only child at the age of 38. That and the fact that my husband was content with one made the decision for me. I sometimes wish we had started sooner; perhaps, if we had, having another child would’ve been more of an option.

    And though I love our family of three, I can’t help sometimes but feel a twinge of envy when a friend or family member announces they’re pregnant, especially when they’re pregnant with their second. Yes, I’m done, but I’m still a little sad about it some days.

  • Kati

    I thought I was done after two. I had one of each; I was content. But, I know now that in my heart I wasn’t really done. I recognize that my proclamations of “no more children!” we’re half-hearted and looking back, I can now recognize the hesitation. I thougt getting pregnant with my third was an accident, but that’s not really true. Now that I have my final baby, my last cuddle-bug, I can now truly state that I’m DONE. I love this last baby and I’m so glad to have him and I am going to relish every last cuddle. However, the thougt of ever being pregnant again makes me want to vomit. I made my husband make an apt at the urologist when the baby was two days old. If I ever got pregnant again, I think it would kill me. And that, ladies and gentlemen is the difference between thinking you’re done and knowing damn well that you are ;)

  • Kat

    We are very likely done. Finances, job situations — if either of those were to drastically change in the next few years we might reconsider, but I think we’re probably done. Sometimes I get really sad and think, “this is the last time I’ll ever have a 4 month old” or I pick him up and overnight he seems to have gained 10 pounds and he’s no longer my tiny, immobile baby. I’m trying really hard to live in the moment — not to yearn for bedtime, or when he can eat his own food, or when he can walk — I really don’t want to wish the time away. But it’s hard. At the end of the day I’m exhausted from work, he’s given his best hours to his daycare teachers and everyone’s ready for bedtime.

    I have a little girl’s party dress that I bought years ago, long before I was even pregnant. I can’t find it in me to give it away or sell it. Same with the tiny little newborn clothes. There’s a part of me that still really longs for another baby, even though we’re done.

  • AlexMMR

    I struggle with this every few weeks as my girls outgrow another piece of clothing or baby equipment. I was so desperate to have my girls. 4 rounds of IVF, tens of thousands of dollars we couldn’t afford, two twin pregnancies, the second trimester loss of one of those pregnancies, years with nothing on my mind but how to get and stay pregnant.

    We have 4 embryos on ice. I had bad PPD and feel like I wasn’t there for the first 6 months of my girls lives, not to mention with twins I never had a moment to enjoy any of the good baby moments. I wish we could just be a normal couple, enjoy our sex life and see what happens. But no, we are an IVF couple. We have to commit to a decision one way or the other, or pay for another year of storage so we can procrastinate and not think about it. Everything we did to create those 4 opportunities and now wondering if we actually want them. We would like a third, but do we want a third?

    And we have too much baby stuff! I’m buried in it, it’s causing stress, but getting rid of it causes more stress! Ack!

  • IS78

    I have a 9 month old and a 3 1/2 year old and just turned 35. I was ready to say definitively that I’m done now. But I cant say it. I’m so surprised that I feel this way! Kids are so hard, I haven’t slept in 4 years, I look like hell all the time, our house is too small, we pay a fortune in daycare costs, and yet the idea of being done is sort of making me weepy.

  • abbyk

    Thank you so much for writing this article! My husband and I have been struggling with the decision to have a third for some time. We have two beautiful, wonderful daughters,.and everyone around us is pregnant, or just knew they were done and that was that. I think I needed someone to tell me that it’s ok to just love my family as is, and figure the rest out as we go. Definitely appreciated :-)

  • Alex Lee

    The geeky part of me can’t help but imagine how technology will change this situation.

    When humanity is able to permanently store and accurately re-create immersive memories – will people stop having children because they forgot what it was like? If you’re trying for another child because you miss the sounds and the smells of infancy – what if technology can bring that back to you – without all the placenta?

  • aCongaLine

    We’re talking about having another, which hubs and I have gingerly agreed upon, but in a distant future. I know it’s totally not the same, but it was with a heavy heart that I rotated the newborn stuff into it’s attic storage- not really knowing when I’ll see it again (or if). Just because we plan doesn’t mean plans don’t change.

    We have a “we’re good with two, right? Right. Nope. How about three? I like three. Maybe Three. Nah, maybe just two” kind of circular conversation every once in a while. I think there’s a decent chance of us dilliberating the decision until menopause.

  • Jayamama

    My husband and I went into our marriage wanting three or four kids. We now have two daughters, and the last pregnancy was really rough. Part of me says that I’d be happy not having any more, but my youngest is only four months old, so that may change. I’m just not one of those people who enjoy being pregnant, though. It’s more a means to an ends for me, and not a very fun one. I have a feeling that if we have any more, they’re probably going to be adopted. My older brothers were adopted, and I have a bit of a passion for kids without a home. I guess we’ll see. We’re only in our mid twenties, so we have a lot of time, at least.

  • NotCinderell

    I went through two miserable, nauseous pregnancies, two long, painful labors, and two c-sections. I have a beautiful boy and girl who no longer use diapers, have become mature enough to engage in conversation topics I find interesting, and can actually make me laugh on purpose. I’m back in school, now, studying for a degree that will get me a professional career. I’m so done having kids.

    And yet sometimes I fantasize about having another one. The biological imperative is strong, and it takes a lot of emotional and intellectual resolve to overrule it.

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