I’m Not Sure I Was Ready To Be Done Having Kids

When I had my first child, I thought I was going to be a “one and done” mom. I suffered from postpartum depression and anxiety for a full year after his birth, and couldn’t imagine putting myself through even the mere possibility of that hell again. The more I thought about it, the more I knew having children wasn’t the right choice for me. I knew I was ready to be done having kids, and I felt confident in that choice.

It was shortly after the time when my husband and I made the “final” decision to be done having kids that I found out I was unexpectedly pregnant with my second child.

My daughter’s birth threw me for a loop in more ways than one. Aside from being an unexpected pregnancy, it also gave me a very unexpected change of heart. While I knew I would love my daughter once she arrived, I never expected to want even more children after her arrival. Yet within months of her birth I knew without a doubt that not only was I not meant to be a “one and done” mother, I wanted three, maybe even four kids.

I found myself so, so grateful for my unexpected pregnancy, because it showed me things I didn’t know I wanted. It revealed an entirely new and more capable mother within me that I never would have believed possible if I had stuck to my original plan. It showed me a path that was more “right” than anything I would have conceived on my own. It expanded my definition of love and it made me want another baby more than anything in the world.

Unfortunately, that was easier said than done. Though my first two pregnancies had been without so much as a hiccup throughout, my next two pregnancies ended in miscarriage. That baby I so desperately wanted slipped through my fingers time and again, and after each loss it was immeasurably harder to muster the courage and strength to try again.  

By the time I finally gave birth to my third baby, after going through two miscarriages and an anxiety riddled pregnancy during which I had to take progesterone suppositories to prevent losing yet another, I was thoroughly exhausted. Yet once again, I found myself completely in love as soon as he was born — again unwilling to part with the idea of more children.

I hemmed and hawed over the prospect of whether or not I wanted more than three kids — whether or not I could handle more than three kids — for half a year following my third child’s birth. It was a question I couldn’t stop thinking about because people were constantly questioning whether or not we were “done” whenever they saw us with our brood. Whenever I would reply that I wasn’t sure, I got the same worrisome look. The look that told me I definitely should be done. 

While I didn’t much care what other people thought of my desire to have a big family, I decided in the end that it was probably best for us to be finally and officially “done.” The transition to three kids had been hectic, and I wasn’t sure I would be the kind of mother they deserved if I continued having children. I also still didn’t trust my body after my miscarriages, or my mind after having postpartum depression. Going through these things had been worth it in the end, but I would much rather never experience them again. I couldn’t handle three kids and another miscarriage. I couldn’t handle three kids and postpartum depression. Or maybe I could, but I really, really didn’t want to.

So we scheduled my husband’s vasectomy at long last. I waited nervously in the parking lot, expecting to feel a rush of regret as soon as it was over, but surprisingly I didn’t. I felt relieved to no longer have that “maybe” of another child lingering in the back of my mind. I looked at my three kids and felt like there was nothing at all missing, and that there never would be. My friends began having babies and I would hold them but feel no longing for my own. I was done. Really done.

That was one year ago. Things feel differently now.

The truth is, I don’t feel so sure anymore. Now that my baby is a toddler and I feel more secure at mothering three children, that space has opened up in my heart again. I look at the three of them and I can imagine a fourth sibling alongside them. I can imagine them all as excited older brothers and sisters again. I can see the crib in the corner of my room. I can remember what it feels like to have the weight of a brand new baby placed on my chest — what it’s like to look at a face you recognize so well without ever seeing it before except in blurry ultrasounds.

I remember these things, imagine these things, and it crushes me. Because now there is no “maybe,” no possibility of moving forward in the easy way I did before. I’m not sure I was ready to be done having kids, and now it’s too late to take it back. Even though I know I made the logical decision, the “right” decision…well, I’ve made that choice before and I know just how wrong it can be. But this time it’s different. This time, for better or worse, I’m really truly “done.”

Gemma Hartley is a freelance writer with a BA in writing from The University of Nevada, Reno. Her work has appeared in The Washington Post, Glamour, Women’s Health, Babble, Yahoo Parenting and more. She lives in Reno, NV with her husband, three young children, an awesome dog and a terrible cat.

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