Motherhood

One Thing That Has Surprised Me About Parenting

One Thing That Has Surprised Me About Parenting

So, something weird is happening…

As I’ve mentioned, Alex and I have agreed that we are done having children. Sometimes it seems like we can barely handle the two we have! For many reasons, I’m confident that this is the right decision for our family.

But I’m still sad. What gives? Is that normal?

The sadness of being done having babies hits me at random times: When the boys play by themselves, so independently. When they’re fast asleep, all sweet and sweaty. When I imagine them going to college. Our friends brought over their new baby last night, and watching him sack out while drinking milk made me crave a similar weight in my arms.

I truly believe that two is our number, and our family is complete. The children we have are the great joys of my life; my heart swells whenever they walk into the room, and I find them utterly hilarious and beautiful. So, who wouldn’t want to extend that feeling? I’ll get that pang, and will joke to Alex, “Let’s just have a quick one, just a little one really fast.” Will that broodiness ever go away? A blogger named Sarah called it “The Ache,” and it feels just like that.

The other day, I stumbled upon this quote from a mother I know:

    There is a mother I watch who has a child on her lap and she holds the child’s long hair in her hand. It fills her fist, a limp rope. The mother is absentminded, exposing the child’s neck is an unconscious instinct. Cool the child: lift the hair. Like other parent-child touching, this gesture is so soft and common it is maybe unfelt, like ones own sweater against ones own skin. But watching her I wonder how long it has been since I have felt that exactly: the weight of someone else’s hair in my hand. A long time. I would like to feel it now. Today I felt the weight of a handful of cilantro. I wonder if it’s similar.

That moved me so much. This parenting thing can really throw you for a loop sometimes.

Do you hope to have a certain number of kids? When it comes to being done, can you ever make an unambivalent decision? If you aren’t having more kids, do you ever feel The Ache? Sending love to all those who are done having babies — and also all those who are trying to have one, as well, especially if it has been hard.

P.S. Five women on deciding NOT to have children, and how did you know you were ready to have a baby?

(Photo by Meg at Old Farmhouse.)

  1. LEM says...

    Before I had our first, now four, I wasn’t sure I could be a mother. I had never really been a “kid” person. The instant that little bear was in my arms, I wanted 5,000 children. We had our second two years later, and I remember bringing him home, sitting at the table, just the four of us and thinking, “This. This is RIGHT.” I still feel that way, but I also still have the ache. One of my friends told me that every mother has this – every mother will always want more. That has helped me immensely as I have those what if…moments; that the ache will never go away, and I just need to soak in as much of my boys as I can. Be present with them. New ages bring new moments to see the world in different, amazing ways.
    Also, my sister-in-law is starting the process of having their own kids – so I will get to be super fun aunt now. Snuggles with littles – without the intense sleep deprivation and budget woes.

  2. Bailey says...

    I’d love to hear a male perspective about having kids–in particular a father who did not want kids but then changed his mind or was convinced into it. I don’t have kids, but The Ache has been strong on and off over the last 7 or 8 years. My long-time significant other, on the other hand…no interest in kids.

  3. Sarah Osanz says...

    You have described this conundrum so perfectly. My husband and I have decided that two is our number and our family feels happy and complete. But every so often I still feel a pang of…nostalgia? Wistfulness? In any case, whatever the feeling, it makes me hug my two children a little bit tighter, encourage me to be a little more patient, and remind me to try and appreciate the every day moments as they grow up and become more independent.

  4. Rachel says...

    Oh my! I have a 6-year-old and 3-year-old, and think about a third at least a few times a day. I worry I will regret not having a third later on, but not sure how I can manage another unpleasant pregnancy and infant on top of our current chaos. My mom had three kids and a job, but my grandmother was 52, local, and energetic when I was born, and my mom also had three helpful sisters nearby (which is nothing like my situation.) Anyway, wishing the mamas (and dads!) all the best, always.

  5. Chantel says...

    I had two boys. My husband and I both solemnly swore off having any more children as “two is enough” and “three would totally put me over the edge”. Yet….I felt like such a liar every time I told someone I was content with our two boys. I love them to absolute pieces but I ALWAYS felt like someone was missing. When pregnant with my second son my husband and I went out to eat and he randomly told me he loved the name Gemma. I almost choked on my food as it was the name I had been thinking about that morning! So when we had our two boys and Gemma wasn’t to be I KNEW deep down that she was out there somewhere. Sometimes I have these affirmations that are so strong they can’t be ignored. And so, a year later, and one very unlikely oopsie moment when we had been trying to be SO careful lead to our little girl, Gemma! And while I was freaked about having three kids, I can say one year later, that life finally feels complete. I always knew my little girl was out there and it feels like the greatest gift to be her mommy.

  6. Jade says...

    I just had a baby two months ago and despite having the worst pregnancy ever (well, in my opinion) I swore I would never have another baby. But holding onto my sweet boy makes me think that I could do it again. But then I think about my husband and how he turns 50 next month and that one kid at his age will be plenty and I repeat our mantra to myself, “One and done.”

  7. Kristin says...

    I am reading this, and reading The Ache, with my second daughter (3 months old) asleep on my chest after nursing to sleep. Even with a baby right here, reading The Ache gave me The Ache! She so vividly described that sweet sorrow of having a baby and watching her grow. We have decided that this baby is our last. We are sure. We are scheduling a vasectomy sure. My pregnancies were painful and stressful and I don’t want to do it again.
    Even still, I know how hard it will be to never have another sweet-sour-milk-breath’d baby sleeping on my chest.
    I was just thinking this morning that when a baby latches on to nurse, it is the most fulfilling, satisfying, complete feeling in the world. It feels like for a moment, everything is just RIGHT.

  8. Dana says...

    I LOVED having babies. And little ones. And I stretched it out as long as I could — three kids, each three years apart. I had lots of precious years of littles around. I’ll never forget my first OB appointment that was just about my heath, not about getting ready for, or getting through, or recovering from pregnancy. I felt old and sad and very very nostalgic. I couldn’t believe it was over. I’d look at young moms at the supermarket, or young families at the local coffee shop, and feel so wistful. I really had to grieve the end of one of my very favorite stages of life. In so many ways, I found my identity during these years of early motherhood. But then something AMAZING happened. I hit 45, and my feelings just changed about the whole thing. I rediscovered myself. I remembered all kinds of things that I loved about life that I had had no time or attention for in more than a decade. I started reveling in my older children, and how interesting they are becoming — they are my very favorite people! And while I still LOVE holding babies, and feeling their weight, and smelling their smell, and remembering the simplicity of the early years, I also LOVE handing them back to their moms. No wistfulness whatsoever. Grandmother-ing is far in my future, but I am totally at peace that my next intimate relationship with babies will be as a grandmother.

  9. Amy says...

    I found this very moving. I don’t relate to it at all, though. My kids are one and three, and my husband and I both work full time, and I am exhausted! I love my kids and delight at them at this age, but it’s so all-consuming. It’s shocking how little time I feel I have to do anything for myself. I do get wistful for some of the baby stuff, but more often I find myself looking forward to things getting slightly easier. I feel a little guilty about saying that, but there it is!

  10. Molly says...

    I’m 25 and single, so babies are very far from my mind right now! However, I can totally relate to “The Ache,” only not with little humans, but with dogs! I have one dog that I adopted a while ago, and I constantly find myself looking at other dog adoption websites longing for another (or 5…). I know with my current job and apartment, one is enough for me, for now. But I definitely get a pang looking through doggie adoption photos. Perhaps all you need is a pup? ;)

  11. Patricia says...

    Well, I had five kids and it’s the best thing I ever did! It wasn’t easy for sure, and sometimes money was scarce, but they are all grown up now and are happy, big hearted adults whom I adore. Everyone always says it’s so weird that we all get along great, and the how they are all there for each other. I just celebrated my 60th birthday and they all came, along with spouses, sweethearts, and my grandchildren. My heart was ready to burst with happiness the entire time! And I know having more than one or two children today isn’t something that is easy or even wanted. But it’s certainly important enough to make a decision that you won’t regret later.

  12. Lauren O says...

    I feel this too. It’s an ache, but there is also a sweetness to it – sort of like wistfulness or nostalgia. I don’t know if I will have another child. I always assumed that I would have multiple children, but lately I’ve been reexamining and challenging a lot of my old assumptions. But the biology, the ache, the physicality of it all – it’s real and it’s palpable.

    These days, when I nurse my toddler as her sleepy body curls up against me, I marvel at the weight of her, the child-like hair where there once was downy fluff. I think to myself, what if this is the last time? I remember her rolling around inside me like an ocean. The soft light in the hospital room when she was born. My husband’s face, overcome with emotion. The triumphant exhaustion.

    I am afraid to hope for a second child. I am not sure I deserve the one I have.

  13. We had two babies two years apart and that was great, but then my husband and I were wondering if our family was complete. Such a weird decision to make! We would circle around the question and sometimes one of us would say, yes! another baby! and the other would say hell no. Finally, in the middle of a family gathering, my husband looked at me and said, yes, let’s have another baby and I was in the yes-mode, too. And our two children were the only grandkids on both sides of the family (no cousins – so sad), so we felt like we were choosing joy and abundance. I am so grateful that our family feels totally complete; I really do not have an ache for another child. I know it’s only three kids, but it feels like a tribe to me! Also, my brother and his wife unexpectedly had a baby around the time of our third, so my kids do have one cousin, now, and my parents are overjoyed to have two more little grandkids that they were not expecting.

  14. Anonymous says...

    Reading through many of these comments I can’t help but wonder if anybody else out there thinks about the toll having more kids puts on the earth and our limited resources…? I have 2 kids and cried when my hubby had a vasectomy so I totally understand “the ache”. But what makes me more nervous and scared is the idea that my kids and/or grandkids won’t have the resources to have healthy, happy lives on our over populated planet. Does anyone else think about this?!?!

  15. ceciel says...

    That Ache is so deep…my 3rd and last is almost 3 and even though, he’s a terrible sleeper and a wild little man (determined to splash straight into the hot tub at the pool tonight, even though it was closed), I miss that babyness. That wobbly head and neck that you support with your hand or crook of your elbow. The little tiny feet that fit in one hand while you change a diaper. I even miss what’s not yet gone–falling asleep next to me, little mispronunciations (looka the ‘cool bus) and random speeches (and then the leaves will turn purple and fall down and THEN…Santa will come). “There are parts of you that want the sadness. Find them out. Ask them why” (Yrsa Daley-Ward)

  16. little mama says...

    i am feeling this ache so deeply now. my son turned one today and while he is still very much a baby that needs me, i look back at images from when he was born and i feel almost a sense of loss and sadness (definitely an achy-ness) that makes me immediately want to have another child… i am really missing those early days and wish i could relive them and hold this tiny being in my hands again…. i worry that i did not experience them “fully” enough, that i wasn’t “present” enough — too tired and too worried about all the stupid stuff. i panicked last night that i did not have enough photos from those first few days of his life, as if that matters. its all so fleeting and precious. thank you for this.

  17. Pam says...

    I had that feeling after two. So I had a third (he’s almost 21 now!). I didn’t have that lingering feeling after that – I think deep down I always wanted three.

  18. el says...

    In an ideal world i would have had 3, in reality 2 was perfect. I often say to my oldest, that she was a “high needs infant” and she is quick to remind me, “mom, i am also a high needs adult”. With that reality in mind, 2 is just right.

  19. Courtney says...

    I always knew I wanted to have kids, but somehow how much I love being a mother has taken me by surprise. My baby is 3 months old and the past months have been the most beautiful, exhausting and exhilarating of my life. I want to simultaneously freeze time so I can savor the baby cuddles and speed it up because I am excited to see who my son will become.

    I’m not certain if we will stop at one or try for two. We live in an expensive city and have demanding jobs. My husband was a happy only child while I cannot imagine growing up without my sister. My head says it makes sense to devote our time and resources to our beautiful boy. My heart already feels “the ache” and I can’t imagine not doing the baby thing one more time…

  20. Anna says...

    I’m 19 weeks pregnant now with our second child and I think our last. I’m sad already and scheming ways to be a surrogate so I can be pregnant again in future. My brother is gay, maybe I can carry for him and his partner? I’m not sure my husband would be on board, but I’m not quite ready to commit to the idea that this is the last time in my life I’ll feel a baby kick inside me.

  21. Leah says...

    I once read a quote of a mother who said “no matter how many kids you have, you always miss the last child you never had”. It felt so true and stuck with me since.

  22. melissa says...

    I have 2 children, 22 an 18 (a new empty nest!). My husband and I wrestled with the decision on whether to have more. And I thought we would. I can’t say we had a conversation where we decided we were done. We made a big move, I took on a more demanding job. I have found raising teenagers in this complicated world very challenging. They are good people but over the past 7 or 8 years, I have said multiple times “thank goodness we stopped at two”.

  23. Allison says...

    I currently have 12 week old twins and a four year old and this post made me laugh. As wonderful as all three kids are, things are so, so tough right now. It’s hard for me to imagine ever missing this phase and wanting to revisit it. Actually, we have already taken permanent measures to ensure that we don’t revisit it!

  24. Elizabeth in Tennessee says...

    Oh, The Ache is real. Was it only lasted night that I was quietly bawling my eyes out that I probably won’t/can’t have a second child? Yes, it was. Our amazing 4-year-old son is fantastic and everything wonderful thing a sweet, clever, curious and articulate boy could be. And yet, I had always imagined a sibling. Always *assumed* there would be two babies in my life. The Ache makes me feel the absence of that sibling keenly. It also makes me horribly jealous and irrational: “Every woman in the world is pregnant but me!” The Ache was painful enough for me to unfollow Courtney Adamo on every possible social media because I felt irrational ire that she could just fall pregnant so easily – as if there are only so many babies in the universe, and she was taking more than her fair share. Irrational is The Ache’s midnight hobgoblin.

    My husband is happy with how things are. At times, I feel like he is indifferent to my agony, and when he just says “sorry” it breaks my heart. Then, a new day dawns and I see the bright side of having a single child.

    But, I still feel The Ache every day.

  25. A says...

    I think it’s fair to say there are two types of aches: one, for more children. And another, for the children you already have and their infancies (or babyhood,toddlerhood,adolescence…whatever phases are behind them) – the passage of time is such an emotional part of parenthood, but as my dad always reminds me when I am feeling melancholy and heavy with that second type of ache…”watching your children grow sure beats the alternative.” I now try to remind myself of that- even as my heart breaks that my little girl no longer wants to be held. Thank goodness I get to watch my children grow. And, with that, I try to ease up on the pressure to remember every.last.moment- it can be so trapping, especially with those who has Swiss cheeese memories, like me:).

