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 Rebecca Sachiko Burton
My first child was born when I was 19. Since then I’ve had twelve pregnancies—four ended in miscarriage, and one (my second child) was my premature son who died an hour after being born. I have seven living children.
When I started, I had fierce baby hunger. I remember being in the hospital with my first daughter, and feeling a push to have another one as soon as possible. My first and second daughters are 15 months apart.
I kept feeling the push to have as many children as possible before I turned 30. I didn’t know why. My fifth living child was born when I was 27, and then, at age 30, secondary infertility hit, bringing with it a string of miscarriages. With the help of a doctor, I was able to have my last two living children 18 months apart, when I was 31 and 33.
After that, the secondary infertility took over for good. I didn’t get to choose to stop having children; my body chose for me. My youngest is now four, and my oldest a senior in high school. I find myself wistfully lingering over pictures of other people’s babies; I’m having the hardest time giving away the baby stuff.
I keep reminding myself: all my friends are done having kids. We’re busy (I homeschool). We don’t have a lot of money. Our house is already crowded. My youngest is potty-trained and now I get to start moving on to the next season of my life.
But I’m still struggling. I found so much joy and meaning and purpose in carrying and bearing children, and I feel like I’ve been fired from a nearly 20-year career. I don’t like talking to people about it, because I know that some people were never able to have any biological children, and some had terrible pregnancies, and some grapple with unwanted fertility. I can guess how my longing for the possibility of more would sound to them, and when I have said something out loud, sometimes I DO get a shocked, “Are you crazy?” So I keep quiet.
My husband tells me that the “somebody missing” feeling is because I’m missing our five children who died before or after birth. Maybe he’s right. I do love and miss those children.
My friends tell me that the “somebody missing” feeling and grief will pass; that I need to rehearse to myself how lucky I am to have seven terrific kids; how I need to throw myself into new projects and hobbies and open new chapters in my life. Normally I like trying to find the good in each situation, but in all this I feel like, When does it matter what I want?
I guess that’s just mortality for you. Joy and grief, all mixed together.