The Bittersweet Feeling of Not Wanting a Baby

Everything about the small, warm bundle in my arms felt deeply familiar to me in a muscle-memory sort of way -- from how I'd instinctively reached to support his neck to the head-to-the-left position I automatically settled into. This perfect little baby boy our friends had welcomed into the world just three days beforehand was a beauty, and the tiny sleepy noises he made were as nostalgic and appealing as the milky-sweet scent of his head.

If ever there was going to be a time when biology might override my decision to be done having children, it seemed like this was it. Sitting in a chair, cradling a newborn, remembering the wild magic of those early days with our boys.

I smiled tenderly down at him, watched his rosebud mouth open into the world's tiniest yawn, and thought to myself, Oh, thank fucking GOD I get to hand you back in a few minutes.


So much for biology.

It wasn't really that I'd expected to feel some baby-making pangs -- it's been five years since my second son was born, and I can't really think of a single occasion when I'd considered having a third. We had always talked about having two children, and our family has felt complete in every way since.

My brother-in-law has an adorable toddler, and he's asked me a few times if playing with my nephew makes me miss the younger years. I always feel a little awkward after the inevitable passion of my response. I mean, "HELL no" seems like sort of an obnoxious thing to shout in someone's face, doesn't it?

It's just that hell no, I don't miss the younger years. I once described life with a 6-year-old and a 4-year-old as a "golden age," and I feel the same now that they're 7 and 5. They're so much fun these days, and while I wouldn't exactly describe life with two young boys as a serene yoga retreat complete with daily hot stone massages and calming Buddhist chants, it would be an understatement to say I prefer things as they are now compared to how they used to be.

Still, there's something bittersweet about realizing that I am, without a shadow of a doubt, past the baby-making years. It's maybe a little similar to what I imagine going through menopause will be like -- a feeling of both acknowledging my increasing age, and saying goodbye to my ability to produce children. Not that I would be physically incapable now if I removed all barriers (although who knows? I'm nearly 40, and it didn't exactly happen overnight six years ago when we were trying), but knowing in my heart that I'm done is still a goodbye in its own way.

Also -- and this is harder to explain -- I feel as though I am no longer part of a club, the community of moms who are trying for babies, have a baby, or plan to have more babies. I can't identify with the people who write "MY OVARIES ARE ACHING!!" in the comments section of adorable baby photos. I think, aw, cute baby ... but that's that. I never think, that baby makes me want to HAVE a baby. It's as though I've left my tribe ... and I'm a little lost in an in-between stage of having young kids but feeling so far past the moms-building-their-families world.

I don't miss having babies. But in some bizarre way, I do sort of miss wanting babies. Does that make any sense at all? I guess it's just that while I'm so glad for where I'm at, it's always a little hard to realize you've forever moved on from something. Life is about forward momentum, and in all things -- but maybe particularly parenting -- there's both comfort and sorrow to be found in the fact that it moves in one direction.

Did you ever have one specific moment when you knew you were done having children?

Image via Linda Sharps

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