With my 18 month old firmly transitioned to his new bed, I packed away the crib last weekend. I put the screws in a Ziploc bag and handed the pieces of railing to my husband up it the attic. I jammed the lids on the over-full Rubbermaid bins loaded with onesies, blankets, and tiny clothes and passed them up too. I am left wondering, will I ever pull them down again?
As a child, I envisioned marriage and children-rearing through a relatively naïve, idyllic lens. Experience has since shown me the complexity of reality. Some of my friends have not married, others married later than they had hoped, or experienced the death of a spouse, or divorce during the mothering years which impacted their childbearing and family size. Others encountered infertility, pregnancy loss, heritable genetic conditions, or their own complicating mental or physical conditions or those of a spouse. A few found they were not on the same page as their spouse when it came to family size or were surprised by their own feelings of ambiguity in their parenting roles. Some found themselves feeling limited by economic circumstances, and others found themselves raising a child whose care and needs required a more than a typical allotment of family energy and resources. Not as simple as the song went, “When I grow up, I want to be a mother”.
It is seems to be such a tenuous exchange of choice and well, lack of choice and a complex set of mediating factors.
For me, I had my first son, followed by years of difficult miscarriages. Then finally a diagnosis, and a solution, but it brought with it a hefty regimen. It proved successful in the birth of my second son. I then opted to try for a third, the pregnancy proved complicated; my son was born after a high risk of loss in the 3rd trimester, and with a life threatening condition discovered after birth. My house is now bustling with these three vibrant sons and I am left wondering is our family done or not.
I contemplate what having more means. The shots every day, the cocktail of 15 pills I have to down nightly, not to mention the exhaustion, the vomiting, the incessant doctor appointments that come with high risk monitoring. The daily paralyzing fear calmed only by the wooshing heartbeat sound coming from my home doppler. 10 months of intense stress like a string on a guitar being twisted tighter and tighter.
Then I think of my boys. My experience as a mother is profoundly deep and defining. Truly nothing is so exultant and joyous to me as holding a fresh baby. I dream of those days in the hospital when all the world seemed to melt away and it was just me, my baby, and warm white blankets.
Still what would another pregnancy mean for my family? Are the risks to great for me? The condition and treatment that complicates my pregnancies does not come without risk to my health. Barring that, is the price too high for them of having a mom in semi-working order for 10 months. It’s hard enough keep up with my 3 busy boys far away from family. Would it have a negative impact on our family or is it just a passing inconvenience? Could I handle, emotionally, another pregnancy with a less than desired outcome? Risks, rewards, feelings, sacrifices, agency…they aren’t simple to balance and weigh.
For many years I didn’t have a choice, no matter what I did my body would not stay pregnant. Now I find myself on the other side of the line, having choice. Trying to weigh difficult, complicated unquantifiable risks and family costs against life’s supreme joy. Knowing the decision is ultimately mine, when to say “all done” and walk away forever.
My dilemma does not come form some external pressure or feeling a “need” to have more children but, the love of the children I have. The end feels so finite. I have heard grown women talk about their children. Some say they regret they didn’t have more. I don’t want that to be me. Still a part of me is shell shocked from many traumas on the childbearing front. While I know it isn’t such a matter of chance, I wonder if I can really “roll the dice” again. The future of our family hangs in the air while I am left, still pondering the fate of the piles in the attic.
Share with me your story. Did life go according to plan when it came to having children? What were some of the bumps or unexpected things you encountered regarding child-bearing? What decisions surrounding family size did you find surprising or difficult?