To Have or To Have Not

This is a very personal essay I wrote a year ago. When I get completely overwhelmed and overburdened by my own head, it helps me to dump all my thoughts on paper so that I can clear it all out and start fresh. That’s what happened here. Someday I’ll write another piece about my actual decision. For now, this essay is about the struggle getting there.
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I knew I would post this someday, but first needed to get past it being so close to my heart. I feel like I’m now in a place to share my thoughts with the purpose of letting other women know that they’re not the only ones feeling this way, because that’s how I felt. 
This essay is not for the woman who wants a child but, for one reason or another, is not able to at this time. It is not for the woman who feels full of inner peace and fulfilled when carrying a child in her womb and then in her arms. This is for the woman who can conceive and can feel fulfilled but doesn’t know if she has the strength in her to do it again. 
This essay is not is for the woman who says, “I feel like there is another child waiting to come to us.” It is not for the woman who says, “We are SO done!” This essay is for the woman who struggles with the decision of bringing or not bringing another little spirit into the world and into their home with all of the blessings and implications of doing so. 
As I’ve struggled with this choice, sometimes I felt there must be something wrong with me. I knew there must be other women who struggle but I rarely, if ever, heard about it. There must be others who have had to go through or are presently going through this heart-wrenching process. This essay is for you. 
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As you read, please be sensitive to the personal nature of this matter. As I mentioned, this was written a year ago and I have since come to some a sort of calm. It took a few years, but I feel more settled and like I’m on the right path for me and my family. That path is different for everyone. There is no place for judgement on this issue. Thank you.
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I had a great job that I loved. I traveled. I was living where I had always wanted to live. I was on my way to being a college graduate. I was married to my best friend. I was living the life and was happy. The only thing left to do was to have a baby, right? So that’s what I did. I had a baby.
I loved that baby like crazy but, man, it was SO difficult to shift gears on my whole lifestyle and begin to stay home all day with this little needy thing. Our first night home from the hospital (and many nights after) he cried and cried. I thought babies were supposed to sleep and be sweet all the time! That’s what I had always observed. 
Adding to the difficulty of the time, we moved to a bigger apartment which meant leaving my favorite place where I felt a connection to my surroundings and neighbors. The new place was sterile and completely isolating. I hated it there. After a few months we bought a cute little townhouse up north with loving neighbors and life started to feel a little better. 
We decided to have another little needy thing and after a long and pain-filled pregnancy, I had her. Crying. Again. Why didn’t my babies act like other babies I’d see? Why weren’t they calm and easy-going? They obviously didn’t like me. Why didn’t they like me?!
Sometimes I escaped to my car while I made sobbing phone calls to my husband who was joyfully off at work in his quiet little world of positive evaluations and self-satisfaction. I was just trying to catch my breath.
Many afternoons, while waiting for him to get home from work I’d be sobbing and pacing a screaming baby with my toddler following me, happily talking my head off incessantly because that’s what he does. “How am I supposed to do this?! And for how many more years?!” I kept demanding of myself. 

The time came for a third needy little thing. I couldn’t do it. We waited a while longer before I decided I better just get on with it so that we could get it over with. We conceived and I cried. My body was in pain. I was on self-imposed bedrest as much as possible but even that hurt. It hurt to sit. It hurt so much to roll over. It hurt very much to walk.  My husband swore he’d never let me put myself through that again.
We hoped and prayed that this baby would be easier. “Please, don’t cry as much as the other two,” I pleaded. Instead, she cried much harder for much longer. 
Finally, we made it out of the difficult baby and toddler years and have been in the phase of “Should we have another one?” for a good while now. This is where the real reason for this essay begins. To sort my thoughts. To hopefully not just come to a conclusion but to feel peaceful and happy over whatever conclusion that is. 
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I always wanted four or five kids. Three never seemed enough. As a woman living in an amazing time on this earth in a blessed country and as a woman of faith, it is an honor and a duty to have children and to raise and nurture them as chosen Children of God. At the same time, I am also grateful to live in a time and place where, unlike most women throughout history, I have the choice to stop having children when I deem fit. 
Yes, I had painful pregnancies. But other women have much worse. Yes, I had colicky babies. But again, other women have to deal with harder situations. I have a loving and involved husband and three great kids. Why shouldn’t I want to add another one to our family? Won’t I get blessed for it? And is doing that to myself and my family again actually the right thing to do? Why do I feel like less of a faithful and capable woman if I choose to have only a few children rather than a quiver full of them? 
There are so many reasons to have another baby and so many reasons why I would rather not. But I feel like such a selfish woman for not wanting to do it again. I have the health, finances, and capability of being a wonderful mother but I’m afraid. It scares me to think about going through all that again. Besides, there are other things I want to do in life and other things I want to be.  
I go back and forth between feeling confident and satisfied and then disobedient and rebuked. 
What if I don’t have one and then regret my decision later in life? What if I do and then go into a semi-depressive state for 3 years? What if I go for it with faith and it’s surprisingly wonderful? Why can’t I decide what to do?
I’ve prayed and fasted over and over again but there has been no clear answer. I wondered, “Why wouldn’t Heavenly Father coax me into doing it? Isn’t it His desire?” I know there’s the whole agency thing but I should still feel prompted if it were right, right? So maybe there’s a reason He doesn’t give me that desire. Maybe there really is no right or wrong answer in this case. Maybe it’s just not the right time. Maybe it’s a tender mercy. 
I made a Yes-Baby Pro/Con List and a No-Baby Pro/Con List in order to analyze it from every angle, because that’s what I do. The list is long. 
A summarization of the Pros: 
Yes-Baby Pro: Snuggling, giving my kids the opportunity of having another younger sibling, knowing I’ve done my best to bring spirits into this world, discovering another amazing little personality, having babies makes people smile, not feeling guilt, remorse, or regret for a missed opportunity.
No-Baby Pro: I think I’m ready to move into my next stage of life, I enjoy my kids so much more now than I did when they were littler, more time for other interests and pursuits, much easier physically and mentally.
Many times I have wished that it would just happen “accidentally” like it does for others. Then obviously the child was supposed to have been born without any struggle or weighing of pros and cons on my part.
Yes, I know I’m overthinking and over feeling but it’s such an important eternal decision. I owe it to myself, my family, and my Heavenly Father to give it proper consideration. But it’s been going on so long and deeply now that my brain and heart hurt.
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Now I am sitting here a year later reviewing and revising what I wrote. I know I ended the essay without a written conclusion, no feeling of finality. Well, that’s because there isn’t one yet. I’ve come a long way from feeling so burdened into a place where I feel happy and settled…a temporary calm. Temporary because the story hasn’t ended but continues. Maybe in another year when I come out of my temporary calm I will explain further but for now, I’m feeling blessed and happy with my life and family.  

2 Comments

  1. Thanks for sharing. You aren't alone, I have many of the same arguments in my head with the added pressure of feeling “the clock ticking” and therefore needing to make a decision now. It is a hard one although it doesn't seem it should be.

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