The End Of Fertility

A few weeks ago, Justine wrote about coming to terms with an unexpected pregnancy.

I’m coming to terms too, but I’m not pregnant. Instead, I’m coming to terms with the fact that I won’t be having any more babies.

There’s nothing wrong with me, nothing wrong with my husband, nothing wrong with my fertility. We have two children, a boy and a girl, and we have decided that those two will be it.

Sometimes it’s an easy choice to come to terms with. Like when we’ve spent an exhausting day with two cranky children and bedtime didn’t go as planned and tempers are flaring and we’re burnt out and the idea of one more kid is just too crazy.

Or when we packed up practically half the house for a four day trip to the beach and my husband surveyed the mound of sand toys and clothes and gear and food that needed to be packed into our minivan and commented, “Good thing we’ve only got two kids.”

Or when costs for everything from gas to groceries to fees for preschool are soaring and we’re constantly watching the bottom line to make sure we’re not overextended financially. A third baby would mean we’d definitely have to move to a larger house, as the two kids we already have share a room, and there would be doctor’s fees and food and clothes and everything else to pay for.

Other times, we wonder if we’re making the right choice.

Like the rainy day when we spent the afternoon watching home videos and the babies in those films seemed so long gone.

Or when I see my brother and sister-in-law experience all those wonderful firsts with their one-year-old son, who is walking, starting to talk and learning and changing every day.

Or when I realize that in one short year, my oldest child will go off to full day kindergarten and I’ll only have one child at home with me, and that in three short years, both of them will be in school full time and I’ll need to make some decisions about what to do with myself.

When we weigh the pros and the cons, most often, we decide that our family feels complete with two kids and that adding more would upset the balance we’ve so carefully worked for. By stopping at two, we can fully focus our energies on nurturing and loving them and meeting their needs without feeling parental burnout, or sacrificing our marriage or our health.

And so, we’re proceeding as if these two will be our only two, and that means that I have some personal feelings to wrestle with. While I’m happy with my two, it’s a little sad to think that I’ll never feel a baby move inside my belly again, never breastfeed a fiercely hungry newborn again, never witness first steps or hear first words again. I look at my breast pump, shoved way in the back of my closet, and wonder if I’m really ready to give it away or if we should hang onto the changing table just in case.

It’s a process. The last time I babysat for my nephew, I dearly loved having him around, but while my almost five-year-old loved him, my two-year-old was decidedly jealous. Plus, the effort it took to get three kids into jackets and shoes and out the door was exhausting, and trying to feed all three of them at once meant I didn’t get to eat at all.

But while my breast pump is still in my closet and I still have my maternity clothes, I gave away all the infant toys and passed along my daughter’s highchair to my brother.

Perhaps the changing table will be next.

16 thoughts on “The End Of Fertility”

  1. Thank you for sharing your feelings about this bittersweet time in your parenting journey. We all should strive to be in the moment and enjoy our children in whatever stage they are in, but I think that your decision will help make you a much better observer of how special your time with these little people actually is!

    One bit of advice: I would encourage you to hang on to at least ONE baby-related item…I had literally given away the very last “under one” baby item I owned when we found out we were expecting again. I always thought it was an old wives tale! Luckily we are at the point in our parenting journey in which we understand how very little a newborn actually needs (a few diapers, a wrap/sling, and a safety seat that fits in the car) so we know that we will survive without all of the stuff we have given to others 🙂

  2. I have six kids so far. Can’t imagine what it would be like if I had stopped at two. Grew up in a big loud Italian family. At 44, I love my sibs and cousins and am so glad to be growing old with all of them and hope to offer my kids the same. Would welcome it if number 7 shows up. My attitude is, what’s one more? Each one is such a unique personality and they love each other’s company. It’s such a gratifying life. We started out with law school loans to pay off and we were both about 30. We knew we wanted a big crew so we stayed low on the economic totem pole. Moved several times. At one point we had four kids in a two-bedroom house. It was a sweet time. The baby was in our bed (easier nursing and cozy nest) and the older kids were in a bunk bed (twin mattress on top and full-size on the bottom). The kids had a great time in there. Not to say that they get along all the time. #2 wouldn’t acknowledge #3 for a year which tore my heart up, but now they are buds (11 and almost 9) and have been for years. Everything hasn’t been planned. A lot of clothes, toys, and baby equipment just came our way. We in turn pass stuff on as we have limited storage space. More just comes our way when the next baby arrives. No, we don’t have a lot of me time but we make time for each other. We fit it in when time allows. The older kids are old enough to babysit so we can take a break and go to a nearby restaurant for a date. The kids have opened our lives to other families; their interests in music, theater, and sports have expanded our appreciation of the world; it’s a great life.

