No More Babies: How I Really Feel (Last Child Grief)

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Thoughts at 4 Months Postpartum

I only have two children, and two will be my only. We always planned to have two kids for the usual reasons: financial resources, practicality, health reasons, familiarity, and so on.

This pregnancy and postpartum were much different than the first. I suspect it has much to do with knowing they’ll be my last.

I feel the postpartum slipping away. My youngest is now four months old, which means a little more than a trimester ago he was playing, breathing, wriggling, and listening in my womb.

For these past months I’ve watched my body turn into something blooming and abundant to swollen and rumpling to deflated and limp, stressed from constant demands upon it and weak from the the endless drill of late nights and early mornings. I’ve felt unmotivated to move into a new chapter, for I know once that happens, I won’t get to call myself ‘newly postpartum.’ In my case, not ever again.

This is now the body I’m left with. Rather, this is the body I get to keep. I’ve got more skin than I had before, a herniated navel, and my hair seems to be grieving with me as it sheds like a willow in the fall.

I think I’ll say I’m no longer ‘postpartum’ when my linea nigra disappears. The first time it took a year. I think that’s when I’ll stop telling people “I just had a baby…”

Right now my body is a signpost of declarations that say this shop is closed, be back soon. I know better because my intentions are steps ahead; I know the shop is closed indefinitely.

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At 12 Months Postpartum

Some say a baby becomes a toddler when he turns one. Others say this happens when he begins to walk. In either case, there will be no more babies here.

I was really looking forward to my son’s first birth anniversary party (birthday, solar return, what have you). We partied, packed up, went home… and I found myself hit with a wave of depression. He is my last baby. He was. And his babyhood has passed us by. He is my toddler now. No more babies here.

I suppose my husband already went through all of this when he had a vasectomy because he says he isn’t experiencing any ‘last child grief.’ Perhaps it is more a sense of ‘last child relief’ on his side of the island.

This grief is a loosening of trained ligaments still attached to big hopes and dreams, big possibilities that became reality upon acquiring the shape of two little people. I try explaining to others how my sadness is not a sign of regret or remorse over the decision to raise two-plus-none, but maybe it must be personally felt to be fully understood.

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I’ll never be pregnant or feel a baby move inside me again.

It’s okay, because I’ll never forget the feeling. I consciously decided my last pregnancy would be my last. I spent countless hours savoring his movements and etching these sensations into my memory. I’ve even experienced a few phantom unborn baby kicks (no, it’s not gas, alright? Stahhhp :-P).

I’ll never give birth again.

It’s okay, because it only took two to break my soul apart and make me better for it.

Birth is amazing. So, so damn amazing, however it happens and whatever becomes of it. And we know so little about it! I mean, we think we do, but really, we don’t. I’ve always craved a good mystery. Birth is also a bit sci-fi, some horror, much drama, definitely comedy in there especially in hindsight. And romance — that rosy, heart-pumping glow of bringing life outward. Birth is inspiring. So damn inspiring.

Birth is most excruciating and most ecstatic. Birth gave me the reassurance that I have the right and power to feel everything on maximum frequency at once and it all came from within. Birthing women are their own spotlight.

Of course the feeling in my heart says yes — birth was really that amazing, wasn’t it? No wonder women are so protective of their body’s wisdom to birth.

But the voice in my head says no — I don’t even want to do the birth thing again! I did it one way then another and I’m happy with where both processes took me. I told my husband after my homebirth: “That was so perfect, I don’t need to do it again. Nothing could top it.”

I’ll never have a daughter.

(Unless my kids later inform me I’ve mistaken their gender, which, of course, is not out of the realm of possibility).

My desire to be a parent of one sex or gender over the others has always been unremarkably neutral. But this certainty of “I’ll never” makes me pause. I have asked myself, “Does it matter?” The answer, to me, is no.

The things usually relegated to the feminine realm of experience aren’t necessarily begotten just because I have two boys. We’ll still talk about menstruation, early relationships, healthy sexuality, childbirth, and other things everyone needs to learn about regardless where they fall on the sex and gender wheel.

I don’t feel I’m missing out on dress shopping or bonding over manicures, because I identify as a ‘girl’ and these aren’t even my own interests! I’m not passing along any family heirlooms based on genitalia. My older son already steals my heels any chance he gets and my toddler boy can’t keep his fingers out of my jewelry box. Clearly these aren’t ‘daughter things’ and I’d prefer to keep the jewel thievery to a minimum anyway, thankyouverymuch.

So what else is there beyond assumed stereotypical activities and behaviors? Can’t we all just hate glitter together? (I mean really, it gets everywhere!).

I’ll never do all the newborn things.

I’ll never hold my own babies again, still contained in their infant bodies. I’ll never nurse my own babies or cuddle up at night to my own babies, breathing their tiny breaths. I still nurse them and sleep with them but that fragile, still tenderness of infancy is gone.

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At 17 Months Postpartum

The linea nigra disappeared without my notice. Did it happen months ago? Weeks? Yesterday?

So I no longer call myself ‘postpartum’ or say “I just had a baby.” I will never know the last time I got to say it.

My body seems to disagree however as moon time still eludes me. I didn’t see red until 24 months postpartum with my first child; we’re at 17 now and my body is still holding off.

But I’m done growing children. They’re on their own in that department (okay I’ll feed them now and again, but you know). Now I’m raising them. I’ve left a lot of baby groups and new mother networking forums. I avoid the local birth center at all costs because I can smell the fresh new babies a mile away and that scent…just the knowledge of its presence… it triggers something that could be pain, but I won’t get close enough to find out.

I see the scenery changing around me; the world of new motherhood drops out of view a little more each day. And I’m not yet sure what awaits in its absence.

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