There is a kind of grieving, a kind of death that envelops you when you can’t have any more children. 

The reasons are plentiful and sometimes complex. Some of us have health issues that prevent more pregnancies. Some of us have husbands who put it plainly: “No more kids.” Some of us can’t afford it.

For others, the choice to be made is cloudy. It hangs in the balance precariously and, for some reason, the scale cannot be tipped either way.

Sometimes partners are out of sync: one desperately wanting another child and the other unsure if one more kid might just push them over the edge.

Whatever the reason, some of us can’t even though we ache for just one more. Two years after my second child, the fog settles in, seemingly out of nowhere. A gray, somber cloud, that suffocates. I realize—no more birth. No more babies. No more giant rounding of the belly. No more joy of that particular kind. No more hope in the unknown, hope in the promise of a new life.

I’m surprised that the feeling is like the death of a close loved one; like the death of a child. And I’ve never lost a real, breathing child before. I’ve never had a miscarriage. I’ve never had trouble conceiving a baby.

I try to push the feeling away. I try not to think about it. Still, the feeling haunts me, like the snuffing out of a great romance. 

I try to convince myself that my husband and I probably don’t have the capacity for one more little person in our home. When my two children are pulling each other’s hair simultaneously over the last cookie, I think, “See, you couldn’t handle one more child. You don’t know how to handle the ones you already have.” Still, it feels like death.

So I sit in the feeling, as if I’m sitting in a bathtub full of cold water. Since I can’t push the sadness away no matter how hard I try, I resolve to just stew in the feeling until it passes, if it ever will.

I do the next best thing that I can: I look at my 2-year old son and 5-year old daughter. I wonder that they came from me. I glory that they have the kind of blue eyes that make strangers stop their shopping carts and gawk in the supermarket. I marvel at my daughter’s will, which is as strong as a hurricane’s downpour. I joy in my toddler’s evolving speech and language. I hug my children and won’t let them go. I thank God that He gave me two. I have two healthy children. Even if the universe can’t bless me with a third, my heart spills over with gratitude.

I can’t make the sad go away over the loss of a possible third child. But, I ask life to bring me more joy. If all else fails, I will have some other kind of child—I will start writing again. I will grow a garden. Or teach. Even if the longing never abates, even if I’ll always mourn not being able to have a third . . . perhaps one day, I’ll be blessed with a grandchild.

And that must be second best.

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Catherine Writer

I am a mother of two, who has just recently picked up creative writing again after a 16 year lull.