  3. I once read that the third baby plays an important role in a family. The two older children learn to care, together, for a third. Together, they share in the loving and caring of another human being, their sibling. They become a “community.” I always loved this thought, but sadly, I was only destined to have two.

    Kayris, you have a strong desire for more babies. Maybe you should try to think ahead. You will probably always regret that you didn’t have another, but you will never regret having another. Think ahead to life as you grow old….you will have more loving children to look after you, more loving grandchildren who will adore you. I don’t know your age, but you sound too young to mourn over the end of fertility.

    I can’t help reading your post and not cry out, “For Heaven’s sake, have the baby you yearn for!” 🙂

  4. I am a mother to three. I always knew I wanted more then the normal two. My husband comes from a family with two children and I come from a family of five children. Sorry to say, I can’t stand holidays with his family. It’s just like any other day, but then you get my family together and it’s over 20 people with spouses and children it’s a blast.

    Another thing I always think about is what happens if my husband and I die, or one of my children (heaven forbid) and they had no one, but themselves. I have a friend that just lost her 3 year old daughter to a drowning yesterday in the Houston area. Now, she has an only child. I am heartbroken for her. Hopefully, she will have more.

    One last thing to think about: You may regret one day not having more children, but you will NEVER regret having another one.

  5. It’s so hard. I’ve often said I can understand why some have such big families, it’s hard not to want just another baby. We have a third surprise baby and as much as I love her there’s an extra effort to get things done.

  6. I could have written this, almost word for word. Glad to know others are wrestling with these issues, even as it seemes stopping with two makes the most sense.

  7. My husband says misery loves company LOL! We are also done after two little ones and sometimes I am a bit sad, but then the temper tantrums start and I am smacked back into reality. Happy with our two munchkins and finally complete.

  8. I’m in a similar boat. Because of our experience in a NICU and with preeclampsia, at the moment future pregnancy is absolutely out of the question. Even if they develop a miracle cure for pre-e during the time that I’m physically fertile, there’s still other considerations. For our family, concern for the environment factors in, along with the fact that my husband and I will never make a lot of money since we chose careers in the theatre.

    It can be hard when friends and relatives with babies are blithely talking about having another one as a certainty. Certainly, I feel jealous at times, and want that for myself. What’s nice for me to remember is that while babyhood is absolutely special, so is toddlerhood, and teenagerhood, and adulthood – that at every stage, my son and I will get to enjoy a new exploration of the connection that we’re forging now.

    I’m also excited to get to do plays with my husband again someday. I’m excited to become a certified lactation consultant, to teach yoga, to achieve my doctorate. While I’m not in any rush to do these things, it’ll be a lot of fun to get to explore my other interests again (when Sweet Pea and I are both ready, of course!).

  9. Can I tell my story? When my then-youngest (of 3 children) was nearly 2 and I was nearly 37,I became pregnant. I was thrilled! I had a boy and 2 girls already but it felt right to have another. Sadly, I miscarried at 13 weeks. Soon I was pregnant again. This time, I had a ruptured tubal pregnancy at 7 weeks that took away one of my fallopian tubes and left me facing the end of my fertility. My doctor warned me not to get pregnant for at least 6 months, assuming I even could, because my risk of another tubal pregnancy was high. I guess I wasn’t quite ready for the end of my fertility, though. Again I got pregnant, after the requisite waiting period. At 7 weeks, I had an ultrasound to make sure the baby was where it was supposed to be. He was, beating heart and all! Still, 2 weeks later, I miscarried.
    In short, within a year I had lost 3 pregnancies, and I was now 38. I saw the handwriting on the wall and at the next attic cleaning, got rid of all my baby gear and maternity clothes. I should interject here that my husband and I have always practiced Natural Family Planning, a very organic, holistic and effective way to understand and monitor one’s fertility. (In fact, I credit NFP with saving my life–the diagnosis of a tubal pregnancy when it was diagnosed, just barely in time to remove the rupturing tube before it became life-threatening, hinged on knowing exactly when I had become pregnant. ) Be that as it may, it’s important to understand that while I “accepted” that my baby-bearing days were likely over, I did nothing aggressively to ensure it was a “done deal,” like becoming sterilized or having my husband do so. At some point, we did stop carefully monitoring my fertility, though. Lo and behold, just after my 39th birthday, I discovered I was pregnant again! We welcomed our fourth child into the world just before I turned 40. By the time he was around 3, I once again “faced facts.” I was 43, and figured my diminished fertility made it highly likely that at that age, I would be having no more children. Again, I gave away all my baby gear and maternity clothes. I did monitor my fertility, but I’ll admit my husband and I were pretty careless, and often put desire for intimacy ahead of desire not to have more children! Lo and behold, at age 45, I became pregnant again. Our beautiful 5th child was born 8 years ago this month. He is the joy of our lives. The most interesting thing I recall from when I announced this pregnancy to friends, was the reaction of 90% of them, who declared wistfully, “Oh! You’re so lucky! I so wish I hadn’t closed the door on children when I did!” I had expected people to chastise me or express horror, but instead, these older moms like myself yearned for one more chance to have a baby. Most had chosen sterilization so that door was closed. Most made that decision while in the midst of raising 1 or 2 or maybe 3 busy toddlers/preschoolers–a horrible time to make so permanent a choice! So, in summary, the purpose of telling my little story is to urge you to look at this “decision” as one that might be changed at some point in your future. You really don’t have to make a permanent decision right now. If it makes you and your husband feel more confident about your situation, resolve to postpone indefinitely another pregnancy, but I heartily recommend doing so in a non-permanent way. I hope you won’t mind that I told my story. Of course everyone’s situation is different; I just wanted to bring another perspective to the discussion. Oh, and p.s., I really am “done” now. Mother Nature did the job: I just celebrated my first full year since my last menstrual period, officially heralding the onset of menopause. At age 53, I joyfully welcome the next stage of life and am grateful that things have worked out the way they have!

