How do you know when you’re done having kids? | I don't blog, but if I did...

How do you know when you’re done having kids?

The thought of having kids was never one I entertained much. I wasn’t really maternal towards babies (animals were a different story, however) and I guess I was pretty cavalier about the idea of having a baby when Ryan and I got married. I was 31 then, and we had been dating for about eight years. My job was certainly not a career, but I was happy with our circumstances and loved our life together.

One day, three months after our wedding, over a pitcher of beer and some chicken wings, we clinked glasses and said, “Ok, let’s do it! Let’s have a baby!“. Naively we ventured into this new territory, thinking it could be months (even years) before we welcomed a baby into our lives. At our one-year anniversary dinner, I carried our daughter’s car bucket seat into the restaurant to celebrate with us.

I loved being pregnant. I loved every single moment of the entire process, even the pain of gaining over 70 pounds, collapsing the arches of my feet, going 13 days “overdue” and having a less-than-smooth induction. I loved being a mom, and I immediately loved our daughter so much, I felt my heart could burst. Pride like nothing else rippled through my body daily and there was nothing in the world I wanted more than to just be her mom.

When Story was almost two years old, Ryan and I casually discussed having a second baby. As only children, the idea of adding a sibling to Story’s life was scary, foreign and exciting. Once again, discussions were short and I was soon expecting again. From the start, that second pregnancy felt so different. So not-quite-right. And to make a long story short, it ended about half-way through in a devastating way.

marshmallowStory was a month shy of turning two when I lost the baby, and chose to name it Marshmallow. This August will mark five years since losing Marshmallow. We’ve always kept the name and speak of that baby often, despite not knowing whether it was a boy or girl.

Six months after losing Marshmallow, I was terrified, depressed, unhealthy, and pregnant again. Where my first pregnancy had been filled with hope, excitement, and love, this one was filled with worry, tears and anxiety. There wasn’t a moment in those nine months that wasn’t filled with fear. Not a day went by when I didn’t replay the events of the day we lost Marshmallow.

Why was I doing this again? I couldn’t live with my last birth experience being a death.
What if something happened to this baby? I would lose myself.
Was it the right decision for our family? We would never really know, I thought.

The baby who became my little dude Mason was far more abstract while I was pregnant. When we found out we were expecting a boy, I cried. I’m not even sure why, but it didn’t feel like happy tears. Even when he was born healthy and strong and they presented him to me, I was hesitant. Would he be ok? Should I get attached to something that’s not guaranteed?

It’s amazing just how twisted and tangled a mind can become after a loss. You never know just how your own brain will react, and I didn’t really recognize myself for years. Whose thoughts were these? Whose life was this? I felt much like a marionnette, unsure of who was controlling my strings. I wanted so badly to flip a switch and feel better, but I just couldn’t seem to overcome the feelings. The thoughts weren’t my own, my actions weren’t mine, and nobody seemed to really understand why I behaved the way I did, especially me.

kidsLooking back I can see that the only way to the light was through that darkness. I look at Mason and can’t imagine life with a different baby. I don’t know who Marshmallow would have been, but I know that if that baby had survived, we wouldn’t have had Mason, and to not have him is unfathomable. My kids are my world.

I often have conversations with my friends about their desires for more children. Or some children. I have many friends who suffer infertility struggles, and it absolutely breaks my heart that they must endure such pain. Similarly, I sympathize with my friends who so badly wish to add to their broods, but for various reasons cannot. That ache is like an unreachable itch, forever eating away at a soul.

But when they pose the question to me: How do you know you’re done? I just know. I know that for us, two children is the right number. Flippantly, I say I know that I don’t want to be outnumbered, that I don’t want to drive a bigger vehicle, that I need that guest bedroom to be for guests only. I say that I don’t want to hamper our travel by having one more plane ticket to buy, that I could never go back to sleepless nights and potty training. I say I’m relieved Mason is off to school full-time in the fall and I am happy my body is my own again.

All those points are true for us, but the deeper truth is that my biggest fear is being pregnant ever again. And when I call it a fear, I think it’s actually something far deeper: a phobia. Nightmare-inducing. Post-traumatic stress disorder-related. There is no doubt in my mind that I could not mentally handle the fear and stress. So when friends ask when number three is coming along, I think to myself that I’ve already done this three times, and a laugh escapes my lips and I say, “Never!“, as my heart crumbles into pieces and I recall the shell of a person I was five years ago.

