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.
“You know, you can be done having kids,” he said, his face betraying the weight of a familiar argument. Frustration. Pity. Condescension.
Much as I wanted to say, “Well, of course I know that,” it didn’t come out. Instead, I thanked him for the visit, hopped off the exam table, and pushed the stroller out the door in front of me, noting how easy it was to maneuver without my middle child sitting on the front wheel.
By the books, there should not have been anything wrong, but there was. Twice. The first growth restriction diagnosis was chalked up to a fluke: two-vessel umbilical cord. The second had no discernible cause; another fluke, perhaps. That’s all well and good in terms of playing the odds, but speaks nothing to the experience.
At least two doctors told me that it was normal. “You and your husband are not big people. Maybe you just make small babies.” I was suffering from anxiety; I should take antidepressants. I had nothing to worry about. But the tests confirmed my suspicions, and antidepressants did not work. I relied on meditation and booked a counselor, dragging my two older children with me so that my medical appointments could be kid free. I only had so much help.
They say motherhood is hard, that pregnancy is miserable, but it’s all worth it as soon as you meet your baby. Then they ask when you’re having the next one.
“Don’t do it; it’s not worth it,” I joked at a Primary activity that weekend, as the other leaders and I talked about upgrading our compact cars to various types of minivans. I was kidding, of course, I’d do it all again. I think most mothers will relate to the superhuman ability to set their own needs aside for their children. But at some point, I realized I could not further divide my already minimal energy, especially not with another high-risk pregnancy.
As mothers in Zion, we learn that motherhood is a crowning glory. We see the woman down the block deliver her sixth child and all we hear is vague allusions to how everyone is adjusting. No one talks about how impossible it is to function. The long postpartum recovery, when you’re left to take care of the older kids and a baby and yourself while still bleeding, feeling like your abdomen is held together with paperclips. Some women have minimal issues and are back at church a week later, juggling everything like pros—at least, they can make it seem that way.
There is so much pressure to suck it up and deal. And while I could list out pages of my own reasons to be done having babies—growth restriction, postpartum hemorrhage, physical therapy, surgery, depression, anxiety—it never seems like enough. Against the pressure, I have had to say no. To draw the line and see who respects it. After all, it is my body, and I owe my best to myself and my family.