    In other news- my husband I had multiple miscarriages and through fertility treatments have two beautiful daughters – 2 years 3 mos and 3 mos old. While pregnant with our second, I did believe I could be ‘done’. Now, that idea is so completely NOT my truth that is is almost laughable – I have surprised myself with this unignorable longing for a third that arrived along with my second precious child. Just another example of being humbled by motherhood.

  26. Missy says...

    I’m getting married in 2 weeks and want to get pregnant next year. I’m 34 (will be 35 when we actively start trying) and have a fear that it won’t happen. Like not just next year, but ever. We’d like more than one but at this point we are playing it by ear by how long/ if it happens first. Wish us luck!

    • Christine says...

      Good luck – with the wedding and future baby making :)

    • Rachael says...

      I had deep fears like that, and just like you I was 34 when we got married and my husband was 35. I’ve always dreamed of being a mother so we started trying right away due to family members and friends stories of infertility struggles. I was so sure it would happen to us to! I can happily say we conceived 4 months after trying and have the most perfect 16 month old baby girl!! Currently trying for baby #2 and have the same feelings the first time around! I guess it’s just hard to control our fears! Best wishes to you on your wedding and baby making journey! :)

    • I got married at 34 because I thought I wanted two kids and that would give me enough time if we started trying just after getting married. As soon as I had my first, I knew I wanted more. I’m 40 now and pregnant with my fourth (I’ve also had two miscarriages in this time). You will be fine! There’s probably time to have a few. Enjoy the newlywed phase! Best of luck!!!

  27. Amy says...

    The Ache used to follow me around – I couldn’t get away from it! But then it kind of faded away. My girls are 9 and 15. I still miss them as babies. I would love to go back in time and hold them each again as tiny new people. I don’t ache for another baby anymore. Rather, I am just so happy with the people they are growing up to be.

  28. Ashley W says...

    Our little guy is 6 months, and while every moment is bittersweet and amazing, I am done. I was iffy to begin with. Growing up I told my mom I would never have kids because I didn’t “want to contribute to the overpopulation of the planet.” My husband, however, is the one getting broody and jokes about wanting 5 kids. He really would love three, but has started hesitating when people ask, leaving the answer to “more” open-ended. He’s hoping someday I’ll come around, and I feel a bit like I’m crushing his future family. :(

    My pregnancy was rough. I had a low-grade hyperemesis gravidarum (severe nausea) from 6 weeks on, and he would find me on the floor shaking and crying because I felt so sick and couldn’t eat, or if I did try to eat I would throw it all up and feel even worse. Then I had to be induced at 37.5 due to severe preeclampsia. Luckily the birth itself was quick and “easy” (I mean, it was giving birth… so you know… but way easier than my pregnancy!). Our little guy came out perfectly healthy, even though he’s little, and he’s SO happy all the time. I really hated when people started talking about “more” right away, especially family. I don’t think they realized what I had been through, and in respect to the new baby… he’s still fresh!? How about being excited about him??

    I consider us all extremely lucky, and am perfectly content with our family as we are. I am sad for my husband, however, and hope the ache gets a little less painful with time…

  29. Ashley W says...

    Anyone who saw Boyhood… I wasn’t pregnant (or wanting to be) when it came out, but holy cow did I cry my eyes out watching him grow up. We were leaving the theater, and I’m sniffling. My husband asks if I’m okay, and I answer “he’s all grown up! It happened so fast and now he’s in college, and it’s all over!!” I mean, it was probably the most worked up I had ever been about someone growing up too fast, and it wasn’t even a real person!!

  30. jana says...

    I miss the warm cheek after a nap and that sweaty little boy hair and the way boys love their mama. But I love the friendship I have now with them. And adding daughters to our family!
    -mom of 2 boys (men actually)

  31. Sarah says...

    Oh my goodness the quote just above the quote you mentioned:

    The smallest child comes to my bed early in the morning and if I am still asleep he is sad. He cries and I pull him on top of me and he says “no sleep mumma!” and keeps weeping and his tears are in my mouth. It is one way to wake up – with salty tears in your mouth.

    Love that. Our second is 8 months and our first just turned two and I already can’t wait to have another. After a somewhat irresponsible nap time romp last week there’s a slim possibility another could come sooner than planned and after mulling over it for a couple days I’ve realized it completely thrills (and petrifies) me. I am so, so grateful the we didn’t have to struggle for the two we have but know that it could be hard to get pregnant next time. I’m wary of having my hopes hung on a next baby that might not come to be, even if we wish it, particularly when we feel so fortunate for the two we have. My heart goes out to women who are struggling. What terribly drawn out heartbreak!

  32. Joanie says...

    Gosh…we just had our first grandchild so reliving all those yummy baby moments (but sleeping). We adopted our children and we were amazingly lucky to “have” two children…but the ache was still there for a third. I could not get rid of the crib. Even though I was 40, we put the word out, said our prayers and we were lucky to “have” number 3. No regrets and I never had that feeling again. Crib is till in attic so perhaps I just have a hard time getting rid of things.
    My bottom line in all decisions is to “do what I would least regret”. 99% of the time it clears the deck. You have great wisdom and will find the right answer.

    • Emily says...

      Yes! The ache for more babies!! It’s on a see-saw with contentment. We were unable to conceive and were blessed enough to adopt our two boys, now ages 6 & 3. We both wished for one more but the struggle that is infant adoption is so heart wrenching & painful at times (not to mention expensive). I still have those days of pining for one more… maybe another go ’round with the fertility specialist, maybe another adoption. BUT, so far every age has been my favorite with these little loves of mine. So this momma, well, I hold out hope that one day our home will be blessed with the adoption of an older child. I remind myself that the sweet love of a one year old isn’t the best of parenthood. The best of parenthood is the blessing of every day with my not so little, don’t even look like me babies.

    • This is how I make my decisions too. But I tend to ask myself “would I regret it/regret not doing it?” It sounds like everything worked out for your family. I am currently twelve (!) days away from my due date with our first and even though I know I don’t want to try for a second right away (I would rather our firstborn was in school before getting pregnant with a child), I know there will come a time when I do ache for more.

    • Lisl Sukachevin says...

      That is so beautiful! I love this: “Do what I would least regret”. So applicable to almost anything in life!

  33. Jessica says...

    I have four sweet littles under the age of seven. I always pictured four though after number three I swore we were done!! My husband and I both come from families of two siblings each and all of our parents regretted not having more. Especially now that we’re all grown. Raising children is such difficult (but rewarding) work. My fourth baby almost did me in. And yet, I will occasionally wonder what our life might be like with another, or I’ll miss the complete wonder of carrying a baby inside my body. Our kids love babies and it’s always the more the merrier around here. But at least for now, we think we’re done adding biological children to our team.

  34. Kristin says...

    Oh, this post! We have two sweet boys (5 and almost 3) and my husband and I keep going back and forth about having a third baby. We seem to change our minds every other month; “yes, let’s have another!”, “no, we’re perfectly content with our two boys!” At times, I love some of the things we can do (and anticipate doing) with the boys as they grow older. And there are certainly things that have become easier as we move farther away from the baby stage. But then that ache comes creeping in, and I feel my two-year-old’s soft, chubby hand reach for mine or catch an attempted wink from my mischievous five-year-old at the dinner table and I’m not so sure.

    • I’m in the EXACT same boat. Same ages and everything. As my little guy becomes less of a baby, reality sets in that this (baby) phase of life may truely be forever over for us. I grapple with the weight of that finality. In solidarity mama! (Funny, if #3 were to be in the cards for us, I’d secretly hope for a boy. I love being a boy mom)

  35. Silver says...

    I feel that ache, but I also feel something else. This is my own secret – something I can’t utter aloud. I feel fear. I feel afraid that just wanting one was asking for too much…. I was infertile, and an operation opened a small window of opportunity and my body ran with it and I conceived. Apparently it is unlikely to work again. But I don’t want anyone else – I only want him. I followed all the rules and loved the baby growing inside of me, however he almost died during his labour, almost but didn’t… then with the haze of his first sunrise we were wheeled in to have CT scans of his organs… phew, he didn’t have the problems they thought. He required surgery at 11 months. His winters were endured with reflux, and croup, he had pneumonia in both his lungs several times, then when he was only five he developed a condition so rare it is seen in approx 1:3,500,000 adults, but so rare in children there is no protocol. I watched as he went into cardiac arrest. The hospital saved him. But every few months his blood is tested. He has allergies. He suffers anxiety – he remembers the botched up spinal taps the way other children remember an epsiode of Thomas the Tank Engine. I can not shake the fear that he can’t be mine to keep… I know that one child is perfect for my family – I just hope that I can keep this one. To have a child, to love them and hold them is to carry dreams into the future – it’s your plans, your love, your kindness, your integrity. A child keeps alive all your memories of those you have ever loved, as you tell your stores of grand-parents and family-folklaw – no wonder so many of us feel that ‘ache’.

    • Em says...

      Xoxo

    • Maura says...

      Sending love to you and your one. I think he is a lucky boy with you as momma x

    • Emmanuella says...

      Heart aching

    • Tis says...

      Praying for his health and happiness! <3

    • Lauren O says...

      This is so honest and haunting. Gave me chills. Hugs to you and your beautiful son.

    • Joann says...

      oh my word, this comment gave me chills and tears. SO much love to you, ,mama.

    • ceciel says...

      thank you for sharing. xo

    • tina says...

      Oh your boy will be fine, and you are one terrific mother.

    • Kate says...

      This moved me so deeply. From one mama to another, sending you and your son so much love.

    • Amy says...

      I really wish the best for your lil one. Your story made my heart ache. I’m away for work right now and all I wish is to be back snuggling my little guy.

    • Sam says...

      wow, how you describe love and pain and hope and fear is so truly beautiful. I am sorry it has not been easy but I am so glad you shared how beautiful your life for your son is.

    • Ali says...

      oh my goodness my heart almost stopped reading your story. Praying your future with your little one is full and beautiful and as far away from hospitals as possible.

    • Christine says...

      Sending positive thoughts your way. Sounds like your little one is a fighter and you are a wonderful momma. Best of luck for a healthy future!!

    • Rachael says...

      Tears while reading this. Cannot imagine that fear of losing your baby. Prayers and love sent your way. xo

  36. Jennifer says...

    Ahhh, this spoke to me so much. I too have been feeling “the ache.” We have two beautiful little people who fill our lives with so much goodness but every now and then I wish to have another one. I feel, with each baby, each pregnancy I became a better mother. I knew what to enjoy when they were babies and I could enjoy more of that babyhood. I could rock the hell out of that newborn stage. I would take more photos, I would co-sleep, I would feel more comfortable out and about. But then, they’re both screaming as I try to strap them into their carseats and that ache disappears. Life just seems to be zooming by, and with every moment I see those fleeting memories pass. The last time they fall asleep in your arms, the last time they ask to be picked up. The last time they say “mama” and graduate to “mom”. This post made me ache.

    • Kirsten Clark says...

      Oh I can hardly stand it! Your comment was perfectly awful, so wrenching because…. Those last times… I can’t even think of them right now or I’ll break down bawling. Makes me want to go wake up my littles right now to snuggle them close (even though I almost lost my mind earlier today dealing with two year old tantrums and not nearly long enough naptimes).

  37. Jo says...

    I am currently in the midst of fertility treatments and experience The Ache all too often, when I see new moms pushing their pudgy little babies around my neighborhood, as I meet my friends newborns (who appear to be arriving at a rapid pace as I’ve been working with a RE). It seems like there are a number of commenters who mentioned struggles with infertility. I’d love to see more posts on the topic of infertility – it’s a topic that is not often discussed and can feel incredibly lonely, but I know affects so many woman out there!

  38. Lina says...

    Ohhh the ache… will always be a part of my heart. I decided to stop at one, she is almost 8 an utterly delicious and perfect. For many reasons I know 1 was my number, maybe in another life I would have three children. But I must confess I became like the lady’s I used to hate when my girl was a little baby, I stare at your women and their baby’s… and smile because I wish that was me again. Me with the child I have, to have had a longer time in each stage. Sometimes I feel I would love to be a mother again with my girl just to live again my motherhood with her…. which is funny because I have spent a long time with herI was a full-time mom until last year so the longing does not come from absence but of love. So now when women smile at me I no longer hate being observed, I meet her eyes and smile because I know they miss their 8 years old and in short while I will be like them missing my daughters childhood. ❤️

  39. This is so interesting. My one & only is 25 now, born when I was 16. I never had the ache, but we were also two peas in a pod, so our whole shape would have had to change if there had ever been another. What’s funny is that recently we were doing something together for the first time in a long time and I realized that her skill has surpassed my own so much. And in that moment my heart swelled like it did when she was tiny and I didn’t think I could possibly love anything harder. Only instead of my beautiful little sweet pea, it was bursting for my brave, smart, strong fully-flowered sweet pea.

  40. Joanna, thank you for sharing. Like many readers, I feel a deep kinship with you – I think we are roughly the same age, and I have two boys, 4 and 1.

    Last Monday morning I gave birth to our third child, a daughter. I was hoping to feel something, like, Our family is complete. But I find myself still wanting more. (Admittedly I am still riding a wave of hormonal euphoria, but this feels deeper than that.) I wonder if I am one of these people who is missing the signal that tells them they are full, as with food. I wonder if my husband and I will just have to look at our resources and make an intellectual decision to stop, even while our hearts still crave more kids. And no matter how many I have, at some point I will have my last child, and then everything will be a last – last diaper, last pronunciation of spaghetti as “pasghetti,” last day of elementary school, etc. And this will hurt.

    I do think motherhood is invariably tied to grief, particularly in our society. In the past, it wasn’t exactly up to us to decide how many kids we had. Choice is undoubtedly an improvement, but it’s also a heavy burden. Also, our society tends to deny the reality of time, and death. But with children we cannot ignore time. We see it pass before our very eyes.

    I’m not at this point yet, but I’m curious how much of “the ache” might be the loss of a huge obstacle. When children are very young, there’s this feeling of “I cannot do this” and then, after a few months, “Oh my goodness, I am actually doing this.” Take you, Joanna — your kids seem to be thriving, your blog has got to be one of the most successful, like ever. I would guess you’re about as busy as someone can be, but still — do you need a new, bigger challenge? Is it time to take up actual mountain climbing, or whatever cause moves you most?…

  41. Hayley says...

    I get a version of that ache, but I guess it’s different. Sometimes I see a family on the street with their gorgeous chubby baby in their pram or their toddler doing something sweet and silly and I wonder whether I’ll ever get to be a mother. After a series of relationships in which the other person always acted like love and commitment was too much for me to ask for it feels like it’ll never be my turn to have a baby.

  42. CM says...

    Such a great post Joanna – such another great post. Thanks for raising so honestly these subjects and unleashing a wave of comments – the ache is still there but it feels so much more comfortable knowing I am not the only one!

