Let Me Know When I Am Done

January 8, 2009

I think that, maybe, I am done having children.

I think.

Maybe.

Very possibly almost certainly.

I’ve been thinking about this for weeks. I’ve been thinking about the fact that our family of four comprises a tidy little unit. I’ve been thinking about the fact that my daughter and my son make such a lovely pair, and about the fact that even though he is still so small they are becoming fast friends and about the fact – the fact – that this is just so lovely. I’ve been thinking that our happy little foursome is so balanced. There is something about us, it seems – it seems – that is complete.

And that completeness is bittersweet. Bittersweet because, I don’t know, who’s to say that we wouldn’t be even more complete with another member to love? I can imagine – albeit in only the vaguest, fuzziest outlines – a future that includes someone else, another girl or another boy who would throw her or his weight into our tidy little apple cart and knock our happy unit delightfully off-kilter, out of balance, wonderfully, joyfully askew.

But then I look at my boy and my girl and my husband – I look at us – and feel something that I imagine is a feeling of completeness and I ask myself, isn’t this enough?

Of course it is enough. Of course.

I don’t want to go through pregnancy and childbirth again. That is, at least, I think that I don’t. Bringing Jasper into the world scarred me, literally and figuratively. You don’t want to go through that again, says my mother when I say – ill-advisedly – that I’m not one-hundred percent sure that we’re done. You can’t go through that again. You just can’t. But she’s wrong, in part. I could go through that again. I don’t want to, but I could. If you’d told me before Jasper came along that his gestation and birth would be so difficult, so emotionally and physically difficult, I would certainly have said that I didn’t want to do it. But were I then to grasp Jasper in my arms and press his soft, chunky self against my chest and feel his little hands explore my hair, my neck, my cheeks, feel his breath on my face, hear his giggle, his coos, I would say to you, I would do it all again. I would not hesitate to do it all again.

And I would not. Hesitate, that is.

But I wonder: do I lie to myself, when I tell myself that I do not want to close off the possibility of a different future, a future with a third? Do I lie to myself when I concoct stories of some hypothetical child, some ghost child, some spirit waiting to be given life and welcomed into our family in a future that I cannot yet comprehend but am loathe to disavow? Do I hold out the possibility of that third child as a means of forestalling my own future, a future that I’ve lost touch with in this, my tenure as a new mom times two? Am I stuck in this identity – this identity that I both love and resent – as a mommy, to the extent that I am compelled to suggest to myself, over and over and over again, that this is who I am, all that I am, all that I can do? By which I mean: am I holding out for the possibility of a third child for the simple reason that there is some part of me – some deep and vital part of me – that is afraid to let go of the mantle of Mommy and march forward in life as me first, Mommy second?

Obviously, I haven’t lost my sense of myself as Catherine – I do identify myself beyond ‘Mommy;’ I do have (fragments) of a life that is not defined by my care of and love for two small children – but my ‘mommyness’ has been a lodestone for me. It has been the thing that directs the compass of my life, that which points here, there, hither, yon and tells me where I am and where I should be headed (building a life with and for my children; building a future with and for my children; changing a diaper; looking for diapers; shopping for diapers). What will I do when I am no longer essential in meeting the minute-by-minute needs of these creatures? What will I be?

There are things that I want to do, versions of myself that I want be, all of which have little or nothing to do with being a mom. It is possible that I am afraid of leaping headlong toward these things, unencumbered by diaper bags and swaddle blankets and slings. It is possible that I am afraid of trying. It is possible that these diaper bags and swaddles blankets and slings are so much security for me: I cannot jump, see, because my hands are full. I would jump, but I can’t. Oh well. C’est la vie.

(It is possible that this is what happens when you go without sleep for over half a year. You start to believe that there are no other worlds beyond this one. You start to fear that you could not not survive in any world outside of this one. You start to go a little – what’s the word? – crazy, and you become attached to your own craziness. Maybe.)

I have a seven and a half month old baby and a three year old girl. I’m going to be ‘Mommy’ for a while yet. It is silly to be nostalgic for this stage of my life, this stage of their lives, when we are still so very much in it. And it is, very possibly, sillier still to fetishize the idea of more children as a means of clinging to this stage. I will, we will, have to be done with it sometime. I can’t be Mommy forever.

So, am I done? I think so. I don’t know.


How do you ever know?

