A few weeks ago, a few friends and I were walking in downtown Chicago, enjoying a night out together for the first time in almost a year. As we were walking one of them said something along the lines of, “Isn’t it great that we’re all done having babies.”
We had a very brief conversation about it, especially for us. Really though we all sort of let the comment drift over us and didn’t address it again, even though there was plenty of kid-less time available for grown-up conversations. The fact that I can’t remember exactly what she said shows how little attention we really gave to this comment.
The idea of being “done” having children is something I’ve been good with for a long time. After seven pregnancies – four miscarriages, one stillborn and my two living children – I was done.
The idea of not needing to get pregnant – and after a loss there is always a need that comes from deep down inside you – I felt like a weight that had been lifted off my shoulders. I was finally able to live the life I wanted with my family versus dreaming about the life I was missing out on.
I was done having baby-making sex on specific days, at specific times, holding my legs up in the air (Yes, I did that.) and peeing on sticks. I was done having blood drawn to see if my numbers were doubling, rushing an hour away to a specialist on a weekly basis, having treatments to keep my immune system in check and giving myself shots in the stomach. My pregnancies were difficult, risky and challenging even for the doctors.
I was done with worrying if my children would live or die – if I’d plan a nursery or another funeral. I was unequivocally done and I was at peace with that decision.
Or so I thought.
With all the freedom I’ve gained from this decision, here I am, weeks later still thinking about her comment.
We had spent the bulk of our 30’s trying to, and individually needing to, get pregnant. Somehow in the middle of all this, the three of us had aged, life had settled in and we let go of the idea of needing another child.
Somehow, we realized that this is it – whether we were really okay with that or not.
The truth is, we’re all in our upper 30’s now and we all struggled to have children for the better part of a decade. Looking back on what was supposed to always be a joyous time I feel nostalgic for what it should have been. More babies, less hardship, more joy, fewer tears. I honestly feel a little robbed.
However, I hadn’t let it sit within me until this comment. For some reason, it doesn’t feel like freedom to me anymore. When I think about it, it almost feels as heavy as the need did all along.
The reality is I don’t know that I would be done if it hadn’t been so difficult for me. Or, maybe I would still be done, knowing that I would have had more children through the baby-making years.
Being almost seven years out from giving birth to my son and saying goodbye to him, he’s still constantly on my mind. Sometimes I can talk about him and the experience matter-of-factly, which I do as a coping mechanism. Other times, almost always when I’m alone, the damn breaks and I still sob.
As older and older women continue to have babies, part of me wonders why we have to be done now. Physically speaking, we could all probably do it again. The other part of me knows it’s true though. We are all finally done.
My friends and I have known each other since we’ve been teenagers. It amounts to about 25 years of time spent living, learning and growing together – and sometimes separately.
We’ve kissed other stages of life good-bye with glee – puberty, high school, college, the dating scene, renting, bad hair styles, etc. But this feels different.
This is the one stage of life I believe we will all look back on with a little bit of sadness. While I know we all feel very grateful for the children we have, we will all always miss the ones that could have been.
Maybe the need to have another child never really goes away. Maybe, like I do with the memory of my son, you just push it aside and bury it under homework, soccer practice, vacations, cleaning the house, dirty diapers, laundry and going to work. Instead you wrap it up and lock it away, replacing it with the idea of being “done” and the finality of that conscious decision.
Perhaps though, it always stays with you, just behind the flood gates – whether you talk about it or not. You just keep it in place.
You realize that no matter what you may need, it’s time to move on.
For more Mom Life Experiences, click here.