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Why I'm Scared to Stop Having Kids

Why I'm Terrified to Be Done Having Kids

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I'm pretty sure I'm having some sort of life crisis. It's a little too early to call it a midlife crisis; I'm still in my 30s. But I feel I'm at a critical turning point, a fork in the road: a time when one part of my life is about to end, and I'm being forced to enter the next phase. The passing years are pulling me kicking and screaming into my 40s. And my childbearing years are pretty much up. But there's an overwhelming part of me that still wants to have more children. How can I say goodbye to one of the most gratifying, defining experiences of my life thus far, which was being pregnant, giving birth, and raising babies? When I finally must accept the writing on the wall, that I am too old to conceive more kids, well, doesn't that mean I'm just . . . old?

Of course, I look forward to watching my four children grow up and being a part of each milestone with them, but closing the chapter on bringing new life into the world makes me feel inexplicably sad.

I started having children in my late 20s, and I recently gave birth to a fourth baby at the age of, gulp, 39. I kinda figured having this little one would be my last hurrah. Yet, the very day I welcomed him into the world, I still didn't feel "done." I've heard so many moms describe knowing that they're "done." They joke about the shop being closed for business, and seem genuinely ready to move on to the next chapter, to watch their babies grow, and to put diapers and breastfeeding and sleepless nights behind them once and for all.

So how come after four children, I've yet to experience that moment where I can confidently say I'm done? I'm starting to worry I'll never get there. Maybe I'm just not one of those people who will ever feel done. For me, carrying and birthing babies has been the most wonderful, exciting, special thing in my life. Nothing can compare to that love you feel when you meet your child for the first time. Unless you count the moment you find out you're pregnant, or when you feel your baby's first little kicks inside your belly. Over the past decade, growing our family has provided more joy than I can describe.

Of course, I look forward to watching my four children grow up and being a part of each milestone with them, but closing the chapter on bringing new life into the world makes me feel inexplicably sad. And truthfully, I can't help but think about how once I am no longer making babies, it's a quick trip to the nursing home. I'll be 40, then 50, then 60, then — hopefully — 70, then 80, then, sigh, it's all over.

My husband and I are at a point when we discuss the prospect of having another baby almost every day, mainly because I feel like time is running out. Sure, some women have babies at 45 or older, but for me, having a baby at 40 seems like I'm pushing my luck. So, should we or shouldn't we? I know our lives are hectic enough with four, but the biggest question I ask myself is, will I regret it if I don't? We only get this one life. I can't help but wish I'd met my husband earlier and started our family earlier.

I know I can't change the past. Now, I'm facing a daunting future, one that may or may not include another baby. A future that is completely unknown, in which I'm not sure how I will replace that lost joy, who I will be, what else I will be able to contribute. The only thing I can say for sure is that my childbearing years went by way too fast, and I'd happily relive them again. If only I could.

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