Don’t Worry, Mom; We’re Done Having Kids

Jul 01

Image by Editor B

For the duration of my pregnancy with Baby Sister – especially during the last few weeks of it when it seemed clear that my body was telling me it was not really meant to do this work – I was convinced that this was my last pregnancy.  And when Baby Sister was born and she was a girl, I was even more convinced.

I was done, I had my family, I was all set.

And then, one night when Baby Sister was about two weeks old, in a wave of postpartum hormonal emotion, a tiny sensation crept up, whispering to me a suggestion that I never wanted this moment of newborn magic to end.  How could I not want to feel way this over and over?

Pregnancy amnesia once again.

There’s something intoxicating about the specialness, the uniqueness of the delivery, hospital stay, and first days at home with a newborn.  There’s a magical bubble that surrounds the time – a feeling of impermanent vulnerability, fragility, promise – and there’s something bittersweet about its coming to an end.

If Baby Sister is indeed our last baby, then never again will I curl my back and grip a tiny nurse’s hand as an anesthesiologist inserts my spinal block.  Never again will I lock eyes with Husband in joyful and nervous anticipation as Dr. G announces that she is making the first cut.  Never again will the words, “It’s a…” hold such delicious significance.

Never again will I meet a child of mine for the first time. A child that I grew in my own body and could feel before I saw.

Every day Baby Sister grows – and she’ll be five months old on Monday; how did this happen? – means a step away from this last experience of newborn babyhood.  And there’s beauty in that, but also a real shift in our lives – the end of these baby-making days and the start of raising up our family.

Yesterday morning while out for a snack with Big Brother, I noticed a mother with her five children, the youngest of whom was probably about Big Brother’s age.  They sat around their table, talking, laughing, each of their features echoing the others’.

And I was tempted once again.  Yes, I was.  Instantly forgetting the impossible pregnancies, the sleepless nights, the temper tantrums, and the simple lack of hands.

And I asked myself: if three is great, mightn’t five be better?

Are you done having kids?  How did you decide on the number of children that works best for your family?

{ 39 comments… read them below or add one }

Lindsey June 30, 2011 at 12:38 pm

You gorgeously evoke the power of those first few days, the intoxication of that newness. I would adore another pregnancy, birth, and newborn. For sure. But I am much less convinced I want three children and so, for me, I’ve decided that we are done. Wanting another run at those special nine or twelve months is not, I think, as much of a reason to add to your family as wanting to have another child. I hope this makes sense – I say it with absolutely NO judgment. Everyone makes their own call here. xox

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Kristen @ Motherese June 30, 2011 at 2:11 pm

I understand exactly what you mean. And I relate to it 100%. That’s why – as much as I am nostalgic for the sights and smells and feelings of those early days – I am still convinced that we’re sticking with three.

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Justine June 30, 2011 at 12:40 pm

Oh Kristen, I am so there with you. I’ve always wanted just two but after this last baby, it feels so final to have to say goodbye to these precious moments with the newborn. First this and first that coupled with the bittersweetness of last this and last that. Suddenly, I’m hesitant to say she’s my last. To acknowledge that I will never meet my own baby again for the first time, as you said, is so hard.

And yes, the pregnancy amnesia helps. Even though I had a rather easy one, I still remember the last uncomfortable few weeks…but all worth it at the arrival of the baby right?

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Kristen @ Motherese June 30, 2011 at 2:15 pm

“First this and first that coupled with the bittersweetness of last this and last that.”

Yes, that’s it exactly. I suppose – if and when we decide that these baby girls of ours will really be our last – we’ll need to reframe our sadness over those missing “firsts” with another baby into a focus on the firsts that happen every day with the ones we already have.

I have trouble, though, getting my head and my heart out of the realm of the “What if?”

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Louise June 30, 2011 at 1:06 pm

For us, the biggest factor in deciding to be done with two was my misery during pregnancy. I spend the entire nine months in a haze of nausea and gloom. It was nearly impossible to take care of my older daughter when I was pregnant with my second – and I still hate the fact that I don’t remember anything about her except through pictures from her first birthday to when she was eighteen months, just because I was so out of it – and I cannot fathom trying to do it again, this time with two children at home. For us, it came down to, quite simply, we need to take the best care we can of the children we have rather than try to have more and not give them all the care we have.

But every family’s decision is unique to them, and nobody else can decide the right number of children in a family for them! My dad is the oldest of eight, and there’s a part of me that feels wistful my kids will never know the fun of being part of a huge clan like that. (Other days, I just feel really, really sorry for my grandmother!)

