Tuesday, October 28, 2014

A Missing Season of Mentoring

I've been thinking a lot about how eager and willing we are to mentor younger women in their new seasons of life. Entering college, adapting to a career, being a newlywed, stepping into new ministry roles, or becoming a mom are exciting times. It can be fun and satisfying to walk with our younger friends through them. I think women are generally eager to share and pass on their knowledge. I can name every person God used to mentor me through those seasons and I'm really grateful they poured into me. 

One thing I hardly ever hear other women talk about is the end of the season of childbearing. I don't mean menopause because I know for a fact that women like to talk about that. When I was a recent college grad I worked in the office at Living Proof and I got quite an education. But it seems like most women in our culture end childbearing before they truly reach menopause. 

I'm just not sure there's a lot of mentoring in the ending of childbearing. Why do you think that is?  Is it because no one hires a photographer to send out "We're done reproducing!" announcements and no Pinterest boards with great ideas for "We're moving on!" reveal parties? Is it because this isn't very exciting and therefore it's unseen? Maybe it's just too private a matter. (But let's be honest. We get down to the nitty gritty about childbirth. Do we care that much about privacy?) 

Where is the 30-day devotional about this topic? Publishers send me new books every week but I haven't come across this one yet. And I don't remember seeing it as a breakout session at a conference for moms. Maybe it was there but it just seemed irrelevant at the time.

When every mom faces the end of the baby years at some point, it seems strange that it isn't talked about more. If I'm missing the voices that are discussing it publicly, please point me in their direction. I mean that.

I don't know about you, but I need to hear these stories. I need to know what it looks like to move on gracefully even though there is heartache. It would be really powerful to know the stories of the older women in my village. I need to take the time to ask them these kinds of questions: Why did it end for you? Was it your decision or was it because of circumstances out of your control? Did you and your husband agree on when it was time to be done? If not, how did you come to peace? Five years later, did you have regrets? Do you have regrets now? Did it end on a high note or with trauma? Is it even possible for this season to end on a high note? Is this painful for everyone? 

I need to shut my self-important mouth and listen to them speak. 

If you have already walked this path, your wisdom has tremendous value. You may not get an announcement in the mail from the one who needs it, but she will be relieved when you come alongside her share this part of your story. 


65 comments:

Traci Rhoades said...

I've never really thought about this. I took a moment to reflect on a few of the stories I do happen to know of loved ones who decided childbearing years were done. Sometimes the couple agreed. Sometimes Mother Nature had her say. For us, being older parents the first time around, we quickly knew God's plan for us was to just have the one. And we were both OK with that. Good post!

Chris said...

Thank you for this, Amanda. I'm in the very season you're describing. It seems to me that few women I know end up with the number of children they wanted. Some have more kids than they'd planned - but far more women have less than they'd hoped for. It's such a painful topic.

Lisa said...

Wow. I think you might have just started a ministry! I am in that season myself, and while my age is helping me to be at peace with it (I'm 41), the previous season ended much more abruptly than I anticipated it would. In my mind and heart, I'm still a young wife and mother with plenty of time ahead of me to grow my family, but reality is smacking me in the face and telling me to snap out of it and catch up. When I think about it, I begin to grieve for... well, I don't even know. Promise? Anticipation? All the thrilling unknowns that go along with thinking about having a family? I know I didn't appreciate that season when I was in it, and maybe that's where the grief comes in, feeling and perhaps realizing I never gave it the time and attention it deserved. I've been unwittingly (but not unwillingly) mentoring a young coworker who is entering into that season, and it's bringing so much unexpected peace. I, too, would love to be led through this uncharted territory by those who have been there. If you're out there, I'm listening! Peace and blessings, Amanda.

Lissa Bennett said...

Thank you for posting this. This topic seems to go untouched in most circles. Health reasons led us to end childbearing. There have been many times since the birth of my third son that I have battled regret over my decision. Glad you were brave enough to post this. I hope it starts the conversation for people in need of encouragement and counsel.

Marla Taviano said...

I love you, friend. May Jesus hug you tight today.

bethany said...

This is something that I've been struggling with the past few years as well-are we done, not done, how do I know? And, like you, I've not found much in the way of advice or even acknowledgement that this is a life change similar to having your first child (at least it has been for me). I completely redefined myself when I started staying at home with kids, now what???

Meggie said...

I've never really thought about this either... but I would love hear stories and learn from other ladies who have already experienced the season. I'm sort of experiencing this season now. My 3rd boy is 8 months old and we feel like we're probably done having babies... primarily because of financial reasons. My husband is VERY content and so I am... just not to the point of doing anything permanent even though he's totally willing. (I'm praying for absolute peace of mind and direction from God before going that route.) It's a really bittersweet season for us. I love the questions you asked though and would love to hear the answers from other ladies.

