Growing your family: one of the biggest life decisions you could possibly make. More weighty than buying a house, changing jobs, or even getting married, having children is a choice that forever alters your life. It’s permanent. It changes everything.
I’ll start right here: I love being a mom.
I hate to admit this sometimes because of how (understandably) miserable it can be for many women, but I loved being pregnant. I felt beautiful, feminine, and powerful.
I loved giving birth. It changed my life and showed me strength and resilience I didn’t know I had.
While it’s no doubt challenging, I love being a part of raising these two little people into empathetic, capable, and good human beings.
That being said, I always believed that, when we were done having kids, we would “just know”. After all, that’s what I’ve been told by numerous friends (not to mention my own mother!)– many of whom birthed their first or second child, and shortly after sent their husbands for the good ol’ snip snip. They “just knew”, and assured me that I would, too. They seemed to have this peace and finality that I always imagined I’d have.
I honestly don’t think that feeling will ever come for me.
The decision to have one child was obvious for my husband and I. So was the choice to have a second. But a third? Early in our marriage, I thought we would have a larger family. But after three miscarriages, fertility treatments, the stress of precarious and risky pregnancies, and the exhaustion that comes from living in the trenches with newborns and infants, we became less and less certain.
A truth I’ve come to be at least a little more comfortable with is that I’m not at my best when I have a newborn. Neither is my marriage, which is the thing I treasure most about my life. Sleep deprivation, colic, and hormones seem to dictate most of the interactions within our household in those first months, and often, it’s not pretty. As much as I relish those early days, so much so that it nearly chokes me up, we’re just not at our healthiest with a tiny baby in the house.
I don’t like feeling perpetually short on patience.
I don’t like snapping at my husband at 3 am.
I don’t like asking everyone, and everything, to wait while I do xyz for the baby.
I’m the type of person who is uncomfortable throwing large get togethers because I can’t possibly make time to connect on a special level with each and every person there. Oh, the number of parties I’ve left feeling anxious! Translated into motherhood, wrong or right, this looks like not giving each and every member of my family the love and attention they deserve, which leaves me feeling like a failure.
I have gone back and forth in my heart too many times to count. Weeks, even months of, “One more. Just one more.” were followed by weeks and months of, “This is it. We’re done. This is our family.”
But so often, like last night at dinnertime, I look to my left, and to my right, and think, “This life I have is better than I could have imagined. I am so happy.” And it’s true. It’s contentment.
Maybe that’s what I need to lean into.
The other night, my husband and I were sitting on our bed and talking as the kids played in the other room. All of a sudden, they rushed in and jumped into bed with us, and we wrestled and tickled bellies and laughed, tucked in together. This is not at all uncommon, but I remember looking over and realizing that the bed was full… and so were our hearts.
The sight of wrist rolls and gummy smiles.
The whiff of a newborn’s warm, milky head.
When it’s the middle of the night, just you and your baby, rocking while the world sleeps.
These are the things that I know I’ll never be over. They’ll always inspire longing somewhere deep inside of me.
Even more gut-level is the fear of not being needed any longer.
I think I’ve realized that it’s going to hurt. I’ll most likely always long for tiny arms wrapped tight around my neck, the sound of a tiny voice saying “mama”. The bedtime requests for “one more song” or “one more book”, just to steal a few more minutes together.
The longing will always be there, of that I’m certain.
Maybe that just means I’m all in; that I’ve found pieces of myself in this role. That I’ve allowed it to change me, and I’ve seen how beautiful all of the giving can be. It’s not at all that I don’t enjoy where my preschool and school-aged kids are at- in fact, I often say they just get more and more wonderful- it’s more that I am becoming better acquainted with the fact that it goes so damn fast.
Whether we cease adding to our family or have several more children, I find rest in knowing that, sometimes, people just live in a place of tension and conflict… and maybe that’s okay.
Rachel is a wife and mother living in Raleigh, North Carolina. She’s a fan of good coffee, wearer of gray t-shirts, and is constantly starting books she will never finish. Her family is her joy, and she loves to engage with other moms and dads on matters of parenting. Her blog posts have also been featured on the Today Show Parenting Blog and Scary Mommy.