My husband hurriedly snapped the obligatory pictures of me in the wheelchair holding our newborn as we were wheeled out of the hospital. It was freezing, and we were eager to get into the warm van.
The van – a vehicle I never expected I’d need, much less want – that was now full of car seats of varying stages. The seats of our big boys in the back, our toddler and newborn girls in the middle, and Mommy and Daddy in the front. Our hearts and van were full, and honestly, the logistics of transportation are one of the primary reasons that we have to be done. Because if left to our feelings, my husband and I would never be done having kids.
Motherhood is an experience that I was always ambivalent about. I never babysat when I was a teenager or had aspirations of having “x” number of children. Until one day I did. My husband and I had discussed children before getting married and both agreed that we wanted “a lot.”
I vividly remember bringing home our first child and sharing those precious early moments as a family. One night I tentatively asked my husband if he’d changed his mind about wanting “a lot” of kids now that we had actually brought home a newborn. Not only did he say no – he said it made him want more. I knew just what he meant.
That was almost nine years ago. In that time, we’ve had three more. With each new addition, we’ve faced the same question: “Are you done?” Confidently, we said no. We would fill up our home with four. During my fourth pregnancy, I felt a tinge of panic: unlike what everyone promised, I didn’t “feel” done. I didn’t “just know” that this was my last pregnancy. Nothing assured me that this was it.
I even spoke with my doctor about it. How do people stop having babies? What if I don’t have that feeling of “just knowing?” She advised me to pay attention to how difficult pregnancy is and the toll each one is taking on my now-older body. She was absolutely correct: every aspect of each pregnancy got harder with age. The heartburn, age spots, contractions, postpartum pain … everything was amplified. Still, I never felt as though any of it – any. of. it. – was enough to say “Ok, that’s it. I’m done.” After four I still don’t.
The truth is that my husband and I are done because we have to be. But the entire decision is logistical, not emotional. We both feel as though if left to emotion, if we waited until we both “just knew,” we would never stop. If we won the lottery, we would buy the bigger house and mini bus so that we could have more children.
And it’s not just that we’re done having children. It’s that I’ll be done with such a significant chapter of my life. My pregnancy season is over. My child-bearing years are behind me. Sure, each season has its excitement, but it’s still difficult to say goodbye to one that brought me such unexpected joy.
I couldn’t help but think about all of these things when the nurse asked if we’d like to be discharged from the hospital early. Even though we were ready to get home to our kids and back into a routine, I selfishly wanted another night to cherish the end of this era. I wanted to soak in those last moments of the experience being so fresh, wearing our hospital bracelets, taking in the unique smell of hospital laundry, appreciating the quiet, precious newness of it all.
Ultimately we chose to leave early to get back home to our children. But we both cried as we drove away, knowing that we were taking home a newborn from the hospital for the very last time. Maybe I’ll change my mind when we’re done with diapers or when I can have my body to myself again. But those things really never bothered me–not enough to call it quits. I doubt they ever will. So to answer the question: yes, we’re done but only because we have to draw a line somewhere. We’re done because at some point we have to be.