Melissa said...

Dear Amanda,

I hesitate in posting, but please know it is in love. I have never been pregnant and walked through a time of grieving for that, but God fully healed me of that desire. He graciously allows us now to parent four children through adoption. I am 44 and my husband will soon be 54. Each and every time we have adopted it has been after a huge season of discernment regarding God's will. We are currently praying for discernment as to growing our family again. I feel a tugging at my heart, but is it my desire or God's will? I have asked myself if I ever will feel like "we are done." My husband and I have both agreed it is not for us to know at this point. For us, we feel like God is using this in our family as a point in trusting Him. If you have ever read Experiencing God by Henry Blackaby, it comes down to that crisis of belief for us when we get close to approaching the process again or not. Can we remain open to the possibility no matter what? Some days yes and some days I have to crawl back to God and lay it down all over knowing it is ultimately not in my control. I know that probably doesn't help much, but please know I am praying for you. May God get the glory in our struggles for discernment and obedience!

This Is The Day said...

I just read an article on this the other day, but I looked and can't find it. It IS interesting that this is a season that is not discussed. I never really thought about it until I read that article. I guess maybe part of the reason is that you never know if you are truly done. One of my friends has a 20 year old and 18 year old and a surprise 6 year old. And my sister in law is currently pregnant after stoutly declaring she was DONE and perfectly happy with one child. She was taking double precautions and God said, "Nope. Not done." For me this reminds me that everyone is dealing with something and everyone can use encouragement, support, and a listening ear...in EVERY season!

Rebecca said...

http://sarahbessey.com/learning-live-ache/

This article really spoke to me. It is an ache. I am there now. I am 35 and I am done. Sometimes I want more and my husband would gladly have more, but I am maxed out with my 3. I do look forward to days without strollers and diapers, but I miss snuggling a nursing baby and feeling those first kicks. It's hard.

Sharon said...

REading this reminds me of the book I gave my sister as all three babies are gone to college and she is devasted and going through a not eating phase...........The book is "Feathers from my nest".....I think it is your day to write a sequel to your mom's book :) .....THANK YOU FOR YOUR WHOLE FAMILY MENTORING PEOPLE YOU"LL NEVER SEE OR KNOW!

Jennifer said...

Oh my goodness, could we seriously start this ministry up?! Scott and I have decided we are good with 2 kids, but there is still that little pang in my heart when I see a new baby and what being pregnant is like. I would love to know the wiser, older women's advice on how to stop that.

The Purtle's said...

How right you are, Amanda. I'm in this very stage with you. And, it does have many emotions and thoughts and yes it does need mentoring!! Thanks for sharing your heart.

AT HOME said...

Preach it sista! I was just discussing this with a friend. We all fantasize about the baby years and then....??? I have an insane fear of leaving this stage and all
I hear is you are going to miss this ! Could someone please say hey, it's awesome to just be my hubs and I. This season of late elementary students is so fulfilling. Find someone to discuss this issue and encourage!

Melene@Sing For Joy said...

I am 47 and my girls are 18 and 16. The oldest is a freshman in college and the youngest is in 10th grade. When they were in 8th grade and 5th grade, my husband and I decided to try for another baby and it was not meant to be. It was difficult and disappointing. I have regrets that we didn't try for a 3rd child when I was younger. Over time I have learned to be thankful for the "newness" of each stage and not feel like I need a new baby to feel needed and important. It is a hard season for a woman, but I believe we have the family God wants us to have.

Amy Beth Gardner said...

I could read your posts for hours and not be bored for a single second.

Conny said...

VERY relevant to me too, Amanda. I'm 43 years old now - and totally been through this for the last 10 years (no kidding!!!). I though we couldn't have more kids because of infertility after 2002... but I couldn't let go of the longing. I wasn't "done" in my mind because that wasn't MY decision. I was trying to accept it as God's. (My husband was neutral so he didn't help - ha!).
God did surprise us in 2009 with a child after our next oldest was 9 years old!!! And that was the happiest of surprises. But you know, after that happened, I felt like it was MY decision to be "done" - and somehow that brought more peace or perhaps an easier peace. I'm grateful to God for that opportunity to decide, but I know not everyone has that choice. Thanks for reminding me that I'm not the only one who is/has gone through this!!

Ashley Beth said...

