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 Lyz Schulte

I’ve always wanted a large family. Knowing that a mortal body is part of God’s plan, I had always felt so awed at the prospect of providing bodies to some of God’s children. Birth and the Atonement of Christ are so closely linked—blood, water, work—that pregnancy and childbirth have always felt like a sacrament. Marriage was quickly followed by one, then two, then three beautiful children. My pregnancies were relatively uncomplicated, my deliveries quick and natural. I had an easy time conceiving and never miscarried. I breastfed each child for a year. I knew I was really lucky.

Baby number four came while I was back in college to finish my degree. Everything started out fine, but soon exhaustion, back issues, and stress added up and I had to drop out of classes and go on bedrest. I spent my time out of my house in a wheelchair and my time in my house resting. I had to have help with cooking and laundry and childcare. My doctor said my baby was fine, but my body was so worn out it wanted to end the pregnancy. We worked to make sure that didn’t happen.

Watching this, my husband grew more and more concerned. He finally confessed, “I don’t think we should have any more children after this.”

I was devastated. I wasn’t even through this pregnancy, and we were already talking about it being the last one. We discussed it and prayed and consulted my doctor. He agreed with my husband. I mourned. I cried. My five-year-old son told me he never wanted me to be pregnant again because it made me so sick. I felt awful. I prayed and asked if this was really God’s will and I got a gentle, undeniable yes. And I wept some more.

Baby four was born peacefully, but not naturally. She had allergies, so I couldn’t nurse her. It seemed like all my joys in early motherhood were being taken from me, not only now, but for the rest of my mortal life. It was crushing.

Emotional healing was difficult. It was three years before I could refrain from crying when I thought about having no more children. It took six for the ache to go away. My sorrow was isolating. I had four beautiful children. I had no scars on my body, no bills from infertility treatment. I had lost no one. The loss of future dreams was so painful to me, but I felt like I had to be so careful who I shared my sorrow with. I didn’t want to hurt anyone who had been through more painful things than I had.

I’ve reached a place of acceptance. My youngest is now seven, and watching my four children grow is joyful. My family feels whole. And when I wish for more infants I remind myself that eternity is about Parenthood. I’m not finished giving new life. And I can still participate in the plan of salvation in other ways.

Lyz Schulte