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Kristen @ Motherese June 30, 2011 at 2:19 pm

It sounds like you and I had similar pregnancy experiences and I very strongly relate to your point about each of us figuring out for ourselves when it makes more sense to focus on the kids we have rather than bringing new ones into the world.

When I was pregnant with Baby Sister, my oldest was three and my younger son was a year and a half. There were many days when I felt like my months of sickness and bedrest were not fair to them. And given some structural anomalies which would make any future pregnancy likely as unpleasant, I am conscious of the ways in which that feeling would only worsen now that I have three at home to take care of.

Thanks, Louise.

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Sarah-fortheloveofnaps June 30, 2011 at 1:27 pm

oh goodness. I LOVED this post. I can TOTALLY, TOTALLY, TOTALLY relate. I got teary. We are done also…my husband is for sure. And like you…during my pregnancy I knew my body was done. However, a few weeks ago I had to go to the doc for vertigo…and she said, should we run a pregnancy test just in case. I walked by my husband in the waiting room and said, off to do a pregnancy test in the lab. He immediately broke into a sweat. It came back negative and I said to the nurse, “I have three healthy kids out in the lobby. A husband how can handle them all. One of which is only 4 months old. Is it crazy that I am just a wee bit disappointed.”

The idea of being done producing miracles with my body is very overwhelming…the idea of 20 more years of period and hormonal rages every month…and then the craziness of menopause…just depresses me. But I guess it is life. And I truly think there are women out there that really are never done because they love babies and life. Deep down I know I am done…but I think I will always have the yearning for another. Becuase it is so incredible. I think I just wrote a comment that is as long as a blog post. ha! Happy 5 month birthday!

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Kristen @ Motherese June 30, 2011 at 2:22 pm

Here’s what was going through my head when I read your comment: Yes, yes, yes, yes, yes. We are completely on the same wavelength. :)

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Sarah June 30, 2011 at 2:52 pm

Two kiddos, and we’re done. J’s opinion of the matter was that we only need to replace ourselves on the earth. My opinion on the matter was to take my only-child-ness and his middle-of-three and compromise. There is the added perk of one-on-one versus zone defense.
To step aside of my not so witty banter for one moment, two was all that could be in the cards for us. If not for the miracle of modern medicine, neither of our boys would be here, and neither would I. My body does not tolerate pregnancy well, and it was sheer force of will that brought our children into the world. After Ant, my body has decided to take any subsequent pregnancies, and remove them from the equation. Sometimes it stings when someone asks me why we don’t have another child, but that feeling has faded dramatically over the years.

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Kristen @ Motherese June 30, 2011 at 2:57 pm

Thanks, Sarah, for all of your words – the witty ones and the heavier ones too.

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Jana@An Attitude Adjustment June 30, 2011 at 2:58 pm

I think Oxytocin makes you want to have more babies right after you’ve had one. I agonized over making the choice about whether we should have one more kid for a year, but once my hormones settled, I realized I really don’t like the baby stage. I like it when kids can start to talk and do things for themselves. I think some people come from big families or always wanted big families and don’t get beaten down by any perfectionist tendencies. (Ahem, like me.) I may be lazy, but I’m now quite sure we’re done. Each time I rid the house of old clothes or bottles, I don’t wince at all.

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Kristen @ Motherese June 30, 2011 at 3:06 pm

I’m enjoying the tiny baby stage more this time around. Maybe it’s because I know it will be my last shot at it. Or maybe it’s because my daughter is the World’s Easiest Baby (and now that I’ve published that information on the interwebs, she’ll assuredly become colicky starting tomorrow). But I’m also the type who tends to forget the bad parts and remember the good so I’ve always lamented the move to the next developmental stage even when I didn’t enjoy the one we were in.

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Jack @ TheJackB June 30, 2011 at 4:16 pm

I want more kids but I have been “overruled” and been given these crazy excuses like “it is not your body” that I have sort of accepted. But truth be told it is a little weird.
Took a while to get to the “I am going to be a father stage” and now to think that I am done, well….My children are healthy and I am grateful, but sometimes I feel like I was meant to have more.

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ayala June 30, 2011 at 8:08 pm

I feel a sadness knowing that I am not having any more babies. I love being pregnant and I loved to welcome my child into this world. I understand this feeling so well…..