I am so incredibly in agreement with you on this topic. YES! We need women who've walked this leg of the journey to help and encourage us who are currently in it. After 3 kids, my husband and I decided that he should have a vasectomy. For 4 years thereafter, we greatly regretted the decision and ultimately felt led by God to have it reversed. (We did look into the adoption process as you did and after many, many hard discussions, decided that was not the path for our family.) We had the vasectomy reversed almost a year ago and while it was completely successful, we have not yet been blessed with more children. Now we wait and wonder and trust in God's perfect will, but this season is still incredibly confusing and sometimes sad. So yes, women who've come out the other side and can testify to God's design in their family size are needed and you aren't the only one seeking guidance. Thanks for sharing your heart, Amanda!

Lori Willey Ministries: more life, more hope, more growth said...

You are precious! I'm in the midst of your Mom's amazing study, "Children of the Day." What captures my heart in this is that maybe you are noticing the transition more keenly because you have a desire for more. In the study she says if we have a calling, "we won't be satisfied until we are living it out because God wired you with a compulsion to do it." We had two daughters two years apart. Financially and relationally with my husband,I didn't see we had the stability to bring another precious life into our situation. Yet, I had an intense mothering sense. I dove into the nursery and pre-school department at our church. A lot of kids were placed in programs, but their parents didn't attend church. I loved those kids and led those kids to Jesus just like my own. I spent 20 years in that department starting when my youngest was two. Those children, going through confirmation, graduation and onto college always felt like mine. If children are in your heart like a call, but the ones under your own roof don't happen, I really recommend asking Jesus where your kids are that He has for you. They are there, waiting and when you find them, contentment comes. When our two daughters were 18 and 16 years old, I anticipated and prayed for the changed future with my husband as our kids would be leaving home soon and it would be just he and I. I prayed and asked for God to bless the time with my husband, to draw us together and give us something in common that we both would love. Three months later, I found out I was pregnant! (I was thinking God was going to have me take up golf! ha!) A lot of Mom's are tired and ready to be done with kids and the transition is an easy one, because their call has been filled. When there is a yearning, I believe there is a call to nurture more and those little hearts are out there. Under your roof or His. Praying for you, precious one! Love from Minnesota.

Jeannie said...

I think I just knew after my second baby was born that my family was complete. There was a time after that when I thought I might be pregnant and was very happy when I found out that I was not. So, I think I just knew in my heart that I was content with my 2 boys. My husband was pretty much there too. I do remember, though, being very sad when my youngest went to kindergarten and I knew my baby and preschool days were behind me. I did not grieve endlessly but just missed having a little one with me to nurture and enjoy all day. I do not have regrets, but I must say that I have wondered at times what our family would be like if we had continued to have more children after our 2 sons. Since I am now 50, I am just really looking forward to having grandbabies one day. This is a great post and you are right--not a subject we discuss much as women. I hope you come to peace with your season. Perhaps a restlessness means you are not quite done? I do not know, but it is a thought...

Leanne Haines said...

I definitely could have used some wisdom in my "end of childbearing" years, too, Amanda. I'm 45 and I don't know when these arms stop aching for a baby to hold. I still drink in the fresh newborn scent whenever I get near one. And now that I have teens and Tweens the toys are disappearing from my house. Little griefs sneak up on me as these days turn into years. Love this blog post. It's nice to know I'm not alone!

Mary said...

What I was reminded of as I read your sharing from the heart, is how each one of is uniquely created and that is the way God has it planned. I had my second and last child at age 36 and I was excited and 100% at peace that our family was complete and that was 14 years ago and have never felt any other way! I am going to pray for you now, Amanda, that God open the way for another child if that is His will for your family, to fill a desire that He perhaps has placed there OR He bring you a peace and contentment and excitement as a family of four. Love in the Lord. God may be up to something! Open your hands to receive. :)

EmilyB said...

It's hard to say "we're done" sometimes b/c so many people, it seems, these days are against birth control. It's sort of awkward. I'm old enough to "be done" since I'm 36, but a lot of my friends are still having kids b/c they started later in life, or they're younger than I am. I'm one of the first ones in my group of friends to have all of my kids in school (my youngest is in K). It feels weird. I kinda feel like I'm flailing about. I have 3 kids: 10, 8, and 5 1/2. I wanted 4 kids, originally, but I had so much anxiety when each of my kids was a baby, that when my youngest was 8mos old, my husband decided it was time to shut down the factory. I was 31, and I could definitely feel the difference from having a baby in my 30's versus having one in my 20's. I was sad about not having a 4th, and, I guess, mad at myself b/c I couldn't seem to relax when my kids were babies. I was mad at myself for having such a hard time the first year of my kids' lives. It's been 5years, and I'm still sad sometimes that I didn't have a 4th. I'm glad my kids aren't babies anymore b/c they're way easier in a lot of ways, and I don't want to go back to diapers, no sleep, etc, but whenever a friend says they're pregnant w/ their 4th, I get a twinge of jealousy initially. I love babies, so I help out a lot in the nursery at church to get "my fix". I'm at a very strange place in my life now. I always thought I'd homeschool my kids all the way thru high school, but after trying it 3 different times, I know I'm not cut out for it. That's been another thing about myself that's made me mad at myself. So, my kids are in Christian school (public schools in my area are really bad), and it costs a fortune. I never thought I'd work at a job after I had kids, so I never planned for that when I was in college. I went to Moody (before your sister), and got my BS in Biblical Studies, and...yeah...what am I supposed to do with that?! I'm really struggling now, trying to figure out what to do w/ my life (I sound like a teenager), and I'm struggling with how to find a job b/c I feel like that's what I'm supposed to do. I wish I could enjoy this time with my kids being in school all day, but I feel super guilty and lazy. I never thought I'd be at this place. All of my friends still have little ones at home, and they admit that we're at different stages now in our lives. Sorry for rambling. Your post hit home a little bit with me.

