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The Done-With-Kids Blues

Courtesy of Sasha Emmons

My 3-year-old son Julian cries out in the middle of the night. “Mommy, I don’t like these pajamas anymore,” he says when I go to him. I pull them off, help him into a two-piece pair, and tuck him back in.

I climb back into my own bed and it hits me: no one in my household will wear footie pajamas ever again. The thought is so shockingly bittersweet I spend the next 45 minutes with a pillow over my head. 

I have two children, a boy and a girl, and I know for sure our family is complete. Four is a nice even number, with a (usually) manageable 1:1 parent-to-child ratio. Four means a car that’s not too big to park on city streets. Four means we can all squish together on one couch. Four means one packet of boneless chicken breasts, not one and a quarter so you’re left with three random chicken breasts, and who knows what to do with that?

I love being a mother, but I don’t have an ounce of Michelle Duggar in me. Usually my children are considerate enough to take turns with their difficult phases, but some days their moods and volume and requests and chaos threaten to swallow me up.

But I notice those rough days are fewer and farther between now, with Chloe almost 8 and Julian an expressive, semi-reasonable preschooler. Everyone sleeps. No one needs a stroller. The kids travel well. We have friends over for dinner, and the little people often keep themselves busy enough for the adults to hold a conversation. No one poops on the couch.

I can’t go back to a time where there’s poop on the couch.

We are enough. Some days we are more than enough. I can’t imagine starting the clock again.

And yet, seeing a woman with a baby in a Bjorn or with a basketball belly can gut me. She’s in the midst of a miracle. That will never be me again.

Even if I wanted that to be me again, it never can. My body sucks at pregnancy. It took longer than normal to get pregnant at 29. By 32, getting pregnant involved fertility drugs that made me feel like a lunatic.  After two years, I got pregnant…but went into labor 15 weeks too early. My labor was stopped, and I spent the rest of the pregnancy in bed. The day after my son was born, miraculously only 6 weeks early, my OB sat on the side of my hospital bed, patted my thigh, and said,  “Honey, we need to talk about more kids.” I knew by then that when your OB calls you “honey,” the news is never good. With a very small but perfect baby in the NICU upstairs, her strong recommendation to shut down the baby factory sat just fine with me.

It still does. And yet.

I remember a similar unexpected letdown after I got married. I’d found the most amazing partner, and had a great party with all my friends and family in one place—what could possibly be wrong? But it was sobering to realize something you’d anticipated your whole life had passed.

A few months later, we started trying for a baby.

Is it natural to spend so much energy anticipating life’s next monumental event? My husband and I spend an embarrassing amount of time fantasizing about retirement, still many years away. While I think traveling to Tuscany or Sedona or Australia will be exciting, it don’t think it will be transcendent. After all, what can top growing a person? It might be the most profound thing a person can ever do, and it’s behind me now.

A few weeks after his middle-of-the-night wake-up, Julian asked to wear his footie pajamas again. He’s tall for 3, the baby chub having long melted away. However, he’s still got a plump, doughy belly of which he’s immensely proud. I sneak in a few zerberts before zipping up his sleeper. He crawls into bed and rubs his blankie against his face. 

I might have a few weeks of footie pajamas left.

In the mean time, I’m working on a new addition to our family: a dog.