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Pamela June 30, 2011 at 10:18 pm

This post really socked me in the gut. I almost don’t remember the moment that I was handed my boys. That elation and exhaustion and the total surrealness of it, of meeting that person you have known for so long but have never seen. I do remember a moment of fear, of wondering if they really did have 10 fingers and toes. And then I met them, and it was such a shock to see them combined with this feeling of – oh of course that is what you look like.

We are done with 2, mostly for financial reasons combined with the fact that my husband is gone a lot and we move a lot so I don’t have a great support system. With 2 it’s fine, but I am afraid that 3 might send me over an edge.

BUT I will say that if I had family close by, I would probably have a third. I adored the baby stage with Gus. I enjoyed every second of it (he was an easy baby which helped) and would love to get pregnant again (I did not have to be in the hospital for weeks at a time so that helps).

Thanks for such a beautiful post. I don’t know that I have ever read such an accurate and beautiful account of those first few newborn days.

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Kristen @ Motherese July 1, 2011 at 2:48 pm

Thank you so much for your generous and kind words, Pamela. I am such a big fan of your writing and your compliment means the world to me. xo

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privilegeofparenting June 30, 2011 at 11:45 pm

Maybe the ultimate challenge is to allow the magic of these first moments with our newly arrived children to open us to experiencing the seemingly mundane in an increasingly child-like manner, growing up in order to achieve child-mind… and the perpetual capacity for wonder.

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Maria June 30, 2011 at 11:59 pm

I hear you. But three boys are more than my heart dared to hope for, as I struggled with fertility with my oldest. They are the biggest blessings of our lives.

As I inch toward 40 (in a couple of years) I wonder how having a fourth would upset the balance. Our family cannot afford for me to stay home, we cannot afford day care, we have no child care options within the family. Another college tuition, braces, vacation logistics. It is a lot to consider.

Whenever I am tempted, I just think of two words: POTTY TRAINING. It works it’s magic VERY quickly!

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Kristen @ Motherese July 1, 2011 at 2:49 pm

We’ll be starting potty training with Little Brother in a few months. Maybe I should revisit my feelings on the matter of having more kids then. ;)

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shannon July 1, 2011 at 9:16 am

Our third and last baby is 2 months old today. The older ones are 7.5 and 4.5 years old. My father is one of five and my mother is an only child. I split the difference by being an only for almost twelve years. I see my dad still having a relationship with his sister and brothers in their fifties and, even a generation up from them, my great aunts and uncles still have each other. I want this for my kids. Granted, no one knows the future and I can’t predict what their relationships will be like when they are adults but the thought of having a few rather than a couple of kids seemed to up the odds in my opinion. Those big family gatherings on my father’s side were always greatly anticipated by me as a kid. Who knows what the future holds but I’m hoping history repeats itself in this case.

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Kristen @ Motherese July 1, 2011 at 2:53 pm

Thanks so much for your perspective, Shannon, and thanks for stopping by Motherese. The issue of sibling friendship is another important one to consider in this conversation. My husband and I both value the relationships we have with our siblings (two sisters for him, two brothers for me) and hope that our three get along as well when they’re adults. I hope the same for yours.

Happy 2 month birthday to your little one!

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Cathy July 1, 2011 at 3:13 pm

I never really enjoyed the infant stage – I am more a fan of the baby stage once they can move because (in my personal experience) they seem so much happier. But I did enjoy all of my pregnancies. I loved being pregnant. Husband was done – and he took initiative to seal the deal – so that’s how we decided. ;-)

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Kristen @ Motherese July 1, 2011 at 3:53 pm

Ahh, the sealing of the deal. That’s one way to make the decision easier! :)

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Melissa July 1, 2011 at 7:28 pm

Oh, how I love newbornness. And having five is really good, I can tell you. ;) But I can’t make any kind of life-changing decisions with a newborn in the house, my perspective is too skewed. Better (for me) to wait until we’re into our new normal and then look around and see what’s what, and what will be!

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Kristen @ Motherese July 3, 2011 at 8:39 pm

Every time I start complaining about life with three, I think of you with five and I get a wee bit of perspective. (And then I promptly forgot that perspective and start complaining again.) :)

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millermix July 2, 2011 at 10:36 pm

With one adopted and one biological, our family seems complete for now. We’ve discussed fostering once our youngest is in school, and so that may be how our family grows. I do know with certainty that I shall be growing no more babies in my body. The finality is comforting, I suppose because it allows us to move forward and not keep a foot in the door.

