My husband and I come from very different backgrounds, so it has always amazed me how perfectly most of our opinions align. Early on, we discovered our matching views on money, church,  life purpose, Star Wars, education, making out, and how many children we wanted to have. We knew a lot of couples who disagreed or vacillated on family size, but we were united in our hope for two. Two children with whom to travel the world, play board games, and scream ourselves silly on rollercoasters (okay, that one might be just me), two children to be automatic friends to each other while providing space for other relationships, two children into whom we could invest time, attention, and personalized love while still pursuing our own careers and social lives. We both adored kids, but the prospect of a large family didn’t resonate with either of us. We had our magic number.

That’s why I was so surprised to find myself, shortly after Sophie’s birth, flushed with baby fever. Not just surprised, but alarmed. I was deep in the clutches of postpartum depression, and the demands of my two sweet girls were often more than my filigreed emotions could handle. Another pregnancy would literally have endangered our lives. Yet every time one of the girls snuggled up against me or I peeked in on a sisterly giggling fit, I was overwhelmed with the wish for more.

Sweet sisters 2
(Just look what I was up against!)

Eventually, the craze subsided. My mind climbed back into the light, I began to enjoy parenting again, and I was able to recognize that my motherly instinct—that mysterious part of some women’s brains that makes us sniff newborns’ heads and coo over diaper commercials—did not need to override my logic. I loved my Natalie and my Sophie, and I knew that in order to keep loving them well, I couldn’t lose myself to another baby. It wouldn’t be fair to them or to Dan, who was just starting to get his wife back. Our magic number hadn’t changed; we gave away the baby clothes and began living out the future we had hoped for…

…Which brings us to this year, behind a locked door where I clutched a pregnancy test wondering how in the world I was going to explain things to my husband. I didn’t even know how I felt, or rather, I couldn’t narrow down which of my conflicting emotions was predominant. One part of me was already picking out names and anticipating the exquisite joy of welcoming a new little one into the family. The other part of me was dreading the exhaustion, the C-section recovery, the financial strain, the enormous time taken away from the girls, and the million necessary adjustments to our life. I felt selfish for both my reluctance and my excitement, and confusion swirled my insides until I thought I might puke. Of course, I would be doing plenty of puking in the weeks to come; might as well get used to it.

Except that I wasn’t pregnant. Against all expectations, the test turned out negative. A test the next week was negative too, and at last, my body finally confirmed what they were saying. There would not be any morning sickness, hospital stays, baby blues, pumping paraphernalia, or minivan shopping. I would not have to explain to a single concerned Italian grandma that yes, I know how this happens. I would not risk hurting my friends whose hearts are being dragged through the devastating cycle of infertility. Our family would remain just as we’d hoped it would be. Yet a peculiar ache settled in the empty space between my arms like a phantom limb. I was relieved not to be pregnant, incredibly so, but was also caught off balance by how strongly I could miss someone who never existed.

I don’t know how to uncomplicated a non-event any more than this:

For three weeks, I was mama to a baby-who-wasn’t.

Today was our due date.


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  1. I’ve had a similar experience recently, only I haven’t had the benefit of nearly three years passing since the birth of my last kid. It is exhilarating and frightening for a moment, innit?

  2. Oh Sweetheart. {hugs and love}

  3. I’m sorry. The heart hurts, and sometimes we can’t explain it logically or emotionally. It just does. I think we always long for ‘what might have been’ – especially when we know those demanding (divine!) creatures turn into fascinating, funny people who we can’t imagine existing without.

    Sending you LOVE.

  4. You’ve given me goosebumps, you have.

  5. I’m sorry too, and Whew! Both. I totally get that.


  6. i struggled with that for years. i actually only wanted one, but when i saw how social she was, i knew we needed to have two. had we had our second first, we would never have had two. people critisized me forever for only wanting one, and if i mention it in certain circles, i get the same critism.

    i struggled with only having two … shouldn’t i have more? even though i never wanted more, never, i struggled.

    i struggled with the empty arms for a long time, longing for another baby at the same time thankful not to go through another hard pregnancy.

    over time, without even noticing, a peace settled. i am so thankful for my two, and only my two. i want to give a lot to each of my girls, and i cannot imagine being spread out more than i am. i know other women who have multiple children who handle it well, but i know i would not. and i’m very grateful for my only-two.

    they’re 10 and 12 now and keep me hoppin. and they both know they are deeply loved and cared for, by mommy.


  7. Q – Yes and yes. And I think a hug might be in order for you too.

    Hillary – Thank you, truly.

    Sam – Stupid, useless logic. If I let myself go too far with that reasoning, we’d never stop having kids… and I would adore every one of them… and go CRAZY!

    Liz – I prescribe a nice mug of tea. 🙂

    Meg – You nailed it. Thanks for understanding.

    Ame – I am incredibly grateful for your comment. I’m so glad that peace eventually settled and that you don’t regret your decision to stick with two. It’s a little like glimpsing my future and seeing the happiness I hope I’ve chosen in it.

  8. An encouraging note to read … I always wanted a big family, but for similar reasons, in order to be the mom I want to be to the children I have, we need to stop at 3, it’s hard but it’s for the best, emotionally and health wise. Thank you for sharing.

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