My Baby Fever Has Broken — Permanently

by Rita Templeton
Monkey Business Images/Shutterstock

I have plenty of children and don’t need any more. Lord knows they’re eating us out of house and home as it is without adding another mouth to feed — and that is just the tip of the iceberg.

But I was always curious about those women who said they felt definitively done having kids. The ones who, when asked about the possibility of another baby in their future, answered with a confident and resounding “nope.” They always sounded so final in their decision.

I, on the other hand, felt much less assured. My brain was the one telling me “No more babies!” We already have a full house; it would be expensive; there would be space issues; the more children we have, the fewer opportunities we’d be able to give them because our resources would be stretched so thin.

But despite all that, my heart never failed to say, “More babies! Babies until your uterus shrivels from old age! Babies forever!” Consequently, I was always waffling back and forth in some weird state of not-quite-done-ness. Oh, you’ll know when you’re done, the “done” moms always told me, but I was having a hard time believing them when I could feel content one day and come down with a raging case of baby fever the next.

I thought maybe I’d never feel as done as everybody else — perhaps it was due to the infertility I experienced, where I spent five years hoping above all else to be a mother — and that I would just have to accept living with the permanent nagging feeling that my family wasn’t quite complete.

But within the past couple of months, something miraculous has happened. I’m done. And I know it. I’m officially one of those moms who knows without a doubt that we are a complete family. And if you’re in a weird space where you’re not sure you’ll ever feel done, take heart: It will (likely) happen.

It started with a newborn in my neighborhood. Adorable, yes, absolutely, but I had zero desire to hold her when my other neighbors were passing her around. Then about a month later, the same thing happened with a new newborn — I did hold this one, but was surprisingly devoid of my usual squishy, nostalgic “I could do this again” feeling.

It caught me pleasantly off guard, like waking up one day and realizing I could do something I previously thought impossible. I had spent so long in “doneness limbo” that I almost felt like I was being tricked, so I tested myself, first browsing the baby aisles at the store, then the ultimate challenge: going through my own kids’ saved baby stuff. And lo and behold, the done moms were right. You do know when you’re done. Hot damn!

Reflecting on it now, I think the answer is actually pretty simple: The more I taste freedom, the less I want babies. My kids’ ages span from 5 through 12, which means that I’ve spent over a decade in the trenches. It’s what I know, and being done with that means having to figure out what to do next, now that my “babies” aren’t in need of such babying anymore; maybe subconsciously that was a little scary for me. But as they let go of their need for my constant supervision, I realized how freaking glorious it is.

My 12-year-old has started staying home by himself for a couple of hours at a time, even watching his 9-year-old brother on occasion, so I have fewer kids to take with me on errands or arrange child care for. My children are big enough now to help me with chores — real, legit help, not just the kind where you show them what to do and then secretly redo it when they do a crappy job. (Seriously, they can now clean a toilet like nobody’s business.)

They mostly sleep through the night, and even if something wakes them up, it’s typically something they can handle on their own without needing to get me out of bed. Hallelujah!

They can prepare their own food when necessary and clean up after themselves when they’re done. And I can say, “Go take a bath,” and not have to worry about anybody drowning in the tub or not getting entirely clean (I mean, I still have to specifically remind them to use soap, but whatever).

I can have regular-person conversations with them. They’re smart, they’re funny, and they no longer need me to explain or rationalize every little thing. My body is completely mine again, and so is more of my time. There are no more buttons to button, zippers to zip, or shoes to tie. And most importantly, no asses to wipe except my own.

Babies are lovely to look at and cuddle, but they’re also a lot of work. And though there are still moments when I miss my own children’s babyhood, those moments are no longer accompanied by a feeling of longing to do it again. It’s more like, “Awww, so sweet, I remember these days. Now take your baby — his diaper is full, and I’ve changed enough to last me for the rest of my life.”

My baby fever has officially broken.