I have been having babies for a while, let's face it. I had a brief respite between marriages--Loli was four when Jaws was born. Jeff and I filled in that gap pretty thoroughly by bringing home two girls meant to be in our family that were born in another country when I couldn't have them myself. Yeah, some would object to my describing it that way, but that's how I feel things happened. Bella and MayMay are most certainly my daughters. The first time I saw their picture, I knew they were my daughters, and the sisters of the girls I had given birth to biologically.
Heavenly Father has a way of blessing you doubly when things have to come about through a veil of pain. These two girls ended up in my family where they belong, but along the way they collected another family who loves them dearly, and a rich, unique culture, which flavors and spices and blesses our family as well.
Since Jaws, though, I really haven't had a break. I've had a child under age two for the last solid eight years. And I haven't started realizing until recently, exactly how difficult it is to have children so young. They take all your attention. All of it. When they're infants, it's because you are holding and feeding them constantly. When they're a little older it's because you are making sure they don't die by rolling off stuff or falling down stairs or choking on things or drowning or being taken by people or gashing themselves with knives (several of my toddlers have had a fascination with knives.)
I'm realizing all this because we're sort of coming to the end of our planned family, Jeff and I. We talked, at the beginning, of having six children together. We're there. Another baby would make six for us since we married in 2005. (Nine total, of course.) And right now, I'm getting to that point of thinking of starting that process again--another kid. Possibly the last kid. Pending prayer and answers to prayer, of course.
In my religion, we believe that there are spirits up in heaven waiting for bodies. That to raise children right, with values, and love and covenants and saving ordinances inherent in our gospel, is the most important job we do. So for me, and others with my theology, the decision to *stop* having children is a very serious one. Perhaps stressful. Some are comfortable stopping when they feel their family is complete--they just feel good about it and don't question that. For others, it's an agonizing decision. And some feel that "stopping" isn't an option... they need to allow as many children to come as Heavenly Father will bring them.
Thus, Mormons and large families. (btw. I'm being honest and vulnerable here... no judgy comments about birth control or population control, please. I will delete them all!)
For me, the decision to be done has a bit more of an edge and urgency. My mother and i share a genetic condition that renders pregnancy dangerous. Because I knew about it before I started having children, I have been able to take preventative action and not suffer from the sorts of things my mother did having her children. But it is still dangerous. And the danger kind of multiplies with age. My mother had her last biological child at age 35, and nearly didn't make it. Her stake president, who was also her obstetrician, told her she needed to think seriously about permanent preventative action, because she needed to be around to raise her family.
I am grateful for my stake president.
I have had a strong feeling, from the time I was thinking of such things, that I also need to be done at thirty five. I turn thirty four this year. Do the math--one more kid. It works out nicely with the feelings Jeff and I have had on the issue.
But it makes my heart break a little, too. I was the two-year-old who would nurse her dolls, who though often about having babies, about motherhood. I couldn't wait to be a mom. And I have enjoyed my babies so much. If anyone is going to suffer from residual baby-hunger, it's me. I tell myself it won't be so long and I'll have grandbabies to enjoy, but it's not quite the same. It's not that symbiotic relationship--just a small, helpless, trusting creature and me. A piece of my heart, smiling whenever I smile at them, whose favorite thing in the world is to be close, to lie for long hours on my chest. Little hands. Little feet.
It came across to me really strongly this last week. I have been feeling, for a while, that I needed to put DavyJones on formula. And he has taken to it well, and it has made important things possible--I have needed some time in the temple, for instance. I have needed to spend a bit longer at my calling than an exclusively-nursing baby would allow.
And I needed to go to girl's camp this year.
It was a good experience, but my milk is now dry. My baby boy is no longer nursing. It breaks. My. Heart.
What if, I think to myself, this is the last baby boy. What if I never nurse another baby boy for the rest of my life. What if this precious experience is now over. There is something about my baby boys--they have the most "mushy" part of my heart, as I was explaining it to Loli the other day. (She responded with, Mom, I'd much rather have the strong part of your heart.) (Anyway.)
What if this is done.
Well, it will be done, soon. I'm into my "lasts," last time trying for a baby. And it will turn into, last time experiencing morning sickness. Last time getting that middle-trimester burst of energy, last time with a growing stomach, last time with those crazy, overwrought emotions that make me cry during cheesy commercials but have actually been welcome because often, I struggle to feel my real feelings. Last time waiting for labor, for a baby to be born. Last time holding a soft, damp, newly-born person close to me, seeing them look up into my face for the first time.
I plan on savoring it--all these "lasts." It's the only way I'll be able to move on; if I savor every single moment.
But there are also other sorts of thoughts I've been having. Like... Gee. It will be nice to be able to work outside for an hour and mow the lawn. It will be nice to go out and pick up the trash that blows across from the high school. To plan a garden, work on it every day, weed it, pay attention to it and have a chance at real vegetables. To take a bike ride when I need one... and to be able to bring all the kids with me. To be able to go on hiking trips and camping trips and to be able to take my kids swimming (projecting a few years into the future here) without having to keep an anxious, uninterrupted watch over at least two of them.
To be able to take time to have talks with my teenagers.
To not be so exhausted in the morning I can't function..... or at least, to be exhausted for different reasons. Staying up to talk with teenagers who come home, rather than being constantly interrupted to nurse.
Instead of being confined to the house with a baby who isn't going to be happy outside for long,to be able to go out and find Jeff, and whatever project he's working on, and work alongside him. And to have our children join us.
I'm leaving behind something very special... but moving on to something else Great, and equally special. This, I think, is the time we figure out who we are as a family. Develop our traditions, our way of relating to each other, the activities we enjoy doing together, getting big projects done together, being silly together... this is really, in a way, where some other things I have always looked forward to, begin.
Loli came into the Young Women's program this year. And as it always is with our family, once started, things happen fast... Bella next year. MayMay the next. Two years later, Jaws. We're moving on.
And it will be great.