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I Can’t Have Any More Children

And I don’t mind it, but I do, all at once.

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no, children, illustration, parenting, allegra lockstadt
Allegra Lockstadt
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I remember when I was pregnant with my younger daughter. At the pediatrician’s office for my older daughter’s checkup, I told the doctor I was pregnant.

“The decision going from one to two is easy,” she said. “The hard decision is whether to go to three.”

I didn’t think the decision to have three would be difficult at all. But then, it came time to make that choice, and the decision felt exactly as the pediatrician had predicted. From the time my younger daughter turned 1, I toiled over whether to have that third. 

Every day — it seemed — for a couple of years, I flip-flopped. Yes, I wanted one more. Then, many days I knew I had more than my share of children. They were busy. And loud. They cried. They needed me constantly.

But then, there were many more days of glorious parenthood.

Because we had gone through infertility treatment, having another wasn’t simply a toss of contraceptives. (Had that been our case, I’m sure there would have been a third and maybe even a fourth.) “You’ll have to go through treatment again,” my husband said. The treatment for my younger daughter had been rough. “I wouldn’t mind it to have another baby.” “What if it’s twins?” my husband asked.

Our younger daughter had been a twin, and the other hadn’t survived my first trimester. I had been scared of having twins. If I went through treatment, the prospect of twins might send me over the edge.

I just wanted three kids. I thought three was a great number. Just one more, I told myself more than once.

My husband wasn’t dying for a third, but he wasn’t opposed to it, either. If I had really wanted it, I could have convinced him. 

But … something held me back. Then the girls were in elementary school, and I was so busy volunteering there and enjoying parenting them that I decided I wouldn’t actually go forward with a third, but I wouldn’t be upset if we magically got pregnant on our own.  

And then my sweet girls were teenagers. I could barely hold on as they wound their way through the difficult teen years. No way was I having any more. I wanted to go forward, not look backward.

So, I realized in my early 40s, I wasn’t having any more children. I was OK with that. Frankly, I think I had been OK with it all along. But still, in my 40s, I knew I could get pregnant. It had happened to many other women. But I’m happy it didn’t for me. Financially, a third would have been too much to handle.  Emotionally, probably, too. And though I loved being a mother and wondered who that third child would have been, I was — at times — worn out from giving my two girls everything I wanted for them. A third would have taken away a part of me from them, and I couldn’t stand that thought.

And now it’s many years later. I’m entering menopause. One child lives in another state, the other in another country. I have friends and activities and volunteer work. At night, my husband and I sit on the couch with folding tables, dinner before us. I don’t cook if I don’t feel like it (which is a lot, I admit). We watch our TV shows. We’re not bathing anyone or reading bedtime stories or struggling over homework.

Really, all this time I thought it was my decision. No more children. Now 53, I realize my chances for that last baby died at least 10 years ago. And I was — and I am — fine with it.

But then I start really thinking ... I am not going to have any more children. And now it’s not my choice. It’s what I chose at one time, but it’s also something I can’t have now if I decided I did want it. That time of my life is over.

I still feel young. I feel like if I wanted another child, I could have one. Sometimes I see pregnant women or young families with 3- and 2- and 1-year-olds and think, That was a nice time. But my mind colors over the hard times, as minds are bound to do. I can’t have children anymore. And now it’s not my choice. But it’s what is there … in front of me. 

And I don’t mind it, but I do, all at once. I have to move forward, so I look to having grandchildren one day. I look forward to the many years of travel and adventures and excitement my husband and I will have. I look forward to so many things. So, looking back won’t help. I can’t have any more children. And that’s it.