Exercise in fertility

How do you put your baby years behind you? Members of Salon's Table Talk community discuss the conflicting emotions, this week.

Published May 4, 2007 9:51AM (EDT)

Family Life

Being Done. Coming to terms with the end of childbearing...

vorpal_blade - 07:17 am Pacific Time - May 1, 2007

I can't be the only one who's in the position of coming to terms with the fact that another pregnancy just isn't in the cards for me, but mourning it HARD. Can I? What is it about seeing that door coasting shut that makes me wistful for the days when I couldn't sleep on my stomach, or get in or out of the car without help? What on earth could make the days of biweekly ultrasounds and blood glucose tests and insulin injections the subject of nostalgia? What on earth would make my heart think it's a good idea to scratch and claw to keep that door open for just another little while, when my brain is shouting, "ARE YOU NUTS? YOU'RE 43! GET OVER YOURSELF!"

And yet every woman I've talked to who has ended her fertility with such finality, whether by choice (tube tying) or medical necessity (hysterectomy) tells me that no matter how long it's been, she still feels the tug...

What the dickens does having a baby knock open in our souls, that the thought of doing it again actually looks like a good idea, even long after it's clear that it's not?

Jen - 11:53 am Pacific Time - May 1, 2007 - #3 of 78

I like the title you chose, because that's how I think of it too. I don't necessarily want another pregnancy and baby (certainly not without a lot more money and time) but it's hard to realize that that part of my life is over. From the time we decided to have a baby until the present -- just a few short years in that club of anticipation and exhaustion and excitement, and it's over already -- how did that happen so fast?

Elvira - 11:46 pm Pacific Time - May 1, 2007 - #9 of 78

I'm sad about being done too, and my DS is only 6 months (I have a 10-year-old DD as well). I'm 35, but I cannot see us having more kids, and although my last pregnancy was very uncomfortable physically speaking, I am sad that it probably is my last one.

Actually we thought we were done after DD, and when she turned 3, I mourned for that phase of life with little kids. Then, 9.5 years later, DS arrives, and we sort of return to that phase of life.

It probably IS natural to mourn such transitions as phases of life, but it sure feels weird. Like I should be 110% happy, yunno?

Maria - 04:42 am Pacific Time - May 2, 2007 - #11 of 78

I'm going through a major crisis related to this right now. I'm 43, and have one son who is almost 7. Long story short, I wanted a second child, my husband didn't for a lot of reasons that made sense at the time.

One of my closest friends, my age, just had a baby, an unexpected 4th. I've been incredibly jealous through the whole experience, to the point of avoiding her and claiming being really busy with work. I thought I was OK after we visited her in the hospital, but now I've been knocked for another loop -- they've asked DH to be the godfather. (He and they are Catholic, while I'm not, I'm an agnostic UU.) Honestly, I feel like I've been kicked in the guts. There's no way I can go to this thing and watch my dh stand godfather to this baby. He totally doesn't get why I find this so upsetting, seeing only the religious aspect of this.

I'm going to have to get a stomach flu or something. I feel like it's some incredibly heavy shit to put on my friend and I don't want to take away from her happiness, but I just can't imagine putting myself through that.

Jenni P - 05:44 am Pacific Time - May 2, 2007 - #13 of 79

I'm 40 and have a son who will be 3 next month. We tried for years to have a baby and finally used IVF to conceive. We were incredibly lucky, because it worked on the first try.

This kid is the best thing to happen to both of us. We love him so much that we literally get choked up thinking about him. He's better than we ever could have imagined.

So, why can't I be 100% satisfied with him as our only child? I keep thinking in the back of my mind that we will have another baby, but the reality is that we won't. IVF is too expensive and the risks are greater because of my age (although, if money were no object, we'd give it another shot). I only have one tube and it's pretty messed up, so the odds of us getting pregnant naturally are very, very low.

My son is about to move to a big boy bed and we will be taking his crib down. I know that my husband will ask me what I want to do with it, and I know the right answer is to get rid of it. I tell myself that if we have another baby, a crib is no big deal to replace, but in my heart I know the reality is that I will probably never see a crib in my home again. I hate feeling like I'm some kind of ingrate, because I know there are people who never get to experience pregnancy and birth. I know we could adopt if we were inclined (I don't think my husband is on board for that at all, though.) But what I really want is to have another baby, especially now that I see what we made together.

Most of the time, I'm fine and I don't think about this. But other times I really feel blue. My husband's cousin is pregnant with her third (and final) child, and she was explaining "there's a baby in here" to Evan a few weeks ago. (My son ADORES this cousin.) Yesterday he came up to me and patted my stomach and said "Where's the baby? I wanna see it. You gotta baby in there?" Of course, I cheerfully told him no, no baby in there. But inside my heart dropped.

amn - 06:36 am Pacific Time - May 2, 2007 - #15 of 79

I'm alternating between tearing up and nodding. We are done. Two has us maxed out financially and emotionally. We're stretched as thin as we can get. I had a pregnancy scare last fall that turned out to be nothing, and as relieved as I was, I was disappointed. I still get a twinge of disappointment every month when my period comes.

