Thursday, October 20, 2011

The Next Stage

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.

2 comments:

Niki said...

Jenni, I always thought that I would have a bunch of kids too. But after my 3rd, the phrase that came to my mind was "I Know that I can be a good mom to these 3. I dont know that I could do it for more" Similar to what your friend said about hers. But it gave me comfort.

Laura: The Sushi Snob said...

There is a woman I visit-teach who had to have a hysterectomy after her second child. Some would take this as a sign that she should never have more, but recently, she and her husband had the Spirit strongly tell them that they needed to adopt. It's rather interesting how things work.

The "are we done having kids?" talk is not going to be on the table for some time, since hubby and I are expecting our first child (a girl!) in March. But your post has given me things to think about.

Oh, and you are so brave going the IUD route. Those things scare me!

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