This is how I knew I was finished having kids, when I was never really ready to have them to begin with.

Sometimes, we just know things.

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16 Responses to “How do you know when you’re done having kids?”

  1. Rottenstinker

    I could have written this myself. Exact words, feelings and experiences and for that I am sending you a great bug hug. Well written. Well explained. Nice to know I have a kindred spirit out there in the world.

    • alexandria

      It’s a pretty crappy club to be a member of, but I’m glad there are others out there, like you, who “get” it. Hugs, my friend.

  2. Cynthia

    We struggled to have our first two kids, and although I felt good about our family at the time, I knew that I was still open to the possibility of a third. Thankfully, because our son arrived only 13 months later (it’s amazing what can happen when you assume you’ll never get pregnant without medical intervention). Since he was due to come via scheduled c-section, I planned to have my tubes tied at the same time. But I felt more and more unsure about it as time went on, and eventually I told my husband I just couldn’t do it. It wasn’t that I knew I wanted more kids, it was that I knew I wasn’t sure.

    It took a couple of years of back and forth where my husband wanted another and I didn’t, then I wanted another, but he was unsure. In the end, we just decided to give it a shot, and see what happened (we still didn’t know if my fertility issues would cause problems.)

    By the time I was pregnant with son #2, there was no doubt in my mind, and I was totally at peace with being done. Every once in a while I get a twinge of nostalgia when I see a newborn, but I remind myself that they don’t stay like that, and then I’m fine.

    Someone once said that you never regret the children you do have, but you might regret the ones you don’t. I guess to my way of thinking, if there are serious doubts in your mind, you’re probably not done.

    • alexandria

      It is a very, very personal thing, that I know.

  3. Sarah

    I hear ya! We are in the same boat. While I often wonder about the babies I have lost I take it as a blessing because I wouldn’t have my sweet little girl. Our family is complete and I am done at 3. People often ask don’t you worry about the middle child syndrome but the way I see it is if you have 4 you will have two middle children. Everything happens for a reason and we learn and grow from all the good and the bad. Hugs!

  4. Marianne

    Definitely… you just know. Thank you for sharing this. Inside I have a little moment where my heart breaks and no one will ever know why and I could never explain it. And now I can look back at the shell of me too and maybe not say it’s ok but just tell her it’s ok to move on.

  5. Dianna

    Wow. You were able to put into words some things I have certainly thought but could not really say. I still ache for my ‘first’ but also know I would never have my twins if that one had survived. I am done for many of these same reasons–including the flippant ones.
    Thank you for this post.

    • alexandria

      You know, Dianna, I was thinking about you today when I was writing this post. I think about your “first” quite often, actually. *hug*

  6. Ashley

    This is an amazing, amazing post Alex.

    We haven’t started having kids, and I’m honestly fine whether we have them or we don’t. I have been worried that this will make me a shitty mom if/when we do have them. But I see now that it’s not a prerequisite to want kids fiercely before having them in order to love them enough once you have them.

    Also….this? “It’s amazing just how twisted and tangled a mind can become after a loss. You never know just how your own brain will react, and I didn’t really recognize myself for years. Whose thoughts were these? Whose life was this? I felt much like a marionnette, unsure of who was controlling my strings. I wanted so badly to flip a switch and feel better, but I just couldn’t seem to overcome the feelings. The thoughts weren’t my own, my actions weren’t mine, and nobody seemed to really understand why I behaved the way I did, especially me.”

    I feel this now. After no loss and no explainable reason. And that scares the crap out of me that I’m going to get kicked in the ass with post-partum depression or something of the like. If I’m going to be a mom I want to be a good mom, but what if I’m not able to?!

    Guuuuuh. This comment has turned rambly, so…thanks for writing this post.

    • alexandria

      You know, Ashley, you just never, ever know how you’ll react to anything. That’s both the beauty and the fright of life in general, I think. Truthfully, I think we’re all a mess inside. Whether or not you choose to have kids, your decision will have to be the right one for YOU only, ever. *hug*

      And no, not everyone feels that insane pull to become a parent, but I can tell you that my kids are the most amazing thing that’s ever happened to me, and not a single second of life with them is ever spent wishing them away. 🙂

  7. kristyl

    What a beautiful post to start my monday morning. I’ve always wondered whether we should make the leap from two to three as well.

    • alexandria

      It’s such a personal decision, isn’t it? I always said I’d never regret having a baby, only not having one. But now I know we’re all done. Good luck with your family decision, too. 🙂

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