As a little girl, I thought about growing up and becoming a mother. My childhood was not unlike many little girls’ as it came to fantasizing about being married and having babies. I played with dolls and mothered my dog and rabbit as if extensions of myself.
As a teenager, I equated babies with mistakes and accidents, something to avoid. In my early and mid-twenties, I equated babies with a loss of independence, a loss of alone time, couple time, friend time, camping trips, vacations, restaurant meals, and privacy. Still, even with all of those fears about the things that I would lose as a result of parenthood, I knew deep down there were wonderful and beautiful things to be gained as a result of motherhood. And in my gut, I wanted to have a baby someday. That desire is biologically hard-wired. It is real. And powerful.
Now that I’ve been a parent for nearly nine years, it’s hard to remember what my life was like before my two children. My youngest is five-and-a-half years old. He’s not really a baby at all, although I pull him across my lap every so often, his head in the crook of my arm like a newborn and his feet dangling near the floor like a big kid.
Intellectually and realistically, I’m done having kids. But my hormones clearly have other plans for me. As recently as a few months ago, I was having vivid dreams about pregnancy and nursing and the intoxicating smell of a baby’s head. At 38 years old, I suspect I have a few good eggs in there still. I felt intense pangs of desire, even though my body doesn’t like being pregnant. My vascular system didn’t like it, and I ended up with some varicose veins. My stomach didn’t like it, and I threw up until I was 20 weeks along. My sanity didn’t like it because sleepless nights and round-the-clock feedings are torturous. And, of course, there is the very real fear of having another child with life-threatening medical problems. But biology doesn’t care about any of my issues, and I'm sure that wasn't the last time my body will try to convince me to do it again.
The notion of having another has also come up a lot in recent months with other women whose youngest is also in kindergarten. I’ve also talked about it with my significant other’s sister-in-law when we visited them and their five-month-old twins in England just after Christmas. I’ve talked about it with close friends and acquaintances alike.* But what we’ve talk about, more than whether or not we really want another pregnancy and another baby, is what it’s like to be on the other side of the target that we aimed for from the time we held our first baby dolls 30+ years ago.
It’s just strange to be done, on the other side of motherhood. I still have lots of mothering to do. I’m not saying my job is done. But there won’t be any more pregnancies or nursing, and it’s a significant loss to realize it’s all behind me. Yes, I’m referring to the physical aspect of pregnancy and nursing and the logistical aspect of diapers and developmental milestones, but I'm also referring to everything else that separates holding your own baby from holding a someone else's baby.
(I also talked about my feelings with my significant other—not because I was trying to convince him we should make beautiful babies together, but because we talk about stuff :)