Kristen said...

I'm often comforted by reading your blog because we are similar phases of life. I appreciate your view points because they often mirror my own.
I *literally* talked with a pastor last week over concerns I'm slipping into a bit of a depressed state, partly because I can't have anymore children and I'm so danged sad that SAHM time is over (way earlier than I would have chosen.)
He gave me some practical advice that has helped, but it's a weird place to be.
When my daughter started Kindergarten last year I wrote this blog post to try and process the sadness that blind-sided me, (http://www.kristenjoymaddux.blogspot.com/2013/08/my-babys-1st-day-of-school-or-mommys.html) but I don't see many others writing about this stuff, either. Empty nest, yes. But not this phase. Makes me think it must not bother others the way it does me? Thanks for being a voice out there! It's very encouraging.

The Purtle's said...

Yea I actually blogged my thoughts, thanks to your inspiration. :)

Joyce said...

I think part of the reason there are no real 'how-to' books on this season of life is because although we stop reproducing, we are often busy parenting in that same time frame. It sometimes takes the wisdom of hindsight to know how we truly feel about 'the end of an era'. For me it wasn't neccessarily a conscious decision. My second one exhausted me and when she was small I couldn't think about a third. She's now a 24 year old well adjusted young adult who loves the Lord and teaches third grade, but back when she was in third grade? Have mercy! We laugh about it now. And I wish I'd had a couple more. Not with regret, but with a sense of wow-wish I had a couple more. Motherhood has brought me so much joy.

My oldest is getting married in January, so I'm shifting my focus to grands one day. Also, back when I stopped having children I took a job as Director of our church preschool. I loved those littles and their mamas so much, and it filled some of the space that needed filling. I don't know if there is any right way forward. Just forward the best way you can, one day at a time. Praying God's peace floods over your heart today.

Mel said...

I don't know how I came across your blog but have been reading it this last year. I have walked through an infertility that led to adoption with one of my friends so I have really appreciated reading your posts recently. I think you are spot on that this topic is missing in ministry!! It's something that is in the back of my mind - I have one daughter and am turning 35 next month. So one day I will be facing these questions like you are right now. One thing that has really stuck me with came from a godly mom of 5. She said she realized this after her fifth was born. Every woman mourns the (end of) baby stage. She thought her family would be complete with the fifth child but then she realized all those feelings were still there after baby #5's arrival. So she realized her family didn't need baby #6 she just needed to understand the glorious baby ache that was in her heart. I hope that helps you a little. What you are feeling is normal and apparently very common - just hard to articulate. We do need women who are willing to be transparent in this area. Thanks for sharing.

em said...

Hi Amanda, I am in a different season of life- where I am not married, nor do I have children- but I desperately want both. That being said, I am not going to try to speak into what you're experiencing but wanted to share some things that came to mind.. First, your honesty is always so refreshing.. You speak what others can't or won't and provide a space for that.You share your life in a beautiful way, and that in itself is a ministry. This isn't an exact comparison of course, but you know how businesses are started by seeing a void, and realizing how no one else has the solution? I think that's the case for a lot of areas in the church. The church is great in the general sense, but we are all so unique and life is messy.. God may be preparing a way for you to speak into this area at some point and help establish voices who are experiencing the same thing.. I know for me, I long for someone down the road to tell me how they walked it.. Or that I am going to be ok, or that I am normal, etc. I don't find this, and haven't - and I know for me, that if I get the chance to be married, it will be my prayer that God allows me to open my home to those who are in the place i am currently in. Sometimes he lets us set the path, sometimes we get to stand on others shoulders- either way, the ache, heartbreak and longing you have will not be in vain.. I don't know why you still have to walk it when others don't- but i do know that those who sow in tears will reap a harvest of joy, and God in His perfect timing is going to knit something together that matches your gifts, and this longing. Your story isn't finished, or at least in my view i don't think it is.. I say this not to minimize, but to maybe say that God himself, holds the sentence structure to our stories. When i want to throw down a period, He uses a comma..I look forward to seeing the beauty that comes out of the dark place you've had to walk - and wanted to comment to maybe offer a different view, and believe that in this area, you will see the goodness of the lord in the land of the living..

nolesna said...

