How to know when you're done having babies

Kinderling News & Features

A friend of mine just had her third child, a gorgeous little baby boy called Billy. I nursed him the other day and he fell asleep in my arms.

My youngest is now four, but I remember very clearly the feeling of his small body in my arms and how his eyes used to flutter shut as I fed him to sleep.

This friend of mine has made it very clear that this baby will be her last - she is done and dusted, and triumphantly so. After the months of pregnancy, the rigours of childbirth and now the sleepless nights and hours of breastfeeding she is finally able to say “I am done”.

Apart from the immediate hours after labouring my son into the world, I can’t say that I have had that same sense of finality. I do, however, have many good reasons why we stopped at two.

1. Financial insecurity

Like more and more women in Australia, I started having my babies later in life. My first child was born when I was 35, then my son was born when I was 37. Having them at that age interrupted my career in a frightening way.

 There was a lot of uncertainty around how we would financially support our little family and having another child would have prolonged my (or my husband’s) time outside of the work force and made it harder to meet our bills.

A third child would also mean a new car, somewhere with more space to hold them all, and eventually another round of childcare costs. All of which seemed beyond our means.

2. Two children, two hands to hold them

Having one child seemed challenging enough, but when we added a second to the mix we couldn’t believe how easy we had it with one! How on earth would we keep three alive?!

At one point, I asked my children whether they’d like another sibling, to which my daughter replied “No, because they would get all the attention”.

In her own way she had hit the nail on the head. I couldn’t get my head around having time and energy for three children; three separate little souls who need my love and attention.

We already have our hands full with two. 

3. I am now over 40

Shudder. Yes. I am now officially middle-aged. Apart from the risks associated with being an (even older) mother than the first-time round, there is also the fact that I feel like I’ve finally found my feet.

I’ve found my feet in my career, in my parenting (at least most days) and in my life generally. I’ve had my body back for almost three years now and I’m not keen to give it away again.

Then there’s the morning sickness, and the sleepless nights, and the sore and pummeled body.

How could I go back to that?

And yet, I still wonder…

Some parents know very definitively that they have had the exact number of children they want, from those who choose to have one child, to those who have six.

But even though I have many good reasons for why we stopped at two, I’m not sure I will ever have that certainty - was there a third little soul who was waiting to join our family?

Perhaps it’s just romantic longing. A thought like a cloud that drifts through the sky and it’s gone - still, it makes my heart ache a little bit.

It’s something I’ve thought about from time to time, usually when I’ve held a gorgeous newborn in my arms, smelt that 'new baby' smell and felt their little fingers curling around mine.

I thought by now I would feel the finality of finishing my baby-making days.

But I’m coming to realise that’s just not me, and I need to be ok with that.

It’s not a mistake that we didn’t have a third, it’s just how life panned out. I’m not sad that we stopped at two, my life is full and happy with the children I have.  

Maybe it’s just that our lives are full of unanswered questions, and this is just one of mine.