I gave birth to my youngest when I was 26. Now parents to both a boy and a girl, we decided we were done having babies. By “we,” I mean my husband was done. He only had one sibling and only ever wanted two kids. I grew up as the middle child and always pictured myself as a mother of three. But we were in our mid-20s with the longing to travel and have world adventures, things we would never get to do with a gaggle of little ones in tow. As it was, we were already going to be 42 (gasp!) by the time our daughter entered high school. Reluctantly, I agreed. I’d be 30 soon, and who wanted to have a baby when they were that old, anyway?
Then I turned 30. Suddenly, my biological clock went into overdrive. My youngest was in preschool, and I missed having a baby around the house. Everywhere I turned, another friend in her 30s was pregnant. She wasn’t worried about advanced maternal age or being 50 when her kids graduated high school.
I began to plant the seed in my husband’s brain. “One more baby?” “We’re still young! “Look how cute they are!” When that didn’t sway him, I started begging. “I need this! “My heart feels incomplete,” and my favorite, “I never got to take maternity photos!” Finally, he agreed (or I wore him down): We would try for one more baby. But it came with a caveat: I had to conceive within the year. If it didn’t happen in the next 12 months, it wasn’t meant to be, and we would stop trying. It was settled.
Having taken a few months to get pregnant with my first two, I knew I’d have to help the process along. I bought ovulation predictors and pregnancy tests. I signed up for an online fertility tracker where I could chart my basal body temperature, my periods and other gross fertility signs such as “egg white cervical mucus.” I even ordered a magical sperm-friendly lube that was somehow supposed to coax those little guys in just the right direction. Weird? I didn’t care—this was happening!
Then it didn’t.
Month 1: The week I assumed would be the best time to try (I never could decipher that fertility tracker completely correctly) I got really scared. What if this happened right away? Was I ready for 16 weeks of morning sickness? We had a trip to Vegas scheduled in a couple of months. OK, we’ll try next month.
Month 2: Baby would be due right around Christmas. That sucks. We’ll try next month instead.
Month 3: My second child came a month early. Let’s not risk a Christmas baby. Next month sounds good.
Month 4: Vegas! Drinks! Gambling! Drinks! Better to be safe than sorry. Next month.
Months 5, 6 and 7: It’s summer! Cancun, you say? I love margaritas and shellfish. Let’s wait until after the kids go back to school.
Month 8: Our baby is in kindergarten. Do I really want to start over? Does my husband really want another baby, or is he agreeing just to make me happy? What if I have a miscarriage like the first time we got pregnant? Can I handle that again? I already have two wonderful kids. Why am I asking for more? Will having another baby cure this desire, or will I always want just one more? I’m so torn. Maybe this isn’t the right time.
Month 9: Let’s just get a dog.
I just couldn’t go through with it. While my heart still ached for a baby, my reluctance to pull the trigger was a clear indicator that it wasn’t meant to be. I finally accepted the fact that I would most likely always feel incomplete. Maybe all mothers feel this way. Maybe it is something that mothers who have experienced a loss would never stop feeling. Either way, a new baby wasn’t in the cards for us.
I’m now 39, and something extraordinary recently happened. For the first time since I got married, I have stopped feeling that pang of desire for a new baby. It could be the boundless energy of all of my new nieces and nephews, or perhaps my biological clock is simply preparing me for its inevitable shutdown. Whatever the case, I now look at my family, and for the very first time, I see us as complete.