I May Never Make Peace With My Decision To Stop Having Babies, But I Am Done Anyway

by Wendy Wisner
Chubykin Arkady / Shutterstock

I’ve declared it out loud more than once — to friends, to family, to my own kids, and even online for all the world to see: Yep, as much as my heart often pulls me in another direction, I’m done having kids. Totally. 100% done. The baby factory is closed. This uterus is under lock and key.

I’m 38 years old (“advanced maternal age” apparently), and I have two boys, neither of whom slept through the night till past 3 years old. I absolutely cannot imagine going through that level of sleep deprivation again, especially as I push 40. Just, no.

Pregnancy isn’t a walk in the park for me either. Something happens to my abdominal ligaments where it burns all over every time I walk more than a few feet. Also, I’ve got a ridiculously short torso, so heartburn is a constant, and during my last pregnancy, my lungs were so squashed, I got breathless after standing up for more than a minute or two.

But probably the biggest reason I can’t have another baby is that I just can’t swing it financially. Our early years as parents were met with a ton of financial strife, and our family is just now getting back on its feet. It sure helps that both of my boys are in school now, so I can work without paying astronomical childcare costs.

If I won the lottery tomorrow and could do nothing but be a stay-at-home mom (with awesome live-in childcare so I would take endless naps), I would have another baby in a heartbeat.

But, alas, none of that is happening, and I don’t think it would be good for anyone if we collapsed back into financial doom or if I spent another few years tortured with sleep deprivation.

Of course, that doesn’t mean that I don’t get baby cravings every now and then. If I were being totally honest, I would tell you that I do, a whole hell of a lot. I love babies. Love them. Anytime I look at a baby picture of one of my boys, or of anyone’s baby, really, I just die.

I start frantically calculating how much money I would have to save over the next year so that I could take a decent maternity leave (I’m a freelancer, so no employer will help me out with that) as well as a kick-ass babysitter.

I start bargaining with God to give me a good sleeper, an awesome pregnancy, and a quick, easy birth. I seriously start to wonder what would happen if we moved into my mother-in-law’s basement for a few years to save costs and so my kids could be raised by “the village.”

And of course, when I start fantasizing about living with my mother-in-law (bless her heart), I know I’ve gone off the deep end into total and complete la-la land.

Sometimes I even berate myself for spiraling into these thoughts. If I’m so freaking sure that I shouldn’t have a child, why can’t I just STFU about it? Why can’t I let it go and just move on with my life?

Well, first, I should probably be a little kinder to myself, don’t ya think? But I think the truth of the matter is that life isn’t as cut and dry as we might wish it to be. It’s totally possible to want more than one thing at once. It’s possible to feel a little tortured sometimes by desires that just can’t realistically be fulfilled.

And maybe that’s OK, and just how it’s gonna be.

Some of us will never quite feel satisfied with our family size. Many of us want children that we simply can’t have, for whatever reason. There are times we might be in conflict about this with our spouses. Some of us might not regret our decision about it now, but will later when looking back.

This issue can be tough for many families, an intense point of contention even. As for me, I think I just need to expect that this sort of angst is going to come up from time to time, maybe until my uterus and ovaries literally expire in the next decade or so. The what-ifs are going to plague me. There will always be a part of me that longs for that other child no matter how senseless it may be.

But as much as the feeling overpowers me when it happens, 99% of the time that longing just isn’t there. I’m happy as anything to be done having kids, for my kids to be more independent. I love seeing them blossom and watch them accomplish new things. And they still need me almost as much as they did as babies in their own subtle ways.

I know our family is where it’s meant to be, and for that I’m grateful. As for those moments of doubt, I’m just going to have to make peace with them, be kind to myself, and accept them as part of this crazy, beautiful ride of motherhood.