    Luck mum of 3 lovely, healthy, happy, messy and noisy kids, aged 11 to 8, and we have been going back and forth about 4th one. I am still not over the ache although I know so well that it makes sense to be done and that life with bigger kids brings new joys and rythmes and adventures and we are ready to enjoy them now.
    BUT. The relationship between an elder sibling and a tiny new baby, and four feels like a proper BIG family. Although in real life, I am already so exhausted that being up at night will not make me a better mum in the morning for the elder ones.

    And I think that what I am grieving most, by deciding not to have this “one more baby”, is the dream mother that I have not been for my first three, that I have been modelling in my head as I went along and learnt (and failed) about education and parenting for instance. In truth I would be exactly the same (in a little older and more tired version) than what I have been for my first three; but as long as I’ve not been there, have not had another baby, I can still picture myself a better mum.
    What I can decide, though, is to be the best mum I can to my wonderful treasures who are already there and are loving me as their mum, as imperfect as I am, and are not waiting for another mum to give them another chance at being loved!

  43. Jenna says...

    I have been trying to get pregnant for 3 and half years. We easily got pregnant with our daughter and it was a surprise when we struggled so much. We did fertility treatments,Chinese medicine, and all the things you do, but nothing was happening. This summer, I decided to take a break from it all, and we went camping with my cousin and her four kids. When her one year old had a middle of the night meltdown that ended with them driving around the campsite for two hours, I thought, maybe one is enough. Then two weeks later the test came back positive! I always thought I wanted three so I will be curious to see if I feel done once this little one arrives.

  44. Sara says...

    After we had one boy, and my hormones chilled out, I kept looking around when we were all on the couch thinking, “Are we missing someone?” So then we had another sweet boy (I swear boys are like crack for me) and I’m having the same experience. Like sometimes I think we’re missing someone, and then I think oh no, there are only four of us. We both want a third, but logistically it’s going to be tricky. We’ll need a larger car and we only have three rooms in our house. I wish I had started earlier because I’m pretty sure I would’ve had like 6. But we’re too old for that crap :)

  45. Chynna says...

    I had my daughter when I was 15, and thankfully I had a lot of help from my parents, my sister and her grandparents raising her. Without them, I would not have been able to finish high school, college, or my graduate studies. Now my daughter is an independent 12 year old and i’m still a young 28. The guy that I am dating is 41 with 2 children and is adamant about not having anymore kids.
    I am dealing with wanting to experience pregnancy again and wanting another baby. But I honestly think it is because my daughter was raised by ‘the village’ for some years. I was not a horrible mom, I was young, but I know now that I could do so much better. I want to prove that to myself. As of now, it is looking like I will never get that chance.

  46. Celeste says...

    I wanted 0-2 kids growing up. My mom died at 50 and I planned my kids as if I would die at 50, to leave enough time. I think it’s normal to have the ache, whether it’s for kids or wish you’d planned your career differently or had better relationships with family or friends. I had what can only be described as a midlife crisis at 38 and actually imagined a third kid after my two. My husband’s reaction was neutral. I got over it :)

  47. Jess says...

    I read a comment online once on this topic that has really stuck with me, a seasoned mother was giving advice to young moms and she said “don’t think about how many toddlers you want, think about how many kids you want to come home for thanksgiving dinner.” That just pierced my heart when I read it & confirmed for us that, yes, we would love to try for another… ? Still happy with just our two right now, though.

  48. Whitney Olson says...

    My husband and I planned on a big family (we both have 6 siblings). We have 3 little girls and just experienced 2 miscarriages. We want our big family still but now the timeline is shortening as I get older. And I fear for the day when I get that “we’re done” feeling because it might not match up with what we wanted. Tell you what though, I’m grateful for my frickin’ amazing husband who loves me, our girls, and our two lost babies.

  49. Kate says...

    My family has a theory about the Ache. It’s that, if you decide to have children, you feel compelled to reach the child number at which you’d have been born (i.e. if you’re #3 in your family, you might feel like three is an appealing number, even if one or two is the right number for you). It’s kind of a self-replacement theory. I’m #5 of five–but I don’t think I’m THAT curious. Thank you for the sweet post, and all good things to those who are trying for their perfect number of children. :)

  50. Heidi says...

    Interesting. I’m 41 and had boy #2 just three weeks ago. Even though it’s been only 2 years since the first one, it was so much harder to carry a baby in my 40s so I’m thankful to have two healthy boys. After the last pregnancy, I can’t imagine wanting to go through this again. But after my youngest son gets past the baby phase, I wonder if I will have the “ache.” I have enjoyed each new phase my toddler has gone through, I just assumed that the changes would be enough to enrich the motherhood experience through childhood (at least until teenagerhood). As much as I am trying to enjoy each period, My fantasy is looking ahead to having them both potty trained, going on family bike rides, etc.

  51. Mai says...

    We have been one and done since pre baby. Our daughter will be 3 this fall. I’m somewhat of an introvert- as in I grew up an only child and always even In adulthood had so much time to myself to recharge. It’s essential for me and I feel burnt out most of the time now not having it. I am still breastfeeding and cosleeping recently having made the decision to homeschool. (all TOTALLY unplanned and surprised even us) I think all of those factors have made me feel like I still somewhat have a “baby” in a way and had no longing continue it on another 3 -4 yrs. I recently had a dream of having another and haven’t been able to shake the – Should we? Could I mentally/physically handle it???? I absolutely NEVER expected to remotely desire another child. I felt happy and complete with one. We will see in time. No fast decisions here!

  52. Maddie says...

    My partner and I struggled with the #3 decision. We made pro con lists. The con list for #3 was much longer. We procrastinated talking about it. We revelled in having two independent pre school kids and rolled our eyes when friends brought over newborns because they are cute and all, but really secretly a nightmare. But then, I felt like even though the con list was ridiculously long and we couldn’t probably manage it and I don’t even like little babies, the family was meant to be 3. It was that simple. Or I was super hormonal. Hard to say. We fell pregnant that night. With twins. Due next week! ??

    • t says...

      Oh SHIT!!

      The good news is once they are here the world would feel incomplete without them.

    • Celeste says...

      Congratulations and good luck in the next week!

    • Carrie says...

      Aww, congrats! My brother-in-law and sister-in-law decided they wanted a 3rd and got the bonus as well. Love those twin nephews and their older brother and sister as well. My SIL admits that it was madness the first few years though.

    • Shannon says...

      Congratulations! We have four children and I love that there is always someone for them to play with. I’m sure newborn twins are going to be intense but eventually a lot of fun. I think a new sibling is the best thing you can ever give to your kids. Who doesn’t want more friends to love and grow old with? Can you tell I love babies? I don’t think I will ever feel “done” having babies until I go through menopause… Only 15ish years to go!

    • Emmanuella says...

      Oh my god this is great. And excellent use of emoji!

    • Morgan says...

      Aw good luck mama! We had our daughter for four years and I joked to my mom that, although I wanted three kids, the only way I’d talk my husband into it was if we had twins. Ahem. Our oldest daughter is now 7 and our twin daughters are almost 2.5. What a crazy ride. Like throw out everything you thought you knew crazy ride. But you know – I’d do it again! Being pregnant, falling in love with a new person (or people! Man oh man was it a heady experience falling in love with two newborns similtaneously), despite losses we had, nothing beats it.

    • Jen says...

      “Because they are cute and all but really secretly a nightmare” hehe thank you. Makes me feel sane knowing that I’m not alone in those feelings. It was hard to go through the newborn phase not feeling like a total failure for having a rough time with it. I just could not believe how hard it was while everyone around me reminded me to enjoy every moment of it.

      If not for the lack of sleep (and the cost), we’d be trying for number 2 right now. We shall see.

  53. anonymous says...

    Off topic a bit but the one thing that has really surprised me about motherhood is how it completely changed my relationship with my spouse. I still love my spouse very much but I am in love with my kids. I always expected it to be opposite; however, they make me excited and filled with joy whereas my spouse makes me feel calm and at peace that I have a good partner.

    I miss being in love with my spouse but at this point for me my kids are all-consuming.

    • Rachel says...

      I feel this way exactly. I still love my husband but having a child has put a strain on our previously solid (15 year) relationship that I never really expected. Marriage is SO much harder with children.

    • Angela says...

      yes! I get this- it is the same for me- and baby number three- a surprise baby that took hold when I momentarily felt a pang of sadness at being done nursing- is the love of my life right now- she has truly taught me the joy of motherhood- she makes me more in love with my other kids too somehow- like a magnifying glass.

    • Anonymous says...

      I feel the same, and am afraid to say it out loud! ❤️

    • Sam says...

      Yes, this

  54. Kara says...

    I can tell we are done having kids because, as much as I love babies, I never experience the longing for another. I just want my one and only to slow down and linger a little longer in each stage. The other day I realized he has stopped asking “How day it is?” and “How night it is?” (instead of asking what time is it), and I was so sad. For so many of those little milestones, you can never tell when it’s the last time until it is already over.

  55. I’ve always wanted to have four kids growing up; but now ended with just one child. She is 10 years old now and growing into a beautiful, compassionate, strong, curious, capable, thoughtful and opinionated young lady. The one thing that I failed to do during her babyhood was sleep-training. We failed that one miserably because I just can not leave her crying in her crib for even 10 seconds. So now, with all of her independence and intellect, she still needs ME to help her sleep at night :) We snuggle, sing, tell secrets and talk about our feelings and our days, every single night. Every time I get the ache (which is very often), I just think that I’d be missing hanging out with my daughter every night. I don’t know what I will do when she goes off to college though…

    • Silver says...

      Oh Diana – exactly! (my son is 7 1/2 but showing no signs of wanting to pass on the bed routine). But I love the chats we have at this time – I think you (we) should just go off to college with our kids! hehe.

  56. Stephanie says...

    We just recently made the final move to stop having kids. We have two beautiful daughters and we know that our family is complete. I did, still, mourn the loss of the idea of more kids. The idea that we could keep growing this team of ours. I’m also mourning that time in our lives. When you have a baby in the house, there is a certain energy, excitement, and nervousness that permeates every room. We had no idea what we were doing but we loved it and it was thrilling. Now, we just have to take our baby moments from our friends’ children. Which is wonderful and exciting in itself!

  57. Anne says...

    Oh the “ache!” I have 2 – my daughter is 4 and my son is 2. I feel so blessed to have 2 healthy children and I know I should feel done.. but I just don’t. I never really thought during my pregnancy with my son that “this was it.” And I tell myself, ok.. if you just have 1 more then you can soak up every little pregnancy/baby moment because you know this is the last one and you can savor every second of it! But that seems like a selfish reason to have another baby — and I know that it won’t be filled with all magical moments, it will be really hard. I have my hands so full with my littles right now but I can’t get the thought of just one more out of my mind.

    • Callie says...

      Oh I know EXACTLY this feeling. I also have a 4 year old and a 2 year old and our #3 is due in 5 days. During my last pregnancy I was the same and always said ‘of course I’ll do this again’ so never really soaked up those moments as maybe I should have. It’s been so nice this time around knowing that this is likely it for our family and enjoying and relishing in the wonderful parts of growing this baby and also rejoicing that it’s the last time for some of those less than desirable side effects!! I think I’ll feel the same with raising this little one, mournful for our last breastfeed while also celebratory for being done teaching a child to eat/sleep!!

  58. Yulia says...

    It’s hard for me to imagine this feeling. That element of being a woman has always felt alien to me. I delight in kids, love my niece and nephew, but I never felt the ache nor wished I could. In fact, a bouyant peace fills me to know that my partner and I have decided not to go there. It’s one of those things I know for sure. But I’m happy for everyone else whose heart feels the bittersweet ache for children–whether they have them or not. :)

    • Sharon in Scotland says...

      Yes to this, I love children, I work with children, toddlers make me smile, I love the weight and smell of babies, that hedgehog snuffle they do, I get anxious if I hear a baby cry,,,,,my instinct is to pick them up and soothe them. But, I have never wanted one, I have never had the ache, I am happy in my single, childless state and count my blessings.

    • Amy says...

      Same here. I enjoy reading all of these comments, but I’ve never felt the ache. I think part of what fascinates me about women who have/want/and still want children is that I can’t relate. As a woman, I feel like I’m missing something. What is this aching feeling? What does it feel like? I’m very happy with my life (very happy), but it’s so odd to talk with other women about children and only be able to say, “I have no idea what in the world you are talking about.” So happy for all the women out there enjoying their babies though :) They make the world a better place.

    • tiffany Cain says...

      Amen, sister.

    • Susan Landgrebe says...

      Yulia, I agree with you. I am not married nor in a relationship but I have never had the yearning for children. I love my niece and nephew and welcome any future ones that may come. I am happy for anyone that has children and for everyone that wants children.

    • Amy says...

      I love that you are all so welcoming to not having an ache. The world is beautifully made with all sorts of people. People that have 10 kids, people that have 2 kids, people that have pet kids, people that have none. I get so mad when people constantly ask my ache-free sister when she is going to get married and have kids. She doesn’t need kids! She’s smart and successful and well-traveled and has so much space in her life to give to others. She is an amazing aunt and incomparable sister. She is a complete woman. No ache needed.

  59. emily says...

    so many comments! my baby is only 2 months old, but my husband and i talk a lot about whether or not we’ll have another. pregnancy wasn’t “easy” but I didn’t have complications, until labor and delivery. it was truly awful (though I’m so thankful I experienced delivery because it was amazing despite the awful complications) and I’m not sure if my body can do it again (or my mind, or my husband’s mind/heart). I’m still in recovery and hormonal, but it shook both of us to our core – and we never were fully convinced we wanted more than one kid to begin with (took us 6 years of marriage to even think we wanted a kid, then 2 years of trying) … le sigh. but now when i see new, newborns with their jump startles, I miss a time that was just four weeks ago. parenthood is such a mindblowing adventure.

  60. liz says...

    It seems like that’s what life is like – all the what ifs? What if – I married the other one, had more children, less children, lived in another country, didn’t live in another country, changed jobs, stayed in that job, had a fling, didn’t have the fling, dropped out of college, went to college, finished college, saved money when I was young, took up speed skating, went bungee jumping, adopted, didn’t adopt. My current ache is for grandchildren, but I forgot to have children so I may have to adopt the grandchildren ;)

    • natalie says...

      This spoke to me completely. Thank you.

    • Research Warrior says...

      I agree! That “ghost ship” imagery – to borrow from Dear Sugar’s advice on this topic (http://therumpus.net/2011/04/dear-sugar-the-rumpus-advice-column-71-the-ghost-ship-that-didnt-carry-us/) – makes it hard to propel yourself into any life decision, not just the baby ache.

      I pretty much only want children for the grandchildren, too, and for the time we can be friends as adults together. But alas, that usually requires an infant, so I’m out. ;)

    • jade says...

      I am no where near having children but Liz your note has made me tear up a little bit at work.
      As I am getting to my late twenties- these are questions I find I am asking myself all the time. Your comment made me stop for a second – think and realise that these questions you ask yourself and the answers you choose are what make you the person you are- something to embrace not worry about. Thank you for the monday morning insight. You have made my day.

