This story is part of our End of the Childbearing Years series, exploring the experiences, decisions, and feelings of Mormon women around this pivotal transition. Each story is a generous and vulnerable offering. We ask that comments be sensitive and nonjudgmental toward any woman’s choices or beliefs.
A couple of years after our fifth baby was born, I began to hope each month that my period wouldn’t come, that our birth control method of choice would fail, and that I would unexpectedly be pregnant. I’m not sure how many months that went on, but it definitely turned into years.
The obvious truth is that it takes more than one person to make a baby. In a happy, well-adjusted marriage, it also takes more than one person to want that baby, and I was the only one hoping for that. After number five, my husband didn’t give a definite no, but he said things like, “let’s pray about it,” or “I just feel like our family is complete.” I couldn’t understand it. Wasn’t it a righteous desire to bring more babies into the world? How could my husband deny me the joy I wanted from feeling another baby move inside me, the adrenaline rush of giving birth, the spiritual connection from gazing into an infant’s eyes as they received nourishment from my breast, and the happiness I knew the other children would experience from having another sibling? Bitterness started to creep into my heart. An unspoken tension wedged its way into our marriage.
I didn’t know how to react in circles of my peers. I tried to laugh in agreement as other moms, knowingly done with having babies, spoke of the relief of getting rid of car seats, high chairs, and strollers. I tried not to show the longing in my eyes as friends would tease and say “Isn’t it time for you to have another one?” It was too hard to explain to them the complexities this topic created in my life and marriage. The truth was I felt pretty certain that I could actually convince my husband that we needed another child, but I also knew that wasn’t really the right thing to do.
At first, I prayed and pleaded that my husband’s heart would change, but as the years went on, my prayers changed. Eventually, I began to pray and plead to know the will of the Lord. And He began to teach me.
Motherhood had taught me about sacrificing my own desires, and putting the needs of another before mine. It’s a crash course in that, really. From the moment I began to share my body with another human being, to cleaning up various bodily fluids belonging to a child, to the nights spent waiting up to talk to a teen when they got home late at night, I had learned this. I began to see that it was time to apply these lessons to my marriage. After all, as Elder L. Whitney Clayton said of marriage, “No other relationship of any kind can bring as much joy, generate as much good, or produce as much personal refinement.” I began to see that I had been thinking about having another child from the perspective of my own needs and desires. I prayed that I could understand my husband’s needs and desires. I began to see that, although he would love the joy of adding another baby to our family, perhaps he wasn’t able to mentally and emotionally handle the stress of it. It wasn’t all about me. As I began to accept this, peace came into my heart. The longing for a baby didn’t go away, but I began to understand that it was a selfish desire, one that only took into consideration the needs and desires of one half of our eternal relationship.
Our fifth child is twelve, and the last year has been the most challenging of my marriage as I have helped my husband as he has struggled with some pretty severe depression. The lessons I learned about putting his needs before mine, as well as insights into the Atonement, have been the rock of foundation I have needed to carry me through.
I knew that childbearing would teach me to be unselfish, and about sacrifice. I just didn’t know that closing the door on childbearing would teach it to me even more fully.