Are you done having babies? Has it been a bittersweet decision? Bring out the tissues. This post is for you.
Dear Mom Who’s Done Having Babies,
I hear you. You see, just recently…
I gave them away.
My maternity clothes. Tightly and neatly, I packed them in a reusable grocery sack and delivered them to a young twenty-something friend expecting her first.
Oh, I told myself I was just getting rid of the ones I could never hope to fit again anyway. My mid-30s, post-three-babies body is strikingly different than the one of the first-time expectant mother I was in my late 20s.
And so I sorted through the container that held sizes XS through L, keeping only the biggest sizes “just in case.”
With each fold, I thought about how I caressed the front of the shirts as my belly had grown. How little knees and elbow jabs grabbed for my attention in the green one. How I had worn the black and multi-colored patterned one the day we found out our first was a girl.
The week before I had gifted a different friend–a mother of four with the youngest a bouncing baby girl–a large trash bag full of infant clothes. In my fall decluttering, I decided to save only those clothes which had meaning for me, the ones tied to special pictures and memories, the ones I could cut into tiny squares and piece together into quilts for my three girls one day.
The baby swing and seat and strollers had gone before; in a rash attempt to clean out the garage, we sold them in our local children’s consignment sale last spring.
And as our youngest nears 2 1/2, signs of the baby years continue to dwindle. She is weaning. She is now in a big girl bed. Before we know it, she will be out of diapers.
Soon, only the evidence etched on my now-empty belly will remain.
Is this, perhaps, the hardest season of transition?
High school to college. College to adulthood. Single to married. Newlyweds to parents.
They were all so black and white. The strings cut. The chapters closed. No questions. No turning back. Each season wrapped up tightly and stored in life’s library of memories.
But this one. It’s different.
Like Emily, I dwell in possibility. But the conversation that’s been held again and again behind closed doors. The one he’s OK with me saying aloud.
We are done–for now. Quite possibly forever.
And I didn’t expect it to be this way. This ache that still lingers. The pregnancy announcements that sting. It’s nothing like the seasons that have gone on before.
One of the first things I said after my 3rd was born: “I could do that again.”
And now I may not.
“Did you know?” I’ve asked friends in their 40’s. “Did you know when you were ‘finished’? Or did it just happen?”
Some say they did just know. Others say it just happened, and they wish they had had more–when they could. That it wasn’t necessarily a conversation but just a passing of time until time ran out.
I’ll turn 34 this week. And although my head rationalizes that it’s cultural propaganda that says healthy pregnancies end at 35, my long-range-planning tendencies tell me that if not now, then it may very well be never. If not now, I would be deemed advanced maternal age forever and always after.
A friend and I were chatting the other day. She with three the same ages as my three. And both our “babies” are now well past age two.
“I feel like people are either waiting for an announcement or wondering if we are done.” I told her.
“Yeah, me too,” she wrote back.
“But you know what? I doubt people even think about such things. They probably aren’t thinking about it at all.” I reasoned.
“I do,” she said. “I think about things like that about others.”
“Yeah, me too.” I responded. “Me too.”
And I know such things because there was the friend who began texting me to ask why I wasn’t pregnant a little after our youngest turned a year.
“I would like to get healthy first,” I wrote back. “I feel depleted after three back-to-back pregnancies and so many years of breastfeeding.”
She wrote back a few weeks later: “Do you feel healthy yet?”
And me: “My husband isn’t ready for more.”
A few weeks later: “Is he ready yet?”
There’s the movement among Christians to have as many babies as God gives. And if God has truly lain that on their hearts, they are to obey Him. Children always, always are a blessing.
But my sisters, a Christian mama should not feel isolated, judged and condemned because her womb remains closed by either secondary infertility or life trials or a decision she and her husband have prayed through.
I don’t particularly feel that judgement from others, but I know many of you do.
God’s calling for one family to have many is not a mandate for all.
When a mother with health issues asks about natural birth control methods in a Christian mothering forum, and the answer comes from a young 20-something mother: “I’m trusting God with my family size. You should too.”
It doesn’t help, friends. It hurts.
Because that mama–and this mama–are trusting God as well.
Perhaps the mama with health issues is trusting in God’s wisdom to say “no” to more.
Perhaps the mama in financial trouble is trusting in God’s provision of a job for her husband, so that they do not need to rely on the government to pay for medical bills*.
Perhaps the mama with a marriage in trouble is trusting in God to redeem it before opening her womb once more–or ever.
Perhaps the mama with a husband closed to the idea of more children is trusting that God will change his heart if they are to have more babies.
Perhaps the mama with secondary infertility is trusting in God’s opening up of her womb in His timing. Or of Him keeping it closed altogether.
And so the question for me–and for you, dear mama who’s done having babies–is this:
Can we lay it at the altar? Can we trust in the outcome being glorious no matter what? Can we relinquish control?
Can we walk into the next season with thanksgiving for the baby years? Can we be content in today?
Because if that is what God is asking, go in obedience. And go in grace, dear mama. Go in grace.
Are you done having babies? How did you know when you were done having babies?
Please keep the conversation respectful, no matter your convictions in this area.
*I neither condone nor condemn those on Medicaid for Pregnancy. My family birthed two babies that way. But I do respect those who are trying to get off of it. There’s hope: We did.