Perhaps we don't talk about this as much because it is just not as much a shared experience.

Starting a family is very similar for many people (certainly not all), but the way a family finds ...capacity? equilibrium?... varies widely. I'm turning 40, and I think I know people that would fall in to every category you named, plus a whole lot more.

Things start one way, but end so differently than we'd planned. That much is the shared experience.

I have a mentor who is just a little further down the life experience road. She kept reassuring me that this parenting gig only got sweeter and more fun. I did not believe her for the longest time. I grieved 5th birthdays like no tomorrow because, somehow, that marked the end of "babyhood."

Now that my oldest is turning 16, I can confidently tell you, my friend and mentor was right. Even in the throws of teenage hormones and middle school girl drama, my children are increasingly fun, an increasing joy. I'm not kidding, and I'm not medicated. ;)

And they will be gone in a blink.

I think the biggest encouragement I could have received when they were younger is to recognize how little they still really are, to know how quickly fleeting all the moments are, and to keep my eyes open to all the ways we can live those fleeting moments, not in grief, or exhaustion, or frustration, but in joy.

And also to know that when I do miss the joy, God is such a good and gracious God that He provides new opportunities every morning.

When mamas with newborns who are still wailing all night long ask me if it ever gets easier, I say, "Of course it does! No mother would survive if it didn't! It gets easier...and harder...and easier...and harder." I think that applies here too. Maybe all of motherhood, start to finish, is an ebbing and flooding tide.

Laurie Graham said...

I think the reason the end of childbearing is not discussed very much is because it is often something that sneaks up on us. I remember keeping hope open, and not wanting to feel "in control" of the decision. And yet about the time I would have thought it was good timing to have a third child, the rest of my life circumstances did not support it. (read: I had a lot on my plate. My very successful husband started exhibiting mental health issues. I was 31 at the time.) I remember praying about it over a period of months and looking at ways it seemed God had shut (or not shut) doors. I think it is very important not to sugarcoat the pregnancy/newborn experience. :) It is hard, friends - yes, they are precious. If God gives them to us we are extremely blessed and we love every second of it. But I remember thinking, "what if I force my will over God's, and spend the rest of my life wondering if whatever difficulties ensued because I insisted upon having something when He had something different in mind for me?" Obviously all children are blessings - I hope you hear my heart. I just know that for me, keeping the emotional stability of our home and being the kind of mom I wanted to be would have been greatly compromised over the next years if I had been stretched in one more direction. I am praying for you, that the Holy Spirit will help you to discern what is grief over great disappointments you've had in this process, what is grief over an ending (albeit it sweet) season (having young children), and what is a desire straight from the heart of God. I am 47, with two boys, now ages sophomore in college and senior in high school. God has taught me about seasons in life (heretofore being a lifelong lover of loyalty, long attachments, one church, etc.) and He has a new season starting for me next year, when my youngest goes to college. I don't know what ministries or job he has in mind for me, but I do know I can trust him with it. He also had a new season in mind for me when that same Christian husband of 22 years left me and my boys four years ago. It wasn't until I realized that God Himself is enough, that I could begin to have joy again. Joy mixed with ongoing sorrow, but joy. And His joy is my strength. I would love to walk with you through this season if you would wish. Sometimes it's nice to correspond with a sister who is not part of your daily life (and many many states away.) In the meantime, I am praying God would heal your heart and direct your steps, Amanda.

Megan said...

Yes! There is such a need for this! I am currently in the thick of the "baby" years with a 3 year old and 7 month old and hopefully one day another one....however I feel like each day I "mourn" the fact that the baby years are flying by. I waited my whole life to be a mom, to love on my babies, snuggle them and rock them to sleep, and I truly love every single second of it, so much that I already dread not having babies. Which is CRAZY considering I have babies now!!! Reading your post made me realize that I might feel this way because there is no "celebration" at the end of the baby years, and perhaps a missing of mentoring as you said. Very interesting. Reading these other comments though does have me encouraged that baby years are great but it keeps getting better! :-)

Jenny said...

