The joy and sadness of being done with babies

I’ve heard that when women are ready to be done having babies, they “just know.”

Before now, I never believed that I would come to that realization. My mind tends to rationalize everything to the point where my intuition is dulled and that gut feeling of just knowing is blurry and inaudible. Until recently, I have been unsure of how big of a family I wanted, but after just being able to hold my head above water following baby number three, I am able to say with certainty, sadness, and joy, that I am done with having babies. It is possible to have multiple and opposing emotions about the same idea.

Through my joy, relief, and excitement about ending my baby rearing days, I also feel a profound sadness and grief.

As much as I adore my babies, they were not easy. And as much as I’ve tried to remain “me,” I have completely transformed into a mother of young children. The once easily attainable states of freedom, solitude, and independence are now concepts that I will never again fully experience. You see, even if I find the time to sneak away to isolation, I am consumed by thoughts of my children, worrying about their routines and hallucinating their cries. Parenthood is one of those roles that alters the fundamental nature of who you are.

Don’t get me wrong, I love this person I have become and would not change her for the world. I believe that transformation is absolutely necessary for growth. Of course, I am still the same person with the same values and bad habits. I’ve just replaced my Subaru with a mini van, my six pack with some squish, and my designer purse with a diaper bag. I’m okay with this, really. Small sacrifices to make considering the heart exploding gravity of infinite love that raising tiny humans brings.

However, my baby rearing days are through. I’m ready to once again sleep longer than a 3 hour stretch. I’m ready to wear clothing that doesn’t need to accommodate breast feeding or pumping, and that isn’t streaked with spit up, snot, and drool. I’m ready to have my body back, because for the past five years, it has grown and fed babies, and has in no way belonged to me. I’m ready to formulate my thoughts into complete sentences once again. I’m ready to have my relationship with my husband back. I’m ready to be done raising babies.

With all this being said, I was surprised by the sadness that accompanied closing this baby chapter.

The other day as I began to clear clothing out of my baby’s dresser to make room for the next sizes up, the feeling hit me. The sort of feeling you get when you are climbing up stairs, expecting another step, but are met with flat ground instead. A gut punch. I began to cry real tears of overwhelming sadness. My realistic mind was taken off guard, since I thought that I was beyond ready for this; however, sometimes the heart takes over, despite all those rational thoughts and 2AM wake up calls.
Yet, as I sit here staring at my third baby boy, peacefully snoring away, I know that I am done. And for that, I grieve.

I grieve that I will never again be pregnant. All 40 weeks of that magical, annoying, alive time. I grieve the loss of companionship that pregnancy brings. I grieve that beautiful round baby belly that holds life, rather than a soft, empty vessel. I grieve the fact that I will never again feel movement from the inside. That I will never get to wear maternity clothes again, as crazy as that may sound. I grieve the loss of excitement and anxiety that ultrasounds bring. The week by week updates and fruit comparisons. The annoying comments from strangers about how big I look. I loved those weeks, and will forever miss them.I grieve for the loss of mothering a newborn. All of the sleeplessness and painful exhaustion included. The smell of their heads, and the way they fit into your arms like an extension of yourself. Those milestones that happen so frequently, yet take forever to come. I grieve the loss of raising another boy, and even the potential possibility of raising a girl. The anticipation of what they will look like and sound like, or what their personality will grow into.

But through this grief, I know that I will now be able to focus on being the best mom I can be to my three growing boys. And as time passes, simultaneously in the blink of an eye and ever so slowly, I am finding more of that non-mother identity resurfacing. I know that the chaos will continue, taking on a different form through each chapter. I am certain that my family is complete and I am right where I need to be, I think to myself as I drive away in my Honda Odessey.

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