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Closing The Chapter: A Mother’s Perspective On Her Last Pregnancy

One mother explores the age-old question: How do you know when you’re done having kids — and how to come to terms with the answer.

Closing The Chapter: A Mother’s Perspective On Her Last Pregnancy

Susan Rosemeier

I have been pregnant or breastfeeding for the past six years. I’m expecting our last little one this holiday season: the key word being last. It’s the end of a chapter, the bittersweet anticipation of closing the door on having babies and instead focusing on raising them.

A question often seen floating around parenting blogs and groups: how do you know when you’re done?

It’s a great question because there is no real answer. Some people know; other people will struggle with knowing — sometimes, the decision is made for us based on extenuating circumstances. But it’s a question often brought up because it matters. It’s important. So often, we can downplay the seemingly small choices and decisions that we internally wrestle with. But we can look at those dilemmas as clues. Clues to our values hint as to what deeply matters to us. They give us more information about ourselves and our hopes and dreams.

I’ve always known that I wanted lots of kids. Growing up as one of five, I couldn’t imagine anything other than a handful of children running around someday. I’m incredibly grateful when I think about the future as the four begin growing into young adults and forming unique lives and relationships. Nevertheless, something must be said for the melancholy of a new season.

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Relief and grief go hand-in-hand

As a psychotherapist, I often explore the internal conflict of two seemingly opposing emotions with patients. On the one hand, I hold relief that this stage of constant change and exhaustion is coming to a close. On the other is a kind of grief. A sadness that I’m also growing older. My babies are growing bigger. Instead of looking forward to being a mother someday, I already AM a mom. It’s a strange feeling to catch myself realizing I don’t quite fit into the “young adult” category anymore.

When people ask if this is my first, it’s both amusing and sad when I tell them the reality. Amusing because you can see the sparkle in their eye as they assume they have some secret knowledge you haven’t yet experienced. Sad because they often change their expression when they realize it’s the fourth. Sometimes it’s just a surprise. Sometimes it’s judgment. Sometimes bewilderment. With my first, I was free just to be excited, and strangers felt free to be excited for me. I knew I would (probably) get to experience this all over again. I could enjoy it, not overthink it. But this time is different. This time there won’t be another.

Author Susan's two children playing outside Susan Rosemeier

Feeling all the feelings

Two important ways to work through these conflicting roller coasters of emotion are by allowing yourself to feel and acknowledge the grief and by reminding yourself and letting yourself daydream about what’s to come.

Let’s start with the former. Child-bearing is a season, and therefore there is an inevitable end. There are a lot of “lasts.” The last of the squishy leg rolls, the contact naps, the delicious newborn scent and nursing them to sleep. The last first steps and the last first words. I anticipate holding back tears as I pack up baby clothes and donate toys and equipment.

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There are also changes coming for my current children. Their roles will shift, as will their relationships with one another and with us as their parents. My middle will no longer really be a “middle.” My oldest will have yet another sister instead of his hoped-for brother. The youngest will get her baby title revoked.

While preparing for those changes, I’m reminded that it’s the last time I will feel these tumbling kicks and somersaults inside my belly. Maybe it’s time to slow down and take time to feel that, as well. Being pregnant the first time around allowed me to notice and appreciate all the changes my body was going through. It also meant the ability to take naps, rest when needed, and enjoy this new stage of life. This time around, I can’t remember the last time I got any restful sleep or felt cute walking around in public with an obviously growing belly.

As I write this, I'm aware of heartburn in my throat and fifteen extra pounds. But I also feel a few strong kicks and the pitter-patter of movement, signalling another little life developing inside me. She’s already here, even if not yet running around with her siblings. And therein lies number two: remembering what I’m looking forward to and the newness ahead.

Author Susan and her husband on their wedding day Susan Rosemeier

Embracing change

Bittersweet has never been a more accurate term. I’m ready to have my body back. I am grateful to be over the all-day nausea. I’m looking forward to rebuilding a wardrobe not based on constantly fluctuating sizes. Thirty-five will be my new twenty-five.

While the baby’s siblings will go through a big change, there is so much goodness to look forward to. My oldest gets to solidify his special only-boy status. He’s the best big brother to his sisters, and it will only work to soften his heart and nurture parts of him that may otherwise be hardened. The middle child is a like a second mother. She’s already saying how much she loves the baby, and I can’t wait to include her in the day-to-day caretaking tasks. As for the youngest, the wild card: her favourite thing in the world is to spot babies in the wild. She’s drawn to them and seemingly already understands a little girl is growing inside her momma. I’m nearly certain she will fit into her big sister role seamlessly.

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Beyond just the physical and sibling relational changes, I’ll wake up one day, and it’ll just be myself and my husband. The marriage dynamic changes with children, and with it comes the inevitable pros and cons. There’s another part of me that can’t wait until we can enjoy the versions of ourselves who’ve weathered the highs and lows of creating and raising children together. I’m different than the twenty-something he married. He’s different, too. Wiser. Different is good. Different is exciting. And when the sad, nostalgic moments creep in, or maybe just during complete chaos, those are future somethings to daydream about.

So, for now, I’ll take a deep breath and remind anyone that may find themselves in a similar season that it’s okay to feel it all. There’s no right and no wrong. There’s excitement, and there’s also some sadness. It’s all part of this beautiful chapter of having and raising children.

Author:

Susan Rosemeier is a Licensed Professional Counselor and owner of Connect & Grow Counseling in southwestern Pennsylvania. She specializes in relationship issues as well as parenting, family, and anxiety. She has also been married for over a decade and is a mother of four.

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