Dealing with broodiness -- decided no more kids but heart says otherwise
May 22, 2020 7:02 AM   Subscribe

Title pretty much says it all. For lots of very good reasons, my partner, my head and I have decided that our family is complete. My heart feels entirely differently, and I can't stop thinking about more kids! Help?

How did you deal with this? I feel so many pangs of jealousy when I see pregnant women or mothers with babies. I picture more grown children at the table, too. If you felt this way, did it go away? Or did you just give in and have another kid?

I'm pretty sure my head is exactly right in saying NO for excellent reasons, but I'm really puzzled by how much my heart/body/ruminating mind cannot seem to accept this. I'm nearing 40, so yeah, maybe it's just biology. (FWIW, my male partner also agrees we're done for the same excellent reasons, but also has some heart tugs/wistfulness about more kids -- but not as strongly as I do.)

Any thoughts, suggestions for reading, ways of thinking about this, etc. are all welcome, esp. if from personal experience.
posted by caoimhe to Human Relations (9 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
I think it's okay to let yourself feel your feelings about this - you've made a good logical decision for your family, but that doesn't mean that your emotions have to agree! In a way, it's mourning - you're losing the possibility of more children, and it's okay to feel all the crazy emotions we feel for that loss!

We decided not to have kids which sometimes gives me a real emotional rollercoaster, because I like kids and kind of always assumed I would have them, so sometimes the reality that we aren't going to will really throw some loops my way, but I just let it wash over me.

I know why we made the decision and that will carry me through, but I like to think of it like a breakup (or a death but a breakup is less sad so I prefer that). You always know why you broke up with someone, and the logic of it makes perfect sense, but the first time you see that person with someone else, you're going to be consumed with jealousy and sadness and wistfulness and rose coloured glasses, imagining all the things that could have been.

I let my head make the decisions because it's good at that, but I try to let my emotions play out as they like as long as it's staying within reason! We all expect our hearts to follow our heads, but emotional reactions aren't always dictated by logic. It will get better! <3
posted by euphoria066 at 8:11 AM on May 22 [12 favorites]

I've been in this situation for about four years - I thought we'd have three, my husband felt very sure about being done after two. When my younger kid was a toddler we had a serious talk about how I wanted another and he doesn't and my heart broke about it for a while, and it still sucks sometimes. I get sad for myself when friends and relatives and even strangers have babies.

I try to focus on the things that are great about this family size - it's easier to do things as a group of four than as a group of five. We can split up and have one-on-one time with the kids really easily. The kids are old enough that even if we had another at this point it would not be not a trio of siblings like I envisioned; it would be "the big kids" and "the baby". I don't need a bigger car to accommodate seating for three kids. My kids are really close and get along most of the time, and another kid would have changed their dynamic for sure.

I also give myself permission to feel my feelings about it. I know we're not going to have another, but I am sad and mad about it sometimes. I talk to my husband about it when I am feeling big feelings, and he commiserates even if he doesn't feel the same feelings. It has gotten somewhat less painful by now, to the point that we can joke about it sometimes. I don't know if I will ever get over the feeling that our family is a missing something. I'm one of three siblings and I found out a few years ago that my mom always thought they'd have a fourth, but that by the time we were teenagers she was happy with their choice. So maybe in a few more years the pangs will stop - but if they don't I'm okay with it.
posted by SeedStitch at 8:19 AM on May 22 [9 favorites]

It's OK to mourn for what you don't have, but try to also take pleasure and joy for what you do, especially the time you have to pay attention and engage with your children. Siblings can be a benefit, but they are also a draw of parental energy and attention, as my kids frequently remind me.
posted by Mr.Know-it-some at 8:44 AM on May 22 [6 favorites]

You didn't mention how old your child(ren) is/are. I felt a strong emotional tug to have another child from shortly after my son was born until he was about 9 years old. That feeling went away and now I'm so happy to have just the one. He has all kinds of life experiences that he wouldn't be able to have if he had a younger sibling, and of course I have more resources (time, attention, financial) to give to him. Add in the threat of climate change and overall lifetime consumerism/consumption habits and I'm very glad to have made the decision that I did. So maybe just give yourself time to focus on the family that you have and let the residual hormones that we label as anxiety from the old "biological clock ticking" wear away.
posted by mezzanayne at 9:09 AM on May 22 [4 favorites]

