The Never Agains: Making the Decision to Stop Having Children

the never agains

By This is Childhood contributing author, Denise Ullem 

Six years ago, when my husband and I finally decided that we would have two children—not three, not four, but two—it proved to be one of the hardest choices. Our conversations over many months ranged from the pragmatic reality of college tuition to the emotional, procreational pull of life. My husband finally said to me,

“You know, babe, one of the children does have the to be the last.”


*   *   *

My alarm chimes into the early morning. I stretch into the darkness, wince at the time and hoist myself out of my cozy cocoon. One of my bedroom windows looks east; I gaze out onto the pink hues of the rising sun as it outlines each barren tree. I slowly walk to the hall and receive a bear hug from Abby, who’s ten. Her blond head tucks just at my shoulder. I pull her back and soak her up; as I beam at her, she blossoms and her smile takes over her face. “Good morning, sweet one,” I whisper.

“Morning! I’ve already been ready for 20 minutes and I’m going to eat breakfast.”

She bounds down the stairs.

I then enter the stark contrast of Henry’s room. He’s seven. His rumpled bed holds him as he stares out his window at the same, barren trees. Molasses runs through his veins; he is slow and sweet. His pajama-clad arms reach up, exposing the pale, almost bluish white of his wrists. I bend down and his flanneled, heavy body snuggles into mine. I soak him up. As I head downstairs, I trail a litany of reminders, Socks, Underwear AND Teeth.

Henry and I drive Abby to school. The sun has progressed in its journey and fills the morning with silvery light. Abby hops purposefully from the car, carrying her instrument and her backpack heavy with homework. She pauses and turns back toward me. A quiet smile passes over her face and she thanks me for the ride. She strides away. Away to her independent day.

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