I firmly believe that us mums have an off switch. A point when we know that we are done recreating humans; that our baby making days are over with.
For me, it was always four babies. That was my number. I distinctly remember the point after baby number one when I realised that I wanted four children. It was not in a silly, whimsical sort of wish way, but an acknowledgment of something which was totally embedded in me.
My husband and I have not had an easy ride to parenthood, and have faced our fair share of struggles to get to where we are. After a miscarriage which nearly broke me, my husband was ready to stop. ‘Let’s just focus on the beautiful son we already have’ was his daily mantra. But I knew I was not able to commit to that. After each round of fertility treatment that failed, each month where there was no line on the pregnancy test, at every disappointment, every hurdle, I tried really hard to find my off switch. Surely one, two, three babies were enough. Look at what we had been through to get them. But no matter how hard I tried, it simply wasn’t there.
Not only did I know in my head I wasn’t done, when I tried my hardest to be pragmatic about our situation and move on, my emotions let me down every time. I remember deciding to sell all the clothes at an upcoming NCT sale. I pulled them all down from the loft, separated them out into age brackets and gender and labelled them all up with prices. Then I stood in the middle of it all, surrounded by outgrown clothes, crumpled into a heap on the floor and sobbed. My ever-patient husband helped me bag them all back up again and take them back upstairs to be put away in the loft…I simply wasn’t ready to accept that my baby making days were done.
After three years of committed trying, (I regularly tell my husband that that was the time of his life!!) baby number four came along. 18 months later and she is growing out of clothes at a rapid rate, and you know what…I am ok with it.
I admit, I have a box (or 4!) of keepsake clothes – things that I want to treasure and look back on in years to come, but for the most part, it’s out of the tumble dryer and straight into the ‘pass on’ pile with barely even a hugging of it to my chest on the way into the bag!
I know I am done. I don’t want 5, really don’t want 5! I clearly remember feeding Chess (my youngest) one evening when we had just got home from the hospital and feeling completely at peace. An almost physical reaction to the pressure that I had stored up in my efforts to turn off my switch early, or get to my finish line. The relief of being able to think….’and now relax and enjoy it, Sally,’ was almost overwhelming. I see tiny babies and yes, miss those teeny days, but I have no desire to live them again with another. I am finally at peace and my off switch has been found. And whilst it never affected the pleasure of daily life as a mum, it had lingered over me no matter how hard I had tried to ignore it.
I firmly believe that you cannot override the off switch, albeit your circumstances may change and that in itself may trigger it. As adults, we assume we will get pregnant when and how we want to and it will all be as easy as that. But the reality is that is not the case for many women. The majority of us face one struggle or another, be it not getting pregnant straight away, miscarriages or other complications, and so to not be able to overcome this desire for babies when the odds may be stacked against us is really hard.
But us women (and men too for that matter!) are made of strong stuff, and that maternal desire will get satisfied one way or another if it is strong enough to fuel the fight. Whether it’s adoption, fostering, fertility treatment or just a bit of good old-fashioned luck, my advice is to hang on in there until you find your own off switch. And I wish you all the luck in the work in getting to it.