After the decision was made that I would not gestate another child, I had the recurring wistful urge for quite awhile. Whenever I was hit with a pang that wouldn't go away I would buy something for a baby. Then I would feel that I had acted absurdly to spend money on a child I would never have and truly didn't want anyway, squelching the baby-hunger. A two dollar purchase usually served to stifle the feeling nicely. I amassed quite a lovely collection over the weeks and months that the urge kept hitting me. I bought everything a baby might need, from cute outfits, to tubes of goop, six packs of socks, nail clippers and so on. My impulses were more towards practical stuff than decorative as I gloated more over having a spare crib sheet for the inevitable diaper blow out than I did over an adorable little dress. For one thing I didn't know if my imaginary child would turn out to be a dress-wearer. Like any practical mother before the time when an ultra-sound would indicate the putative gender of the child they were carrying, I only collected stuff that would be useful for either genders. Once my collection outgrew a decent sized shopping bag, I bought a jumbo diaper bag to store it all in. The diaper bag was the most expensive item I got. Otherwise it scaled according to how strong the feeling was. The stronger the pang the more money I would spend to extinguish it.

After about another six months where the urge had decreased enough that I didn't purchase any items, I had a ready-to-go layette which I took to the local group home for pregnant children and happily dropped it off.
posted by Jane the Brown at 10:14 AM on May 22 [10 favorites]

I don't have any children, and when I feel sad about it, I think of the souls of my would-be children going instead to another family who has always wanted a child and will love them very much.
posted by 8603 at 11:12 AM on May 22 [5 favorites]

This is sometimes really hard for me too. One thing that helps me is reminding myself to really appreciate my kids. I don’t mean to be shaming or say you don’t do that, but I mean I think I personally was not.
After my second was born, one of my first thoughts was, “I could do that one more time!” But I was literally holding a sweet, healthy baby! Why was I thinking of other babies?! And reality is I can’t - fertility, finances, and my age (early 40s) just don’t work with another baby. I find that telling myself to remember I have 2 great kids and thinking of other, not going to happen kids is not fair to them. It also helped a lot when my oldest started telling me she does not want any more siblings. (She recognized that it would mean sharing even more time & attention and, as she told me, “babies are really a lot of work.”) Another thing that helped was finally sleeping better at night and knowing that another kid would throw that off.
It can be a really hard process.
posted by areaperson at 12:36 PM on May 22 [1 favorite]

I think the way that works best for me with these types of decisions, is to not think of them as permanent. Never again. I think of them as not right now. Maybe things will change, but not right now. I know that in your case or the case of having children, that there are time and biology factors in play, but the longer you live with a decision the more comfortable you get with it in my experience. I have 3 and wanted a 4th. My ex did not. Her body, her call. Fast forward 20 years or so and now that my kids are in their 20s, I am looking forward to babysitting the grandkids one day. Now, my children are not married or in the stage of wanting or having babies, but maybe one day. The other thing that made it "easier" was to know that we could always try to adopt a child. I cannot speak to an urge to actually be pregnant, but I can say my observations were that being pregnant and then breast feeding take a heavy toll on one's body, one's health and one's mental health.

The question my ex always asked me, and she nailed it was, "Why?" "What about having more children is it that you want? What do the three we have not give you as a parent?"
posted by AugustWest at 6:06 PM on May 22 [1 favorite]

Thanks everyone! I'm finding this hugely helpful -- if only because I'm not alone. I think I'm not enjoying the family I have right now in search of one that could be, in some theoretical world, better. What, indeed, would another child bring me? And Jane the Brown, I would love to buy stuff for my theoretical child and give it away to a real one who needed it :).

I do think, however, it will just take time. And that if I never stop feeling that pang, that will be OK , too.
posted by caoimhe at 7:54 AM on May 23 [4 favorites]

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