Calling It Quits: When It's Time To Stop Having Children
February 9, 2015
I had just delivered my second son. He was wrapped in a blanket, with a tiny beanie on his matted, goopy head. I had literally just pulled this being from my body (you read correctly) when a nurse asked:
“Are you going to have another?”
In my post-delivery stupor, it took me a few moments to realize that she wasn’t asking me if I had any more in there. It wasn’t the last time people would ask me. I must have fielded this question 50 times during my maternity leave. Do I want more? Yes, absolutely. Are we going to try again? Not likely.
I should back it up a bit. Due to our age and a few medical hiccups, my partner and I had our children via IVF. As of today, we still have two fertilized embryos sitting in a storage facility, waiting to be thawed. Only we’re not going to be the ones thawing them.
All things being equal, we certainly want to add a third or even a fourth child to our family. We have the produce and we have the plumbing, right? I’ve wanted children for years and spent three of them steeped in medical intervention and heartbreaking failure in order to bring my sons into the world. We were very lucky to have our first, we were positively blessed to have a second. People tell us to be thankful for what we have, as though wanting more children would throw nature out of balance. It’s superstitious and obtuse to assume that because we have more love to give, more chambers of our hearts to fill, that we are somehow greedy and not thankful for the love we already have.
I want more kids. I really do. But here’s the reality: kids are expensive. It is virtually impossible to live in this city without a five-year plan that involves a bank heist or a lottery win. We have a house that fits everyone. Certainly it could contain one more, but if the cost of living goes up one more percent, I’d have to turn us into a performing family. My partner has a lot of talents, but Captain Von Trapp he is not.
The other reality is age. My husband and I are both in our 40’s. Kids are a young person’s game. I can’t see myself in 5 years dealing with cluster feedings, sleepless nights and dirty diapers. I’m so tired, people. So, so tired.
Several months ago, I received a bill from the facility that keeps our embryos to pay the annual storage fee. My partner, in one of his less sensitive moments, asked why we didn’t just donate them. After my third day of inconsolable tears, I think he realized that the situation was more nuanced. Donating baby clothes, knowing you will never again use the play mat or the tiny bucket seat that you brought your baby home in - these are small, sad moments filled with nostalgia. Donating frozen embryos is a line in the sand. It’s definitive and closes that door forever. There will be no more siblings, no more first moments, no more tiny pink and blue beanies.
In the meantime, I have another year to think about what to do with those embryos. Circumstances could change, sleep habits could improve, my boys could ask for a sister. You just never know. While I know in my brain that we are done having children, the message is taking a long, long time to get to my heart.