I’ve seen many people ask on social media “how do you know when you’re done having kids?” I’m not sure there is a right or wrong answer to this question, but I will say that the answer for me came by examining what I thought was best for me and my family.
“You lucked out! You have one of each.”
“One boy, one girl. You have the million dollar family.”
These two statements have been made in reference to why I might be done having kids. The thing is though, the fact that I have a son and a daughter is not why I decided to stop having children. In fact, if I’d had two boys or two girls I still would have stopped at two kids, even though when I originally thought about starting a family years ago I imagined having three children.
I love kids, and there are still moments when I’m around a baby that my heart pangs and my uterus skips a beat. My mind will be brought right back to how it felt when I was pregnant and my little baby moved inside; how my heart swelled every time I had an ultrasound and heard that amazing heartbeat. I’ll remember those sweet moments of cuddling my newborn and feeling them breathe against my chest, or those first smiles, giggles, and words. Whenever I’m brought back to that time and place in my life I feel a little bit sad that I stopped at two; that I didn’t go for that third child like I had once imagined.
Making the choice to have children is a big decision, but it was one that came to me easily. I’ve always known that I wanted to be a mother, even though I can’t exactly pinpoint when I knew. I just did. I felt it right to the core of my being. Making the decision to stop having children is just as big a deal as deciding to have them, and it was a choice that was more difficult for me than I thought.
After having my first born I experienced depression in a way I never imagined I could. There were moments that I felt so disconnected from my sweet baby boy; moments that I truly believed he deserved a better mother than me. My darkest day during that first year of his life was when I actually considered leaving my son and husband behind; just running away, because surely they’d be better off. That was when I knew I needed help and I started seeing a therapist.
I didn’t experience PPD quite as strongly after having my daughter, but it came. I was better equipped this time, with knowing the signs and recognizing when I had to do something about it to make sure I didn’t let the depression take over. It was during my second try at therapy that I realized something very important about having more children: I truly didn’t feel that I was mentally and emotionally able to.
I’m sure people would tell me “you’re stronger than you think. You could handle it.” Or perhaps even, “if you really want another baby why not just go for it. You’ll be fine.” And to be honest, I have heard some variation of these statements. But when it comes right down to it, my gut instinct tells me that I wouldn’t be able to handle adding a third child to the mix, and given the mental and emotional state I’ve been in for over a year now, battling depression again, I believe my gut instincts are right.
Being a mom of two while struggling with depression is hard enough as it is. Most days it feels so damn overwhelming. In fact, the thought of having to do this motherhood thing with a third child around brings on some serious feelings of anxiety and panic. Every day I work hard at coping with my emotions, striving to keep my depression in check and managing the roller coaster of feelings I experience. I have reached a point in my life, in my existence as a mother, that I need to put more focus on my well-being. Having another a little person to care for and give my time to is not something I’m willing to sacrifice my mental health for. I’ve spent too much time in the past ignoring my needs to put others first. If I’m going to be a good mother to my son and daughter, as I so very much want to be, I have to bring myself higher on my list of priorities.
And so despite the fact that I still sometimes daydream about having another baby; that I sometimes imagine if he or she would have looked like me or my husband; that I sometimes wonder how that little one would have interacted with my two existing children — when it came time to make a choice I had to say, I’m sorry baby number three, I choose me.