I am 100 percent sure I’m done having children. Most of the time.
The plan has always been two kids, and we’ve been blessed with two boys. I love them to pieces: I often want to freeze their little bodies in time. But I also love the perks of having older kids. My younger son is almost 3, and just this summer he’s been old enough to tag along for some of the bigger kid stuff. We’ve all gone to the movies a few times; we can all make jokes together; we can bike down the block side by side. The kids play well together (in between fighting), and sometimes my husband and I can even have entire conversations without being interrupted.
I like the freedom I envision for myself when my youngest enters full-day kindergarten. I have worked just sporadically since my first son was born eight and a half years ago. But I like the work that I do, and I really cherish quiet and time alone (even a car ride to work without kids would be divine). Besides all that, our family really needs the extra money. Another few years of me working less just doesn’t seem feasible, nor does feeding or housing another child, or putting that child through college.
Usually, I am totally on board with this plan. And I’m a planner—I don’t like the idea of the plan being altered.
One recent Saturday, we woke up with our younger son cuddled between the two of us. My husband and I gazed down at his big, sleep-soaked eyes and his golden wisps of hair. He rolled into me, and I noticed how perfectly his little head fit in the nape of my neck. I inhaled him. He smelled like yesterday’s sunblock and faintly of baby shampoo, but mostly of himself, a scent there is just no way to bottle.
My older son was already up for the day. He doesn’t need to check in. He rolls out of bed, turns on the TV and waits for us to sleepwalk into the den. I know how quickly my little guy will turn into that big boy—the one who needs us that much less, who has no interest in a morning cuddle, and whose head definitely won’t fit in the nape of our necks.
A few minutes later, I opened Facebook and saw a friend’s pregnancy announcement, complete with a photo of her pregnancy test and those two pink lines. Holy crap, I thought, I will never be pregnant again. I will never have any of it again. But that’s the plan, I thought. The plan is for me to never experience pregnancy, birth, newborns, babies, toddlers—none of it––ever again.
Yeah, I felt like someone had stabbed me in the heart. I already knew these things, obviously, but it doesn’t usually hit me that way—viscerally and all at once.
So for a couple of hours I fussed about it all, crunching numbers in our budget, figuring out how old I would be when my second child started kindergarten (40), and whether or not I could imagine having a baby any sooner than that (no).
That afternoon involved a big decluttering of the house. After I threw out a bunch of broken straws and menus from restaurants that went out of business years ago, I meandered over to my older son’s room. I sorted through a pile of books lying on the floor, and I found a board book both my kids had adored as babies. It’s called First Words, and has simple, bright photos of things like dogs, cats, shoes and balls. Of all the books like this, both of my boys liked this one most. It’s all beaten up, broken, a piece of packing tape holding it together.
When my older son was little, I set all his things aside to save for our next child (and I still do—our younger son lives in hand-me-downs). But when I saw this book, I knew it was over and done with. I took a picture of it and placed it in the garbage pile.
I had already forgotten that just a few hours previously, I was seriously toying with the idea of having another baby. But now that desire had disappeared. I was done with that baby book for good.
In fact, that is how my longing for more babies always is—present at times, but fleeting. I don’t hold onto it for long. When I truly want something, I have a tough time letting it go, which indicates to me that I don’t want another child with that much fervor.
But I couldn’t bring myself to throw the book away. I put it in the pile of baby keepsakes, which could easily be unearthed if either of our children has children…or if, you know, my 40th birthday rolls around in two years and my momentary cravings get the better of me.