I was told once, by a good family friend, that when you have your last baby you just know. Something deep inside you clicks and you know you’ve completed your family. I thought this sounded like a bit of bunkum, quite honestly and suspected that, like the age gap between her children which was carefully planned, it was merely a fact of having reached the previously agreed number of offspring and stopping – as planned.
Had I been asked about it before I would have told you that I wanted three children. I couldn’t say why, exactly. Four would probably have been nice too – I like the idea of a bigger family – but I knew we wouldn’t be able to afford four, so three seemed like a good compromise. Even as I reached the final weeks of my pregnancy with The Girl and, each time I whinged about wanting my baby out, the midwife told me to try and savour every moment of having my baby inside me because it might be the final time, I brushed her wise advice aside because I knew, didn’t I, that we’d be having one more – our last baby.
The birth wasn’t easy. She was born at home as planned but there were a couple of complications and we ended up in hospital anyway and I dramatically instructed The Man not to let me do that again. “No more children!” I pronounced in a self-sacrificing way, not able to deal with the thought of going through the process again but secretly thinking “I’m sure I can get past this really.” I questioned the midwives about whether anything could have been done differently (there wasn’t) or whether I could do something different next time to make things easier (nope), so I was obviously thinking about Baby no.3. That, after all, was our plan. The Man and I; we like our plans.
About a week after we came home from hospital, when The Girl was just two weeks old, we were all sitting in the childrens’ room to read bedtime stories. I don’t remember what the story was, but I remember where everyone was sitting. The Man sat on a chair with our baby on his lap, The Boy was snuggled under his duvet and I sat on the bed by his feet and I looked around at my family and… I knew. This was my family. Right here. I was done.
My eyes stung with tears. I felt a happy sense of completion but also a grief. The Girl was my last baby. It was here already. No more bump stroking. No more sorting tiny baby clothes. No more getting to know a brand new person. No more holding this fragile new body and wondering at the very newness of them. Every ‘first’, every ‘last’ that I have with my girl will be my last ‘first’, my last ‘last’. I’ve had my last baby.
There is a peculiar sense of grief associated with this recognition – mourning a whole stage of my life. Never again will I be a pregnant woman or a new mother. I’m on the next stage of my life now (the drama queen in me wants to call it the gradual decline into menopause but I try to resist her melodramatic take on life).
However, a few more weeks down the line and I’m also realising a sense of peace. We’ve made a decision – The Man feels the same sense of completion – and can look to the future now, and do. I’m excited about taking them on beach holidays – babies are not great on the beach. I’m looking forward to sharing the world with them: teaching them to love books, learning and exploring. All the great activities we’ll get to do together and the fun we’ll have as they grow. I also know how exceptionally lucky I am to have two healthy, beautiful children. Both me and The Girl hovered on the brink of life when she came into the world and I just cannot risk my life knowingly again, risk leaving my babies motherless.
Part of my acceptance comes from finding my own passion again. I am writing and I love it. It in no way comes from the fact that I have been blessed with ‘one of each’, despite other peoples’ casual assumption that this has something to do with it. I look forward to doing my posts each day and it’s not easy with a baby around – and gets exponentially harder with each additional child! Perhaps I can even make a career out of this thing that I love.
The main source of pain I have now is on behalf of the women who don’t get to choose, those who haven’t had ‘enough’, but have had to come to terms with two, or one, or no babies because of health or luck or circumstance. To those women my heart goes out – I am sorry.
To those of you who wonder, though, you will know. Believe me. When enough’s enough you’ll know that you’ve had your last baby.