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Contemporary Troubadour July 3, 2011 at 10:07 am

We’re still planning for a first baby — though no due dates yet. My husband wants at least three; I say let’s see how things go with one before making further decisions! (He doesn’t seem to have thought through how big a change we’ll be in for …)

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BigLittleWolf July 3, 2011 at 11:45 am

Pregnancy amnesia. Good word for it!

But I think some of us genuinely adore parenting, and want the noise and commotion of a large family. (I know I did.) I wanted more than two. Despite how incredibly difficult it has been raising two on my own these past 10 years, I can still imagine I would’ve handled 3… maybe four…

A decade’s worth of amnesia?

:)

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pugtography July 3, 2011 at 8:49 pm

I’m in thenlast few weeks of pregnancy. My growing belly is torturing my hips, thighs and back. I’m convinced that this will be my lay pregnancy. I don’t know if I want to go through this again. Especially if it gets harder each time. But I can’t say the words out loud yet, because I’m not yet sure if this will be our last. Some tug at my heart is preventing me from making this final decision. It’s a hard decision isn’t it?

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Jane July 3, 2011 at 9:43 pm

Just wait ’til they’re 18 and on their way to college. Ahhh, I wish I wasn’t so old. I’d have 10 kids if I could!

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Perfecting Motherhood July 4, 2011 at 1:10 am

I think all moms (and probably most dads) can relate to your post. There’s some magical, almost surreal of having a brand new baby. And the more of them you have, the easier it seems, at least in the early stages. Sometimes I looks at newborns and think, hmmm, why not?

But then I remember the 24-hour a day “morning” sickness for 4 months, the many, many sleepless nights, the struggle to juggle one, two, three kids… I have 2 boys and it’s all that fits in my car and I’m NOT getting a minivan, so this is it! All kidding aside, I don’t think my mind and body could take another one, especially another boy…

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Kristen @ Motherese July 6, 2011 at 4:19 pm

But therein lies the problem: we bought a minivan last fall and it can seat six kids! ;)

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Perfecting Motherhood July 6, 2011 at 7:17 pm

Hmm, I see, quite a dilemma. Well, you could consider the minivan as extra seats to drive your kids’ friends around…

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StephanieinSuburbia July 5, 2011 at 9:34 pm

We were always set on two. I told my husband he’ll need to go in and get snipped immediately after our 2nd b/c I know these feelings will haunt me. I thought I was pregnant when Wee ‘Burb was 3 months old and I cried for two days. But then I woke up and was like “how great would that be?” And played it out in my mind and was almost disappointed when it wasn’t true. Getting caught up in the magic of it all, it’s easy to forget the difficulties, the frustrations, the never-ending doubts. I think in the end we’ll stick with two, but I know there will be lingering doubts as they get older. I know I will miss those early moments of total dependence and longing. Of thinking “All I want to do is have a break from these people” and two minutes out the door, wanting to go back and give hugs.

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Kristen @ Motherese July 6, 2011 at 4:15 pm

“Of thinking ‘All I want to do is have a break from these people’ and two minutes out the door, wanting to go back and give hugs.”

I know exactly what you mean! I say all the time that I never realize how much I adore my kids until I leave them for five minutes.

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Sarah November 23, 2011 at 4:50 pm

Kristen, I stumbled on this post while checking out your new redesign. I am weirdly obsessed with the concept of “knowing when you’re done.” I know I want a third for sure, but like you, I wonder if I’ll feel done after that? I’ve heard so many women say they “just knew” they were done. Fascinating … and your commentary is lovely, as always. :)

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Kristen November 23, 2011 at 6:15 pm

It’s funny, Sarah. Now that my daughter is almost 10 months old, I do find myself mourning the end of her tiny babyhood much more than I did with my boys. I suppose knowing intellectual that you’re “done” and accepting it emotionally are two very different things. :)

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Melissa March 9, 2014 at 4:42 pm

This is my very thought and question I obsess over, daily. Is there enough grace and supply and skill for another? Or will my family look on and say, “Well, that was unwise and irresponsible.” Will my two kids lack because there is another child, another kiddo who would love and benefit from violin lessons, swimming, dance? How to manage in a bustling city eye we don’t even need a car? And then there is the idea that another gift from God could be formed and all would be right and good and gorgeous. There would be love.

Thank you for this post and for all the comments above.

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Kristen March 10, 2014 at 12:37 pm

So many questions, Melissa, and all good and valid ones. I have to think there are no right answers and that we each figure out what works for us. Very grateful to have your voice added into the conversation.

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