I've written before how it first came to me:
Sam and I had always said that our Baby Number would be three or four. Neither of us were committed to one over the other because there, of course, were so many unknowns at play... would we have three and feel a hole in our hearts, like there was one more still out there for us? Would we have our third baby and feel as though we had more than enough on our plates and couldn't handle a fourth? Would it take too much time, or medical intervention, to get pregnant? Perhaps our decision would be rooted in finances...or the health of either of us or one of our kids. Maybe our first baby would NEVER SLEEP and we'd decide we didn't have the stamina to have more (Phew! Sure glad we had that second baby....and third....while still firmly sleep deprived!) We just knew that, at some point, we'd know. And I hoped that we would both come to the same decision independently...but at the same time.
While pregnant with Molly, it occurred to me that I should, more than either time before, take it all in. Pay attention to everything. Write more. Focus more. Reflect more....because it might be the last time my body does something as big and beautiful as grow a baby. And once labor started, that general sense continued and I was lucky to be able to enjoy a fast and easy unmedicated labor. In that final moment of labor, that instant before my baby breathed her first breath and was handed to me to for the first time, an awareness filled me: This is It, I suddenly knew, Remember Everything. You'll never experience labor again. And before I even had a chance to process this new knowledge, I heard that baby girl cry and I was swept into present tense and was overcome with love...my heart now three times divided, but more whole than it had ever been. And it was good.
In the days that followed, those words echoed again and again in my head and I couldn't help but wonder about them. I knew it wasn't a conscious thought I had had...it was my heart. It was full. It was complete. It was grateful. And it was Happy.
Our family of five.
I mentioned it, in passing, during a conversation with my mom the other day. I don't remember how it came up, but I mentioned that Molly is our last baby and my mom said, "Really? You're sure? How do you know?" She wasn't questioning the truthfulness of my statement or debating anything...she was truly curious. My mom and dad had eight children. My mom had my youngest sister at the age of 39...and not just 39, but 39 WITH SEVEN OTHER CHILDREN. Her body and her head told her that eight would be enough. Truth is, if her heart had had the final say, she may have had more. Other friends of mine decide before baby-having has even begun: "We'll only have two," they say, and they stick to it because their heads and hearts are on board from the get go. Others come to the decision for practical reasons...age, money, space, level-of-chaos in the home, etc. And for some women (and men, too, I'm sure...I just haven't had this conversation with any), the choice is made for them. Their bodies can't safely handle another pregnancy. Their bank account can't afford another round of fertility treatment. Their spouse is Done. And, whatever the reason, they must stop. And their heads and hearts carry around a feeling of incompleteness for some length of time...maybe forever.
I feel so lucky that it was my heart that decided. I'm usually a thinker. A planner. A list-maker, researcher, explore-every-option-er. And sometimes, after all that thinking and deciding, I'm left wondering if I did, indeed, make the right decision. Because once you've thought your way onto one path, you're still left with the knowledge of what almost led you down another. It's different when the heart decides. There's no second guessing....there's only one path. It just is, so you go with it. It feels free.
After knowing what this feels like, I'd like to offer up to the Universe: This year, let me learn to quiet my head and follow my heart more.
And as content as I feel with this decision that was made (for me, not by me), the best part is that Sam feels exactly the same way.