  10. My sister is in a similar boat. Two boys, the family feels complete, yet she is grappling with the what-ifs. And now that I’m expecting my #3, I know she is really struggling emotionally. I made the suggestion to her that maybe she could try an experiment and leave it up to fate. They could put away the contraception for 3 months and see what happens. There are no guarantees. We have fertility problems and history of miscarriage in our family, so maybe she’ll get pregnant, maybe she won’t. Then she’ll know, and can move on, knowing that they gave it one last chance and it wasn’t meant to be. Or just maybe they’ll finally get that girl she’s hoped for!

    I realized recently that my fertility is a gift. I know that once menopause hits, that’s it, it’s gone. I may look back on my life and wished we could have tried for one more. But, I will never look back on my life and say, “I wish we’d never had that last one!”

  11. I also have two children, a boy and a girl. My 2nd is only 11 months old.

    But already the baby days are slipping away so quickly. And I’m not sure that I’m ready for them to be over.

    It’s so hard. My mother-in-law told me that there always has to be a last baby. Some days I just wish that weren’t the case.

    But then, of course, there are the days when I can’t imagine adding to the insanity. There are just no easy answers.

  12. I’m very surprised by some of the comments here. It doesn’t seem to be constructive, to me, to say things like, “What if one of your children died?” While some families work really well with five or six kids, some families work well with one or two. Part of responsible parenting is thinking long and hard about which category your family falls into, and acting accordingly.

    We all know that deciding that you are done having children is a bittersweet time, and I think that is what could have been discussed here – not telling the author that she’ll always regret her choice.

  13. I also posted this piece on my personal site and received mostly comments along the lines of, “It’s the same here and it’s always hard to face having the last one.” It’s hard if it’s your second and it’s hard if it’s your fifteenth. Like someone else said, there always has to be a last baby and it’s bittersweet.

    The possibility of one of my children dying NEVER factored into our decision to stop at 2. We know a family that had three kids and two of them were killed together in the same car accident. Losing a sibling is difficult no matter how many others you have at home. And another sibling may not be a comfort. I know plenty of siblings who can’t stand each other. And what if my husband died, leaving me with three young children to care for instead of two?

    After our first was born, we knew right away that we wanted more. After the second was born, we didn’t have the same sort of feeling. Our family feels complete with two. If we had a surprise third, it would be wonderful, as babies are always a blessing, but we don’t feel that feeling a little sad because the older one is going to be 5 soon is enough of a reason to add a third when we’re happy with two. After all, I did have PPD after both, and it was bad enough the second time that I probably should have been hospitalized. I know it’s not guaranteed to return if we had a third, but what if it did? I already feel like I missed out on my daughter’s first year as a result of my illness and perhaps it’s selfish of me, but I don’t want to get that ill again. The whole family suffered.

    Perhaps I wasn’t clear–I’m not aching to have another baby and not doing it because of money or other reasons. We’re happy with two and sometimes wonderm “What if?”

  14. Sounds hard. i’m looking forward to having as many kids as God blesses us with (through birth, adoption, fostering), and I really hope that I won’t know when I get to the last one–I don’t think i’d handle it well at all 🙂

  15. I am going through some of the same questions as you, except we only have 1 child. We are older parents (38 & 45) and just don’t have the energy or money to do a second one. We both work full time and are fortunate to have found a small, nurturing day care only 5 minutes walk from my office. But we can’t afford day care for two children, and I don’t think I can manage the struggles of a newborn and infant again. In a way, I would like another one so they can play together. But the practical realities overwhelm the slight desire for a second.

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