Three years ago, I was on my knees on my son’s nursery floor surrounded by piles of clothes, sobbing. Granted, I was just a teensy bit hormonal; I had given birth to my third boy one month earlier, was feeling all the feels, and was most definitely sleep deprived. My baby boy had outgrown the 0-3 month clothing (yes, he was a huge baby), so I was packing up all those adorable little onesies and sleepers. My husband and I had envisioned a family with three children, all of them close together in age, and we had been lucky enough to see this come to fruition. Our oldest was three when our third was born, and we told everyone we were done. Finished! No more kids for us! Three boys, we said, was enough.
Most of our friends had told us that they were done having children as well, and many of them had taken surgical steps to ensure this. I had noticed that most of my girlfriends seemed confident with their decision. There seemed to be little to no second-guessing for them, and most of them seemed relieved to have passed out of the baby phase so they could begin “moving on” with life. I thought after having my third child that I would feel this way too–after all, I had told people that three seemed like the perfect number.
So why was I a weeping, wailing mess? The clothes I was folding were just so tiny, and they smelled so good, and they just seemed to be calling for one more little body to fill them one more time. Even as I cuddled my newborn, I mourned the finality of him being my last. I tearfully kissed his little fuzzy patches (does anyone else have furry newborns, or is it just me?), relished his little noises, and watched his newborn reflexes with a bittersweet heart. I kept asking myself, is this supposed to be this hard? My friends don’t seem to struggle like I am! “Moving on” seemed like a giant bummer.
Closing the lid on that 0-3 month Tupperware was an alarming wake-up call for me. It would be the moment I would return to a year and a half later as we debated endlessly on whether to try for a fourth child. The despair I felt about sending that bin of clothes up to the attic for presumably the last time seemed too much. I felt panicked that we would regret it someday if we stopped ourselves as a family of five.
I had no closure. My heart wanted another kid.
My husband was in agreement, but our heads conflicted with our hearts. We worried about the logistics of a fourth child and what it would mean to our other three children. We worried that our time would be spread too thin, and that our financial ability to provide neat experiences like family vacations would take a hit. Confused, we set out to do what any self-respecting biased researchers would do: we talked to as many people as we could that had four children and we asked them what their experiences were like. Of course, we got nothing but positive feedback, because who’s going to say, “Nah, we really shouldn’t have had that fourth kid after all!”? One acquaintance told a tale similar to my own: she had hoped for three children but just didn’t feel closure after the third. Once she gave birth to her fourth, she felt complete. Bolstered by our friends’ experiences, my husband and I decided that we should go ahead and try for a fourth child. Within seconds of making this decision, we both grinned hugely and I experienced soul-edifying relief and joy. Our hearts had finally convinced our heads.
We went on to conceive a fourth child that we never got to meet, an angel that we lost at nearly ten weeks’ gestation. However, in the midst of our heartbreak we decided it was worth the gamble to try one more time. Our gamble paid off, and our happy and healthy little Jude was born two months ago–our fourth boy. I had hoped during my pregnancy with Jude that I wasn’t a baby addict, someone who would never be satisfied with the babies she had and always want more. Funnily enough, though, Jude’s birth coincided precisely with the beautiful realization that our family is now complete. We only needed him, plus our angel in heaven waiting on us. It seems that life in our family wasn’t ready to be fully tackled until Jude was here to do it with us.
Today I packed up Jude’s 0-3 month clothes into that same bin and I closed the lid. It never even occurred to me that it could be sad until after I was done with the process. When I compare today to the unrest in my heart when I put those clothes away three years ago, the difference is indescribable. Now I feel content and complete. Closure–I’m too busy feeling satisfied with this finality to feel sad. Mama friends, I’m so glad that my husband and I let our hearts take the steering wheel.
What about you? Are you done having kids, or does the idea of more babies tug at your heartstrings? How did you know you were/were not finishing having babies?