Closing The Door Of Childbearing

Oh, the love...

Seen through the lens of transitions, life is a series of doors. The door of childhood closes as the door of adolescence opens. The door of being single shuts to reveal the open door of married life. The door of winter falls asleep as spring’s door awakens.

A client who I had counseled through the wedding and motherhood transitions wrote to me about a year ago after having her third child to ask, “How do I know when I’m done having kids? I love having babies and I imagine it’s a transition of its own with real grief when I decide not to have any more kids.” Faced with this transition myself, her words have reverberated several times in my mind over the last several months.

Like the decision to marry and the decision to become a mother, there’s an internal place that knows I’m done having kids. But even as I write that, I feel the pangs of loss and grief rise up in me. I look over at my nearly one year old baby (almost not a baby anymore) playing with his infant car seat on the floor and smiling up at me with that pure, radiant, baby grin, and my heart melts, my mommy hormones kick in, and I think, “How can I shut the door on bringing in another miracle?” But that’s just hormones and a temporary emotional state. My mind and my deepest self know I’m done. And that brings grief.

One of the biggest misconceptions I encounter in my work with clients is the belief that if they’re feeling sad that means they shouldn’t be getting married or changing jobs or whatever the transition may be. We live in a trust-your-gut culture that uses happiness as the guidepost which causes us to jump to the erroneous conclusion that if you’re sad, you shouldn’t be doing it. The simple truth is that sadness is present with any loss; the misconception is that we usually don’t associate life transitions like wedding and having a baby with loss. Even when we’re leaving a job we loathe or a city we can’t stand, there’s still loss in that we’re leaving something familiar.

Sometimes when a decision is this big the acceptance of the final choice comes in stages, like a series of windows closing before arriving at the last door. I see families of three and I wonder. I see three grown sons, tall and handsome, sitting at a dinner table with their elderly parents, and I wonder. I see little girls and I breathe into the acceptance that I will never mother a girl. Each window is a possibility – could I walk through it?

In my core, I know my time for mothering new babies is over. I feel blessed to have experienced two healthy pregnancies and births, I cherish the kids I have, and I know that new doors are waiting to open, doors that can only open when I have the space and time to devote to the next stage of my life.

But oh, the love…

Comments >> Closing The Door Of Childbearing

  • Lisa

    but oh, the love! thank You, Sheryl, for all of these beautiful posts… reading them is like viewing rich and transformational paintings… we can travel and be and process right along with you and allow our own unique experience to inform us too… I love your exclamation “but oh, the love!” wonderful

    with Gratitude,

  • Thank you, Lisa, for your sweet words : )

  • Lindsey

    i really liked the part above a/b the misconception w/ sadness. i think thats so true. good to point that out!

    • Thanks, Lindsay. Yes, so often we think that if we’re sad about something it means we shouldn’t do it: “‘I’m sad about leaving my job even thought I hate it so maybe that means I should stay” – when really it’s so normal to feel sad about ANY ending or any time we let go.

  • […] there’s some natural grief at saying no to welcoming another life, my husband and I have closed the door on childbearing. So why the thoughts? It’s the mind’s way of processing a loss. The fantasies arrive in […]

  • Moms of Four! or More

    This is a wonderful blog post – I am a 41 year old mother of four precious gifts and the baby of a large family. I have been sad this past year of closing the door on my childbearing years and never dreamed it would be so hard to move forward. My last pregnancy was twins and I think losing one of the babies during the pregnancy has been harder for me than I ever thought. I would LOVE to have a fifth, but I love my husband so much and know this not for him. He has enough on his plate. But it is hard and I pray each day to find excitement over the next stage in my life! Thank you for sharing your thoughts. It is nice to connect with other women who feel the same way as so many women you meet are quick to say they’re done.

    • Thank you for this lovely comment, and how blessed you are to have four precious gifts! It makes a lot of sense that you’re grieving the fifth given that you lost a baby during pregnancy. I would guess that in order to close the door completely that grief will need to be thoroughly processed (if it hasn’t been already).

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