Deciding whether or not to keep popping out more babies is a big deal for most moms. It can feel very final and lead to a lot of reflection on whether or not you feel complete as a mother, a person and a family. Naturally, it can be a tough call, full of agony, distress and sobbing into piles of tiny onesies. There is a lot of going back and forth, and general emotional upheaval. Many wonder if they will wind up filled with regret one day for deciding one way or the other. They seek the advice of other mothers about when they knew they were done having babies. Sometimes their worst fears are confirmed when they consult women who regret the choice they made, and now it’s too late. The mental pinball likely makes their heads feel like exploding. They probably cry and eat chocolate and watch too many episodes of A Baby Story, wondering how they will ever know for sure.
Other times, it’s not like that at all. Sometimes it’s actually even pretty easy. I was pretty securely in that camp. I went back and forth for about a minute until one of my kids screamed and punched the other one, and then I was like, “Nope, we’re all good here. Pass the BC please.” Sometimes recognizing your own limitations doesn’t involve a struggle. Either way, it’s still a big deal.
Here are some of the telltale signs that you are finito with the baby making:
1. When you hear someone say “I’m pregnant,” you get the willies like when the hyenas in the Lion King hear each other say, “Mufasa.” You recoil in fear and your face contorts to look like the Scream mask.
2. Every time someone who either has a baby, or is expecting, comes to your house, you send them to your basement with a shopping bag like it’s a Babies”R”Us. You hover over them, pushing things on them like a merchant at a flea market in Cancun.
3. Whenever you talk to someone with a baby, the second your conversation ends, the first thought in your head is of how extremely relieved you are that you are no longer dealing with two hours of sleep, baby food, spit-up, wobbly heads, teething or anything like it. Then you happy dance your way out of the room your kids are in because they are able to walk, breathe and eat on their own, so you can again too.
4. Instead of asking your friends to go shopping, or out to dinner, you ask them to come over and drink wine while you Google doctors who perform vasectomies.
5. You don’t want to hold people’s babies—unless, of course, you are one of those “baby people.” However, you will because they look so excited for you to snuggle up to their little slobber nuggets, and you don’t want to disappoint. But you aren’t doing it because of the maternal pull that used to suck you in like a moth to a flaming ovary.
6. When you have a stress dream, you are almost always pregnant in it.
7. You hit the gym like an 18-year-old headed for Miami because you know you are never, ever going to be gaining 40 pounds again, which means the extra effort is actually worth it.
8. When one of your kids hits a new milestone, instead of being sad that they’re growing up, you daydream about the things you are this close to being able to do with your family. Movies? Vacations? Restaurants without crayons? The possibilities seem endless.
9. You aren’t as enthusiastic about taking your baby to Gymboree, baby swimming lessons, baby art class or baby meet-ups where you drink lattes and talk about naps with other moms. In fact, you would rather go to the gynecologist or get a cavity filled than do any one of those things. It’s not because you don’t love your baby, it’s because you learned with the kid—or the kids who came before—that this is really more for the moms anyway and you’ve been there, done that.
10. You look at your family just the way it is and think, this is complete. I’ve done it.
Don’t get me wrong—when you are in baby mode having a baby is where it’s at. You love to mash their bananas and sing with their spoons while Baby Einstein sets the sweet tone of maternal bliss in the background. You wear your Ergo carrier like it’s the Hope Diamond, and spin around like Julie Andrews in the Sound of Music when your baby says, “Mama,” for the first time. Having a baby is great when you’re in that space. But watching your kids grow up is pretty great too. And there comes a time when you are ready to move on to the next phase.
As your kids grow up, you start to be able to have long talks about cool things with them. You read the chapter books you read when you were little to them and watch movies that you both like. You take the town together and feel like you have a buddy by your side. You watch someone, who you saw start from their very beginning, emerge into who they are going to be. You cultivate their interests and watch them choose their own friends. The rewards of the sleepless nights and exhausted days start to unfold in spades.
So, one day you wake up, look around, and instead of being paralyzed by indecision, you move forward. You accept that boxing up those tiny onesies and pushing them off on your neighbor is a natural transgression. You realize it was never about just having “a baby.” It was about having the children you actually have, the ones who are sitting in another room right now being the awesome people they’ve become. And once they are little people in the world alongside of you, you get to grow together in new directions. You welcome life as your guide, and for every chapter that closes, you rest assured that a new, equally remarkable one is waiting to begin. Having babies was great, but what lies ahead starts to sound even better.