Cuddling my youngest as she drifts off to sleep for a nap (or bedtime) is one of the highlights of my day. She’s still small enough that she loves to burrow into my arms – and she can do it without accidentally giving me a bloody nose via unintentional head-butting. Deciding she was our last, though… deciding that we were done having kids wasn’t an easy health or parenting decision to make.
This article was originally published on Perfection Pending and is republished (with updates) here with permission.
When you wonder (and everyone else asks) if you’re done having kids…
Having kids in the first place is a highly personal, highly sensitive subject. And yet, our society has been conditioned to ask highly personal questions like: “So, when will you have your next baby?” or: “You gonna try for another baby girl?”
In my experience, most people aren’t actually trying to ask about your fertility or your attempts at conception. They’re trying to talk to you about your kids. Usually, they’re falling back onto old (and not-so-great) questions to start the conversation. But when you’re already wondering if you’re done having kids, addressing this question can be difficult.
So let’s talk about being done having kids. Because, at some point, you’re going to have to be done.
Health is a valid reason to be considered. Health means mental, physical, emotional, and spiritual.
As my husband and I brought our fourth child home from the hospital, we were hit with the stark reality that we were batting 0 for 4 on “easy” babies. We settled into our tried-and-true (but exhausting) routine of baby-comforting and semi-sleep, all while also trying to heal from a particularly hard pregnancy.
Why was it particularly hard? Well, I wish I had a great reason for it. But full disclosure, it’s because I tried to plunge a toilet. And, while trying to dislodge that turd from the toilet, I ripped open my abdominal muscles and dropped to the floor in tears. Yeah, I no longer plunge toilets.
So not only had I just given birth, I was also dealing with abdominal muscles that sagged so far apart I could stick my fist between them. I’d also managed to develop a couple of hernias, too. And once my then-2-year-old discovered that he could grab my innards through the hernias (and cause me to drop to the floor), he decided he’d found his new favorite game.
Physically, after four babies I was done. My body had given its all, and it needed surgery, time, and a good deal of physical therapy to recover.
Mentally and emotionally, after four kids we were spent. We were constantly living in an exhausted state of survival, and it wasn’t good for our health – or our family.
You also need to consider the health and happiness of your marriage and family.
I’m all for tablet time when I need to do something like put bread in the oven, where I need the kids to not help and/or stay in one place. However, living in a constant state of survival mode while recovering from birth and abdominal surgery meant that I was relying on those same tablets and TV shows to help me survive the day.
And we didn’t like the toll it was taking on our older kids, us, our marriage, or our family.
Don’t get me wrong… We knew that some level of survival mode would be necessary when our girl was born. And we were fine with that. What we didn’t plan on was my needing invasive abdominal surgery when she was five months old.
But planning on paying that toll again? That was worrisome, especially since my doctors advised me that having more children would only reopen the muscles and hernias – and require more surgeries.
In other words, after a frank discussion, we realized that having another baby would take a heavy toll on our marriage and our older children. And that’s not a price we’re willing to pay.
Being “done” means being open to a wide range of emotions, especially grief.
So how did we know we were done? Well, the fact that my surgeon said so was a pretty good indicator. But even with his diagnosis, I wasn’t ready to accept it until my husband and I had discussed it in detail.
Because knowing that you shouldn’t or can’t have more children doesn’t prepare you for all of the emotions that’ll hit you in the gut once you accept that decision.
I’m devastated that I’m done having babies.
I have to come to terms with my limitations, and that’s terrifyingly difficult to do. I feel like a quitter – and I hate that feeling of letting someone down, even if that someone is myself. But in coming to terms with those limitations, I’m realizing that I’ll be a better mama to my kids. And that’s given me a good dose of relief.
And I’m grieving babies that won’t be.
My daughter will never have a younger sibling, which is heartbreaking. Because she’d be such a good big sister. She’ll never have a sister, either. And that makes me want to cry and hug my sisters (they’re a huge part of my village). Thankfully, though, my daughter has some amazing aunts and cousins.
But mostly… I’m elated that we’re done having children!
No more all-nighters with a screaming, angry, and colicky baby. We’re almost done with diapers. Our kids are turning into some awesome people, and I can’t wait to do more with them. I can’t wait to plan more activities and even some actual family vacations with them.
“We’re done having kids” is still hard to say, but it’s getting easier.
Making the decision to be done having kids was an amazingly difficult journey. It’s one I still struggle with, wondering if I made the right decision.
Then, I remember how and why we reached that decision. And that makes owning our decision that much easier. Especially since knowing our baby girl is our last child, I’m free to enjoy every “first” with our last.