My cheeky daughter darted through the house, completely naked, yelling at me “Mummy! Mummy! Watch this! I can stand on one leg like a flamingo!”
I watched her attempting to balance, laughing at the absurdity of this nude, uncoordinated child, and caught myself thinking “today is the last day I’ll ever have a three-year-old.”
And so the next day my spirited, funny, intelligent, beautiful girl turned four. And for the next year I will have a four-year-old child for the very last time. Because I know in my heart, my mind and my tired old bones that I am so very, very done having children, as much fun as they are.
I never thought I’d have children.
In fact, as a child and teenager I’d tell anyone who dared ask me about it that I was NEVER, ever, EVER going to have kids.
In my late teens I started noticing little kids at barbecues and other social gatherings I was dragged along by my parents who would always gravitate towards me like I was the Pied Piper or something. At first I regarded them with suspicion, figuring they were like those jerk cats who always try to sit on the laps of people who hate cats, for their own sick amusement. Family, friends and work colleagues started asking me to babysit. And what do you know, kids started to grow on me.
By the time I was in my early 20s, I changed my mind and thought “some day” I would like to have some. I think this was the beginning of my biological clock ticking. Only it wasn’t a ticking. It was just a presence, a humming, a little voice speaking, somewhere, every now and then, from the recesses of my brain, reminding me about “some day”. With each year that went by the voice got slightly more nagging, maybe a little whiney, but never urgent.
I met my husband when I was 26 and pretty soon I knew that he was someone I might want to have babies with. Which is just as well because we had one two years later. And then, thanks to a massive birth control stuff up, we had another one 16 months after that.
Having two under two was a lot to handle, but from this safe distance, almost a decade down the track, it wasn’t so bad. I think? Maybe I have amnesia.
But when our second daughter was born, I knew I couldn’t risk another birth control fiasco so I opted for an Implanon to be put in my arm. I figured it would give me at least three years to think about whether I wanted one more baby, or whether two was enough.
Before I even left the hospital with our second daughter, the annoying little voice was back, albeit at a whisper. “You know you’re not done!” It told me. “We’ll see about that!” I told it back.
As the next few years passed in a blur of nappies, Dora the freaking Explorer, sibling rivalry, Weet-Bix cemented to the floor, tormented pets, fairy costumes and potty training, the little voice got louder and louder. “Just one more! Just one more!”
People would ask if we were done having kids. “I’m not sure,” I’d answer. The little voice would chastise me. “Bullshit! You’re not done!”
The Implanon eventually came out. My husband and I agreed we would try for one more. A year passed. Nothing. Then almost another year. Still nothing. The little voice was unimpressed.
I shook my fist at mother nature. She was so quick to give us a baby when we weren’t trying to have one, here we were doing things the “proper” way and she wasn’t having a bar of it.
The little voice got louder and louder each month, it was practically screaming at me.
Finally, after almost two years, success! I had a positive pregnancy test! I was over the moon.
And then I had a miscarriage.
As anyone who has ever had a miscarriage will tell you, it’s an emotional roller coaster. Anger, guilt, shame, more anger, sadness, deeper sadness, and all the rest of it. Somewhere, in among all that, the little voice was indicating that it was lying down, bashing its hands and fists on the floor, throwing an almighty tantrum.
My OB and GP said things like “you’ve had babies before, you can get pregnant again. You can do this!” and the little voice was telling me “It took nearly two years last time. What if it takes even longer next time? What if the same thing happens again?” The little voice was in a panic.
The panic would be short-lived, because two months later I was pregnant again. I am still constantly amazed that it worked out the way it did so soon.
I knew towards the end of the last pregnancy that I was done. The pregnancy was harder, physically and emotionally. Running around after primary school kids while up-the-duff was actually more challenging than it was when dealing with a toddler. The little voice said something like “Cop you later, I’m out of here!” And I never heard from it again.
I have paused from time-to-time and wondered if the little voice would ever return, but here I am, four years later, and feel just as finished as I did then.
It’s bittersweet, of course, because I love babies, I love the cheeky antics of toddlers and pre-schoolers, and I am enjoying the company of my older children as I find their personalities shine and give me a good glimpse of who they will be as adults.
Knowing you are done is really closing one chapter in your life the one where you have pregnancies and newborns and then going on to discover what life has in store for you next.