After four pregnancies, one miscarriage, one Cesarean section, two vaginal births and three healthy babies, I am done having children. My reproductive days are over.
I will never be pregnant again.
About this, I am not ambivalent. I am ecstatic about it. I do not want any more children, I do not want to be pregnant again, and I am more than happy (and sometimes overwhelmed) with my three beautiful children.
But when I consider what this really means—that I will not only never be pregnant again but also never be the mother of a baby again—I’m a bit more ambivalent. In fact, my thoughts often run in a stream of deeply ambivalent consciousness whenever I ponder my baby-less future.
1. I never have to experience another labor contraction or Cesarean recovery!
2. But I also never get to experience the earth-rupturing joy of bringing new life into the world.
3. I might have grandchildren! Baby nieces and nephews! Friends’ babies! There will be plenty of other babies for me to hold and snuggle and love.
4. But none of those babies will be mine. None will share with me that visceral bond, the magic I’ve felt when I’ve locked eyes with my babies, when their cries have hushed at the sound of my voice.
5. I will never again have to submit to a newborn’s nightly feeding cycle!
6. But I will never again experience the specific stillness of those nighttime feedings: the moments when it felt as if there was only my baby and me and the darkness and the quiet, while the rest of the world slept.
I will never again be the mother of a baby! Never ever again.
7. Cracked nipples and lochia and colic will never again be personal concerns!
8. But milk-drunk smiles and gurgly coos and baby giggles will never again be daily experiences.
9. I will never be asked to cherish every moment with my baby (or toddler)!
10. But I will never again have moments to cherish as the mother of baby (or yes, even a toddler).
11. I will never again have to worry about maternity leave!
12. But I will still worry about parental leave policies for all new parents, and I will still fight for legislation that promotes adequate—and paid—parental leave for all new mothers and fathers.
13. I never have to worry again about one of my children dying from SIDS.
14. But I still worry constantly about all the dangers that can befall them: dangers that reach ever further out of my control.
I can embrace that finality. I can welcome it.
15. Never again will I have to juggle diaper bags and strollers and complicated baby carriers!
16. But never again will I have a child so small that I can cocoon their entire bodies against my chest and roam the world with them wrapped close to me.
17. I never again have to experience the unique physical depletion that parents experience during a baby’s first year!
18. But never again will I marvel at my child’s first smiles, first steps, first words.
19. I will never again be the mother of a baby! Never ever again.
20. But never again—not once, not even for a day, not even when my heart aches for just one more moment with my babies—will I be the mother of a baby.
I can embrace that finality. I can welcome it. I can even celebrate it.
But, sometimes, it’s a finality that stings and tugs at a small corner of my heart.