******

Still hoping for contributions to this. It won’t save my nephew, but it will, someday, save some other child, some other nephew, some other mother’s son, and that will make all the difference.

Also, if you’re so inclined, I wouldn’t – as I explained here – object to nominations for one of these. If you’re so inclined.

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    { 118 comments }

    zchamu January 11, 2009 at 7:13 pm

    Scott, dude? I don’t know you or your family but I can be pretty confident in saying that your family had some massive issues long before #4 came along. I hesitate to say your parents shouldn’t have had kids because then you wouldn’t be here, but seriously..

    Gina January 11, 2009 at 7:25 pm

    Um, Scott, I’m trying to be delicate here, but it wasn’t having 4 kids that led your family and your sibs down this path.

    Mom101 January 11, 2009 at 8:10 pm

    I’m done. Knew I was done after the second pregnancy, still know it now.

    But the good thing is – you can always change your mind. You don’t have to know now. Or…you could know now and know differently in a year or two.

    I like that approach, personally. Today I can only worry about today.

    Amo January 11, 2009 at 8:44 pm

    Wow. I generally don’t read all the comments on a blog, but man.

    Anonymous, I owe you an apology as I was one who called you an ‘asshat’. I am sorry. I spoke out of turn in defense of a woman with whom I can relate.

    Scott, your family was wrong to abuse you and I pray that your sharing your story will help another.

    Karen (miscmum) January 12, 2009 at 3:36 am

    I’m pretty sure we’re done now. Or done FOR now. There’s a lot of stuff I want to do over the next few years. Maybe in the future, who knows? Unless husband runs off and has a secret vasectomy.

    penelope January 12, 2009 at 1:59 pm

    It’s better to stop wishing you’d had more, than to keep going and regret it, in my opinion….

    MOm January 12, 2009 at 4:55 pm

    I am guessing that most of the commenters here are on the sunny-side of 35.
    Well, speaking from the other side of 50 I can tell you that almost everyone who hears that I have six, says “OMG you’re so lucky!” They go on to explain that i) they wanted more but spouse didn’t or ii) they thought they were sure but as time went on and kids grew they re-considered, but had taken permanent measures. Measures that they came to regret.
    It was very hard at the time, esp. with the CDN tax system the way it is, but I do think that siblings is the best gift we gave, or could ever give, our children. My kids are 30 to 19 (had my first at 20 and my last at 32). They are good friends, stay in touch – far more than I do with my two sisters – and are good people (even tho’ I still want to wring their necks at times!) No regrets.
    But, after the last was born, I waited and waited for that yearning for another baby to come back. It never did. When R was about three, I discovered a serious medical condition that with another pregnancy would probably have cost me my right leg. We decided that our 6 needed a two legged mommy more than they needed another sibling, so we stopped at that point. No regrets. We always kept the door open a bit though, using a FAM instead of a medical method. FAMs allowed us to ask ourselves “Is this a good time to have another child?” and if the answer was Yes, act on it. Unlike having to clean the Pill hormones out of your body before conceiving, for example.
    I don’t know if this contribution is of any use to you, but I wanted to add a different perspective on a very common and important decision. I think it’s just like knowing that “he’s the one” – when it’s time to stop, you’ll be sure. If you’re not sure, then you shouldn’t do anything decisive.

    Her Bad Mother January 12, 2009 at 5:06 pm

    MOm – waiting for the yearning is good advice. But, what’s FAM?

    (Also, you’d be surprised by how many of us here are on the shady side of 35. It’s part of the issue for me – if we were to have another one, we couldn’t really wait all that long)

    MOm January 12, 2009 at 5:10 pm

    Oh, sorry. Fertility Awareness Method. AKA Sympto-Thermal Method AKA NFP (Natural Family Planning)

    Anonymous January 12, 2009 at 6:34 pm

    I want another, possibly two more if I am honest with myself. My husband is done at 2, and only then if it happens in the next 3 years. We do want to actually TRY for number 2, though. It sounds like fun!

    If the whole money thing doesn’t work out though, in the next 3 years, we will just have the one. We can’t responsibly have another on our income.

    No Mother Earth January 13, 2009 at 12:36 pm

    Sorry, can’t read all the comments cause I’m at work (albeit not for long..). While I think that the anonymous commenter had some valid points – about children, not about you – I thought he/she could have toned down on the nasty just a bit. It’s your blog. If he/she doesn’t like it, DON’T READ IT. And play nice. It’s possible to be constructive without belittling. Sorry, I’m on a soapbox today.

