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How Do You Know You are Done Having Kids?

My children are all 3.5 to 4 years apart. That translates to almost 12 years of sleepless nights and diaper changing. What did I do before baby wipes? I can’t even remember. Perhaps there were no messes to clean up back then?

12 years of stroller pushing and toenail trimming.  12 years of there always being tiny toes in my house. Oh how I love those tiny toes!

Recently my youngest turned four and grew three shoe sizes overnight. I quickly took a photograph of his hands. They were right on the brink of “kid”. The last little bit of toddler pudge was fading and those hands were growing fast as a puppy’s paws. His feet were transformed as well.  Suddenly we’re dealing with kid feet. Stinky little boy ones that get stuck in a big sister’s face to make her scream.

No more babies in the house. Oh no! I felt a vaguely familiar pang,  just like I’ve felt every three to four years for the past decade plus.  How do you know when you are “done”?

There was a time when I was certain I would, in fact,  never know that I was “done”.  I feared it, actually. I feared waking up and feeling incomplete. Longing for another child that I wouldn’t or couldn’t have. Living in this sort of family limbo where I’d wake up in the middle of the night with the perfect girl name and nobody to bestow it upon. I’d have to get lots of cats, and a few fish. Just so I could use the name. Or I’d give the Duggars a run for their money, making babies until I could have no more and then serial adopting as well.

Women who I knew and respected with far fewer kids than me, would wave a hand and snort “Oh yeah! I’m SO done. Shoot me if I breed again!”

I’d marvel at their level of certainty. Note: Some of those same women, have in fact turned around and bred again. Woops! Surprisingly, none of them had to be put down after having another child.

Many of my friends aren’t willing to take any chances. They’ve made it medically impossible for one or the other (or both!) of them to have any more children and their insistence of “I’m done” rings a little more true. Fact, not opinion. But as an adoptive parent I know it’s not that simple for me. My children have all grown in my heart, regardless of whether they grew in my uterus. A medical procedure won’t take my heart off the hook, perhaps that’s part of why we’ve not pursued that option. Technically the equipment is still in working order. There’s still a chance I could go again, but I’m pretty sure I won’t.

It’s bittersweet. So bittersweet and made even more so by the current awareness that my youngest is now at almost the precise age his siblings were when they each became a big brother or sister. He’s the last. I’m wistful, but I’m done.

How do I know? I can’t even describe it. As bittersweet as it feels I can’t imagine starting again. I feel satiated in the way that you feel after a great meal. I can push back from the table a little and admire the feast. I don’t need to put any more on my plate. I’m not sure I could manage another bite.

It’s almost exactly like that. I’m full. My life is so full. Full of everything but tiny toes, which we’re just going to have to order out for from now on. We’ll take our tiny toes to go. Let us babysit a few hours so we can get our fill?

I’m looking forward to more travel with my older family. Game nights. Being able to leave home without booking a sitter now that our oldest can pinch hit for us. It’s a whole new world of family for us.

I’m still the mother of a four year old but there has been a sea change. I’m not the new mom anymore, and I probably never will be ever again.

Just when I knew my groove.

I guess life, and parenthood is just like that. It’s a whole new adventure,  a roller coaster, and taking some getting used to.

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