I have a confession to make. In the top of my wardrobe, behind a pile of blankets, I have this stash of pristine newborn baby clothes. They're leftover from my second baby, who outgrew the precious outfits before they became too old or scruffy to use any longer, like most of her future clothes. So I could never bring myself to throw these ones out. I've been saving them for ... well, I'm not sure, really.
Every now and then, I come across them and start reminiscing about the newborn days, which is always a bad idea. Because it does something to me – actually does something to my insides. I start remembering what it was like to have a newborn and how it felt to hold her, and the memories are so vivid I can feel her weight against my chest and even hear her little grunts, and the sound of her soft breathing against my neck. It's an overwhelming feeling that makes me forget everything around me and brings one dominant thought into focus.
In that moment I think, 'I have to have another baby. I just have to.' The sudden hot tears behind my eyes and what I can only describe as swooning ovaries tell me there's no question about it.
It's a feeling that makes no sense. I should be done with babies. I've got four of them, and let me tell you, these ones push me to my limits every day. I'm exhausted, quite often overwhelmed, and get virtually no time to myself. Our townhouse feels way too small and is filled to the brim with the six of us. It's impossible to keep on top of the mess and all the stuff that comes with kids: the dolls, the cars, the Lego, the stickers. The smells.
Speaking of smells, I've been changing nappies non-stop for nearly seven years now. You'd think that fact alone would be enough to put me off.
But it doesn't. For some reason, practicality goes out the window when it comes to me and babies. When conversation with friends turns to pregnancy, I nod along enthusiastically and tell them that I could easily be convinced to have another. 'No, really?' they question, disbelievingly. People look at me strangely when I get clucky in the presence of someone else's newborn, like I'm crazy to even consider another baby. I get it, really I do - but I can't help it. Like I said, it's a feeling that makes no sense.
I should be 'done'. Hell, sometimes on those days that start much too early, or when the kids are arguing and whinging and generally driving me crazy, I think 'Yep, that's it. No more kids for me!' The idea of being pregnant with four other kids to look after makes me feel sick.
To be honest, I don't know where I'd fit another baby in. There's no time left in my day for me to even contemplate long breastfeeding sessions with a new baby, changing yet more nappies and dealing with all the nap times and sleep issues again.
And the other thing is that I'm oh-so-tired. How hard is raising kids? It takes me about two minutes to fall asleep at night, and that's at 9pm. I clearly don't have the energy for another baby.
But still, that feeling hangs around, making no sense at all.
My question is this: do we ever feel 'done' with having babies? Is there some sort of switch that perhaps I don't have, that tells us when we're done and shuts down these pesky hormones? I've heard about women who can say 'I'm done' in a very final, satisfied way, so it must be possible.
But then I've also heard from other women, well beyond their fertile years, who say that you never really get over the broody feelings. If this is true, there's a strong chance that I will continue to be a soppy mess around newborns for a long time yet. Something tells me that farewelling my fertile years in the not-too-distant future is going to be a tough one.
For now, I'm going to stay away from that stash of newborn clothes. Or maybe I should bite the bullet and give them away – maybe that would give me some closure, a chance to declare that I, too, am 'done.'
Yes … it's an idea. But not yet. I'm not ready yet.
You can read more from Karina over at her blog, The Laney Files.