Several weeks ago I had my postpartum follow-up with my OB. She asked me what I was doing for birth control. My first thought was: birth control! weird! I hadn’t had to think about birth control, really, for years. My second thought was: shit! birth control! I never, ever, ever want to be pregnant again.

I’ve been pregnant six times in five years and the thought of being pregnant again is terrifying. I am only gradually realizing how truly stressful my pregnancy with M was and I am not at all eager to experience anything like it again. My OB suggested that I meet with one of the other doctors in her practice to talk about permanent birth control options, and I made an appointment.

I am to meet with this doctor later this week, and I’m having mixed feelings. On the one hand, oh my god, I never want to be pregnant, ever ever again. On the other…no more babies…? Ever? Ever ever??

Let’s be practical: I am 39 years old. I live in a two-bedroom apartment in one of the world’s most expensive cities. I need to spend some time in the near future focusing on my career and using the PhD I spent so long acquiring before it becomes irrelevant and useless. Even if the thought of it didn’t scare the shit out of me, another baby is not really a serious option for our family.

Still. Still.

Last night in the shower with me E asked if we would ever have another baby. When I said no, she was disappointed. ‘But I want to have another baby. I want to have lots of people in our family.’ Me too, I thought. I always wanted that, even if I knew it wasn’t likely. I have a brother and a sister and I always thought I would have three LIVING children, too, if not more. I have three children, but…well, it’s not the same, is it? And it makes it ‘worse,’ too; I feel like someone is missing because someone really is. Her name is Anja. She was my daughter, too.

I was out walking slowly around the neighbourhood this morning trying to coax M into his mid-day nap when I saw a tiny girl toddling along the sidewalk toward me. She was wearing a short red jumpsuit and had wild curly hair just like E had until she was nearly three years old. I wanted to ask how old she was, and I didn’t want to ask how old she was. I could tell she was about the same age Anja would have been had she been born alive and at term, and when I did eventually ask, I found out I was right: ‘Just about 16 months,’ her mom beamed. Just like A. My gone girl, here before me for just a moment.

For just a moment I could trick myself.

I could see it clearly: E, my big girl, holding a little toddling A’s hand, and me pushing M in his stroller. M with two big sisters, in the flesh. A, our middle child, in the flesh. The extra bit of noise and chaos, laughter and tears, worry and joy. The extra bit of love in our home.

A part of me hates so much that it is fear that will make the decision even more than it is logistics. If we had a four-bedroom house and I had a good job and wasn’t worried about my age, I still don’t think I could do it. We are done. DONE with babies.

And I’m terribly sad about it.

And terribly mad.

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