    • Feel the same way says...

      I feel the same way… I’m closing in on 37 & debating having a child before I miss the chance. I feel a sense of grief for a loss I haven’t even experienced yet. But it feels final because I’m leaving a relationship that isn’t working and because a happily ever after at this age seems so unattainable…and missing out on having children because of trauma and bad timing is so sad. Thank you for this post.

    • Becca Lynn says...

      this comment Liz <3 sometimes i get so wrapped up in those what ifs I forget to embrace the right nows.

    • Kate says...

      Liz: this comment is beautiful. Feel The Same Way: I hear you about the anticipatory grief. I am 40 and trying to come to terms with the likelihood (near certainty?) that I won’t have children. When I finally decided for sure that I wanted to, in my mid-30s, my relationship of nearly a decade was in serious trouble. It ended when I was 38. It took a year to move on from that heartbreak, and dating in the last year has made motherhood seem unattainable. (Yes, I have thought of having a child on my own, but I know that’s not right for me. I am so admiring of the women who can and do make that hard choice.)

  61. I’m 24 and nowhere near to having kids of my own yet, although sometimes I do get wistful for what’s to come, but I always love reading these kinds of posts. In my family I think it was the other way around, where my mom felt she was done and okay with three kids but my dad, whoo boy, my dad got super broody (can men be broody?) and every time he saw a pregnant woman or a new born baby he would be all like, “how about another one?” my mom was like “ha ha no thanks”

  62. My “baby” is 17, driving a car, applying to colleges, and enjoying his Senior year in high school. He’s my only one; was always my only one, and is so very much the center of my world. The business of letting go; of sending him off into the world, is thrilling because I am excited for him. But it also seems like I am cheerfully hacking a hole in my heart. I know that I will adjust to the changes that are coming, but I already miss so many things from his boyhood. I’d love to go back in time, even for just a moment, and hold the hand of the little boy that was.

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      oh my gosh, stacy! this comment made me laugh and cry.

      “it also seems like I am cheerfully hacking a hole in my heart”… ” I’d love to go back in time, even for just a moment, and hold the hand of the little boy that was.”

      oh my heart. my heart.

    • t says...

      Oh my gosh this just made me tear up. After I just confidently posted that I don’t have an ache for another baby I realize from your comment that I will most certainly ache for my kids (not babies) once they are grown.

      It is my policy that anytime one of our children asks for a hug or kiss or to sit on my lap I basically drop what I am doing (whether I want to or not) and give them some love. I don’t tell them that is my policy (because oh my they would manipulate that) but even if we are running late for something if they need nurturing the world stops. So grateful that they still want my cuddles. I will be sad once they move on from that.

    • KylieO says...

      Seriously…this just made me cry. My own little boy is about to turn 5 and picturing him as a young adult…holy moly. The heart hurts.

    • Justind says...

      This! So much this! My only is 13 and blossoming into manhood before my eyes. I am so proud and delighted, but occasionally long for his itty-bitty days.

    • KatieK says...

      Oh Stacy, I’m just a baby step past you and feel your aches. Our “baby” is off at college now for his first year and I vacillate from chatting with him and being proud/excited for him and missing him horribly. I see pictures of him as a baby, at 2 and 4, and remember the weight of him when he rushed to me when I picked him up from preschool. The ache I feel now is different from when I was pining for another baby. Part of the ache, I suppose, is the acknowledgement that this is the end of a chapter. It’s either the end of having babies or the end of raising them, but an end nonetheless. We’re trying to change that around and remember that it’s a beginning of a new phase…

    • Morgan says...

      “hold the hand of the little boy that was.” <> This.

    • M says...

      This is what I’ve been feeling exactly!! My first is also senior this year and while It has taken me a while to admit he’s on his way I delight in his new accomplishments and realizations of his dreams and goals. I too am happily cheering him on to the day he walks out the door and moves on to bigger and better all the while my heart is not so silently breaking. there are nights he wakes to me tucking him in, kissing his slightly fuzzy cheek and he gently nuzzles my head and grumbles in his newly deep voice “good night mom” and I smile realizing he’s still my baby and my heart melts.

    • Amy says...

      Oh, that last night made me burst into tears! I’m pregnant with our second (and likely last) baby and somehow grieving the loss of babyhood before it’s even here. My goodness, motherhood is bittersweet.

    • Oh, Stacy. You have plucked all of my heartstrings. I am five months pregnant with my first baby and already grieving the passage of time and bittersweetness I already know will mark my motherhood.

      My heart.

  63. Barb says...

    I always wanted 2 or 3, but it has taken us 2 years to get pregnant with #1 (I’m at 6 weeks!) and I think we will be thankful to have one healthy baby. I’m not sure that I could do this again, if I’m being honest, but only time will tell. Maybe it will be easier the second time around.
    I second the comment that so many have made here before me – but thank you for noting all of us who have had a hard time getting pregnant. It can be a touchy subject, but you always handle it so perfectly!

  64. I’m there right now. I majorly have “the ache”. We have a 4 and 6 year old and have given away all of our baby things. I knew my body couldn’t handle three/four kids in row and we would revisit the subject when … it was the right time. When is it ever the right time to have a baby? My husband is done and happy with two and in the past couple of months I have found myself swooning at baby stuff and really noticing/feeling a tinge of jealousy at other people having babies/women being pregnant, which I hadn’t felt before. What does that say? It is making me feel like I am not “done.” It feels unpractical all around – on my body, on our family and on our finances, and yet I am craving that feeling of holding a squishy baby, (my baby, not a friend’s baby) again. For some reason I want to do it all again, the good and the hard of it, which feels a little crazy. Shouldn’t I be thankful for the beautiful children I have? Why do I need more? Am I being self indulgent or is there something real and important to be said with this ache? I don’t know. But I am definitely in this place of “the ache.”

    • Ann says...

      Same story… and we had a third when my older two were 6 and 8. The age gap has been amazing. I couldn’t manage 3 little ones but now with school and sports and friends for the older two, our one year old is the perfect addition. She softened my son and brought out this nurturing side I had never seen, and we joke that my daughter is similar to having an au pair. The baby has kept out whole family young, and grounded. We’ve had to slow down a bit… in the best way. Sometimes we all take a Sunday afternoon nap when she is napping. Until my son “misses her terribly” and “accidentally” wakes her up:)
      I imagine in years to come they’ll become Santa, they’ll walk her to school, she’ll have a blast visiting them at college.

      I don’t think many couples look at each other and say, “you know what? We have extra time, money, and space. Let’s have another baby!” It’s more heart and less logic and it all seems to work out when you follow that path.

    • Thank you Ann. This is so good to hear. I have been thinking that on the con list, there would be this huge age gap and that a third child would feel left out from their much older, close in age siblings, but you point out such lovely points to the positives of a larger age gap for all of the siblings. And parents too. I imagine my children would love doting on a baby, especially my son, and it would change the dynamics to everyone’s relationships in a really good way.
      Your third child sounds like she is very loved. All the best.

    • Amy says...

      My brother was 13 when my sister was born and 16 when I was born. All three of us are wonderfully close. I love how the age difference dissipates the older you get.

  65. Jessica O'Malley says...

    I always assumed I would have more than one. I’m the middle of 3 girls, and my husband is the oldest of 5. But we live in (expensive) Los Angeles and I know having any more than the 1 we already have will drastically change the way we live our lives. We’re also without any additional family support, and things like a week home with Hand, Foot & Mouth really throw us for a loop and put a strain on our “favors” at work. Somehow all the sudden after a couple weeks of some rough nights of sleep due to whatever reason, my husband and I were totally on the same page about being done. I ceremoniously gave away all of our baby items and haven’t looked back. But I’m sure as my son gets older I’ll wonder if he would’ve been better off with a sibling. It definitely makes us more aware of things we’d take for granted if there was another kid to play with, share with and watch out for him.

  66. Patricia says...

    I wonder if…no matter how many children you have, when you take that decision of stop having more children or the decision takes you…it’s always hard.
    I wonder if it means the change to another level of femminity which is no reproductive anymore (which it’s not bad, just different).
    I wonder if it means a step and the aceptation of this ‘I’m not reproductive anymore’ or ‘ I will never be’, it’s a hard one because we are mammals.
    It was hard for me. I wanted a third child but was quite scared at the same time, because of my age and economy. So I let it for too long …and the decision took me.
    But my mother had four children and she says it was hard for her to recognise and embrace the fact that she wasn’t having anymore.
    The yearning doesn’t go away quickly…it’s our head the one that stop us having ten children!
    It’s nice but heavy to have the chance to choose.
    Thanks for your blog. I do enjoy it.

    • Morgan says...

      Yes to this. With a 7 year old and 2.5 year old twins, I turned 40 last month and I feel a huge part of my ache has to do with turning the page on my chapter of creativity through reproduction. It’s almost like I am mourning a loss of my own creative juiciness – the surprise and wonder (even in the face of multiple miscarriages) of creating a family. People assure me my creative spark will move to other exploits. But still. It feels very hormonally driven.

  67. Emma says...

    “The ache” is real. I’m almost 45 with three boys (14, 12, 9). We are definitely done…at least having biological children. Will “the ache” drive us to adoption? Fostering? Those are both real possibilities. In the meantime, I am continuing the constant back-and-forth within. Wrestling with “the ache”. I dream about being pregnant; I dream about having a baby; every single time I see a baby, my stomach lurches and my heart craves. But I’m not sad. Just wistful. I love “the ache” because, frankly, it is part of my identity…but I also hate it. Sigh. Babies.

  68. Emmie says...

    Me: I want A BILLION kids
    Also me: I would like to sleep

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      hahahahaha

  69. Darina says...

    Oh Joanna. There have been SO MANY times since I started regularly reading your blog, that I read something and was like, OMG THIS WOMAN GETS ME! And Omg I am not alone, other women, other moms, other daughters, other wifes…they feel like I feel. It’s really beautiful and incredible. On this topic, all the feels. We have an almost 14 month old amazing daughter. I don’t think I’m even able to put into words how I feel about her because there really are no words. She has COMPLETELY changed me, and I admit that part of me has been shocked by the change and wondered, who AM I now, and I kind of miss my old self, but really, I’m starting to embrace the new me, the mom, the role I’ve always wanted to be since I can remember. It has changed everything, and I see now that it has made me who I was always supposed to be. But. There is always a but, right? I have always wanted two (I am an only child myself). And my husband has wanted one, and we had this conversation before we even started planning our family. So it’s nothing new. But there was always a part of me that kind of hoped that MAYBE it’ll be so wonderful that he will change his mind. And it is wonderful. So much more wonderful than we imagined. But. The “ache” as you call it…I’m feeling it, something fierce some days. We talked about it, and he still feels that while we are ahead of the curve financially, etc. why don’t we just give our daughter the best possible upbringing? Give her all the opportunities, travel, make sure she never has college loan debt, and live our lives how we want. Great! But. I want her to experience having a sibling, something I never had and fiercely wanted. I want to know what it feels like to “do it for the second time”, to parent without being stressed over all the little things that most first time parents do, to take in every moment and experience because you KNOW first hand how fast it will all change. Oh the ache. I guess I can learn to accept it. But….

    • Tis says...

      For what it’s worth, my partner was also pretty sure we should only have one. I didn’t push, bided my time, and though I wish it hadn’t taken more than four years (lol), we have our two sweet boys and they are the very best of friends. You’re only at 14 months! As the new normal becomes more normal, maybe feelings will change. Either way, life can and will be lovely.

    • RocketGirl says...

      Thank you for this! This is exactly me. We have a 19 month old and I every day think about the “ache”. My husband is dead against having another and has always been. It is something that in the back of my mind I always thought that he would just come around to the idea of two. Seeing my son interact with other kids and because he’s so in love with him. But I also get all his reasons for why not, exactly as you said, that we can give our son the best and still be able to live our lives. But I still hope and hope that one day he will come around and say “OK”. And so almost every day I daydream about the next one, about them playing together, about what personality he or she will have. It’s a terrible habit!

  70. Hani says...

    I always matter of factly assumed I would want a big family, since I’m the 6th of 12 children myself. It’s part of the culture I was raised in.
    When I gave birth to a daughter, I felt my heart couldn’t possibly be more full! I gave birth to a son and my heart doubled on the spot.

    So did my resulting health problems. It was a shock to experience how quickly my body maxed out. Both pregnancies were difficult and extremely taxing.
    I’m still wrestling with pp anxiety and depression(undiagnosed the first time around). Through treatment and counseling for that, I’ve come to learn how much was related to the trauma of the(inevitable) neglect I experienced as a child in basically a sea of children. I was essentially raised by older siblings, just kids themselves.
    While ‘The Ache’ definitely comes, I see now that it’s not an imperative to conceive immediately–it is more like a vista in the bittersweet landscape of motherhood. You hold space for it. You feel it, and let it bring you back to the present moment.
    The sweetness of infants can’t be preserved indefinitely any more than life itself can be. Trying to endrun the sadness by having baby after baby…(as beautiful as each individual might be)does not necessarily work out well in the long run for the babies.
    I think I’ll always hold a little ache, but I know my children need me to be present and whole in order to properly care for them.

    • Cate says...

      Wow, this is an interesting perspective. “The ache” is so ever-present in me that I guess I’ve been subconsciously assuming that I would do just as you described, have baby after baby until… whenever? Finances, space, my personal sanity be damned! We have a toddler and baby now and in the stress/drudgery/mess/etc. of it all, I sometimes feel like another pregnancy and new baby would somehow make everything less bad (which I realize makes no sense).

      Your comment is something I definitely need to remember!

    • Brooke says...

      Hani, I love this deep, insightful response. Even not having children it spoke to me deeply – that sometimes “solution” is to sit with the poignancy of life’s ever changing horizons, lovingly, as well as bring comfort and care to younger parts of our lives where there wasn’t enough witnessing.

      I have found so much relief in not *anxiously* taking action when I am feeling longing..practicing that now with the desire for a partnership and children. Life is a toggle between effort and surrender and that always brings me peace to realize again.

    • Morgan says...

      I liked this. I’m known for saying although I would like a 4th, I think I can stick the landing with the 3 we had. (We tried for a 2nd and got twins) I, too, think a lot about my age, my health, family health history, and my desire to be an active part of my daughters’ lives when they are grown.

