When I knew I was done
I recently helped organize a casual baby shower at a workplace gathering for a colleague.
Thanks to a small group of creative teachers, we were able to pull off a Pinterest-worthy, Welcome Bébé-themed baby shower for our French-teacher mama-to-be.
We shared pink cupcakes and offered words of advice over lunch with more than 100 faculty and staff. We also presented the new mama with a generous gift on behalf of all of us.
I truly enjoy paying forward acts of kindness and support such as this to others as they welcome new little ones into their families and embark on their own life-changing journeys as parents.
I love sharing in the anticipation, excitement and offering support where I can, and then sidestepping my way back into my own life, in which my family is navigating a whole new phase.
The next stage
Now ages 12, 9, 7 and 5, my school-age children are all active kids, pulling us in different and exciting directions with their athletics, music lessons, school events and different interests and abilities. We’re in a fun new stage of our life as a family.
Our kids are becoming less dependent on us and gradually evolving into their own individual selves.
And that means my kids are becoming less dependent on me in particular. With this phase, I have a little more time and freedom to nurture myself as an individual.
I’m finding I’m able to focus a bit more on my own physical, spiritual and mental well-being, which, in turn, helps me to project myself as the person — and the mother — I want to be.
At this point in my life, I can affirm that my body is done having babies. We’ve said goodbye to the baby years in our household and I can confidently say this without any hesitation or regret. Indeed, I’ve come to terms with this new phase of my life with my four growing children.
No more babies?
But this wasn’t always the case.
After the birth of my first child, I experienced love in a way I’d never experienced it before. I not only fell in love with my child, but I also fell in love with the experience of being a mother.
For four incredible chapters of my life, I was defined by my role as a mother of a baby. I carried my developing children in my body, birthed, cared for my fragile newborns, nursed, endured sleepless nights, and carried and weaned four sweet babies.
It wasn’t until my fourth child was born that the feelings in my heart and the signals from my body confirmed that our family was complete.
The gift of knowing
All adults, at some point in their lives, must decide when and if to begin — and end — having children.
There’s no right or wrong way to feel about this issue. And the feelings brought about when making this decision can vary dramatically from person to person.
For some, there’s a signal that’s loud and clear; for others, the understanding is more obscure.
Making a final-final decision can trigger feelings of loss for some; for others, that deciding brings contentment.
Ultimately, this “knowing” can affect mind, body and soul.
My knowing developed through with my experiences: My pregnancies became increasingly more complicated, and the strenuous effects on my body were more pronounced.
And the realities of welcoming our fourth child into our home more than subtly hinted we were at capacity — with our living and sleeping space, seats in our vehicles, with our finances. And, along with all that, there was an intuitive feeling that our family just felt complete.
Today, I’m truly at peace and grateful for my own knowing. I’m also grateful for the gift of motherhood that my husband and four children have given me.
I’m also enjoying this current diaper-free, sleeping-through-the-night chapter of my parenting journey.
Indeed, this different stage presents both its joys and challenges, of course.
But it’s one I’m embracing with an open mind and heart.
Megan Devine is an elementary school teacher who lives with her husband and four children in Northeastern Minnesota. She blogs at kidsandeggs.com.