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I Can't Stop Thinking About the Baby That Might Have Been

Photograph by Twenty20

I'm not sure why I took an ovulation predictor test. My doctor had suggested last year that I go off birth control because I'm approaching menopausal age. Three months after I stopped taking the pill, I had all of the classic ovulation symptoms and an old ovulation predictor kit lying around, so why not? The second line on the test confirmed what I already knew.

There were a couple of years when a positive OPK was something I wished for. After three miscarriages, every month was a big question mark about whether I'd get pregnant. But now my sons are 8 and 6, and those emotionally charged years are behind me. Our family is complete.

I told my husband I was ovulating and he joked that we should try for another baby. My initial reaction was, "Stay away from me!" I even teased that I would have to move out because I couldn't handle him and three kids.

But later that night, when the house was quiet and everyone else was asleep, I felt a little sad. I couldn't stop thinking about the baby that might have been—would it have been the little sister our boys have occasionally asked for? Girl or boy, my 6-year-old wouldn't be the baby anymore. He might like that, since he's already starting to break away from my hugs.

It's the first time I really acknowledged that this really is it, this is as big as our family will get.

I daydreamed about what it would be like to have a third child. I even did the math and calculated a potential due date. It would be easy to take care of an infant while my older kids were in school (at least compared to having two under 2). I could probably manage to work at least part-time while the baby napped, and after school, I'd have two eager helpers to hold, feed and entertain the baby while I made dinner.

Then I thought about the things I might have to give up: my current workload, for sure. And family vacations would be put on hold for a little bit. I'd need a bigger vehicle to accommodate a car seat and two growing boys. Sleep—something that I finally get (almost) enough of—would once again be a thing of the past. Money would get a little tighter as we dealt with the costs of diapers and childcare once again.

But to be honest, the downside of having a third child didn’t seem to be all that bad. The disruption would be an adjustment, but it would be temporary. And yet, I knew the odds were slim that it would work out even if I decided to try.

Having experienced multiple miscarriages, I know what it’s like to say goodbye to babies that weren’t meant to be. At the time, I didn’t know what it was like to be a mother. Now I know everything I’m missing by not having another baby. This is the first time I’ve really considered all of the joys of motherhood and said goodbye to a baby that might have been. It's the first time I really acknowledged that this really is it, this is as big as our family will get, and there will definitely be no more babies growing inside me.

I don't know why I cried when my period started. I’m thrilled with my two growing boys, especially with everything I went through waiting and wondering if I would ever be a mother. I really don't want to have another child. But the tears came anyway, a reminder that some things just aren’t meant to be—whether we know if we want them or not.

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