There is something I’ve been thinking about on and off for a long time now. Jon and I have talked about it a lot, and honestly, I’m not sure how to feel like I have closure on the issue.
It’s this idea of a third kid. See, when we got married, we discussed how many kids we wanted. We landed pretty readily on three. (Jon threw around the idea of four, but I nixed that rather decisively.) I couldn’t tell you exactly why three was the number. I suppose I liked the idea of a large family without getting into territory that felt unmanageable.
But then, years of infertility did a number on our family planning. I was 31 when Corin was born and 33 when Lina was born. I will turn 37 in a few weeks. Fertility treatments that were so physically, emotionally and financially difficult then would be exponentially harder now, with my increased age and all the responsibilities that come with the kids we already have. We’ve briefly discussed returning to the idea of adoption, but that process is also terribly difficult and expensive.
Most of the time, I am content with the idea that our family is complete. We have a boy and a girl, two beautiful kids who are perfect for us. Please don’t misunderstand: I am so, so grateful. And honestly, I’m not sure I have all that newborn stuff in me any more. I remember the borderline-hallucinogenic sleeplessness, the endless feedings and pumpings, the spit-up soaked burp rags, the mushy, barely-recognizable postpartum body. That very pragmatic voice also tells me it’s probably best that Corin and Lina have as much of my attention as I can give them. These kids need more from me than I could probably manage with another little one in the house. Also, I really don’t need more gray hairs.
But then, this photo popped up on that cursed Facebook timeline. It was posted four years ago today.
Suddenly, all that excellent logic evaporates in a wave of longing for just one more time. Just once more, I wish I could feel the unparalleled thrill of those pink lines. Just one more time, I wish I could feel the first movements of a baby I already loved in that uniquely intense and abstract way. Just once more, I wish I could experience childbirth. (Yes, I know how crazy that sounds.) Just one more time, I wish I could rest a tiny, fragile body on my naked chest and feel the total trust and contentment of a newborn who knows his mother. Just once more, I wish I could watch a baby grow, almost hour by hour, and see the infinite changes that every day make her more herself.
I know there are moms who are SO DONE with babies and can’t wait to send their kids out the door to school. I get it; I am that mom sometimes, too. But a lot of the time, I am also mourning the end of babies and toddlers. My kids are growing up, and even as I beam and cheer, I mourn the steps they take away from me.
Is there a way to find real peace with this? I actually told Jon the other night that it might be time to think about the snip. Not that we really need it, but I have a dark fear of a shock pregnancy at 45. And it just seems like maybe that step might give us final closure. I’ve already given away most of the kids’ baby clothes and toys. It’s actually pretty nice to clear out the storage and use it for things more relevant to our lives now. I spend a lot more time these days thinking about my future outside of parenting. But I can never seem to permanently dispel that niggling sense of longing.
I am tempted to sometimes feel as if we were robbed of an opportunity to have a third child, as if the ideal family we planned has somehow been diminished to something less. I suppose it’s normal to feel a loss. But when I really look at the family right here in front of me, I know it’s not less than we hoped. It is so much more.
I don’t know if I’ll ever reach a point when I don’t wish sometimes for that one last baby. I hope so. Maybe a lot of women struggle with closing the door on more kids, even when it’s a step of their own choosing. I’m not going to give in to regret over what should have been. I choose to focus on how full my life is and how grateful I am for what I’ve been given. But if you catch a strange look on my face when I hold your newborn, you’ll know why.