  71. Fiona w says...

    I have the ache for one more, we have two boys now who I adore but I can’t help wanting and yearning for one more. My husband does not want any more, it is heartbreaking. Lovely post as usual xx

  72. Rachel says...

    I have two girls, ages 8 and 9, and the ‘ache’ is real. I once read you always long for the child you didn’t have, doesn’t matter if that is child #1 or child #6. When the girls were maybe 3 and 4, we “tried” for all of one month and it didn’t happen. I often tell myself that if it was meant to be, it would have happened then. I know in my heart – two is perfect for our family. I’m also comforted that by the fact that’s normal to always wonder “what if…”

  73. Kayla says...

    I know this ache all too well. We lost our daughter when I was 22 weeks pregnant due to a fatal genetic disorder that was discovered at our 20 week ultra-sound. I was 5 months down the road ready to welcome a baby into our hearts and home. Fast forward 1.5 years later and we’re still walking this journey unsure if we’ll ever be parents again and that yearning for our daughter has never ceased. No matter your story, I think for some, the urge to have a baby is engrained in you just as other life passions might be. Unfortunately, for us, it is just not fully our choice. Thank you for your thoughtful posts and this community of sharing!

    • Michelle says...

      I’m so sorry, Kayla. We lost our baby at 5 months as well. That was many years ago, but the pain is still there. You sound like a lovely person, and I wish you all the best!

    • Emily says...

      Thank you for opening up about this experience and for your thoughtfulness.

    • Caroline says...

      Kayla, I’m so sorry your daughter isn’t here. People always ask if our almost 5 month old boy is our first and the answer is no, as we lost his older sister, who was stillborn at 34 weeks. Because our daughters aren’t here the ache is so real and the choice of how our families look is taken away. I find solace in saying her name (Maeve) and always answering the question of how many children I have with “two” even though it can be uncomfortable for the person who asked. Best wishes to you and your family, including the little girl who made you a mama. I hope your experience of parenthood gets easier, as there is nothing harder than parenting a child who died- there’s also no love quite like it. <3

    • Cindy says...

      My heart breaks for you, Kayla.

  74. JB says...

    I convinced my now-husband a little tooooo well that kids were not something we wanted, and then 30 came and BAM – THE ACHE. All the time, staring at babies in coffee shops and parties like a weirdo, imaging what our genetics would make. Husband is coming around, but slowly. I have some fertility issues that I’m aware of already so, I feel extra pressured to get going. Of course, there is the little voice of doubt as to whether pre-hormonal, pre-30’s career-girl me was REAL me, or whether this is my reality and real me – a wannabe momma!

    Would be REALLY interesting CoJ to hear from mothers who are the principal breadwinners in the family. One of the benefits of focusing on no babes, only work for now, has been that I am the higher income earner and allow for our standard of living. Kids will change that, thus potentially changing our whole standard of living! Worth it, I think, but still an added pressure.

    • t says...

      Why will kids change that? Your husband can be a stay at home dad. Or you can continue to work with your child in daycare or with a nanny. I am a mother and the breadwinner.

    • Kari says...

      I agree w the poster above. My husband and I have one child. We both work full time, but I am the primary breadwinner (I make double what he does). We both still work full-time now, and our toddler is in a small private daycare that he loves. We certainly do have to pay more attention to our finances now, though…daycare is $$$$. Maternity leave was also challenging, since I took 12 weeks off, some of which was unpaid (I did manage to cobble together 1 month fully paid of hoarded vacation time and 6 weeks of partially paid short-term disability, which helped.)

    • JB says...

      Did not explain very well, T :) I travel a lot and work long hours. Either would give that up/scale it back (with change in pay) or be away a lot. Husband works from home so he will definitely (happily) be the stay-at-home one. Just interested to hear how others do it!

    • Mimi says...

      I make more than my husband, but we both work. Our daughter is 2 and our son is 6 days old. Our daughter has been in daycare 3 days a week since she was 4 months old and our son will join her at the same age. Grandma watches her (them) 2 days a week. I am fortunate in that I don’t have to work crazy/long hours, but I have to check in on my phone regularly. My husband takes his work very seriously though and it often seems like he works more than I do, for less money. It’s an interesting balance and dynamic.

    • Gen says...

      Good question, JB. Similar scenario here – never wanted kids till 30ish. Hubby and I went into marriage being “eh” and came around together, conveniently, several years later.

      I’m the only breadwinner in my family of four and have been for 3+ years since #2 was born. And while my husband did work till I had #2, he was only part-time. I’ve always been principal breadwinner in our 10-year marriage and unless something unforeseen happens, always will be, because I have significantly higher earning power and I have a career I am invested in.

      Fortunately hubby is a stellar SAH Papa. And fortunately I don’t mind leaving home and heading out to my office every day, to run my business, while he drops them at school, or hangs with them all day, and teaches them what seems like most things, etc.

      So at least in my model, our standard of living isn’t very different than it was because I’m still full-timing it. But I’m certainly not in Mama mode most of the time, so there’s a much bigger trade-off in store if you think you might want to Mama all the time.

      Hope this helps.

    • Gen says...

      I also just want to recognize that we are super fortunate to even be able to consider having one breadwinner when most families in this country are forced to have two to get by.

    • JB says...

      Gen, love to hear of such a similar situation. I know myself well enough to know I don’t want to stop working (though I’d love a maternity leave and in Canada, I’m entitled to a year per babe with a percentage of pay). Interestingly, a lot of my female friends are opting to work while their husbands take on the SAH/more flexible career role and so far, reviews from all parties is really positive. You are totally right too, that being a 1 income household is a privilege and a choice many don’t have.

  75. CO says...

    I’ve had ‘the Ache” for almost as long as I can remember. When I was a teenager or in my early 20s, it felt like hope for the future. Now I’m a woman in my early 30s with multiple gynecological problems/surgeries under my belt and no partner in sight. Now it feels more like the weight of a future that is close to being beyond my grasp. A weight that could turn me bitter if I let it. A future of holding babies I love but always having to give them back.

  76. Olive says...

    I have 3 wonderful, life enhancing little girls (7,5,3) and I still get the ache, bad. But I know we’re done (I’m 45 this year). We had planned to have 2 kids then my adored mom died and I felt a primal urge to create a life. I got pregnant and this incredible, joyful, happy little baby came our way. My 3 year old brings us so so much joy I often think, boy, what if we had stopped at 2 and I never got to meet this little one? My life would have been less somehow. This is why I still get the ache – who else have I not met? If I had another kid would they also be this special? . Still, I try to shut that out. I’m too old now and have my hands full. Still, makes you think.

    • Alex says...

      “Who else have I not met?” We could go on forever having babies with that question in mind!
      I have one little munchkin that I love more than anything, and we’ve been trying to give him a sibling now for 10 months. This struggle has been a bit of a shock for us after conceiving our son on the first try, but we’re trying to go with it and stay positive. We’ve always wanted at least three or four kids and in a weird way I feel like I already know them and am just waiting for them to come to me. I know we’re not done. I keep telling myself that once it finally works out and we have another little baby in our arms, we’ll know this is the one we’ve been waiting for and it couldn’t have happened any other way. But in the meantime… it can be really difficult. The Ache. Oh, the Ache.

    • Morgan says...

      After I had my daughter I had a miscarriage and met my midwife for a beer to talk about whether I had it in me to try to conceive again. She knew our history, including another miscarriage before conceiving our daughter. She said, “If you feel like a baby is knocking at your door, you should answer.” Turns out there were 2 – we conceived twins three months later.

  77. we have one amazing little human living with us and she arrived so easily and has been healthy and overall an easy baby. thank god. but it’s hard, harder than i expected or anticipated. i’ve never been so tired, worried, achy. i’ve also never felt such an amazing sense of purpose in my heart, in my body. the love is so big and even my creativity as an artist has flourished.. though i wish i had more time to execute! i think about having more kids all the time, we thought about 4. and now i am wondering if i even want another. such a big commitment. i know i would do things a little differently like introduce them to crib earlier on — our daughter still co-sleeps with us at two — and i know certain things that freaked me out would roll over easily. but i would never let her cry it out or compromise other parts of parenting that feel crucial to our values and child’s development. all this to say, its a hard choice. it’s a big choice.. i don’t really relate to your sadness though, maybe because we still haven’t finalized our decision and a second child feels like they will actually join us somewhere down the line? maybe because you truly do want another child and are trying to convince yourself otherwise? not sure. but so appreciate the conversation and the beautiful moment of nostalgia. parenting is difficult but those simple gestures, those loving little hands and faces. the best.

  78. Sarah Bastien says...

    Oh goodness, yes! Yes, the ache is normal! We are also done, we have two lovely children and our family feels complete; however, that ache still creeps up from time to time. Doesn’t help that my kids attend a Catholic school where large families (several have 7!) are the norm and I am surrounded by adorable babies every school pickup. Sometimes I feel as though I need to mourn the babies we won’t be having, even though we love life and our little-ish family as it is! But oh the smell of a baby’s head: curdled milk and honey. It really is simply irresistible.

  79. Ali says...

    I wish in certain ways that I could feel this longing, but I don’t. I don’t have children. When I see a newborn or a young child, I am immediately anxious. I wonder if this will change.

  80. Melissa says...

    My husband and I went back and forth about having a second child. I just did not have peace either way. (my son is 3.5) We had been trying for a few months and I finally decided I did not want any more kids. I felt like it would be better for the environment if we just had one, we could adopt later down the road if we wanted. I was happy with my son and our family dynamic. I got really excited about saving money for vacations and horse riding lessons :) My plan was to go back on birth control as soon as I got my next period, but….that period never happened. I am 14 weeks pregnant and honestly it has been really hard. My sister desperately wants a baby and has just had two miscarriages. So, I feel guilty that I am pregnant and she isn’t and I am also worried that there will be something wrong with the baby and it will change our lives forever. I tend to be a bit of a worrier…But with how I am feeling now, I know this will be our last!

  81. Betsy says...

    I do not have children. At 44, I still haven’t found the “one”. I have been dating someone for 8 months now, and we talk about children. But, I’m going to assume that ship has sailed without me. It leaves a hole in my heart to think I will never have my own baby. But, there are a lot of children who need a home, and someone to love them. I’m thinking about fostering, or adoption. But the “ache” is strong. Very strong! I secretly keep hoping my birth control fails. Sigh!

    • Agnes says...

      Betsy, I’m in the same boat – 45, dating someone for 8 months who has 2 grown up kids and doesn’t want more. And I JUST signed up today to be a respite foster carer! (Taking babies, a couple weekends a month). My colleague just told me told me about her sister who got married at 47 and didn’t use birth control as she thought she wouldn’t conceive at her age, and had her first baby at 48, and is so happy. I myself haven’t given up. My boyfriend has made ‘comments’ our whole dating life about kids, and I think he is more on the fence than he admits to.. he’s the one for me, so either way, I’m sticking with him. Anyway, I just write to say good luck to you and I hope that if it’s meant to be, it will be for you! And me too! x

    • Feel the same way says...

      I’m 37 and my heart breaks that I’ll miss the opportunity to have children. It’s all I think about these days But I can’t imagine doing it on my own just so that I don’t miss the chance BC of my age. I often wonder if future me will regret not doing so. Sending you lots of love. I hope your happily ever after works out.

    • jules says...

      I had my son at 43, got pregnant quite by surprise after being vehemently childless for years. You never know….

  82. Jill says...

    I longed for a daughter after our two boys were born. We adopted her and she completes our family in all the ways I imagined and so so many more. I couldn’t live my life with the thought of her in my heart only… sooooo happy and grateful my husband was so willing.

    • Susan says...

      Jill would love to hear more if you were willing to share. I am in the same position and we are considering adoption but it all feels so daunting!

    • Alex says...

      What a beautiful story! Congratulations, and thank you for sharing.

  83. Jessica says...

    I ached for a third and now I’m pregnant and riddled with anxiety about whether we can handle it and sometimes regret when I see other families moving solidly into the independent children/sleep all night phase. Life is tricky and beautiful.

  84. Alicia says...

    I’m not one to comment often but I just love your blog Joanna. I feel like it resonates with most everyone, no matter what stage of life they’re going through. I also find that I read the comments from this blog more than any other because the community is so real and uplifting no matter where you’re from or what you believe.
    With that said, I have yet to experience the “actual ache” since my husband and I have been trying for a year now and we’ve had 2 miscarriages. I ache for those 2 babies and the stages I missed out on and I already ache for the babies we hope to have one day that will grow up too fast.
    As excited as I am seeing many of our close friends and family members become pregnant during this past year and as a (weird) way of coping, I silently tell myself every time: “It’s okay, they’ll be going through those bittersweet days of aching sooner than I will be and I get to hope and pray about savoring it that much longer until my time comes”.
    I definitely think that aching is in all of us, no matter what stage of motherhood you’re in.

    • Morgan says...

      Hi Alicia. This really touched me. My husband and I had a miscarriage, a daughter, a miscarriage, then twins. My heart will always ache for our babies we lost. I think about them still and I’m so thankful for the hope and love they brought to my life, in spite of the sadness they left in their wake. Even if it was only for a short while, for me I really think wow they chose me and I chose them. The experience of them made me “mother”.

  85. JC says...

    I had three-all adults now. I wanted a 4th -my husband didn’t and I have always regretted it-still do. I don’t think it is as much of an ache as you will know when you know. I would have known I was done if I would have had a 4th.

    • makes sense. friends who are older now only regret the kids they didn’t have, not the ones they ached for..

    • Sara says...

      Well and truly done at 3, two loving boys and a feisty little sister. Our family is complete, not a doubt. But as all of the phases pass – they are all school age now – the tug comes back. With every “last”, particularly. I just learned to live with that melancholy bit, and it reminds me to pay attention and appreciate where they are now.

  86. Anita says...

    It’s ache and an insatiable libido around ovulation!
    -mother of an “impractical” third child.

    • Carrie says...

      HA! I wish!

  87. My daughter is 8 and my son is 4. I adore their ages now, but I also feel the ache from time to time. I would love to read a post about grandmothers . . . maybe written by your mother Joanna? How magical and surreal it must be to hold your grown baby’s newborn for the first time.

    • I would love to read this hypothetical post too. :)

    • I am a mother of two grown sons and now grandmother to five beautiful and adorable grandchildren, all under the age of seven! It is as wonderful as you might imagine…not only the bliss of holding and smelling a baby, playing with and feeding toddlers, and conversing with the eldest and being asked to tell stories of your own youth. Almost equally enjoyable is witnessing your sons step effortlessly into the role of patient, gentle, loving fathers. The first time I saw my son put a cloth diaper and cover on his daughter after I had fumbled a bit with the new-age “snappy” device, I was in awe. And this new awe and wonder happens with regular frequency as I see my boys love their children so fully and with such great care and devotion. It is pure Mama fulfillment!

    • Steph says...

      We NEED this post!

    • Alana says...

      Me too! After much debate we just started trying for number 3. I find myself wanting to ask every mom whose children are grown how they feel now about the family size they chose, the ache, and what it’s like to be a parent to adult children. What will family life be like 20 or 30 years from now? This topic seems to always focus on parenting young children but I long for the big picture perspective from older generations.

