My friend told me she was done having kids. This is what I said.

Wednesday, September 6, 2017

My dearest friend

A few months ago, we sat in a cute cafe surrounded by strangers. We talked about life and catching up, but as you'll probably remember, we talked largely about our feelings of worry and guilt over being done having children.

We talked about health issues surrounding our pregnancies, well-meaning advice from family and friends, and the spirituality of childbearing and rearing. All these conversations were underscored by the path we were tiptoeing together - is it okay to be done having babies? We walked hand-in-hand for a while, being comforted and lifted as we faced the journey ahead - no maps, no sign posts. Only intuition for our guide.

We talked heavily about being a mom to the children who are already in our care. We talked about struggling under the the cultural belief that a woman's worth is tied directly to how many children she has. But you know what got me really riled up? What I still can't get over? That story you told me about being cornered and bullied after sharing your feelings about being done having babies. When you told me that story I wanted to punch someone. Because my wanted target wasn't nearby, I instead have this letter for you - a written reminder that you can return to when you need strength to stand firm in your choice and be comforted that you are enough.

I know you probably know this, but I think everyone stands in need of a reminder once in a while:

People are not things.
Babies are not things.
Mothers are not things.

Lets start with babies. When you had Liam, I'll bet someone said, "Congrats on your new bundle of joy!". Except that, he is not a bundle. He is not joy. He is Liam. Liam needs to eat food (and choices are limited if I remember correctly). Liam needs clothing, he needs a safe space to live, and lord knows he needs a fair share of patience. Same with Ella. Same with Noah. The thing about babies is that they grow. You know that because Liam is now 6. As he grows, his needs change. He needs more of some things, less of others. You're not buying diapers for him anymore but I'll bet that boy is tough on jeans. I ask you this - who pays for those jeans? Who reads the bedtime stories? Who buys and prepares the food? Who makes the ER trips? You and your husband do.

Isn't it funny that the people who are most concerned with your reproductive biology are the ones who are least affected by its product? Mother in laws pressuring for grandbabies, for example. Holier-than-thou 'friends' sniffing for places to stick their nose. Don't forget the strangers in the mommy Facebook groups. Err-body is all up in your uterus. Kick them out. The only people who belong there are the ones you invite.

The widely-held view of a perfect mom is one who has done and sacrificed all for the wellbeing of her family. But did you know that the biblical definition of perfect is actually "whole"? If you live your life forever in the pursuit of popular perfection, you live depleted. If there are more needs than means, someone has to go without. Sure, it can be done. But at whose cost? Who suffers most?

Haven't you done enough already?

I mean, you made space within your own body for nearly a year - time and time again. Your body was stretched, poked, and literally cut open in some places to make space for a new person in this world.  You fed and nourished every baby you birthed, sometimes with your breasts, and other times with all your heart through a bottle. You have spent the prime years of your life giving, creating, breathing, and sharing.

There are people in this world for whom that will never be enough.

From my empty womb to yours, I want to simply say:

You are.

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