    What I really wanted to say was, man – you write the blog posts that are in my head. Only you do it much better than I ever could. I wonder why I have a blog sometimes. Maybe my blog should just link to yours and say “What she said.”

    And seriously? Call the Sleep Doula. She helps. Best money we ever spent.

    Ali January 13, 2009 at 1:38 pm

    we are done.
    as much as i’d like to have a brother for Josh, my family just FEELS complete. AND i don’t think i could handle another pregnancy/delivery/recovery.
    i’m excited to move on past the baby stage into the next stage!

    i have an iud, though…because you NEVER know ;)

    Swistle January 13, 2009 at 8:20 pm

    I am ALWAYS up for a talk about family planning (not the birth control method, though I can talk about that too, but about the whole “another baby or not?” question. I love it. I love the magic feeling of it—that this could be changed. That there’s a totally unknown baby we could call into existence and then not be able to imagine being without! It’s so interesting to think, “Are we happier here? Would we be happier there?”—in part because there’s no way to answer it. I love thinking about it and wondering about it.

    I had two babies, and then I had twins. Our basic plan had been to stop at four, and so then we were Done. And then we had an unexpected pregnancy, and I look at him all the time with joy and wonder, thinking, “We didn’t plan you!! You wouldn’t be here!!”—and it makes me so happy, but also gives me a feeling of horror about the wonderful baby we’re NOT having.

    Swistle January 13, 2009 at 8:38 pm

    I kind of skimmed through the rest of the comments, and want to say this: there’s a big difference between a comment that “dissents” and a comment that attacks. A dissenter says, “No, I disagree with the point you made; I think this way instead.” An attacker says, “I can’t bear to listen to you; you are impossible; can’t you get it together? What’s wrong with you? STOP BEING WHO YOU ARE because I DON’T LIKE IT!” Attackers are almost 100% anonymous. This is why anonymous commenters get a poor reputation.

    The problem with anonymous comments is that people tend to attack in a way they wouldn’t if they were connected to any kind of identity at all. (It doesn’t have to be a blog identity; a commenting identity is good too.) I think it’s a good exercise to write an “Anonymous” comment with your information filled in, knowing you could accidentally post it, forgetting to change it to Anonymous. It definitely changes the tone of the comment, knowing your name might be connected to it.

    Rhea January 14, 2009 at 9:16 pm

    this is such a wonderful post. I have 3 children (7, 2, and 1) and the last two where so UN-planned… lol

    and even though I struggle with how active they are, I would love to have another one, maybe… I think, we’ll see.

    I say, whatever will be will be. Just know that when the times right, all you’re going to be is blessed.

    Cheers,

    http://www.thecocktailcafe.com
    A mix of mom talk with a splash of style

    InsideOutHappy January 14, 2009 at 11:31 pm

    I might be your only commenter without kids, but I just want to say thank you for this post and all of them before. I’m 29, happily dating and hoping to have a few little ones in the next decade. Your amazingly well-written posts are lovely insights into all the ups and downs of mommyness. I admire you, I envy you; even the sleepless nights look good to me sometimes. I second a fellow commenter who suggested Daniel Gilbert’s Stumbling on Happiness (Get it on Audible.com for your ipod and listen in the car, if need be) because it’s truly insightful. And remember that life will bring you what you’re supposed to have, and the skills to deal with all of it, so long as you remain open and trust yourself. Good luck figuring this one out!

    Elaine A. January 14, 2009 at 11:55 pm

    Sometimes I am a little bitter that we feel we have to make decisions like this nowadays. I don’t think that came out quite right and I am not sure exactly how to express it but I just mean… That “back in the day” people just had children when they had children. Now it’s constantly on our minds (well mine anyway) as to whether or not more is a good idea or not. It’s a tough one for our household. I’m on the fence, my husband says “no” and the debate continues…

    Part of me always imagined my family with three and part of me wants my boys to have another sibling. But then I know I am lucky to have the two beautiful boys that are already in my life. It’s a toughie I tell ya. Good luck with your decision making… : )

    MarvelousMOM February 4, 2009 at 12:05 pm

    What a sweet picture. I don’t know how you know when you are done. I assume that I will have one more, but maybe I will feel complete and fulfilled with just my one. Ugh…weird to think about!

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