Days are speeding by and we are nearly at Zara’s half birthday, which means the littlest member of our family is almost 18 month old. Instead of buying her just any old book for her half birthday present, I decided to put make a photo book of her birth story, which is something I hope she will cherish for years to come.
Looking through the photos from that day and reading the words I wrote in the following week brought back such a rush of emotions. Anticipation, excitement, and complete and utter joy among many others. Giving birth to a tiny human being is truly the most miraculous thing.
Zara’s 18 month birthday is a little bittersweet for me. She, like her older sister, is continuing to amaze us everyday as she grows and learns, but as all signs of babyhood disappear, I find myself missing being able to rest with a tiny body curled against my chest. I find myself yearning for the powerful magic that is growing a little person in an ever-expanding belly and the sheer delight that comes with bringing new life to the world. I even miss the actual experience of giving birth, which for me is indescribably awesome.
Up until last November, I thought that around this time we would start discussing the possibility of trying for baby number three. I come from a large family and I always wanted a large family, though life and financial realities have slowly whittled that number down from eight to something like three children (or four with the last one being adopted). I also have felt for a long time that my last two babies would be closer together. But before we reached that 18 month mark, the time when both Chris and I had agreed would be ideal to start trying for another child, life started throwing curve balls at us and instead of talking about how to time baby number three, we have been having a lot of discussions about whether or not there will even be a baby number three.
This is a more than a little heartbreaking for me. I’m not sure why, but I know deep down in my core that I am not done yet. I feel like there is another little soul we are supposed to bring into the world. But despite this feeling, I also know that we are not in the right place to have another baby. Chris just started a new job. We own a house in another state. We still owe thousands of dollars in student loans. We haven’t started saving for retirement or the girl’s college. I’m facing a surgery that will tell us whether or not I have cancer (and won’t exactly be cheap either).
Even before my possible health issues, we knew that from a financial standpoint we are not in a position to add to our family. When my cycle reappeared the week of Zara’s first birthday, we started using precautions and once we were settled in Fort Collins, I made the decision to get a Mirena IUD. I had one between the girls and loved it: it was birth control I didn’t have to think about, that let me continue breastfeeding without worrying about supply, that had the added bonus of keeping away my period, and that was easily reversible. Nothing in our life right now says, “Yes, have a baby,” so I made myself an appointment with a midwife and got an IUD, fully paid for by our insurance through Chris’ employer. I was lucky and am thankful that our insurance paid for the IUD, because the cost may very well have been prohibitive, and as yesterday’s SCOTUS decision made clear, not everyone will have this option available to them. I’m glad I had the choice and as far as birth control goes, I think IUDs are wonderful; but getting it in March felt a little sad (I’ll admit I kind of wished for an accident beforehand) and, in the last couple weeks, when we started discussing (and sometimes disagreeing about) the size of our family, I really started to feel melancholy about it.
On the plus side, this isn’t a permanent fix — we have five years and then will be forced to revisit the topic if we haven’t already, at which point we could, theoretically, still have another child. But I always thought we would be done having babies before 30 so that they might all (in an ideal world) be off to adulthood before we turned fifty. On the health front, if I get a worse case diagnosis, that would put us in the ball park of 5-6 years before we could have another baby anyway, but I have to wonder if we would really want to start all over at that age. If I get the diagnosis we are hoping for, I could always remove the IUD sooner, but there’s still the house we haven’t sold and several pressing financial issues that are making us question just how smart it would be to have another baby right now.
Sometimes being responsible sucks.
So here I am, watching the days slip away as Zara races to keep up with her sister, and wondering if each moment is the last. Is she my last baby? Will I never again feel tiny feet kicking at my ribs? Will I never experience the anticipation turned exhilarating high that is giving birth? Are my days of wearing a sleeping newborn in a sling gone forever? When she stops nursing, is that the end of my days with a nursling? Does each milestone gained mean something eternally lost? Suddenly, each instant is a joy to experience and saddening to watch end.
I wonder if this conflict between responsibility and desire is normal. Do most people wish deeply for more children but stop anyway? Or does this core feeling mean we should put aside responsibility and take a risk to fulfill a baser desire? How and when, do you know you are done?