The Bittersweet Ache Of Being Done Having Kids

by Lynn Burton
Annie Engel / Getty

On the bright summer morning the nurse came around the curtain carrying the wrapped bundle that was my son, I knew we were done having kids. I saw his little scrunched up face and all the pieces fell into place. We were complete — me, my husband, our daughter, and now our baby boy. My heart was full.

After a rocky start to motherhood the first time around (including a disastrous breastfeeding experience, colic, PPD, and a close personal relationship with the peri bottle for weeks), I was blessed with an easy transition with the second. He was a sunny baby who slept beautifully and rarely cried. I bounced back from a C-section in record time. My toddler daughter adored her new baby brother. I couldn’t believe my luck. We were done with pregnancy and birth and the newborn phase forever. Victory!

I practically threw the outgrown clothing and bassinet at whoever would take them. There was nothing but joy with each milestone. He rolled. He laughed. He sat up. I loved seeing him grow and change every day.

And then he got his first tooth, and my heart started to break. It hit me that I would never again be graced with the gummy smile of my own baby. Never again would I feel the roll of a tiny foot beneath my skin.

Never again would I stay up late poring over name books and family trees with my husband trying to come up with the name.

Never again would I hold the slippery newness of a baby that had just emerged from my body.

It was all done. Once his firsts were over, there would be no more.

My little girl is beautiful and determined and the funniest person I’ve ever met. My baby boy is jolly and patient and wakes up in the middle of the night laughing. It’s my greatest privilege as a mother to get to know the people they are and the people they will become. They’re more incredible than the children I dreamed in the years before they came. And yet it stings to know that any daydreams about more children will stay just that.

The reasons to be finished haven’t changed. We are out of space, out of resources, out of breath. We have two healthy, happy children. Stopping there feels right for us. The door is closed.

But oh, how it aches to lock it.