When our last child was born, I knew he was our last due to a variety of reasons. My age, the fullness/chaos of our nest at that point, finances, on and on. I think this is such an interesting post because you are so right, this is not often talked about. Although this was not something forced on us, there's been grief. I have such precious memories of the births of our children and one thing I grieve is that the season of being in the hospital being a joyous thing is over. Even when I've visited someone sick in the hospital, I've thrilled at the memory of the births of our children, but now there is no happy reason to be admitted to the hospital myself. A strange thing, and a small thing, but something I've grieved. Anyway, you have a lovely style of writing and I so enjoy hearing your musings. I wish you God's sweetest blessings as you consider what He has for you; as He unfolds the next steps for you.

Karmen said...

Amanda,

We were JUST talking about this today at lunch! We are in the midst of your mother’s Children of the Day series. We were all discussing that while we are in our 40s and clearly BEYOND having babies, we are hearing of lots of surprises happening to women our age. The thought horrified some at the table and encouraged others. God is so good and capable of ANYTHING! I prayed for a long time that if we were supposed to have more than 2 kids to make it so. It wasn’t so, so I took that to mean we were were all here--our family was complete. I hope this brings you peace and comfort.

Tammy Grice said...

Thanks for sharing Amanda. My husband is several years older than me. He was divorced with 2 sons when we got married, I had always wanted 3 kids but after our second (4th), we felt we were done. I had a very hard and scary pregnancy. For many years I basically told God I would be ok with having another baby. but that has not happened. I am 42 now and don't expect another baby. I do have grandchildren from my stepsons and I tell you, they are pure joy! Being a grandmother is a speciak kind of mothering, just give it to God and he will show you His plan.

bullandchina said...

We are in the same boat. I so want to find peace and every Sunday when the Priest says, "and the intentions we hold in our hearts" in that moment of silence I pray, "Lord, give me the life (and number of kiddos you want) and help me find peace and comfort there." I am still waiting but I do think it will come. XO

CrysHouse said...

Do you read these? I'm not sure if I'm posting for my own selfish reasons or to commiserate.

I fear what you've described. I'm afraid of realizing "I'm done" when I may very well not feel done. I'm terrified my husband will be done before I am. I'm afraid of the change in seasons that comes with those declarations.

Because it took us so long to have our first and we were pregnant with our second VERY quickly after (my boys are 14 months apart), we've decided to take a break to allow my body to heal. But I'm afraid of what that decision may mean for my family. I'm afraid that inducing a season of rest means my body may seal the envelope on reproduction.

Maybe that's one of the reasons we don't talk about it...maybe we never really know if we're done.

Kim Safina said...

Amanda, I've actually spoken on this before. It seems to be a very hush hush time for women. Thank you for sharing your thoughts and feelings on this subject. Guess I will get going on a book. giggle giggle!!

Angie said...

Oh goodness, I could've written this same post (not as articulately!). I'm at the same stage--I have an 8 year old and a 5 year old, and we appear to be done with the young-child stage long before I desired. Ours was complicated by my husband's cancer diagnosis 4 years ago--he is doing well, but having another child would likely entail adopting or fertility treatments, and my husband is opposed to both.

This is a tricky topic to discuss, also, because so many women haven't been blessed with children at all, or not with healthy children, so it's hard to discuss without simultaneously feeling ungrateful and selfish.

I'm still struggling with transitioning to this next phase gracefully. However, I will say that for the past three years I have pled with God and pushed my husband, and both of those things did nothing but steal my joy in raising the two children I have and bred resentment against those who didn't understand --neither of which could possibly be His plan. I finally decided (like, in the last 6 months) to really leave it in God's hands and be thankful for the family I have and try to focus on them, and relinquish the feeling that I have to make something happen.

Thanks for bringing this topic up--sounds like a good Bible study to me. :-) I'll be checking back for more responses.

Lauren and Eddie said...

I'm in that season now. And I feel a little sad about that because I'm only 31 (tomorrow!) and feel like I have years left. We have two beautiful boys. They are healthy and fun and I love our little family of four. But I'm in that "What if?" stage. What if we had another? What if we don't? My husband is approaching 40 and he is DONE. I guess I have to be if he is. I'm not sure how to convince myself that we are done, though. I've joked with friends that I'm perfectly content but wouldn't mind another but the only way it would happen would be if it was unplanned and unexpected.

Beth.. One Blessed Nana said...

After a dangerous and sickness filled 3rd pregnancy I had to have a tubal by doctors orders. I rejoiced in my 3 girls but it was a sad time for a season. I was only 27 and only a short 5 years later had to have a hysterectomy which completely ended my dreams of another child. But the Lord knew what He was doing and now at age 52 I have 9 grandchildren to love!

Holly said...

