Not too long ago, I was at a newborn session at my studio. I was sitting on the floor with my knees bent up towards the ceiling and my feet flat on the floor a few feet in front of me, providing a nice incline and cozy space to meet the new little babe in front of me and gently rock him side to side while I swaddled him for his first set up. I like to take a few minutes to say hi to each baby, welcome them earth side and to look at all of their tiny and perfect features – what do they really look like? I want to capture that in the images. At every session, I take macro shots of each baby’s eyelashes, lips, nose, ears, hair, hands and toes. These are always some of my favorite images. Because they are purely about the baby and not the props, background, fur, blanket, layers, headband, hat, etc.
As I sat there meeting this perfect new human and looking at his tiny little fingers, I was struck by the enormity of it all, as I often am. But this time it felt different. I wanted one. I *wanted* one of these new babies. Physically, I felt it. My body was yearning to grow and birth a soul into the world. Again. Sigh. . . .
What was I thinking? I already have two perfect little humans. A 5 year old son and a 19 month old daughter. And I’m 36 (not too far off from 37, Eek!). And I’m tired and work a lot and the days fly by in mostly manageable chaos. And did I mention I’m tired? And approaching what used to be known as “over the hill” and already what the OB world calls advanced maternal age. And frankly, some (albeit, very rare) days I don’t enjoy parenting. Like, at all. It’s exhausting and thankless and sometimes I don’t know if I’m even doing anything right. And if I was being even more completely honest, some days I might also feel *slightly* resentful of the fact that I wasn’t able to get enough work done that day, that I wasn’t reaching my goals quickly enough or that my body is so different from what it used to be. (It’s a hard balance to maintain, especially for someone who has always been goal driven – motherhood and career – but that’s a whole separate post.)
But yet, there I sat, probably a little too long (as we need to take advantage of every minute the baby is peacefully asleep!), and I couldn’t help myself. I *reallllly* wanted another baby. I wanted to be pregnant again. I wanted to experience the anticipation of reading the pregnancy tests and the first ultrasound, seeing the heartbeat for the first time pitter pattering. I wanted to feel the flutter of a little one moving inside my body – the experience is surreal. My son’s birth was traumatic but my daughter’s was healing and I felt like a warrior that could move mountains. I want that again. The weeks after my daughter’s birth was the happiest I’ve ever been in my life. (Not that I wasn’t happy after my son was born but I was recovering from a long and strenuous labor followed by a c-section and honestly, I suffered from mild postpartum depression). But after my daughter, I focused on nothing but the joy I felt snuggling her, nursing her, getting to know her, watching her big brother interact and shower her with love. Every second was amazing. I didn’t worry about work or my career or the future or my other usual stressors. I was truly living IN the moment, for maybe the first time in my life. I knew those things would all be there but right then, at that time, I was with her and my new family of four. I want that again.
I sometimes feel a little sad when I see other glowing mommies or when I talk to my clients during maternity sessions about how amazing it is to be pregnant and the overwhelming joy one feels meeting their baby for the very first time, because I won’t be able to experience that again.
But yet, there is no logical reason why I should have another child.
Someone once said to me that many people find their life’s purpose in having and raising children. But for me, it wasn’t the case. I love my children dearly and I would do anything for them, but I have not stopped wondering what the purpose of my life is. Why are we here on earth and how do we make our stay here meaningful? (And let’s not turn this into a discussion of creation or God, please and thank you!). And if I don’t know the answer, why should I bring another life into this world just to give my life purpose?
There are many considerations when deciding whether to have more children. For me, money and time are the big factors because I want to provide my kids with the things I didn’t have as a child (which I think is totally normally and most parents set out to give their kids more than they had). The thought of a third car seat in a bigger car, 3 school tuitions, 3 prepaid college funds, 3 savings accounts, 3 sets of homework, 3 sets of extracurricular activities, being able to spend enough time with each child . . . its all a little overwhelming for me to think about and comprehend.
So many people say that you just “know” when your family is complete – you *feel* it when you are done and you just know. You just know . . . Well I haven’t felt that yet. I don’t know.
But I’ve always had trouble making major decisions, mostly because I have a hard time following my gut instincts vs. what my practical brain is telling me. They conflict, I analyze, I talk, I read, I analyze some more. And maybe months or years later something will finally “feel” right, pushing me one way or the other and I’ll make a decision.
I ask myself again, What was I thinking? But that’s the whole point. I wasn’t thinking. I was feeling. . . . our innate need to procreate is real. The biological clock is real. Because there is absolutely no practical reason why I should have another child. I won’t be having any more children, it makes sense for us to stick with our two. We’ve decided this, I’ve accepted this, and yet here I am, with an intense desire to have another baby.
And that intense desire is soon replaced by sadness.
There comes a point in life, when you transition away from the child birthing years and you move onto the preschool phase of raising children, and then the elementary years and so on. No more diapers, no more cribs, no more nursing. Instead there are toddler and twin beds, and kids wiping their own bottoms, and homework, and developing personalities and made up knock knock jokes, and family vacations enjoyed by all. And conversations. Being able to converse with your child, truly converse while they reveal their newly-formed thoughts and opinions about random topics is a magical thing. So enjoyable watching children blossom.
I am deeply saddened that I will not have any more children, that I will not experience the complete and utter miracle of pregnancy and the teeth-gritting and give-it-all-you’ve got labor and birth of a new soul into the world. That I will not snuggle and smell a brand-new nursling, that I will not live in that suspended time of complete joy and happiness in postpartum delirium with people bringing me home-cooked meals and cleaning my house while I focus on the baby. At the same time, I remind myself to feel grateful for even having the chance to have the two healthy babies that I had, as I know not everyone has that chance. (That’s motherhood for you – a storm of emotions: love, joy, guilt, frustration, etc.).
I’ve come to the conclusion that feeling that sadness is ok and if you feel sad about it too, you are not alone. From one mama to another, I am here to hold your hand, give you a virtual hug, and tell you, it’s ok to feel sad. We must honor the transitions in our lives. Just as the transition into motherhood rocked our world, the transition away from our child-birthing years and experiences can also rock our world. As we are not stationary in our roles as mothers. As the children grow, we grow. As they learn, we learn. Even though I am mourning the fact that I will never experience pregnancy and childbirth again, I am embracing and enjoying the evolution of my role as a mother and the evolution of the growth of my children. And I will continue to photograph glowing moms-to-be and new babes in all of their amazing and fascinating glory, and revel in the miracle of new life. Yes, that is how I will mourn, I will photograph more babies with all the love and intention I can muster
**Please note that while I write this, I understand and acknowledge that everyone has the right and ability to make the decision about how many children to have for themselves – everyone must do what is right for them and their family. I am not judging anyone who has made different choices. This is simply my experience, my thought process, my journey, and my decision.