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.

By Ann McDougall

My husband and I married young. When the time came for children, we had a plan. Have our first child after college, get a job, buy a house, have four or five children two years apart. Infertility and multiple miscarriages were part of the Lord’s plan. It took three years and two early pregnancy losses to have our son. The pregnancy was difficult, with bed rest and a premature birth. We were scared to get pregnant again, yet wanted more than ever to fill our home with more children. When our son was young, he was outside on the swing set all alone. Tears filled my eyes as I looked out the window, yearning to give him the companionship of siblings.

We miraculously conceived identical twins. We were ecstatic. We felt blessed to be bringing two children into our family, but only having to go through one pregnancy. Our dreams were shattered when our twin boys were born 4 months early and passed away shortly thereafter. The following months were difficult. We were torn on trying for one more child or risk losing another piece of our hearts to loss.

We became pregnant with our daughter, and the journey to get her here safely was almost more than we could bear. Two surgeries, weekly shots, many doctors’ appointments, six months of bed rest, and nine weeks of hospital bed rest got us a healthy baby girl.

The pregnancy with our daughter was the deciding factor that we were done having children. Our hearts couldn’t take any more pain and worry. We couldn’t have our family separated for months, with me being unable to care for my family while on bed rest. We mourn that we always wanted more children. We talk about how we started a family at an older age than expected, and we will be those old parents at our kids’ graduations and weddings. After I had come to terms that we wouldn’t be having any more children, my mental health suffered. I had spent the last seven years with a goal and specific tasks to reach that goal, with planning, timing, and doctor visits. Now I had nothing. No planning for the next pregnancy. No looking forward to another baby. My future seemed so empty. I asked myself, “Now what? What comes next?” I had been so consumed with trying to get pregnant and stay pregnant that my life seemed empty and meaningless.

It’s been three years since we had our daughter. I am in a much better place mentally than I was after her birth. I’ve been through a grieving process of what our family is actually like compared to what we had dreamed in those early years of marriage. Instead of struggling to find my purpose in having another child, I have found purpose in the here and now, the family I have with me.

Ann and her family