I don't have an answer, but I will and have been praying. With Love

Sara said...

Amanda, Thank you for posting this. I know that God can do miracles, and apart from a miracle from God, I believe that I am finished with having babies. My husband and I always wanted 3 or 4 kids. After our second child was born we were both very overwhelmed. We are both pastors of a local Presbyterian church and work full-time. One night when our second was about 6 months old, we gave ourselves "permission" to only have 2 children and the relief I felt over the next months was so sweet. I felt content and my husband did, too.
However thrrr is always the ache, and I love the Sarah Bessey blog post someone referenced above.
I always wonder if I am being selfish by just having 2 kids. I rest in the fact that I feel very fulfilled in full-time ministry... Just as fulfilled as mothering. Maybe it's God's will for us to have two since both of us are also in ministry.... You know as well as I know how difficult full-time ministry is. I already feel stretched thin at home. Some weeks, and I think having more children would push me over the edge or have me permanently feel stretched thin. I keep seeking The Lord and try to remain open about having more children. (Of course we already gave all of our baby stuff away:) )
I will be praying for you, Amanda. May God grant you, me, and all of these other women peace about His call on our life and the number of children we raise.

Mrs. K said...

Thank you for this, you've said what I've been feeling. I don't feel like I'm done having children but it seems like my body and God had a conference that my brain and heart missed out on. I've been an emotional wreck and maybe I just need to mourn the loss of my fertile years and move on.

Blessing of Adoption welcomes you said...

At my core, I shy away from conversations that include the season of child bearing closing for the fearful fact of 'Oh my goodness WHAT IF God were to call our family to have more children' What if, by acknowledging the season is over it somehow perks up God's ears and Her remembers that He still wants us to have more- Yes, I know that He would give us the strength BUT as much as I have enjoyed raising our 18 year old right into young adulthood and raising our 15 year old right into his hormonal teen years and holding her own right behind her older brothers is our precious 3 year old (whom we adopted)...As much as I have enjoyed each and everyday of child raising (and will continue to enjoy it)- I feel tired out and all done having babies (or adopting babies). I know I can't boss God around (I've tried and it doesn't work...smile) so instead I slink down in my seat when such conversations come up and pray that either I will go through early menopause or become too old to adopt in every county throughout the whole world because then I know that the season is over- that the possibility of God calling us to more children is over (although I think of Sarah and Abraham...they were 'as old as dead' when Isaac was born)
That being said, during the 12 year gap between my then youngest and the adoption of our daughter I went through a deep grieving time that by the age of 41 we would be empty nesters. I remember the first day of dropping my (then) youngest off for a full day of school and driving away feeling incredibly lost....like the roles I had embraced for so many years were changing and I did not know how to let go politely. Along with this changing season was the deep desire I had to adopt- It was not until 6 years after dropping my youngest off at school that the Lord brought our adoption full circle- In those 6 years the Lord taught me some incredible lessons about solely depending on Him...to hold each season of child raising close to my heart but not to clench it in my fists...that my identity is first in Him and His desires for my life, then in my role as a wife, and then in my role as a mother...so many other lessons that I learned when my kids went to school and God and I had many hours of quiet time during the day. God Bless You Amanda- As always, thank you for your honesty and insight!

Elisabeth said...

Thank you for your honesty. Your open and real nature is what makes me love you so much.....
I love this because I know many women who've gone through it. I DO believe it's a huge issue and you may be on to something big here. I also love this because I am 32, never have dated, have problems with my reproductive system, and desperately want a family. Aging without the possibility of making the choice to birth your own children really really sucks on a hundred levels. Sure, I love adoption. But there is always a grief to not being able to have a child with your own body. So thank you for this. I am so thankful for you!

Kara Akins said...

Wow. I love it that you addressed this unidentified/unspoken need. I can very much relate. I have six children. My youngest is 10, my oldest is 20. I felt like I did mothering well in the younger years but now I feel somewhat lost. Floating almost. My kids are ild enough that I can sit down for longer than 60 seconds but I don't want to just sit. It makes me feel lazy. I don't want to feel my best years are behind me. I'd love to have some inspirational examples of what living life well in this stage of life entails. You are right. It isn't discussed. Maybe if I were we as mothers could be equipped to bear forth more fruit in different ways - because we live to be fruitful, don't we?

Sandy F. said...

I struggle with it every single day. I'm 47 and entering menopause now. But I had my only child when I was 24 and suffered immensely from Hyperemesis Gravidarum. It was so awful that I nearly died, so I never had more children after that. I always wanted more, but was terrified of getting that sick for 9 months again. My daughter passed away almost 10 months ago in an accident. My only child. I'll never get to live my dream of being a grandmother and being called Lovey. I grieve so much every day that I'm too old for more children or that I never had more in my younger years ( NOT that my daughter could ever be replaced. That's not possible ).But I sure miss hearing someone call me mom and saying "I need you".

kristinwithani said...

