Eagle is now 23 months old; just weeks away from the age Bear was when I got pregnant with Eagle.
But I'm not pregnant. Yes, I am fertile (it took 22 months this time instead of 20), but we're not trying to get pregnant; actually we are actively preventing pregnancy. Maybe forever.
If you had asked me a year ago (as my husband did), I would have said no way was I ready to be done having kids. Ever since my teens I had been planning on 5 kids at least... Even with my slow start and wider-than-anticipated spacing I was 28 when Eagle was born, so I could certainly have another child or two before 35! But when Eagle was just a couple of weeks old, Hubby said something about how we were outnumbered now (more kids than parents), and he thought maybe we should be done having kids. I figured he was tired and stressed with the newborn, and brushed it off. When he brought it up again a few months later, I began to think about it.
Initially I hated the thought of being done. Only three children? But I have so much to give! I'm pretty good at this mommy thing, I know how to handle lots of kids, shouldn't I give a good home to as many kids as I can? Pregnancy is not that hard for me physically--I don't get that sick and my body doesn't fall apart. Birth isn't hard on me either--in fact it's exhilarating.
And then a friend gave me a piece of very sound wisdom. Some kids need more than others (and I do have a couple of high-needs kids). If a mother has a finite amount of energy (which I think she does!), then no matter how much love she has, it makes sense to go with a family size that is appropriate to her energy. Sometimes that might mean 9 children, and sometimes it might mean 3. As I considered the possibility that I might actually have my quiver full with [only] three children, I began to accept that it was probably true.
So we made the decision to be done with having babies. I admit I made it more mentally than emotionally--part of me keep thinking "we're just done for now, in a few years we'll have another one or two." But I set it in my head and then let it marinate... and it took a while. Some days I would think "ok, I can wait 3 or 4 or 5 years, but I want at least one more" and other days I would think "how nice would it be to have no kids in diapers?!" or "we'll never have to buy a bigger van!"
And then, one day last winter, my sister called and told me she was pregnant. And for the first time, instead of thinking "I wish I were" I thought "I am so glad I'm not." And that was a massive turning point. I had never experienced not wanting to be pregnant in a particular moment. It was weird, and also it helped me realize that maybe I could make this transition.
I don't know precisely what the future holds, but I do know that it does not hold pregnancy for me--not for several years at least, and very probably not ever again. Some days I still struggle with the finality of it, but I also feel confident that this is the right choice for us at this time.
I have an IUD now (because breastfeeding was messing with my charting, and we did not want to allow the possibility of an 'oopsie'). Even though I intellectually knew that I wanted to do this (Hubby and I discussed at length and agreed on this option), it was still hard emotionally. I felt as though I had voluntarily given up my "full bloom" of fertility, as it were, in trade for a forced infertility. Like I had handed in the fullness of my womanhood for premature old age. I appreciate that that probably sounds like hyperbole, but I really felt it keenly. It didn't hit me until I was in the CNM's office getting ready to have the IUD put in, and then I bawled and gushed to her (a veritable stranger) about it. I suppose she doesn't get that very often! I cried much of the day after I came home too. I had not expected to react that way--after all, an IUD can be removed! But the next day I calmed down enough to do a closure ritual for myself, and felt much better for it. It was shortly after this time that I had my epiphany about the three phases of womanhood which I wrote about here.
I may be finishing with one stage of my life, but I still have many stages to live and enjoy. Perhaps I am done with pregnancy and birthing (for myself), but of course motherhood goes on. My children are young, there is much to do with them. As I exit the baby stage, I can enter another stage--a stage I have been thinking about (but putting on hold for six years)--a stage where I can reach out to other women and teach and support them as a doula and a childbirth educator. It's actually pretty exciting.