The decision to be 'done' is a hard one. A personal one. One that often leaves people judging or questioning, no matter what you decide. We remember the thoughts of a mama who was real and vulnerable for us.

--A Guest Post By A Mama Who Wished To Remain Anonymous--

I have five children, and five children is a lot in these modern times. Five children means a larger car, a hard and expensive time booking holiday accommodation and mountains of washing and food. It means four school lunches to pack each morning and busy nights driving children to soccer and ballet and swimming lessons.

Five children also means lots of love, lots of fun and lots of friends, as we connect into the little social circles each child makes his or her own.

When people first discover I have five children, their eyebrows shoot up and they exclaim their amazement/admiration/wonder. Then comes the inevitable next question: 'So are you going to have any more?' I can barely get through one day without being asked this, biting back the urge to reply - "Isn't five enough?!"

My eldest child is fifteen, the youngest two. And since the birth of my youngest my answer to this question has been a pretty solid 'NO'. Life is busy, very busy, and I feel full up with all that I do in my role as 'mom'. I have recently begun a small business, through which I am discovering a new part of myself and enjoying that kind of recognition that money brings.

And yet.

I always wanted six children. I adore having a large family - the busyness, the bustle, and the organizational challenges on which I thrive. I love being a witness and chaperone as my children grow into themselves. And for fifteen years, as one baby weans at age two or so, the next baby is welcomed into our hearts and soon after into our arms. You could say that birthing and rearing babies has been my career: I began at 23 and now it is the thing I know best how to do.

Related: I Want More Children, But I Don't Want More Babies

Now that my youngest is almost weaned I find myself standing at a crossroads. My mind can think of a million reasons why our family should be complete as it is now. But my heart and my body yearn for another baby: an urge that feels as though it comes from the deepest part of me, an urge over which I have no power.

After so many years of being in the pregnancy, birth and breastfeeding cycle I sometimes wonder if my body is now hardwired this way, caught on a loop. Or is having another baby the easy thing to do, the comfortable choice? Nudging my business along and stepping out into the world as a professional would be the most challenging thing I could do in life right now - it is the area holding the most potential for self-growth.

My husband is not keen for another baby, and now that our youngest is a toddler, life has become that little bit easier. We can go out at night. We can take on more commitments and begin to work more purposefully toward our goals. We are enjoying the extra freedom, I am enjoying it. Then there is the financial pressure of another mouth to feed, and the social pressure that looks down on large families as the resources of our planet are gradually stretched.

Deciding to finish having children and officially "complete" your family is a big one. It is one that should be discussed with your partner in length, especially if you aren't on the same page. There is no formula that anyone has that says, "Ok, when I meet 4 out of 5 criteria that means I am done having babies." Everyone is different, and the reasons for being finished for having kids is different for everyone. For some it may be age. For others is it health reasons, either physical or mental. For some it is financial. For others it may be that they simply feel as though their family is complete, and they are ready to move on to the next stage of their lives. And for some, although they may feel solid in their decision to stop having children, the longing for another newborn in their home may never leave their heart.

One thing I love about some social media apps is that they show us what happened "on this day" so many years ago. I see those images and I think about my children as babies, and how much they have grown. And I think to myself, "I might ever have another baby in this house." I think it is important for those who are considering to stop having children or who are trying to decide if they should add one more to remember that you will always miss the time when your children were babies. You will always miss their squishy thighs and big belly laughs. But when you have another child, and that one grows up, that hole of missing them at that stage will still be there- it will just be another hole. So having another baby to cure your baby fever might not be the best thing for you. Or it might. That last one may convince you that you really are done. No one knows except you and your partner.

Related: Study: the More Children You Have, the Older You Look

If you are looking for a special formula, there may be a few ways you will know you are doing having children, besides a physical, mental, or financial decision:
  • You are no longer envious of pregnancy announcements
  • You are no longer envious of big pregnant bellies
  • You are able to get rid of your baby things (clothes, strollers, toys, cribs) easily
  • You are looking forward to a new season of life
  • Your family feels complete
Of course, you may still feel envious of pregnancy announcements or big pregnant bellies even if you know in your heart of hearts that you are done having babies. For some of us, that is simply remembering a special time in your life and thinking about what it was like for you. A time when you were younger and more full of energy, and ready to embark on bringing a new life into this world. But if part of you is glad that you won't be getting up with a newborn all night anymore, then you might be done having babies.

But my heart, and that urge that flicks on like a switch but feels impossible to switch off. I am between a rock and a hard place - scared to rock the boat and the balance we have achieved by giving into my deep yearnings, and scared that I will one day be living with regret about not following my heart.

Until I have clarity in both mind and heart, I take it one day at a time. I nuzzle next to my girls at bedtime, drinking in their present-ness and purity. I take a moment, each day, to count my blessings, the beautiful children I already have who bring so much light to my life.

Image by:bogonet