When It’s Time To Say, “Enough”

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In natural family planning circles, there are certain words you’re not supposed to say. Like: “This is the last baby.” The very definition of openness to God’s will is that you never close off the possibility of another child, that you should be asking instead, “Is this month a good month to try to conceive, or do we have a good reason to postpone pregnancy?” It may not be—it may not ever be again—but you should never fix a number and say, “Okay, done.”

So I have been somewhat circumspect about this pregnancy. But I do expect it to be the last. Four C-sections take a toll on a body. I’ve never been sick as much as I have been the last five years. Right now I seem to be on a schedule: sick for ten days, healthy for fourteen.

Last week, my mother went with me to St. Louis for my 33-week appointment; she visited her mother and watched my kids while I saw the doctor and had meetings at Liguori Publications. On the way home, she gently chastised me for the close spacing of my children, and how much of a toll it takes on the body. She wanted us to stop planning everything so much, and just let God give us children on His own schedule.

We have chosen to have our children close together because infertility got us off to a very late start, and because we wanted our children to have built-in playmates. But now we have a child with special needs, sandwiched between two boys who have their own needs and concerns. These three and the baby they already love on in utero are a gift to each other, and to us as parents, but they need time and attention from us, too. They have gifts that need nurturing, too. I need to have time to teach them all about responsibility and chores, to teach them to cook and bake and clean, not to mention how to love God and others through what they do from one day to the next.

As an NFP teacher and a writer for our magazine, I feel terribly conflicted. Many of the families I encounter have six and seven children and thrive. Many of the women I interview show such grace as full-time mothers. They don’t try to write (or anything else) from home. They pour all their energies into the tasks I outlined above, and are at peace with that as their calling. And it’s beautiful. It truly is beautiful.

I always thought I would be one of those mothers, but I’m not. There’s this restless need in me to make an impact on the world through the gifts I’ve been given. That’s actually what I was aiming toward when I began writing today, but it’s becoming clear that the two are separate posts. Are not all the gifts God gives us meant to be used, even if we are the only ones who can bear children?

Yet when I think of the women and men out there who long for children and haven’t been blessed—when I see the great beauty that comes with every baby and the way he or she expands the capacity for love felt by the older siblings—I think, “How could any other concern possibly justify not doing this again, if we can possibly manage it?”

But then I spend a week barely functional because of low-grade nausea. And my entire pelvic girdle aches at every step after walking two miles in the morning. And I spend five minutes on my feet in the middle of the night three times as round ligament pains rouse me from slumber and force me out of bed to walk them off. And I realize that I can’t do it all. At some point, I have to take care of me, too. And it makes me a little sad. But at the same time, I look forward to graduating from this phase of life and into the next.

I know many of you are beyond this point. How did you discern when it came time to move on?

18 thoughts on “When It’s Time To Say, “Enough”

  1. Powerful post, Kate. I had five C-sections and a very supportive pro-life physician for the last one. When I asked, “Is it possible to have another?” he answered, “It’s possible, but I wouldn’t advise it.”
    Whenever anyone asked us if we were “finished,” I would respond, “Only God knows for sure.” I was fairly certain Paul (now 12) would be my last because of many reasons (not the least of which was my age, at the time, 40) I personally don’t like it when someone says “This is my last” because really, they don’t know for sure. We know a man who had a vasectomy and his wife got pregnant a few years later because the vas reconnected. So really, it’s all in God’s hand. I totally understand how you’re feeling, though. There were many times during my last “healthy” pregnancy that I thought, “Never again.” But then time passes and old feelings resurface and after prayerful discernment, you think, “Well, maybe one more.” The beauty of NFP is that while you can plan to use it to limit the size of your family, you can always change your mind if you feel God calling you to be open to another. One more thing…try very hard not to compare yourself to other mothers because everyone is different. I used to feel like a failure when I saw a certain homeschooling mother coming into church with seven children, all dressed impeccably and all behaving well. And there I was with five boys (uncombed hair most of the time and I was happy if they were out of their pajamas…) I wish I lived closer to you and I could come over and give you a break or make you a meal! God bless…

  2. We’re struggling with this same issue. Technically we were avoiding when this one was conceived… I warned my husband I was very fertile and set to ovulate within the next day or so, and his opinion was basically, “Well, let’s see what happens.” I agreed and it looks like this baby was definitely in God’s plan for us!

    Right now, with my husband doing full-time work AND full-time school, I feel like a single mom… and that’s difficult with three little ones and one on the way. After #4 is born, we’ve decided to avoid indefinitely… I don’t know if I can handle another baby until he is done with school (in a year, God willing).

    Our dream is for him to get a good enough job so I can be a SAHM, and if that happens I’d be more open to more kids, but right now, working full-time (with a 1+ hour commute one way) with three little ones plus one in utero, we’re both stressed to the max. This pregnancy has been hard on my body, and although I’ve been blessed to have only unmedicated vaginal births, I can’t say I’ve enjoyed this pregnancy as much as I did my previous ones. I just feel so physically worn out all the time. I could use a couple years off from the pregnancy gig… counting my miscarriages, I’ve been pregnant six times in the last six years.