  88. Megan says...

    I had a molar pregnancy earlier this year, and because of that, my husband and I won’t be able to conceive for at least another 6 months. I have two colleagues painfully living through infertility right now, and we feel something so akin to what your’e writing about. The Ache is real, and it is powerful. Much love to all who are experiencing it, no matter the circumstance.

    • Patricia says...

      Hi Megan, Hope you won’t mind me telling you I also had a molar pregnancy and had to wait for 1 year after that (in those days that’s what they recommended ) before trying to conceive again. I thank God we did wait and then were blessed with a beautiful baby boy who has grown up to be a brilliant, gentle, kind college student of 20 years old ! I could not be more proud of him and his older sister – they are my whole life….

    • Megan says...

      Patricia, thank you so much for sharing. Keeping the hope is what makes the hard days ever so slightly easier. Hugs to you and your beautiful family.

  89. The ache isn’t limited to mothers, or wives, or perhaps even women. I feel it when I hold my nephews and niece and see their lives, and by extension the lives of my brothers’ stretching on into the future. I have never married, for so many knowable and unknowable reasons, but I have wanted a child of my own since I was 2, since holding the first of my several younger siblings. I’ve lent a hand in raising my siblings and their children (and so many other children).

    I am the extra pair of hands, the one with a free hip on which to prop the latest child. My niece, at six, still sometimes wonders where I belong on the child/adult spectrum and once said, “Aunties don’t have children!” I am the heart of what Elizabeth Gilbert called the Auntie Brigade.

    The thrill and heart-swellingness of being an auntie and being able to love my brothers’ children with such abandon does not diminish that decades-old desire to hold my own child. It’s an ache that now, in my mid-thirties, I try to hold at arm’s length, more objectively, with a pessimist’s hope.

    I’m surprised and comforted to know this ache doesn’t necessarily leave. Could it be one of those things like love and loneliness—one of those things that make us human, and never really leave us?

    • Brooke says...

      Anna, thank you so much. It touched me to have this be the first comment I read. I too am an auntie without my own children, and feel much the same as you. This is so beautiful how you said, “The thrill and heart-swellingness of being an auntie and being able to love my brothers’ children with such abandon does not diminish that decades-old desire to hold my own child. I’m surprised and comforted to know this ache doesn’t necessarily leave. Could it be one of those things like love and loneliness—one of those things that make us human, and never really leave us?” Such poignant, way of allowing for the unique pain *and* the common humanity in the different kinds of ache.

    • Lisa says...

      I am also in the Aunt Brigade. I’m the oldest of 3, my sister had 5 kids, but it never happened for me. No one is more surprised than me that I didn’t have kids. I still feel the ache even when I was diagnosed with breast cancer 3 years ago, and through treatments and surgery, knew that I would never physically have kids. I was 48, knew I couldn’t have them, but knowing that disease and surgery would truly close that door….I mourned it for sure. It made me really sad for a few months.

    • This was a really beautiful and thoughtful response to the post. I agree with you that this is one of the recurring feelings in life that reminds us how achingly beautiful and sad it is to be human.

    • Brooke says...

      Whoops, sent this off before finishing. :)
      It was such a gift to read your thoughts and feel not alone. So appreciate your beautiful articulate brave sharing that put my feelings into such resonant words.

      And so appreciated that deep meditative question at the end that connects us back to bigger humanity where we all ache and long and that unites us and makes us tender.

    • Nicole says...

      I am also one of those aunties who didn’t arrive here by choice. I always thought I’d have children of my own, I’ve never even held a job not having to do with children. But it’s not in the cards for my husband and I. And though there’s grief, there’s also joy in being a more intimate part of my niece’s life than I would likely have been if I had children of my own. Thank you for your beautiful comment

    • caroline says...

      Gosh, this was really so beautifully written. If you wrote a blog, or an essay, or a book, I would read it. Thank you.

    • Yes to all of this! says...

      Yes to all of this! And how beautifully written. This year I have honest to goodness mourned the fact that the children I’ve dreamt of all my life won’t ever come. What do I do with the sadness? The right relationship just never happened. Do I try to do it on my own? The thought makes it almost worse. Sending you lots of love. .. and to all of the ladies who find themselves in similar situations.

  90. Katie says...

    We have an 8 year old and a 7 week old. We don’t know if we’re done. Even with a brand new baby now, even the thought of him being our last, makes me ache deep in my heart at the thought of never having another. I don’t know if I’ll ever be ready to make that decision until nature decides for me haha

  91. Kiley says...

    My fiancé and I have discussed this, and in an ideal world we’d like 3 children. But, since we both came from immediate families with 2 children, I can picture that as well.

    As my grandpa liked to say, “you can’t have an odd number, because everyone needs a partner for the ferris wheel!” He had five kids though, so we didn’t necessarily listen to him when he said that :D

    • Yes! says...

      I love your grandpa! What a great (and true) saying!

  92. Heather says...

    Just adding my perspective … I had two boys then two girls and after my last daughter was born I knew we were done. That feeling has stayed. It has been such a blink. Our oldest graduated from high school in the spring and our youngest is 10. No ache but I do think that grandchildren really will be THE BEST!

  93. Emily says...

    I always knew I wanted just two children, and luckily my husband agreed. Now that they are 18 and 20, I can confidently say I am still glad we just had two. I love my kids to the moon and back, they bring so much joy, but as everyone knows, kids can bring on a ton of stress! Raising kids is not easy, but having them is something I will never regret. They are worth every bit of the stress! I don’t know how those of you do it with three, four, or more!! I bow down to you…..

  94. Sarah says...

    I feel the Ache constantly….My daughter is 9, she’s pulling away and growing up and I’d do anything to hold her hair in my hand. Her dad and I divorced when she was 3 and I’ve always felt “robbed” of my chance to be her mother and provide her with a well-rounded family. For sometime, I thought I would never have another child, so I coped with the grief of saying goodbye to the baby stage. Now, I’ve just remarried! My husband and I are trying to have a baby (I’m 38 and he’s 42, so it may be a long, difficult road). Part of me can’t wait to be pregnant and have a newborn again (even all-nighters, diapers, and tantrums) and another part of me feels like I’m betraying my daughter. Will she resent me? Will she be heartbroken? What will a sibling relationship be like with two children so far apart in age? I have so many mixed feelings and there’s so much that we cannot control, parenthood and family never looks like we imagined.

    • Jane says...

      My mom re-married when I was ten and my younger brother was born when I was twelve. I absolutely adored my younger brother and love our relationship. It has never been a typical sibling relationship–I often feel more like a third quasi-parent than a sibling–but it has brought so much joy to my life. So just wanted to say that I don’t think your daughter will resent you at all!

    • Bonnie says...

      My husband had a 6 year old son when we we were married. We now have a 2 1/2 year old that was born on my step-sons 16th birthday. We had to do IVF to have him. It is bittersweet that they won’t grow up together but my sons very favorite person is his brother! I was 38 when my son was born and my husband and I feel like he was the best decision we ever made. My step-son was a little hesitate about it at first but he is over the moon about his brother now.

  95. Katy L says...

    We had a third and it’s been wonderful. He turns 2 in a few weeks. We are done having babies. Now, I can imagine us traveling to Japan and eating at actual restaurants and skiing and hiking and refinishing our hardwood floors. The Ache is still there (though much less than before #3), because there’s something so magical about bringing life into the world, and there’s nothing better than meeting a person you made. It’s the worst to fold up too-small clothes that will not be handed down to a sibling, to disassemble a crib, to toss away the sippy cups.

    • Marlene says...

      …there’s nothing better than meeting a person you made…

      So true! My second child is only 4 weeks old but I have a strong feeling of wanting another baby ?

      I even cannot recall what I did and wished for before having babies?

      My heart is so full watching my 3 year old kissing my newborn…

      Time flies and having children is so magical.
      My husband doesn’t want a third but let’s see ❤️?

  96. Mel says...

    We are completely overwhelmed with three, beautiful children. Yet, I still feel the “ache” which, could it also be called “nostalgia”? The missing? The yearning? The feeling of being lost in the wonder of Wonder? Is it similar to when one has the desire to rekindle the feeling of butterflies that happens at the beginning stages of a relationship? Maybe it’s the newness. Either way, it’s a heart stretching out and offering love, to even an idea. Which really, how can that be so bad?

  97. Kaitlin says...

    I’m still yearning for that first child, after months of trying. I think I’d like to have more than one because, as an only child, there are so many experiences that I missed out on that I think are valuable. (But being the breadwinner in a city that is impossibly expensive makes having multiple children an economic challenge.)

    Anyway, I’m mostly writing to say that this sadness and longing is absolutely valid. Just as I know the unhappiness that I feel in my own struggle towards motherhood is a completely human feeling. It’s definitely not weird, even if it feels weird.

  98. abrs says...

    We are in the limbo of “do we want another child/we’re fine as we are”. My husband has always wanted a 3rd baby and I do to, but our second child is a bit more than either of us expected. There are days I see our sons and think we are complete. We can travel easily, fit in our car, rooms, activities…. then there are days I feel “the Ache” and hope i’m not too late if we choose to have a third. I wish there was a baby meter like a Turkey thermometer that pops up when you’re “done!” It’s nice to know I’m not the only one who feels this way.

  99. Eliana says...

    Hi joanna! I stumble upon your blog just a few weeks ago and cant stop reading…every single topic is just so interesting! I am from Uruguay, a little south american country and we speak spanish here so i am already sorry for spelling mistakes! That being said: o had to comment on this post because i have been strugling lately with this. We have 2 girls ( 8 and 4) and a 1.6 boy. The decision of having a third kid for me was the fact that i wanted to experience raising a boy, as simple as that. Luckily i had my baby boy an though i love our kids to death dealing with 3 children is NOT an easy task…im about to turn 37 and i do realise i dont have the same energy i had with my first daughter. And tough babies are the sweetest, we are looking forward to the next stages. I guess is different for every family but i think you should really listen to your heart…”the ache” does go away once you get what you where looking for. If you really feel another child is what you want, go for ir! Life is short and i guess we should experience every stage and moment to the fullest. Hopes this helped.
    Love
    Eliana

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      thank you so much, eliana. (and so nice to have you here:)

  100. In a perfect world, I would have more kids. But I have to work full time, as does my husband. We do the best we can- but always wish we could do more…for our child…and ourselves. When you work pay-check-to-pay-check…multiple kids is difficult. Health care expenses alone are high. I’m content with 1- because I can’t afford 2.

    • Deb says...

      So glad you wrote this. I too had to press the reality check of cost in only having one. I feel people often think this is a lame excuse for not having two-but having witnessed the anxiety and stress my family went through in having two I made a couple anxious choice to let rationale trump my fantasy.

    • Deb says...

      So glad you wrote this. I too had to press the reality check of cost in only having one. I feel people often think this is a lame excuse for not having two-but having witnessed the anxiety and stress my family went through in having two I made a conscious choice to let rationale trump my fantasy.

    • Juliette says...

      I’m in the same boat… not enough time, money, energy to have a second kid. My daughter is 6 and we are making it work with a lot of sacrifices. I don’t think I have more in me to give without a major shift in our circumstances. And yet, I kept almost every single baby clothes, car seat, crib etc. in the hope that we could manage it. Every time I open that packed closet my heart aches … I don’t think it will ever go away…

    • You both are amazing for doing the best you can!!!

  101. Heidi says...

    We have 2 girls that are 2 and 4. With the second one now potty trained I really do not miss babies! When I see newborns I feel anxious that I might break them, they are so tiny. I am loving this season of having a toddler and pre-schooler. I am sure I will have the ache for two year olds at some point. I love the age and the rapid language development and all the silly things they say.

  102. Rachel says...

    I have such a hard time with all of this. I emotionally really want 3 kids, but rationally, I know we are done at 2. After being told I would never get pregnant, I feel SO exceptionally blessed to have 2 children that it feels selfish (and almost fate tempting) to try for a third. I also am in the environmental field and (personally) believe climate change is impacted by population growth. So, for us, it’s most ethical to have 2 (replace yourselves on the planet, no more) – and then, if we want to grow our family, hopefully have the opportunity to foster/adopt later on. I think my biggest issue is I am so incredibly A-type and it throws me for a loop to not be able to “plan” how everything will look. I think that’s the best…and the worst…part of parenting.

    • C says...

      Climate change is impacted by population growth. That’s a fact! xx

    • Lindsey Petersen says...

      Love this Rachel! I also think about the earth when thinking about this issue.

    • Sarah says...

      Rachel,
      It’s refreshing to see someone here on CoJ mention the environmental aspect of having kids. I really respect and appreciate that you’ve taken it into account AND not been afraid to share your views. I myself have never wanted kids anyway, but being an environmentalist is one of many additional reasons I’ve stuck with my decision.

    • We have 2 and as much as I ache/long for a third, the environment is my #1 reason not to have any more children. That and my sanity, haha.

    • Rebecca says...

      Environmental impact is one of our reasons for – most likely – sticking with one! (Not that we would ever assume people with more kids don’t care about the earth). I don’t have time to read ALL the comments but I’m surprised I’m not seeing more “one child” commenters.

    • Em says...

      Yes! So thoughtful. I wish more people were as considerate. I come from a large family and even as a kid I’d look at my parents like they were nuts for creating so many more people, myself included. Haha.

    • Claire says...

      Yes. I also have two – and often yearn for a third – but feel it might be morally wrong because of environmental impact. I feel weird factoring that in to a decision because it doesn’t really get talked about – by friends or in the media – so it seems like an extreme view.

  103. Kayce says...

    When my boys were 3 and 4, I lobbied hard for a third child. My husband had his reservations, but I was adamant on trying for a third. He eventually caved, and woke up one morning and told me it was time to get my prenatals refilled! I was so surprised and thrilled-and then absolutely terrified of the idea. I quickly came to the realization that our family was complete, with the 4 of us. My husband was relieved. Ten years later, I don’t regret not trying for another baby, and it truly was a mutual decision. I could never look back and think, if only he would have wanted another baby….

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      that’s fascinating, kayce!

    • Rachel says...

      I kind of wonder if this would be my response, too. My husband is so adamant about being done that it’s almost “safe” for me to beg for a third. If he ever said, “OK!” I might immediately freak out. Which is an important thing to realize.

  104. Sally says...

    My youngest is 11 weeks old (I also have a 3.5 year old & 2 year old) I already feel the Ache! He’s a pretty perfect baby (apart from growing far too quickly!) I really think I’d just keep having babies if it was just up to me. If we have another one my husband would like to adopt. I’d love to adopt but I’d also love to have another baby. The 3.5 & 2 year old keep my perspective in check most days! They’re wonderful but hard work. Babies just don’t keep!

