Every month for the last two years, I have had a moment in which I hold in my breath and stand firmly between two worlds, terrified. Am I pregnant again? I think. How will I face this?
I once gave my body entirely to the act of bearing a child. For so many months, I carried him in me. I did not love being pregnant. I did not even like it. I resented every little change I had to make to my schedule and my habits, every slight alteration in my daily life. I often found myself angry at the tiny being in my body, if only because he demanded I exercise so much self-restraint.
And then, he was born. And I loved him. The intense weight I’d been bearing for months was forgotten, along with the resentment I felt at having to change my routine. The nightmare of spending four nights in a hospital, and the daily shots of blood thinner into my stomach — those memories drifted away as I fell down the rabbit hole that is motherhood, where love and wonder reign supreme.
It didn’t take long before I began to consider having another child. But given the early trauma of my first pregnancy, I have always been conflicted about a second. Each month, the possibility that I could again be pregnant both terrified and delighted me. The euphoria I remembered feeling after I bonded with my child was counterbalanced by the memories of how much pregnancy had taken out of me. Two emotions — excitement and fear — were locked in an endless, constant battle. Each choice was equally heavy. Each choice valid. Each choice asking to be made. And my own wavering indecision was exhausting.
One day, I realized I could end this dance. I suggested my husband get a vasectomy.
At this suggestion, his eyebrows shot straight up, his expression shocked. I told him how I didn’t want to take birth control for the rest of my pre-menopausal years; for me, it’s too invasive. I didn’t want hormones coursing through my system, or an implant wedged deep within my being. My body has done enough, I thought. My body has held the weight of a child. My body has held the weight of the fear of another.
He pondered the idea. When I told him it would mean a lot to me, it was as good as done.
As the day of the appointment grew near, the future I was giving up danced in my mind. I entertained tiny dreams in which we had a little girl, and our family shifted from three to four. Four perfect humans. I shopped for a friend’s baby shower and broke down sobbing in the middle of the aisle, heartbroken that I would never again bear new life.
Was I making a huge mistake?
On the day of the procedure, my husband walked into the medical building, holding our little boy slung across his chest.
Here was the man that slept next to me every night after his son’s birth, the man who changed my pads in the hospital bathroom, who packed my birthing bag on his own. He is the kind of man who should father a million children. He is gentle, he is quiet, he is calm. One big reason I had a child in the first place was because his very essence demanded I consider the grace of his offspring.
I left him alone after the procedure for a couple hours. I walked the dog, I went for a coffee, I bought dinner. I did it all with our one child beside me. I kept waiting for a sense of loss or doom to fall over me.
But it never came. Where I anticipated sadness, I felt only the intense synchronization that is the growing of my son and myself, in tandem. I am seeing the world differently now, and it is so, so acute.
There had been a tiny flicker inside my heart, lingering ever since his birth. Why not another? We severed the possibility with a knife. And when we did, I did not feel regret. I don’t know if I will later, but I know that in a world of options, I needed just one less. Now I can stop entertaining what it would be like for my son to love a small new baby and focus instead on teaching him how to love other things, like plants, and the rivers, and the trees, and the Earth. I can focus on nurturing our family of three as it is. Love, while limitless, can vary in concentration. I’m so lucky to be concentrated on this.