    • We had kind of a master plan of 4 or 5, but after that third one, and how difficult the last trimester was, it was a real act of will to consciously try for a fourth pregnancy. I totally get it.

  3. Initially we had 3 children over the course of 3.5 yrs and I was spent physically and emotionally so we decided to avoid pregnancy using NFP. A few years later my mom died and I felt the tugging at my heart to have another child and dh agreed so my 4th was born when my then baby was 3.5 yrs old (big gap for us). We then thought we would space the next one about 2 yrs later… I said to hubby one night ‘what difference could 24 hrs make in NFP rules?”….well it made one adorable baby boy who is such a blessing to our family.
    He has been our last because then I went through PPD and moving overseas (where I could not emotionally handle having a baby) and by the time we moved back Stateside I was 40 yrs old and didn’t feel we should actively pursue another child.
    Just last week I was at my yearly appt and my doc asked what birth control I used. I said none (wasn’t in the mood to chat NFP) and she asked if I was okay with getting pregnant. I said I thought it was highly unlike at 47yrs but yes I was okay with it

  4. Tara

    Enough…is different for every family, every couple. I had 3 beautiful children..and 3 very high risk pregnancies. My hubby got a vasectomy. And lo and behold…he is one of the small percentile of men whose vas reconnects…our ‘baby’ was almost 5. Unfortunately, the baby that was conceived died in my 2nd trimester…leaving me an emotional mess.

    I got pregnant again right away. 7 weeks after the D&C. And I had baby #4 who is now 9. then 18 months later, I had a tubal pregnancy. 6 weeks later, I was pregnant with baby #5 who is going to be 7 soon. These last two little blessings were also high risk pregnancies. We decided no more.

    But sometimes there is that itch. Sometimes. then I come to my senses and realize, no more middle of the night wake-up calls, no more potty training. My kids are old enough that my hubby and I can go on a DATE!!! Alone!!! We can leave teenagers in charge of the two youngest and enjoy being a couple.

    Is this phase easier? NO! Did I just burst your bubble? Sorry. It’s just a different phase of parenting. You get the teenage hormones and the rebellion and the refusing to clean rooms and…ACK!

    I love being a mom. I would NOT trade it for anything in the whole world. I don’t know if I want to start again…but then there’s that itch….. 😉

    • I never expected it to be easier–just different. Some parts get easier, others get harder. You have quite a story! So many high-risk pregnancies…that shows real courage.

      • Tara

        It doesn’t help that I loved being pregnant and despite being uncomfortable some of the time and scared MOST of the time, I felt really GOOD!

        And yes…all of my pregnancies were high risk. We don’t know why it happens, I just go into labor from the very beginning.

        I just talked to one of my teenaged boys. It’s after midnight here and he forgot to call home from his friend’s house to let me know he got there okay. Kids…..I guess you DO earn those grays!

  5. Kelley

    Oh the itch that Tara talked about…I get that all the time. And then I get terrified and think that I can hardly handle the three that I have right now, why would I want to make myself even more stressed? But there’s something about that little miracle…

    • Tara

      You handle it one day at a time. My first 3 are very close together. 1993,1995, and 1996. Ironically the first and second are the closest, despite the years they were born @ 18 months apart. Oh…and I was a full time college student when the first two were born. I was nuts. LOL! Our last two were also close together, intentionally: 27 months apart…it was a great age span.

  6. I have two planned kids and one that God planned for us to have. I always kind of wanted a third, but my husband didn’t. I adore being the mom of a baby, but after my youngest was born I told my husband that while I couldn’t promise him I’d never want another baby, I could absolutely positively guarantee him that I NEVER wanted to be pregnant again, and seven year later (at a point where biologically pregnancy is VERY unlikely, I can honestly say that I’d love to have another baby, but I still don’t want to be pregnant.

  7. Oh how I needed to read this. Infertility put us to a late start as well, so we were shocked that when Shelby was six months old, we were pregnant with Joey who was all of 20 months old when we welcomed William. All via c-section. And one with special needs (our girl too! With autism for anyone who doesn’t know). We desparately want a fourth and now that Joey is potty-trained and Will is over two and extremely self-sufficient, would be the perfect time. But doesn’t seem to be God’s time. Every month we pray and every month He says, “Wait.” I know we are not “done.” But I know a time will come when we will feel that way. And I need to know that sometimes, that’s okay.

    • What a beautiful comment you’ve left! Maybe God is saying “wait” to spare you the physical stress of pregnancy until your body is stronger. What my mother told me last week was that she never realized how worn down pregnancy and nursing had made her until my youngest sister had been done nursing a year or two, and suddenly Mom stopped getting sick all the time. She thinks we’ve pushed too hard too close together, especially b/c of C’s and the extra ongoing work of teaching basic skills to a child who has difficulty learning.

      It’s amazing how much you and I have in common.

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