  105. I’m going to be 8 weeks pregnant on Wednesday. I was a nanny for a long time, so I weirdly got to experience so many of those sweet moments with the little ones I cared for. The whole thing feels very surreal still. I’ve been going through your motherhood backlog in order to prep!! ;)

  106. Em says...

    I have an 18 month old son, and I am pregnant with our 2nd baby, due in April. This will be our last baby (praying that all turns out ok). I always have an ache for babies, but currently my toddler WEARS ME OUT. It’s hard to even think about handling baby #2, I can’t even think about 3!

  107. Christine says...

    I have a 17 y.o.daughter, a 15 y.o. son, and an 8 y.o. son and I still feel “the ache” all the time. We are for sure finished having kids but I wonder, like you do, it will ever go away? I think maybe I’ll always have that but hope in 10-15 years or so I’ll have grandbabies!

  108. Barbara says...

    I am in my mid-50s and my youngest child is a senior in high school — so we are done, done, done having babies. Three was our number and I’ve never doubted that, but still . . . *sigh*

  109. Even though I’ve decided not to have kids, I occasionally get “the ache”. I try to use those feelings to be a better stepmom. In the past, I have used it to help friends with little ones. I’ll take their kids for a few hours, hold them close and get my fix. It’s not the same, not by a long shot, but since it really does take a community to help raise a child, I’ll make the most of that.

  110. t says...

    I am unambivalently done having children after two kids. I don’t feel the ache for another baby because I truly didn’t like the baby stage. Maybe because we have twins but it was so insanely overwhelming that I have no desire to return.

    But I think the ‘ache’ is why so many people look forward to having grand-babies. It fills that space without being overwhelming.

  111. kate says...

    Joanna, I love that you provide a variety of perspectives on parenthood/motherhood and how people decide if, when, and how to have children and how many children to have. I’d love to see a story about someone who chose to terminate a pregnancy. The movement to “shout your abortion” is so important and is another side of this story about if and how women choose to become mothers. I appreciate you tackling all kinds of issues and I’d love to see this highlighted!

    • Sarah says...

      This is such an important story and one that can happen even when some feel that ache. As an adult my mom told me she had an abortion after she my sister and me came along since she suddenly found herself in a place not ready to add that third. I think she feels at peace with that decision, but I can imagine that it wasn’t easy at the time.

      At 26 and newly married, I had an abortion because I wasn’t ready to be a parent. At 29 I found myself unexpectedly pregnant again, and despite not being steady in all the professional and financial ways I thought I should be, I was emotionally ready. After my one lovely girl came, I was sure I was done and our family would forever be three. Now six years later I’m feeling that ache and ready to add one more. I think we’ll be done after that but the biggest lesson for me as a mother has been that you really never know what is ahead.

    • KK says...

      Agreed. I could even provide this story myself. After my three boys were born, my husband got a vasectomy and we followed all the rules, tests, and procedures afterwards. 9 months later, I was pregnant. It was an incredibly difficult experience because this was the absolute last thing I wanted to happen. We quickly decided to terminate the pregnancy – I was so early that I had to wait a week so they could confirm the pregnancy through transvaginal ultrasound (due to the laws in our state). It was a profoundly difficult experience but something I have never regretted. I knew our family was complete (for many reasons that are too detailed to go into here). I also felt convicted that I had the choice and could exercise that choice and I was grateful for that. Sometimes we have to make choices that are really painful but also are very much the right choice for us. When my husband got tested again, he had about 10 live sperm one time and zero another time. So we are way out there in the fertility spectrum. Now I have an IUD too for extra insurance.

  112. Amy says...

    I don’t thing The Ache goes away for a lot of people. But I don’t know that it’s truly for another child, at least not always. It’s sadness for what’s passed by with the child you already have; they grow so quickly, and it’s so easy to take for granted. And maybe a longing for the peace young children bring. You can talk to them feeely, because they don’t understand your words. You can pour your love into them with utter abandon, no fear of rejection or even resistance, because they’re such little sponges, soaking up all the overwhelming feelings they bring up in us. It’s very freeing, to love and tend to a baby, because it’s such an unselfconscious act, and it’s hard to replicate.

    • Silvia says...

      Amy! You just have put words to something I feel and could not explain!! Thanks!

    • Meg says...

      Your comment really resonated with me, I think you’re so right. And I think it’s okay to sit with those moments of being a bit sad and missing that sweet time with little ones in your life, rather than feeling like we need to fill it up with another child. I suspect that those of us who experience ‘the ache’ are also more prone to being nolstagic and questioning our decisions in other areas of our lives. And maybe those that don’t ache tend towards towards more decisiveness. Just my two cents. As a mom of one lovely 8 yo daughter, it helps me to know that those with 3 or 4 or more kids experience it too.

    • justine says...

      That’s totally how I feel loving my little 17 month old boy. You nailed it.

    • Jenny says...

      Beautifully put

    • Amy, this is so, so beautifully put. I’m days away from giving birth to my first and after nannying for years and pouring my love into other people’s beautiful babies I cannot wait to pour love into my own with unselfconscious abandon!

  113. Erin says...

    I’m pregnant with our third and final son (biologically anyway). They’re spaced almost 5 years apart each, which has actually been awesome since I’ve enjoyed their babyhoods individually. But last night I actually cried because I now know it’s likely I’ll never experience having a daughter, and I’ll never experience growing a baby and having a newborn again. This is the last time. So even while I’m actively experiencing these wonderful things, I’m sad knowing it’ll be over soon. Admittedly it’s a little whacko. But it’s also the very definition of bittersweet. Its hard to deal with! Like Michael Scott said: it’s like bittersweet chocolate. What’s the point? Who is it helping?

    • justine says...

      haha great quote!

  114. Lisa says...

    I keep on being asked if we’re having a third, which seems a bit rude given I’m currently pregnant with the second.
    I really don’t know – we struggled to conceive the first, and having to face not when we will have children but IF, has made me incredibly grateful for the children we have. But … my son is growing so quickly, and I’m loving having a toddler (even though it is tough). He’s just so sweet, and gets excited about EVERYTHING, has an expanding vocabulary and gives the best cuddles. I want this to last forever, so only having one more baby coming up makes me feel sad.

    As I keep saying to everyone who asks – we’ll see

  115. Stephy says...

    I too still and always will just yearn for the babies that my (now 16 year old) boys used to be. If they could only be two again. Or three. Or seven.
    I think when (early on) I realised that it was them and not a new baby that I ached for, I moved on. They will always be my little boys and I their mummy.

  116. Charity says...

    Thanks for this! It’s such a weird sadness that I never expected to feel! I get pangs almost daily.

  117. Julia says...

    We’re having two boys with age 8 and 5 and they are a big challenge. We are definitely done, because I don’t have the nerve for another – when I was sleep-deprived, our life was at times so stressful for any of us, that I know it would not get better for our family life to have a third child. AND YET: How I get jealous when I hear of friends who get their fourth(!) child. To me, they seem kind of superior, and I just cannot explain why.

  118. Jessica says...

    I always wanted at least three children, but after my second was born I was content with that number. Later I got “the ache,” as you described and now we have a third, a son, after two girls. He has been such a gift in every way! Today he is two, and it is not always easy, but the wonderful outweighs the hardships of raising three kids. When I was in debate a friend of mine told me something I will never forget: The best gift you can give your kids is a sibling. I didn’t initially agree, but as time goes on and I reflect on my own childhood, I would have to say my mind slants towards her being right. Thanks for sharing your thoughts!

  119. Natasha Ayers says...

    Ohhhhh I have been feeling this lately. We are three and done in our family, and it is hard. Nothing has ever satisfied me like my babies, especially at newborn age. My youngest is three, and he is very much a baby still, but the pangs of desire will always remain for a baby. Just my calling, I suppose. I never had an image of what my family should look like; all three of my children were unplanned… I live by impulse. Three kids is hard, and adding more to the mix would deprive our children the attention they need because the home-life-family-work-free time balance is impossible to strike perfectly. But the craving for new babies doesn’t wane. I understand it, and will always long to feel that instinctual love, the kissing of smooth newborn head, the smell, the being needed. Much love… motherhood is definitely the biggest feeling I’ve ever felt.

  120. Jessica says...

    We have 3 children….twins who are almost 2.5 years old, and a 3 month old. We’re done…my body can’t handle another pregnancy, and having three so close in age is a HUGE handful. But our 3-month-old has been so sweet and pleasant, and our older two are so sweet two watch with her, that we often joke about having a 4th. We both know that, for a variety of reasons, it isn’t happening, but still….
    Since we know this, we’re really, really trying to savor our infant as an infant, something that we didn’t stop to do as much with our twins (though we should have!)

    • Morgan says...

      Thank you for admitting that savoring twins was tough. We had the opposite of you – a singleton then twins – and sometimes I feel a little robbed of the second baby experience because there was so much survival vs. savoring with our twins. It was a completely different experience.

  121. S says...

    The concept of holding so tightly to our plans feels misplaced. Maybe I’m more philosophical than practical, but all of this feels a bit beyond our own control. We can lay all the most lovely plans and things go awry, or we don’t get what we want, or what we think we wanted. And sometimes the reverse is true. A surprise might be the most important gift. Of course there are practical reasons to avoid another pregnancy, but in the absence of them, why not remain open? There are no guarantees either way. My point is, I don’t think we control as much as we think we do. On this topic of such emotional gravitas, why not surrender a bit?

  122. Sharon says...

    I have two that are now 12 and 9… In some ways, I miss the baby days and in many other ways, I do not at all. I like how we can just go now, no feeding to worry about, no fusiness, no diaper bags, no car seats, no scheduled naps etc.
    I love the ages that my kids are at. We take great trips, watch great movies, play great games, have awesome conversations I have throughly enjoyed every season of being a mom for various reasons. I think knowing that you are done having kids just brings such a finality to it.. same way that I mourned being done school, leaving behind my 20s and then my 30s.

    • Katharina says...

      “I like how we can just go now, no feeding to worry about, no fusiness, no diaper bags, no car seats, no scheduled naps etc.”

      This is what I’m looking forward to! It’s so nice to be reminded that this will happen eventually.

  123. A says...

    This post and all the comments resonate with me so much. I have two teenage stepchildren who don’t live with me. My biological son is 3.5, and I absolutely adore having a boy; I think I wouldn’t do so well with a daughter because my relationship with my mom was always difficult. It’s also much easier for me to have a warm relationship with my stepson than my stepdaughter. I started longing for another child when my boy was 7 months old. I had hoped my husband would come around to having another child – he only reluctantly agreed to a baby but fell in love with our son once he was born – but it later turned out that he became involved with someone else when I was pregnant, and he eventually left me for her. I’ve never had sex again after my boy was born and I’m not sure that I even remember how to do it. I still long for another child but the first one was already a late child, so biologically it’s not going to happen. It was extremely hard to be aware of these last few years of fertility passing by. I want more people to love, a bigger family, and for my son to have a sibling who lives with him and is close to him in age. I’m considering adopting a child or sibling pair from foster care (after I’ve emerged from a debilitating divorce-related depression) but I’m afraid to do it as a single mother who doesn’t have much support. Will I manage? Will I be depriving the child(ren) of a chance to have a full, two-parent family? Will I ever have a partner again if I come with such a package? Sending much love to all those longing for children, all those who lost children, and all those trying to conceive.

    • Sarah says...

      A,
      I know how you feel. My daughter was 3 when her dad and I divorced. I very much wanted her to have a sibling close in age but I couldn’t give it to her. I struggled considering adoption – I didn’t think I could afford it, I wasn’t sure if I could find a partner, I learned agencies usually don’t allow single people to adopt and I was also coming out of a tough depression. I have really tried to accept the way my life and my daughter’s life have played out. I feel very guilty that I wasn’t able to give her a different shaped family. You may come to the same conclusion or you may pursue adoption (and if you do, I think it’s wonderful!) . We don’t know how our kids will reflect on their upbringing when they’re 30 or 40 years old. Will they ache for a sibling or a well-rounded family? Or will they appreciate the twists and turns of being raised by a single parent? I have just recently remarried and my husband and I are trying to have a baby. I know my daughter will have a hard time if I have a baby. I go back and forth between doing the “right” thing for her and doing the best thing for our family, our future, myself and my husband. Parenting feels so heartbreaking sometimes – so so rewarding and so so confusing. I wish you peace as you follow this path with your son.

    • A says...

      Thank you for sharing your experience, Sarah, and congratulations on your new marriage! I think your daughter would adjust to the new baby. My older children (i.e. stepchildren) have been thrilled to have a baby brother from the time they first heard he was coming, and each of them has a very special relationship with him.

  124. Danielle says...

    This post has come at the perfect time. We have a 3 year old daughter and our son is turning 1 in October. We have always said we are done at 2. When we came home from the hospital I was sure then. But as we are getting closer to 1, and I’ve been giving away our baby stuff, I find myself with that aching feeling as well. I wonder if that feeling will just go away at some point? To know I’ll never be pregnant again, experience birth again, or those early baby snuggles is hard. My husband doesn’t feel any of these feelings, which makes me wonder if it’s a normal women hormonal thing.

  125. Becky says...

    My husband and I are done. We have two kids together plus two from his first marriage. I always wanted four of my own, but due to serious medical complications after our youngest, more kids are out of the question for me. I had a lot of sadness about this for a while, but now I feel complete, and honestly don’t want anymore. Still, though, “the ache” hits me hard sometimes. Usually it’s when I’m combing their hair or reading them stories or answering the same question about outer space for the hundredth time, and I realize my days in this experience are numbered. My own mother, who is almost seventy, says she is still hit with waves of nostalgia and longing sometimes, so I’m not sure the ache ever really goes away.

  126. Tiffany says...

    Where I live the discussion is less ‘are you going to have 1, 2, or 3?’ and more ‘are you going to have 4,5, or 6?’ It’s fascinating to read different perspectives from such a diverse group of women!!

    I have four daughters and get asked frequently if we will try for a son. And I’m like ‘I don’t know! Should I know?!’ On busy days our family feels complete. On leisurely afternoon walks when the girls are strolling ahead on their bicycles and life is idyllic and calm, we entertain the idea of adding just one more. I had my fourth by 29 (graduated college at 20), so while, technically, I have time, I don’t necessarily want a huge age gap.

    I read an article once (don’t remember where!) about a woman describing the “mourning process” she went through once she decided to not have any more children. Maybe, for some women, that ache never goes away. Maybe it’s not supposed to?

    • Katie says...

      How interesting! Can I ask where you live?

  127. Joanna says...

    The Ache! I sometimes feel that it will torture me forever.
    As I shared once, I have only one child not by choice but due to many (too many) unsuccessful IVFs and miscarriages and recently a neuroendocrine tumor. Today is my daughter’s birthday and although, my love for her and my gratitude for her existence is beyond this world, I Ache for not being able to give her a sibling and multiple this love. When this Ache hits I forget all about the anxieties and panics I get about her wellbeing.

