And Just Like That, I’m Done
Just the other day, I published a blog post expressing my second thoughts over following through with Tim’s vasectomy in January. (I know that it’s not my vasectomy to follow through with, yet it is still a procedure that affects my reproductive life in a radical and permanent way. Hence, I think, my capacity to have second thoughts about it.)
The post itself seemed to resonate with many people. It made them feel everything from dismay (you mean that desire to have another baby is NEVER going to go away?!) to excitement (YES YES YES another baby YES!) to generosity-based-on-a-total-ruse-I-promise-you (you and Tim are such wonderful parents and delightful people that another person would be lucky to be a part of your family!).
And people shared really extraordinary advice and perspective too. It was one of those times when I felt completely humbled by how thoughtful and supportive my readers are.
Seriously. You guys are amazing.
So in the wee hours of that evening, Tim and I discussed the possibility of postponing his vasectomy. We talked about what it would be like to have a fourth child–how wonderful it would be, how much time it would take away yet again from my work, how nice it would be to give Eric a sibling closer to his age, how much adding another family member would postpone so many of the dreams and goals that we have for ourselves and for our entire family.
We weighed the pros and cons. We plumbed the depths of the decision. We explored the excitement and the fear. And we marveled at the fact that we were even considering having another baby because this possibility wasn’t even remotely on our radar these past few months.
Make no mistake: neither of us takes this decision lightly. Choosing to become a parent again is not only a privilege–it’s an Enormous Responsibility. A Life Changer. A Big Effing Deal.
And it’s also a decision that is often accompanied by varying degrees of uncertainty. I mean, as far as I can tell, there is no “Should You Have Another Baby?” calculator out there. And even if there were, there’s always this thing called the human heart that is wont to shout out, “CALCULATORS LIE! PUT ANOTHER BUN IN THE OVEN AND COOK US UP A BABY!”
So I decided to pray on the matter.
Allow me to explain what prayer looks like in my head.
I don’t pray to send my problems up to an invisible guy in the sky. (If there is a God(s), I’m sure that they are busy with far more important issues than my little quandary over whether to have another baby.) In a very Iris Murdoch-ian sort of way, I pray to focus my attention on both the inward and outward factors that are relevant to the topic of my prayer. I pray to make salient the emotions and circumstances and facts-of-the-matter that will help me to go forward with whatever decision I end up making.
It’s kind of like altering the lens through which I view the world, if only so that I can see the solutions to my problems more clearly–or if not more clearly, at least differently.
And so I prayed.
“Lord/Universe/Creator/Narcissistic Desire to Have a Mightier Force Looking After Wee Little Me: Please help me to figure out which way to go from here. I don’t know if we should have another baby or if we should just close up the shop for good, so I’m just throwing this whole thing out to the prayer pasture. Amen.”
And just like that, I was viewing my world through a differently nuanced, differently textured, differently colored lens.
That night, as I lay next to Alec before he fell asleep, I tried on the idea of being pregnant again. I toyed with this idea, an idea which I never thought I’d ever entertain after Eric was born. I let it wash over me, just to see how it would make me feel.
And I felt nothing but dread.
Maybe not dread, exactly. More like emptiness. Joylessness.
This was all following an afternoon where I had imagined when it might be best to try for another baby. I had thought through the excitement of it all, replayed in my mind the highlight reels from all three kids’ first years on earth. And these thoughts had left me feeling positively giddy.
“We can have another baby! Yes! Another baby! Another squishy baby! How glorious! A family with four bouncing children!”
But this was only the whipped cream. I had only gotten so far as the candy-coated, sugary, saccharine-sweet moments of all things pregnancy and baby.
Because when I peered at the realness of the possibility of having another baby, the realness peered back at me and said, “Really? Really? You want to do this all over again?”
And in the deepest parts of my gut, I felt that the answer was a resounding “no.”
No. I really don’t want to be pregnant again.
Before all four of my pregnancies, I wanted to be pregnant. I wanted to be pregnant, and I leaped with eyes wide open into the possibility of each new pregnancy. I was, and am, so lucky in this respect.
Now, however, I recoil at the thought of being pregnant again. When I give myself a quiet moment to reflect on being pregnant again, I recoil.
This, I think, is a feeling that I cannot, and should not, ignore.
Miles said to me the other night, “Mommy? I think we have an awesome family.”
It was, I thought, a perfectly accurate statement. We do have an awesome family.
But he wasn’t finished.
“But I really want another baby,” he added.
“Oh?” I asked. ”Why is that?”
“Because I really want a sister.”
Oh. Because that.
“Miles? Miles, what do you think would be all that different about having a baby brother as opposed to having a baby sister?”
“I don’t know. I don’t think there’s that much of a difference. I just want one.”
As if he needed just one more action figure–a sister, sized baby–to complete his set.
“But you know we couldn’t control that, right? If we had another baby, there’s no way we could guarantee that you’d get a little sister. Would you still be happy if we had another baby boy?”
He contemplated the possibility for a moment and then responded, “Yeah. I really want a sister, but I’d still be happy with a baby brother.”
It was so sweet. Really, truly a sweet moment. A wonderful, darling, sweet moment with my wonderful, darling, sweet firstborn baby.
Yet even as I lay immersed in all of that sweetness, I still couldn’t shake the feeling that my days of baby-making were done. That I was done.
Sweetness be damned. I’m done.
Over the weekend, I had the chance to wade through my bursting-at-the-seams email accounts. Hundreds of unread Google Alerts. Dozens of long-expired special offers and coupon codes. And then a smattering of months-old personal messages to which I had never responded.
For a moment, I wondered how I had ever let all of these messages fall by the wayside. And then I remembered: I had a baby. This whole year, I’ve been parenting a baby, and two older children too. And even when you stack this up against everything else in my life (and trust me, this life is full and just as bursting-at-the-seems as my email accounts are), the whole parenting-of-the-baby thing is what loomed largest over the entire year.
This is what babies do. This is how they change your life. They loom large, they take up space, they demand so much from you.
But they’re also cute. And they’re cuddly. And they get your ovaries drunk on some sort of secret potion that makes you want to reproduce yet again even as you can barely grasp hold of your life. Or your email inbox.
It’s the thought of what it would be like to have another person loom so large in my life again for an entire year that sobers me up, and fast.
Even if it means saying goodbye to all that I’m currently loving about parenting my baby, my Eric.
I can love this and be done with it too.
From what my mom tells me, my good old ladyparts probably won’t stop getting drunk on the aforementioned secret potion until I’m well into my forties.
It’s biology. It’s nature. It’s having ovaries with a low tolerance for secret potion. (The drunkards!)
But I–I–am done. Just like that. I’m done.
And if I could gather the ladyparts around–that’s you, uterus, and you, ovaries, and the fallopian tubes, the vagina, and all the hormones that course through my body–I’d like to toast them all for being so good to me through my childbearing years. I’d like to raise a glass of champagne to them and say, “Girls? That was fun. It was a whole hell of a lot of fun. But now? Now, we’re done.”
I prayed on it, I viewed the world through a different lens, many lenses even, and I know now that I am done.
A toast to us, and to what comes next.