When Growing Your Family Comes To An End

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“If you’re done having babies and you feel moments of sadness, don’t be ashamed. It’s okay to feel both confidence and sadness.

It is possible to feel both confident and sad in your decision about being done having babies. It is okay to be sad and take the time to grieve the end of having babies. Sometimes the sadness pops up at the most unexpected times when you least expect it to be revealed.

My own sad feelings were tucked away until they were unexpectedly pulled from me recently. When I was forced to think about these feelings of sadness, I opened up to several people and was surprised to find other women who seemed very happy and confident in their family planning decisions sometimes felt this sad feeling too.

We all come to different conclusions about when our families are complete. Decisions are made for a multitude of reasons; historical, personal, financial, and medical reasons. Sometimes, the decision to be done having babies isn’t even within our own power to make. But when we decide on our own we are done having babies, the feeling and rationale of completeness is solely defined by us. It doesn’t make sense to others; it isn’t supposed to. Our own definition of complete is written in our own hearts and minds for very different reasons.

I watched on the monitor as she snuggled up next to him on the fluffy nursery rug. She gently rubbed his tummy and talked sweetly to him in a voice I’ve never heard. Minutes earlier, I had crouched over the baby, talking in my best high-pitched auntie voice. My daughter mimicked my movements and shifted me with her hips, hockey-check style, indicating I was hogging the baby. ‘Let me do it, Mom,’ she said. So I went to another room and watched as she entertained the baby. He laid there peacefully, cooing and flinching his arms and legs reacting to her.

Courtesy of Alice Seuffert

Only 3 years ago, her brother arrived and she wasn’t as patient, her preschool body and mind couldn’t be stopped to slow down. But now, here she was, sweet, patient, helpful, and interested in the baby. I’d be lying if I said I didn’t think about another baby. Instances like this remind me the baby phase is over for my motherhood and each time, it is sad for me.

The sadness of being done having babies hits me at different times.

When I look through photos of my children as babies.

When I watch home movies and see their baby bodies in high chairs, immobile on the floor and wordless in their baby conversation.

When I clean out their clothes each season and discover a baby item that was forgotten deep in their dresser. And truthfully, each seasonal cleaning of their clothes is bittersweet, feeling that they are growing too fast.

When parents with older children tell me they grow up ‘in a blink’ because I know it has already gone too fast.

When I think my own body will never again hold a child, nurse a baby or carry my own baby in my arms.

And most recently, when I see my children with babies. Holding babies, stroking them, talking sweetly.

The sadness rushes over me.

Normally I tuck this sadness away, I never tell anyone, I don’t find comfort in words or hugs, I just move on. Until last week.

I appear on television for cooking segments and at a recent show, one of the other guests was a psychic. I was admittedly, frazzled that day. She offered to give me a reading. She touched me and said, ‘You seem very sad about not having more babies. It’s on your heart.’

The tears started to fall.

It was true.

I was sad.

Especially most recently seeing my children interact with my new baby nephew.

Courtesy of Alice Seuffert

She stood there with me, holding my hand. And her advice to me was simple, genuine, and loving, ‘Grieve this feeling. Find something new to grow.’

I drove home and sobbed. Finding solace in my empty minivan, I let it all out. The sadness I pushed deep down for so long, I finally let myself cry. I let myself be sad about not having more babies. For the first time, I grieved that the baby period of my motherhood was over.

It’s okay to grieve the end of babies in your motherhood.

Grieve the fact this phase of life is over for you.

Because it is sad.

The baby phase was a fantastic and beautiful time. We have the pictures and home movies to prove it, don’t we?

Recognizing this feeling as grief allows you to give yourself grace when you are sad at different times in your life because this sadness will continue to pop up unexpectedly.

I thought about why I get so sad about the baby period and I think it’s because I feel life with my kids is just going so fast. I want to be a better mother. I regret the mistakes I’ve made over the years. The baby period was a time of innocence and infancy both of my children and of my motherhood. The chalkboard was clean.

The reality is I don’t get a do-over on the mistakes I’ve made in motherhood. But every day I get another chance to do better in my motherhood.

We may be done growing babies, but we are not done growing in our motherhood.

We are not done growing.

What am I growing now?

That is our own question to answer.

If you’re done having more babies and you feel moments of sadness, don’t be ashamed. It’s okay to feel both confidence and sadness about being done having babies.

Talk to someone, talk with another mama. Be sad. Grieve that the baby phase of motherhood is over for you. And take solace in knowing you are not done growing in your motherhood. Your kids are going to keep growing and so are you.”

Alice Seuffert

This essay was submitted to Love What Matters by Alice Seuffert of Dining with Alice and author of Family Meal Planning. Subscribe to our free email newsletter, Living Better—your ultimate guide for actionable insights, evidence backed advice, and captivating personal stories, propelling you forward to living a more fulfilling life.

Read more touching stories about motherhood here:

‘I’ve never felt closer to my husband, and yet more distant. I’m so excited to watch them grow, but simultaneously, I wish they’d stay little forever.’: Mom explains why motherhood is ‘one beautiful contradiction’

‘You must love YOURSELF.’ At 4, she leans down so I hear her. I teach her about my difficulties, and free us from shame.’: Woman with hearing impairment describes ‘pure, deep, powerful’ motherhood

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