I always wanted three kids. I don’t know why. Three was kind of an arbitrary number, but it was a comfortable place to hang out in my mind.

Three. Yeah, I liked the sound of that. A family of five. Not as cookie cutter as a family of four. A bigger extended family as they grow. Three. 

Our first was (and still is) high maintenance. A traumatic labor and delivery only foreshadowed the drama to come from this one. She was a difficult baby. And a joy, don’t get me wrong, but difficult nonetheless.

My transition into motherhood was rocky, wrought with feeding issues, an extremely difficult physical recovery, and a nearly debilitating tangle with postpartum anxiety and depression.

But the fog cleared. She started sleeping through the night after 10 months of exhaustion, and we found our groove as the family of three I imagined.

The month after our daughter turned one, we decided we were ready to add another to our crew. We anxiously awaited the arrival of our second, a son.

But somewhere between the blazing pink lines on the First Response and the third happiest day of my life, there was a shift.

We were done. Finished.

I’m not exactly sure how it happened. There was no discussion. No earth-shattering event to change our minds. We didn’t weigh the pros and cons or even broach the issue over a basket of chips and salsa.

It just . . . happened.

We just knew. In our hearts of hearts, we knew; this baby boy would be the final piece to our puzzle. 

It felt right. It just made sense. It was a feeling I’ve only ever had once before in my life: when I knew I wanted to marry my husband.

It was an inner peace I can’t explain, a stillness, a total and complete sense that all was right. 

And then he was here, and the joy I felt in those first moments as a family of four cannot be put into words. The sight of the four of us together, of my babies together . . . it was overwhelming to say the least.

How could a heart hold so much love? How could I be this immensely blessed? 

I wasn’t sure. But I tried not to blink.

Then came the full-scale reality of two kids under two. Holy heck. That was a runaway train I was not at all prepared to manage.

There was beauty in all the chaos, but there was so much chaos.  

It only further solidified our decision–we were so done. 

Two kids was perfect. We could totally manage two (one day). We could divide and conquer; no need to break into zone defense. Yeah, two was sounding pretty darn good. 

As our son grew, we outgrew the need for certain baby gear. But this time, instead of going straight to the attic for safekeeping, we were faced with a new decision: hang on for a little while longer, or let the things go and own the decision not to have more children.

So, we handed down bags of clothes and we donated swings and seats. And in some ways, it felt good to reclaim our home, moving out half of Babies ‘R Us (rest her soul) and freeing up some desperately missed floor space.

But now my last baby is on the downhill slide to a year old, and he’s starting to crawl. Baby gear is slowly but surely disappearing from my house, forever, and I’m having a moment.

My head knows we’re done, but my heart aches a little.

There’s a weird nostalgia that comes with knowing your family is complete. It doesn’t diminish the joy I feel for my kids, or somehow undermine the absolute fulfillment they’ve each brought to our lives.

But there’s a certain longing in a mother’s heart that occurs when she knows she’ll never carry another baby. Never wash another newborn sleeper. Never again count kicks or contractions, or race to the hospital, overcome with a mixture of adrenaline, anticipation and sheer and utter terror.

There’s a sadness—not about leaving behind midnight feedings or saying goodbye to stitches in places you should never have to have stitches. There’s a sadness that comes with knowing that a chapter—a beautiful, life-changing, and hard yet wonderful chapter—is coming to a close. 

It’s like anything difficult; the farther away you get from it, the more you can see the beauty that existed all along. The hard parts, the pain, those things fade, and you’re left grasping for moments you’ll never again experience.

My head knows we’re done, but my heart still aches a little. 

But as one chapter comes to an end, another is given the opportunity to play out stories only it could tell.

And I’m eager. To write new chapters in our family’s narrative, and to embrace each one with open arms.

So much joy lies ahead. So, I’ll bottle up all the details I can remember, and keep them close to my heart. And I guess, make that vasectomy appointment my husband’s been conveniently avoiding.

Originally published on the author’s blog

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Kendra Barnes

Kendra is co-founder of Daylight to Dark, a lifestyle blog. She's a fun-loving wife and momma to a spirited, blue-eyed girl and a particularly jolly baby boy. She's an expert at holding down the fort, abandoning her coffee, and interjecting just the right amount of snark into any conversation. Through her love of writing, she aspires to share how she turns regular days into memories.