I’m not one of those women who loved being pregnant. My body was taken over by someone else, literally. I didn’t like the extra attention from strangers asking me when I was due, or telling me how pregnancy suited me. I counted down the days until I reached forty weeks. Maybe both of my babies and my body sensed how much I wasn’t into this pregnancy thing, since both babies came early.
I’m also not a baby person. Newborns just aren’t my thing. Yes, I absolutely love my children, but there is no such thing as newborn bliss, in my opinion. I find the first few months of sleepless nights, sore nipples, endless crying and colic, mostly annoying. I do love watching my babies grow and the few quite moments holding them. I do feel completely blessed to have carried and delivered two healthy babies, but most of the time, I can’t wait until my baby is a toddler. I can’t wait until she can understand me, communicate with me, laugh with me, relate.
Given my general dislike of all things pregnancy and newborn, I was pretty shocked by my reaction the other day at my doctor’s office. As I got undressed and waited patiently in my hospital gown, I overheard my doctor talking to another patient on the other side of the wall. I couldn’t hear details, but the parents were excitedly asking questions about their baby. Suddenly there was quiet in their room, and I very clearly heard their baby’s heart beat.
Hearing that pitter-patter of their precious baby’s heart bubbled up emotions in me that I didn’t even know I had. I actually started to tear up. No, these were not post-partum tears. These were tears of mourning the loss of becoming a new mom. It hit me for the first time; I won’t have those firsts ever again because I’m done having babies.
Long before my daughter was born, my husband and I had agreed to stop at two kids because of our respective ages (I’m approaching that 35 ‘advanced maternal age’ number) and raising children is expensive. I always liked the idea of two, a nice even number. My friend Amy always said it’s better to have “one-on-one instead of zone defense” (you sporty girls will relate). My friend Erika, who has three children, always told me there were challenges with three, like riding on Space Mountain, for example.
I thought I liked our decision to have two, that is, until I heard that heartbeat through the wall. As I sat there, half naked, waiting for my doctor, I was perplexed by my reaction. Why was I so upset to let go of the pregnancy and newborn milestones when I didn’t really like either of them very much?
After some hard reflection, I realized my reaction was an irrational response to the end of a time in my life. My role as ‘mother’ is far from over, but I am giving up something by not having more children. I will never need to buy a home pregnancy test and wait those few precious minutes to see the good news flash in PREGNANT; I will never hear the first heartbeat; I will never feel the baby kicking; I will never have the extensive conversations with my husband to decide on the baby’s name; I will never fill out the first pages of a baby book, I will never feel that joy and relief right after birth when you hold your child for the first time.
It is ironic, for someone who really did not like being pregnant and who prefers toddlers over infants, that I would react this way. What I realized is that there is something so special about the decision to become a parent and all of the firsts that come with each new child you bring into the world.
Although I will (probably) never have another child, instead of dwelling on the loss of those firsts, I am going to try to live in the present, to appreciate all of the firsts that both my son and daughter experience every day. Instead of wishing all the annoyances of infancy away, I will try to see the amazing growth and development she experiences every day. I will try to live a more present life.
How did you decide you were done having babies? Did you experience similar feelings of loss when you decided you were done?