Last night I decided to go on an instagram cleanse. I do this every so often when I feel like the number of people I'm following is too high because I'm missing posts from people I genuinely care about. But this time it was a little different. Usually I unfollow accounts that make me feel shitty about my not so perfect life. You know the ones, the strategically staged photos of the well dressed family taken by the professional photographer. Set up in the house that was sponsored by the high end design company. And while, yes, I did unfollow a handful of those, I found myself removing accounts linked to baby stuff. Baby carrier companies, strollers, clothing lines.
Growing up I always said that I wanted five kids. After having a few of them and realizing they were tiny soul sucking demons, five seemed like a lofty (and pricy) number. But I still didn't know what that number would end up being. When we had our second I knew I wasn't done and then our third came as a HUGE surprise pretty quickly after. But I still wasn't sure I was ready to close up shop. My husband on the other hand seemed very sure that no more kids were in our future. I wasn't as concerned about that because I knew that if we ever felt like we were in the right place and the right time I could probably convince him.
I knew three was a handful and I knew that financially we were in no place to add to our family and I was ok with it, for now. It had been a really long time of breastfeeding and pregnancy and birth and I wasn't ready to put my body through another baby, for now. But I also knew that we started our family really young. Our oldest is turning ten on Saturday and I'm only thirty. Most of our friends either don't have kids yet or are just starting their families and I knew that in five years from now my feelings on having more might change. I wasn't ready to say I was done concretely.
But recently, more and more I have been having feelings asking myself, "am I done?" And then this weekend my best friend was visiting and she asked us. And I heard myself saying "Yeah. I think I am... " Words I never thought Id say out loud even though I had been toying with them for a while. Making such a committed statement about such a huge phase in my life. I guess that's it. I guess we are done. I guess three is our number. And three is amazing. I love our three. They are fun, and fulfilling, and perfect. But fuck this is hard. Deciding at thirty that you're done with your child bearing years when that's when most people's start. I absolutely love being pregnant and even thinking that I'll never go through that again pulls my heart strings. I love giving birth, I have a desire for a home birth and knowing that I'll never get to try is really hard. No more newborn snuggles at 3am no more breastfeeding, no more postpartum hormonal exhausted bliss. I'm done.
I didn't know I was done when I had my last baby. I didn't know that would be the last time I would ever have another heartbeat inside of me, or the last time I would feel their kicks, or the last time I would be the passage way between two worlds. I didn't know. And that's really fucking hard too. The not knowing and therefore not cherishing every.single.last.little.thing. FACK. And I didn't know that I would get so emotional over writing this as I'm sitting here sobbing at that realization.
BUT OHKAY. Deep breath Ashley, because there is a really beautiful light to this story. And that is, how excited I am for the next phase in our lives. The ability to go to the pool and relax by the side while the kids splash around because they all know how to swim. Going to the beach and bringing a book along. Going on the big rides at the amusement parks. My oldest and I started a new tradition of watching my favorite movies from childhood together one night a week. Last night we watched Pretty Woman. And while you might argue that ten is still a little too young to expose your child to the business of sex work and flavored condoms, I was about five when I watched it almost nightly with my grandmother, and look how well adjusted I turned out. My husband and I will be forty when we can take our oldest to the bars with us, and while we may have missed out on our twenties the way most people get to live them carefree, we will still get to be young and thriving when they are self sufficient. I am in no way rushing these years but I'm really genuinely excited for this next chapter.
I'm also really excited to have my body back to myself. It has been a very long time. It's been less than a year since I stopped breastfeeding and I'm still getting used to knowing myself as who I am now, postpartum x 3. It has been an intense road of self loathing and recovery and love. I'm still in the thick of it all. But I'm looking so forward to learning myself again and meeting this new version of me.
Listen, it's not lost on me how fortunate I am to get to make this decision on my own. That menopause or infertility didn't make it for me. I know how lucky I am to have three beautiful, healthy, happy kids. As someone who works in the birth field I get it and I'm more aware than most. I'm so hashtag blessed. But that doesn't mean I don't get to mourn and cry and wallow in self pity over the end of an era. I wanted to share this story for a few reasons, firstly because I think typing out your feelings and telling your honest journey is therapeutic. I haven't cried over this until just now because writing it out became real. And I'm always here for a good ugly cry. But secondly because I made this website for a place to share stories in solidarity. I know for a fact that almost all women, and birthing people, will have to make this decision at some point. It may come easier to some than others. But if you are one of the ones that has been here in my shoes, it's important to know that you're not alone. There is still a giant gaping pit in my stomach when I think about the finality of it all. I know I'll be ok and I know that life has so many more adventures ahead. But just for a little longer, I can so just sit here and cry.
A collection of posts from different humans all over the world, sharing their stories about the struggles they have faced in their individual journeys to motherhood.