I'm still recovering from a six-year whirl of: finish grad school-TTC-infertility/treatment-CONCEPTION 1- pregnancy -baby-TTC again (four months post-partum)-Conception 2-Pregnancy 2-Baby 2-breathe-sell condo/buy house.

And now it's all done. All the big stuff. All the big moments that are all about ME and E. It happened in what feels like a blink of an eye, and now we're on the sidelines. It seems like just yesterday, J cut his first tooth; this past Saturday, he lost it. How am I the mother of an almost kindergartner, and I never finished reading the baby manuals?

Water through my hands, I tell you.

On the one hand, I'm 36 and have two fabulous and healthy kids, a loving and stable marriage, a solid (albeit not terribly exciting) professional career, a house I can picture E and I growing old in -- what's not to be happy about? On the other hand, I feel washed up and middle-aged, and I sometimes wonder, is there any big good life-cycle stuff left to experience.

My brother is engaged to be married in October. His fiancee is a year younger than I am. I can't imagine first starting out now. The thought alone exhausts me. And yet, a teeny part of me is jealous for the newness of it. My other SIL is expecting in October. Total surprise that caught them off-guard. While I don't envy their circumstances (first year of marriage, tiny apartment, etc.), there is an inexplicable awe and inspiration that only early parenthood brings that I wouldn't mind going back and re-experiencing.

There are days that I wonder how the hell I became a grown-up when I'm really still a kid. Maybe I just need to grow up, or maybe it explains why being a grandmother is so sought after at a certain point.

K S - 07:45 am Pacific Time - May 2, 2007 - #18 of 79

I am finding myself often wanting to go back and do it all again -- not to have a third, which I couldn't handle, but to have my first baby again. There is really nowhere to put those feelings. I also have been thinking about pregnancy -- since it is Kate's birth month and I remember how uncomfortable I was but I also remember feeling so magical and powerful and I'd like that feeling again. Grace is 7 and often so disdainful of me and I wonder what our relationship will be like in this next chunk and after and it makes me sad that the easy-love-part seems to be changing. On the other hand, there are so, so, so many pleasures to being a family without babies and I know as I get less tired I'll find a joy in family life that has been elusive sometimes.

Jenni P - 07:56 am Pacific Time - May 2, 2007 - #19 of 79

When I think about the day my son was born, I am overwhelmed with joy all over again. That feeling that I got when they showed him to me is an immeasurable high that I fear I'll chase my whole life. I'm so grateful for it, though. Terribly grateful.

canuckmer - 11:53 am Pacific Time - May 2, 2007 - #27 of 79

Is there something here about mortality? About choosing a single path out of the nearly limitless options that are in front of us when we're younger? About the fact that some things are over and done with, and we never get a do-over? And that kids are a living reminder that we'll never again be as young as we were when we had them (however old or young that was), as when we anticipated them, as when we first imagined them?

I've got one, who's 6 months old yesterday, and I turned 39 yesterday, and daycare is expensive. I don't know if I'm done. I'm thinking about it.

The reflections from the women here who are biologically past the point when it's an option to have another baby, but yearn for it anyhow, are making me see my mother in a more charitable light. She did some odd-ish things while we were visiting -- for instance, she heard the baby cry in the night, and went in to tend to her without waking us (it's a breast-fed baby so she couldn't feed her), and I just found it kind of strange that she'd intervene without knowing what the plan would be for a nighttime wakeup. I wonder now if she just wanted some of that special, quiet, almost secret time with the baby, alone in the night. I wouldn't have thought she'd have any of that yearning, but now I'm revisiting my thoughts about her interaction with my baby.

Meera Hyphenated - 11:58 am Pacific Time - May 2, 2007 - #29 of 79

Oh yes, what an excellent thread. I need to come to terms with the end of childbearing, too. I'm 34, with two boys (ages 4 and 7) in a small, small house, and had a breast reduction surgery a couple of years ago. So many things pointing to the end of procreation... no breastfeeding, having to move if our family grew, pregnancies (four -- I lost two) being incredibly hard on my body and getting older will not make it easier, a husband who is strong into zero population growth and knowing that adoption isn't for him. He's also turning 49 this August, and I don't want to raise a child alone... I need to face it.

But oh! How I loved having infants. (Maybe I had easy ones, but I don't remember saying that at the time... ) I loved breastfeeding. Those sweetsoft babies with blue eyes and little chicken legs. And how I would love to have a girl, too.

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