Wednesday, June 10, 2020

When You're Done

When you're done having babies, you just know.

At least that's what they say.

What I know is that there's nothing more perfect in this world than a nursing baby who lets go and looks up at you to smile.

What I don't know is how to reconcile that with the feeling that I am full. Our house, our car, and our dining room table are at max capacity. Some days, I feel stretched to my limit trying to meet the needs of my children, especially when I'm up all night with the baby and the day starts with a toddler meltdown over a piece of toast.

Sometimes I look at my family and feel like it's complete, but I also know without a doubt that if another baby joined our family I'd look back and laugh, wondering how I ever could have been so wrong.

One summer, my older kids took swim lessons at a local pool that allowed siblings to swim at no cost during lesson time. In our family, you don't turn down free pool time, but believe me: supervising a baby, toddler, and preschooler in the water by yourself every day for two weeks is not for the faint of heart.

As I was trying to distort the space-time continuum to be in three places at once, an older mother at the side of the pool caught my eye.

She looked composed in a way I couldn't even imagine, with an actual hairstyle and a bathing suit she didn't choose for its ease of nursing. She was reading in a deck chair, looking up occasionally to wave at her two junior high-age kids jumping off the diving board.

When it was time to leave, her kids would dry themselves off and carry their own stuff back to the car. They'd have a coherent conversation on the way home, and she might even have the energy to say more than a few words to her husband before collapsing into bed at night.

I'd be lying if I said I wouldn't love a day like that. But a whole life?

Every day without chubby baby thighs and milk-drunk smiles and the smell of a newborn's head?

They say when you're finished, you'll just know. 

Is that true?

Right now, all I know is I'm not ready to feel the longing of the empty-handed lady in Target who tells frazzled young moms to enjoy every minute.

My husband  the pragmatist in our relationship  points out that no matter what we do, someday I'll be that lady anyway. He's right, as much as I hate to admit it.

The inescapable fact is that children grow up. Someday we'll no longer need to keep an emergency pair of tiny pants and underwear inside the glovebox of the van.

Someday we won't need a van at all.

We're still saving the baby's clothes when he outgrows them. We've always done that, filling the attic with children's clothing of every size just waiting to be hand-me-downs for a future brother or sister.

But I had no idea how hard it would be packing up a box of 3-6 month onesies and wondering if I'll ever hand them down to anyone again.

No idea how hard it would be folding all the little knit pants with footies and then shutting the box for what might be the last time.

The baby years are messy, chaotic, and exhausting, and just when you think you can't feel any more overwhelmed a stranger in Target tells you to love every minute.

I don't know what the future holds, but as I stand over this box with a roll of tape in my hand and a lump in my throat, the only thing I know for sure is that I did love every minute, after all.

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Unknown said...

Between your last sentence and Phillip's pragmatic grasp you have said a lot on the topic! If not for the age thing and the happy surprise of Taylor I'm not sure how I would have made that choice.

adriennelynn said...

I just this year finally gave away our baby and toddler clothes...and my baby is 6. I didn't think I was done having kids...but my body and nature itself decided I was done. It's probably a bit of a grief process no matter how many kids you have and no matter what age they are when you finally say goodbye to the onesies!

Megan said...

Ohhh all the feelings! Our youngest is 3.5 and my body might think it's done. My heart is not! It's tough. So much of my identity is my children and it will definitely be a period of growth for me as they all eventually fly away. I'll enjoy every moment!

Kimberly said...

I loved cuddling my babies, but I was also very grateful to put sleepless nights behind me when I felt it was time to be done. Even so, it was really hard for me to let go of those cute little baby clothes that had so much love and tenderness connected to them.

I coped by keeping one outfit and baby blanket for each of my kids. I don't know if any of them will want those things when they are older, but the gesture made it easier for me to let go of everything else.

AnneMarie said...

Thank you for so vulnerably sharing your experience! I think it's so worthwhile to process the emotions and have this conversation. I've heard so, so many women in their late twenties and early thirties casually talk (at toddler events) about being "done," and I just hope that every woman has given herself time and space to work through it all. I hope that whatever happens for you, whether you have more kids or not, that God brings you a lot of peace and help as you navigate the parenting process!

The Lady Okie said...

I can relate! We definitely wanted 3, but now we aren't sure whether we are done at 3 or will add a fourth at some point. A friend of mine has 4 and said that while she knows she's done for sure, she is feeling really sad about it. There's some grief to be without chubby baby thighs for sure!

PurpleSlob said...

I had wanted 3. But my hysterectomy when my girls were 5, and 7, put the kibosh on that. I was sooo sad, ad mourning, cuz now the possibility was gone forever. But then I got a tiny little puppy, and that helped fill the void! I had a baby to love again. Without the poopy diapers!! (husband took care of the training part. TY!!) I just sat and cuddled her. Whenever I felt sad, she lifted my spirits. And of course the girls loved her too!

Ellen said...

Thanks for sharing so beautifully. We are in a stage right now of needing to postpone another pregnancy to figure out some health issues and I wasn't prepared for how emotional I'd be thinking maybe there will be no more babies. I dont think I'll ever feel done with babies. I feel overwhelmed every day with the ones I have, but I know this is such a short phase of life and the miracle of another person born into the world is worth all the mess for me

Jenny Evans said...

Ellen: I know exactly what you mean. I hate the question "Do you want more kids?" because duh, of course I do. Having and raising a person is the most magical thing I'll ever do in this lifetime. I doubt I'll ever feel done, even if I already am.

Best of luck to you guys, I'll be thinking about you.

Anonymous said...

I love your blog so much and just found this post. You've communicated that yearning so well! I have four beautiful kids and would love one more, but my husband knows he is "done" and I have to respect that. I'm so very lucky with our family and have to try and process my sadness about no more kids.