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.
It has been almost two years now that I have been struggling with this decision. I do envy mom’s that “just know” when to stop having children. Recently, I laughed with an old friend as she spoke about her impending delivery. Not only would she be getting a c-section, she told me, but she would be getting her tubes tied as well. It was her third and she knew it was time. Others like myself, have a harder time. It becomes a mourning period of sorts. We are allowed this sadness. It is okay.
I have been gentler with myself in trying to understand why. In a lot of ways, it just isn’t that easy. I will miss so many aspects of the newborn stage. The doctor putting each one on my chest. Holding them. Smelling them. There really is nothing like a newborn. I will even miss labor. In my experience, the labor process was tough, but exhilarating just the same. Often times, with the craziness of motherhood, these moments escape just as quickly as they arrive. One day goes by. And then two. Suddenly, you find yourself placing an “I am five months” sign in front of them as you snap a pic. Where did the time go? I barely had time to breathe and yet I am celebrating their first birthdays. These moments, the ones I had been waiting for all my life, were suddenly gone. I also suffered a loss with my firstborn baby, and with each subsequent child, my heart healed a little bit more. While they would never replace my Liam, each of my new babies gave me a new reason to smile. And go on.
I also thankfully realize that it is only the beginning. My children are still very young and I can look forward to a wide assortment of milestones. A lot of memories are to be had as well. My oldest daughter will be starting kindergarten next year. I am seeing her grow into a unique person with her own interests and talents. My son is barely two, but he will soon be doing the same. They will be growing together as brother and sister. While their relationship is combative at times, I am hoping that one day they become the best of friends. It is a beautiful thing.
Just recently, in casual conversation, my OB/GYN asked me if I was going to have any more. “Um no,” I stammered. He laughed and said I didn’t seem to convincing. I didn’t. With that, we both laughed. I asked him what he thought about an old lady like me having more kids. He again laughed and gave his blessings. But, in the end, it was up to me. I still felt uncertain but suddenly felt a large weight off my shoulder. I let myself take a nice deep breath. It was going to be okay. I just needed to take it one day at a time.
Coming home to my husband, I asked how he felt about us being done. He said he could go either way. But, in the case I wanted to try for another, he could be ready as early as tonight. I smiled while I looked at him. He was quite content. And so was I. We had made a wonderful little family; one that I was proud of. At this point it didn’t even matter whether I was done or not. I was intent on focusing on what was right in front of me: a family that I loved. And that, for now, is just fine with me.