  128. Mischu says...

    I was just thinking about that this weekend. My husband and I have had four miscarriages but we’ve been blessed with our 5 year old son, Fabian. As I had my morning coffee yesterday, I watched him sit on the stairs and tie his shoe and it struck me how he’s not a baby or a toddler…he is starting to stretch out and grow up. He caught me watching him and smiled…and then he ran outside to play. Empty arms hurt.

  129. Jessica says...

    You’re are always so sweet and toughful when you write this posts! Love them. I hope every year to come and comment with a baby in my arms. xox

    • :) says...

      What a sweet comment. Sending you lots of love. Fingers crossed.

    • Katie says...

      I hope this for you too Jessica xox

  130. NM says...

    I really don’t get that ache at all. Not sure why. I think it’s partly that I struggled with morning sickness with both my son and daughter, not to mention postpartum anxiety and difficulties with nursing.. Also, I had always planned on having two kids, even when I was playing “house” as a little girl–three never entered the equation, although I wonder sometimes if I hadn’t had one of each if I would’ve longed for the gender I never got to experience. Don’t get me wrong, I can completely appreciate friends’ babies–holding them, kissing then, squishing them–but I am always happy to hand them back. I hope you can make peace with your decision, whatever that may be!

  131. Jen says...

    Oh my, my friend had a baby this year and when I see pictures of him on her instagram I just want to reach out and squeeze him. I always thought if I had more time and money was not an issue I would have liked to have more kids but I’m pretty happy with my 2. I just wish time would slow down a bit.

  132. Laura says...

    I thought I was ready to be done at two boys (5 and 1.5), but my HUSBAND had a serious ache and was able to talk me into a third. So here I am at 6 weeks with horrible morning sickness, hoping this was the right thing for our family and crossing my fingers for a girl.

    • A says...

      Good luck to you <3 I'm at 6 weeks too! May babies :)

  133. Voni says...

    As new mom of a 5-week-old (colic! no sleep! etc.), I turn to my husband daily and say, “Well, since our baby is going to be an only child…” and am only 3% joking. Once we are down to fewer than 10 diapers and less than 3 hours of screaming a day, we can actually try imagining a second child. But for now….

  134. Tara says...

    This is SO how I’m feeling right now. We have two sons, 4 and 1. I started feeling the pangs of wanting a third when my second was still a newborn–he was such an amazing newbie! I truly just love making, growing and birthing babies that I want that feeling again. But deep in my heart I know two is the right number for us. Partly for financial reasons but also for environmental reasons. It would also be very difficult convincing my husband for a third! Sometimes I hope we have an “accident” baby so it’s out of our hands. But at the same time, I’m looking forward to when my little one is a bit older/easier (we’re in a rough teething phase right now). Motherhood is so contradictory!

  135. Emily says...

    I’m far from being a parent at age 22 haha. But my mom still feels sad when she sees me and my brothers growing up, moving away, etc. I think it’s maybe just part of feeling such an intense love and care for these beings who are going to grow up and on some level be independent from you. I have to say as the child that I still need her and my dad just as much as I ever have, just in different ways. Looking/seeming/acting more mature and independent doesn’t mean that your children don’t still rely on you and look to you for the comfort and security that allows them to grow. <3

    • Katie says...

      Very sweet, thanks for sharing your perspective, Emily!

  136. My niece was born in the last month. I was completely amazed to see that little bundle of joy. Soft and delicate hands, first I was scared but after taking her in my arms I can feel the warmth. I love kids. They fill the empty spaces of life.

  137. Katie says...

    Ah, this is our big question right now. We have 2 boys and are trying to decide if we want a third child. Our days are incredibly hectic, and we worry about the chaos of adding another person (and the expense of daycare for 3!) to the mix. When I picture having three little kids under the age of 5, it’s too much. But… when I picture 25 years from now and everyone coming home for the holidays, I see us as a family of 5. I am one of three, and now that we are grown ups our family get togethers are like the best party ever! I want this for my kids – to be a part of a trio, not a pair. I honestly don’t know what we’ll decide, but I am trying to see past the exhaustion and challenges inherent to being parents to a 2 1/2 year old and a 1 year old, and think about the forever family we are building.

    • MM says...

      I have a 2.5 girl and an almost one year old boy, both in daycare as I work full time just like my husband. I am one of three as is my husband. I imagine/have created this pressure to eventually become a family of five – mainly due to the fact that I can’t 100% say I definitely don’t need a third child (if I’m so lucky – sending positive vibes to all those with challenges, it’s not easy) with such a busy life as it is, having had 2 within 2 years, it’s hard to comprehend adding more to the daily jigsaw.
      For those that have taken the leap from two to three, that work full time, how did you decide it was the right decision? I imagine the best decisions are made over time…which I plan to give myself. But as the other comments note – I’m packing away bottles and baby swings and offloading onsies, I’m wondering if I’m going to need these things or go back to this stage when I have children that are moving on to other stages of life, never mind trying to fit a yoga class in once a week.

    • caroline says...

      I feel like I could have written this. We have 2 boys and are also in limbo – and one of my biggest pros of having more is thinking of the long term benefits of family get togethers and events, and all the raucous and chaos that comes with a big family. My friends who had 3 kids in their families were the houses I always wanted to go to. I try to tell myself that the exhaustion is temporary, but the payoff is for a lifetime.

    • My husband and I waffled on the decision for a third, and by the time we decided YES, she was born 7 years after our second-born! It’s amazing how easy it is to have a little one in the house with two big kids as helpers and playmates. Plus, my body was so strong and healthy from having all that time to recover from pregnancy/delivery/nursing for the first two that I sailed through that stuff despite being 40.

  138. Tiffany D Frias says...

    I have one child and feel totally complete with the one. But the ache I do feel is an ache for my son to be tiny again. It is not that I ache to have another one. It is that I ache to relive the first couple of years with my darling boy now that I have some perspective and would likely be able to enjoy it more. He is almost four now, but from the ages of infancy to 2 years old, I wore him. We weren’t able to successfully breastfeed so baby wearing was a significant source of bonding for me. I LOVED it. I would give anything to have him be 1 again just so I could wear him one more time :)

  139. Cécilia says...

    Oh my, Thank you for this! I can relate… so so much. I see my daughter growing so fast and as much as we would love to have another child, we do not know if we will ne able to. We suffered 4 miscarriages since we tried again. We know our luck to have our beautiful girl, to have had her so easily, but again the thought of not holding another of our children is so, as you said, The Ache… Thinking of all the mommies out there…

  140. Kasey says...

    Oh yes, I so identify with The Ache. We have a lovely 3 year old little girl who I adore dearly and are trying for our second. I had two miscarriages last winter so at 33 I feel the urgency and rush to get pregnant again. I always thought 2 was the number for us, but after loss I will gladly accept more.

  141. S says...

    My third baby is turning 1 next week. We were in a very similar place as you, Jo, and when my first was 6 and my second was 4, we had my third. You see, my mom had been diagnosed with cancer and my mother in law unexpectedly passed away. That was it; no more indecision for me. I had a strong feeling I would be bringing a girl to this world. My mom passed away and a month later I had my baby girl. And it just feels good and right and not so hard. Maybe since my other kids are bigger now and don’t need constant watching; maybe since I’m a more experienced mom; maybe since after the year I had nothing could be more peaceful than having a sweet baby to comfort. She’s brought such joy to our family. It’s interesting and bittersweet because had I not lost the moms in my life, I doubt I would have gotten pregnant again. Life works in mysterious ways sometimes.

  142. S says...

    I have two boys, and we are done mostly for health reasons (I had difficult pregnancies and postpartum anxiety). What I “ache” for is wanting to be able to turn back the clock to hold my own babies again…if just for a minute, and to do so without all of that postpartum anxiety that haunted me those early months. And now I’m tearing up at work ;)

    • Sara says...

      Yes, this exactly. I feel the same way about my two girls who are 3 and 19 months.

      I wish I could go back and hold their little newborn bodies and breathe in their soft, dark baby hair.

      I don’t need anymore children, I just need a time machine.

    • Agnes says...

      Was postpartum anxiety both time. I had it the first time, now I’m pregnant and would like to avoid this awful feeling for the second time.. if possible..

    • Rachel says...

      THIS. A million times this. I have two and we are likely done (mostly because my husband is a million times done!) – but what I wouldn’t give to go back and have those precious baby moments without the tears of PPA/PPD haunting me. Good news is, there are moments to come. :)

    • Danielle says...

      Me too. ❤️

    • Jaclyn says...

      I’m with you! Hugs :)

    • S says...

      Agnes – it wasn’t as bad the second time around, but my pregnancy wasn’t as traumatic either (and my second was a better sleeper ;)). I also was prepared for it (which for me, helps – the first time around I just felt like I had split into a million pieces and had to be put back together again, whereas the second time, I was able to cope better). Hang in there!

  143. Louisa says...

    We have just one baby, who is now a fierce little 3 1/2 year old.

    I have to remind myself that I will always miss THIS baby. If I have another baby, then I will one day miss that baby too. But it won’t make me miss my Baby Kate any less.

    To every thing there is a season.

    • my thoughts exactly. I have a 3 1/2 year old and a 1 year old. Seeing my 3 1/2 year old become more independent is amazing and heart-wrenching all at the same time. And my little one-year old…I can already tell I’m going to miss watching her personality blossom.

      I remain indecisive on a third, but echo your sentiments that I think I miss my others as babies….

    • eb says...

      Yes! Louisa you put that so well – I will always miss the moments with the babies I’ve had, no matter how many babies I have. Oh why can’t we bottle those moments up and save them…

    • Hita says...

      This resonated so much with me today.

  144. Steph says...

    Life is currently complete and total madness! My husband works 50+ hours a week and I recently week down to part-time (20 hours) so I could go back to school. Our 17 month old daughter is not in daycare and she’s either with one of us or a grandmother is watching her while we work. We’re also doing physical therapy, occupational therapy, and about to start speech therapy for her as she was born early and is still having some unexplained challenges. I fit my school work into her nap times since the rest of the time I’m chasing her, playing with her, reading to her, etc….
    My husband and I don’t get to see each other as much as we’d like and on the rare day off together I’m catching up on school. But, oh, I have the ache. We DO want another child, and in fact I want two more, but we’re waiting until I’m finished with nursing school. Then I’ll continue on to achieving a BSN and later a masters to become a NP so it’ll be a lot of school for a long time. It’s all so overwhelming currently, but I so look forward to welcoming a second baby.

  145. Emma says...

    Thank you for this post and for your honesty. Your personal posts always seem to come at a time when I am experiencing something similar.
    I have twin boys through IVF and feel beyond fortunate to have two sons. I so badly want to feel complete but lately I have been feeling that Ache more frequently. My boys just started kindergarten and I’m getting another year older this month. I’m hoping the ache will pass but I can’t help but feel sad that I won’t get to experience and all the “firsts” for a second time.

  146. Noelle says...

    I am pregnant with my third after never quite feeling like my family was complete. I know after this one, we’re probably done, and I’ll probably struggle a bit with that. But I think the greatest things in life always leave us with a bit of ache and longing – that’s how you know it’s truly good – but they are replaced with even greater things, as the author in the post you linked alluded to. I sometimes think that I will never again feel that crazy high of falling in love for the first time… the anticipation, the excitement, the thrill of learning someone’s body and mind. But of course, that never lasts… and it’s replaced with something even greater. A deep love and companionship, a feeling of stability and safety, and having someone who’s company I treasure above all else. We make the decision to give up one thing for another thing that (hopefully!) just gets better with time. No season of life lasts forever, and none is perfect (even the best things are hard, trying, they make us vulnerable and beat us up!) The beautiful thing, is we get to relive these things again as our children go through them… we get to see them live all of the seasons of life that we’ve left behind.

    • Katie says...

      Noelle I love the comparison to falling in love. I’m pregnant with our third and final baby now as well and I’m going to bookmark your comment for the days ahead when I miss the newness and the firsts.

    • Kathryn says...

      so well said: “I sometimes think that I will never again feel that crazy high of falling in love for the first time”…”The beautiful thing, is we get to relive these things again as our children go through them” – I find these words so comforting – thank you for sharing!

    • Annett says...

      this is truly beautifully said … could find no better words

  147. Aw! Just have one more, so I can live vicariously through you! I’m in a similar place—I already have two, but have a touch of baby fever!

  148. Molly says...

    This post describes EXACTLY how I feel!!! Down to sometimes feeling like I can barely handle my two boys who I adore endlessly! I’m crying reading it cause I never really talk about it.

  149. Paige says...

    We practice Natural Family Planning (the Marquette method) and I love it for so so many reasons. One reason that I love it though is that it leaves the door open, just in case, for God to work and surprise you! There are so many incredible people in my life that were surprise babies and how beautiful that their parents welcomed them anyways. I want that to be a possibility for our family (and it is! Although, we have and are successfully avoiding for now – NFP totally works! But there’s that element of not 100% certainty that I am a big fan of. Takes some of the pressure off making the “right decision”.) As someone else commented already, I’ll never regret having them, but I might regret not having them.

    • Emily says...

      It’s great that this works for you but I don’t think it’s right to present this method as equivalent to the pill, IUD, or even condoms. you can become pregnant at any point in your cycle.. seeing this method discussed everywhere as equally effective is irksome to me!

    • April says...

      I practice NFP too! (also the Marquette method) We only have one child, but we recently moved to LA for my husband’s work and the cost of living has taken our breath away. We have chosen to space out our babies to help alleviate some of the costs out here, but I still find myself saying things like “I only have one so far” and “once our daughter has a sibling…” The ache isn’t in full force since I know we will have more, but oh – how difficult it was when my baby weaned! There was something about not being able to hold her in the crook of my arm and breathe her in that just ached. Lately I’ve actually been having dreams about nursing her (how weird is that!?)

    • Paige says...

      Emily – I did not mean to present this as equivalent to the pill or any other method of artificial contraceptive, because you’re right (and this was exactly my point), using NFP, you *can* get pregnant anytime! It’s not the same, and that’s why I love it. For me, The Ache still happens, but perhaps a little less, because I know there’s no goalie in the net ;)

    • Mary says...

      Paige–we, too, practice NFP (Creighton) as needed. I love how well I know my body and that there are no side effects. It’s so empowering. We have 2 boys, 3 and 18 mo, and the ache is certainly there!

  150. Our daughter is nine months old, and she’s going to be our only child. I do think one day, when I’m farther away from this intense baby stage, I’ll want another, but every time I picture our family as we get older, our daughter is the only child there. I know in my heart our magic number is one even as my heart might one day want to hold a newborn again. I think there is space for those conflicting wishes. After all, isn’t much of parenting bittersweet moments?

    • Jessica says...

      “After all, isn’t much of parenting bittersweet moments?” well if this didn’t bring tears to my postpartum eyes! So well said :)

    • j.fizz says...

      One is the right number for my family, too. It just feels complete. That said, I can’t wait for my friends and sisters to have babies so I can sniff their delicious little heads.