How do you know when you’re done having babies? How do you let go of the long-held belief that you were meant to bring another child home? How do you find closure and accept that you will never again nurse a tiny newborn, or a curious one-year-old, or a busy toddler?
These are the questions I’m struggling with these days.
A little back story…
David and I began trying to conceive in August 2009. We logged my cycles on the calendar, made sure we “did the deed” on all the right days, and tried to be as relaxed as possible while we waited for a positive pregnancy test.
Our patience was rewarded fairly quickly. In December 2009, my period was late and I nervously took a pregnancy test. Two dark lines… we were over the moon! We couldn’t wait to share our news! We began buying baby clothes. I joined a pregnancy forum online and began ticking off the passing weeks.
When I was just shy of 11 weeks pregnant, I began cramping and bleeding. The doctor said I was probably having a miscarriage. He was right. We went through a period of mourning, packed away the baby clothes and put the pregnancy books back on the shelf.
A vicious cycle of hope and loss…
This cycle repeated itself four more times between March 2010 and August 2011. The last time, we had moved to Texas, hoping for a brand new start in a new place. Another loss, this time at 8 weeks, and we were emotionally and financially spent. We decided that we were done and I began looking into options for permanent birth control.
In mid-October, my period was late, and I took a pregnancy test. Two dark lines, and everything we’d said about being “done” went right out of the window.
We hadn’t been trying this time, in fact, quite the opposite. David was working long hours at a new job. We had almost no “alone time” and when we did, we were using protection. We were amazed that I got pregnant at all.
We were homeless, technically, living in the guest rooms of a friend. We drove a broken car that overheated constantly and barely had room for the four of us. We were not in a good position to be pregnant, yet we were just as excited as we had been that first time.
I can’t explain it, but we both expressed to the other that we knew this pregnancy would last, that we would have our baby this time.
We were right, sort of.
My pregnancy was easy and uneventful. Our lives were not, but my body felt great and our baby grew perfectly. We moved back home and began to get our lives back in order. We found out we were having a little girl – my third and David’s first.
We talked to her and played with her when she kicked my belly. We called her our little bunny. We had a baby shower and celebrated when David’s cousin had her first baby only a week before our due date.
We kept our faith and patience as my due date came and went. We did kick counts and listened to her heart beat, struggled with the decision to either hang tough until I went into labor on my own, or sign into the hospital for a repeat cesarean.
I can’t (or won’t) relive the birth story of my youngest daughter again. Clara was born on July 1, 2012 – 17 days overdue. She had died two days before she was born.
We were devastated. We are still devastated.
Still, we were ready to keep trying.
As soon as the doctor cleared us to begin trying to conceive again, we did. We went about this task like it was the most important thing in the world. Both of us felt like we had to have another baby, to fill our empty arms and heal the wound left when Clara died. To prepare for a new baby for 42 weeks, and then bring home only ashes, was too cruel, and we were determined that we would not rest until we had another baby, a rainbow baby to reward us for surviving the storm of our lives.
I charted my cycles, took my temperature every morning and every night, cleaning our local Dollar Tree out of ovulation prediction tests and pregnancy tests. I took vitamins, began using progesterone cream – and in mid-April, we got our two dark lines.
We tried not to get too excited at first, but that didn’t last long. Unfortunately, neither did the pregnancy. My hCG levels leveled out and then began dropping. It was deemed a chemical pregnancy, one that didn’t “stick”.
It surprised me that I wasn’t devastated. I wasn’t even as upset as I had been during our previous miscarriages. Maybe I’ve just become numb to loss, I thought. We talked a lot. It was me that suggested that I “might” be done trying to have a baby.
In the days that passed after I admitted that I wasn’t so sure I wanted to keep trying to conceive, we realized that it felt like the right decision.
Still, I feel sad when I think about never holding another newborn, fresh from my body.
I feel sad that I will never breastfeed another baby. Oh God, how I loved nursing my babies.
I feel sad when I think of our boxes of baby clothing and cloth diapers, never to be worn by a child of ours. My eyes tear up when I think of our new bassinet, never to be slept in by our baby, or rocked in the dead of night. Not by us, anyway.
I also feel relief, and peace, and hope for the future.
As much as I wanted it, I am terrified of going through another pregnancy, always worrying that we might lose this baby too. There would be no magic date when we could feel confident that things were going to be okay… not when you’ve had a baby die at 42 weeks gestation.
I am terrified of having a fourth c-section, though I wouldn’t dream of attempting natural birth again. Not after what happened last time, no thank you, ma’am.
What will I do if I am done having babies? All I know how to do is be a mom!
My big girls will be grown – 18 and 19 years old – in only 8 short years. I will be 41 years old, still quite young.
I want to go back to school. I want to finish my degree and get the phlebotomy certification that I’ve been talking about for years.
The thought of having a career is exciting to me, for the first time in… ever? I haven’t brought home a regular paycheck since 2007. I’d like to learn to be something other than “just” a mom, because as demanding and difficult and wonderful as that job is, and as much as I have loved being a stay-at-home mom for the last dozen years, my kids do not need me like they used to, and it won’t be long before they will be grown and gone, off to live their own lives.
Maybe I’m ready to have something for myself, something that’s all mine, and not defined by anyone else.
But still I wonder…
Deep down, will I always long for a baby in my arms? Am I okay with never knowing what our child would look like as an adult? Can a career replace all of that longing? Are we really done having babies?
I guess there’s only one way to find out, right?