My husband and I both feel like our family's complete. But I feel guilty when I say that out loud.
My husband and I are parents to two funny, adventurous kids. Our son is almost 4; our daughter turns 2 this month. They're thoughtful, brave, challenging, extraordinary kids and we feel blessed to raise them.
We also feel like our family's complete. Neither of us is secretly longing for a third child; we happily, if somewhat sentimentally, pack away or donate the baby gear and clothes they outgrow.
When people ask if we're done having children, my husband is quick to confirm. "YUP," he'll say with a laugh. I usually smile and nod, though I have a hard time saying the words out loud.
It's not because I disagree or am even on the fence about having more children. I think it just boils down to guilt.
It took us two years (a lifetime for us, a blink of an eye for others, I know) to conceive our son. We saw doctors; we saw loss. We struggled, we prayed, we cried, we waited. Eventually, after a round of fertility medication, I became pregnant with our son.
While I loved being pregnant, I was never the blissfully happy pregnant woman. I was the always-nervous-she'd-lose-her-child pregnant woman. As I carried my son, I knew we wanted another child. But I also knew that there was no guarantee that the fertility meds would work again. There was no guarantee I would carry to term. I tried to memorize each kick, each butterfly movement, and longed for the day when I'd hold a healthy baby in my arms.
I suffered a partial placental abruption near the end of my second trimester, and this only increased my nerves. Thankfully, doctors were able to stabilize us and after a week in the hospital, we were sent home with appointments to see specialists and follow up care until it would be safe to deliver.
My pregnancy with our daughter started with confusion and fear, too. When I went in for the first scans to confirm the pregnancy, the doctor happily pointed out the embryo, only for his smile to slip just a moment later. The movements with the wand became more deliberate, and the happy chatter between him and the nurses dissipated.
They asked when my last period was, and then asked me again. When I offered to double-check the app on my phone, everyone in the room nodded 'yes' at the same time.
Based on the data, my baby should have measured 7 weeks, 5 days old. She should have had a detectable heartbeat. Instead, she measured 5 weeks, 5 days old. And there was no heartbeat, no fetal pole.
The doctor gently explained that it was possible the math was just wrong. Or my body's cycle was off and I just got pregnant later than I expected. The baby could simply be a healthy 5 weeks, 5 days, and on the verge of developing that visible heartbeat.
Or I had lost my baby, though I hadn't yet lost her. It was just as possible that I had lost my baby at 5 weeks, 5 days and my body hadn't yet realized it.
"There's just no telling right now," I remember the doctor telling me. "There's no test we can run. Everything will come back saying you're pregnant. We'll just have to wait and see."
They scheduled another appointment for me, this one 10 days later. "In 10 days," the doctor explained, "we'll be able to see definite growth. The fetal pole will be visible." Or it won't, he didn't have to add.
Those 10 days were excruciatingly long. Hope carried us through, though I did pack a 'miscarriage kit' in case I lost her at work. In my car, I had a blanket, a change of clothes, pads, water, aspirin, and cleaning supplies. I don't know why I thought I would be in any condition to clean if I lost my baby. But I packed them and carted everything back and forth from home to work all the same.
Thankfully, we made it out of the first trimester, and then through the pregnancy, though not without complications and more fear.
All of this is to say: these experiences shaped me. They shaped my pregnancies; they shaped me as a parent.
Every day, I feel deeply lucky to have carried my children and to be their mother. So many things could have gone wrong—and yet, here they are. Happy and healthy and thriving. I no longer long for a baby because I have these two incredible kids.
I feel guilty saying that we don't want any more kids. We waited and struggled for these children, these tiny miracles who came to us when we needed them, seemingly against the odds. How can I say we don't 'want' another? How can I say we're 'done?'
I can't, at least without feeling a little guilt for all the luck we've already had. And I know that if I found out tomorrow that I'm pregnant, we'd be shocked for a moment, and then we'd celebrate the luck we didn't even know we wanted or deserved.