I'm 43 and single and still, still, long to have a family. It's an aching pain.

Most of my friends are in the season you are describing. A few hit it about 10 years ago. I remember my best friend from college telling me how sad she was to ween her youngest. I really thought she was crazy. She had 5 boys in 7 years, surely this was an exciting thing! I was young and stupid. Of course that was a hard moment. Weening her last baby.

Selfishly, as I think about this topic, I get sad because my body probably can't have children anymore so my mourning is a different kind of "end of childbearing". Mine never started. I always had hope. Hope has faded and now I mourn. I only have a handful of friends who understand and even fewer who are willing to talk about it.

margie said...

I don't understand. Why are you "done" if you still have a desire for more children? Is not the obvious thing to simply have more children?

Amanda said...

Margie, that would require both spouses to agree on having another baby or the Lord to intervene with a surprise. Neither of those things have happened.

margie said...

Makes perfect sense and I understand completely. That adds even more to the heartache many times. I will continue to pray for you. Thanks for taking time in your life to write. It's a joy. Blessings!

psm260 said...

Do you watch "19 Kids & Counting?" The mother, Michelle, talks about this subject often. It seems she is having a difficult time with it, too. Maybe you should contact her!

Pam

kr said...

Amanda....I'm praying for you and can't wait to hear of what the Lord will do. He will give you the desires of your heart...I believe that.

Casey Springer said...

I agree. When my daughter became seriously sick my youngest had just turned 1. My husband and I had wanted to have more children...but after that I knew I couldn't handle a pregnancy and new baby. Then I had medical issues that just continued to get worse and worse and prompted a hysterectomy. I was grateful to get through the surgery without incident, but I wasn't prepared for the sadness that followed. I then knew without a doubt I would never have that monthly "scare" again. My husband had done his part of preventing babies, but I till knew there was a chance that babies can be made! I finally realized that while yes, that part of my life was over, I could look forward to being a better feeling me. And focus on the kids I already had. Don't get me wrong...if I hear a baby cry in service I instantly start rocking.... I can't help it. I think God created women with such an intense need to care for babies that it doesn't ever go away. Hugs Amanda for EVERYTHING you've had to go through. Yes, God will carry you through it to something better--but that doesn't help the pain now. Hugs! you have great hair btw

Leah said...

As a new mom, it's good for me to hear these things ahead of time. I'm not there yet and so just have not thought about it, but since I started having kids a bit later than I hoped to, it will come soon enough. My husband would like to have a bazillion kids, so I'm guessing it will have to be me that eventually decides we are done (unless God just stops giving us kids), and I think that will come with a bit of heartache, guilt, and fear because a decision of that magnitude is not something I can make quickly.

The internet is such a great connector. I loved reading the comments of all these wonderful women. It's a bit of premature mentoring for me to tuck away for later in life.

Kelly Hoxworth-Silva said...

You're right. This isn't an issue that I ever anticipated, at all, or have ever read anything about. I just always assumed I would have the number of children that I wanted, and that would be that. I have two (8 and 6) and I'm not sure if we'll have more. I'd like to, but it's complicated. I kind of can't imagine just being finished... but I might be. And that's sort of terrifying to face.

And whether we are content with our family size, or have issues/regrets about not having more... it's still hard! I can hardly believe those toddler and preschool years are behind me. Like I was right in the middle of it, and then - BAM! Finished. I wonder if that's what all the stages of parenting feel like. Elementary School? Done! Tweens? Over. Teenagers? Off to college. And that's the scariest thought of all, which is probably what drives me to want more right now.

Jennifer said...

I'm 34. My husband is almost 42. We have three - almost 11, almost 8, and 4. I so want another baby. I loved being pregnant, nursing, and the newborn/baby days. I don't feel done. My husband doesn't feel done. My 4 year old asks for a baby brother all the time. I honestly don't know how we could afford paying for another pregnancy/delivery. Finances play a big part. I am scared of something going wrong with the pregnancy and that it would be harder on my health than the others were. I could sure feel a big difference in being pregnant at 23 and being pregnant at 30! It did take me longer to recover after the third, too. If we had another it would be a 3rd c/s - which also makes me nervous! I have had friends with 4 to tell me it is so much easier than three! Three rocked us and there are days I still feel like I am It all day long... it is a circus. It makes me so very sad to think we might not have another little one.

Tonya Clark said...

Thank you for posting this. For putting words to something I'm experiencing but couldn't articulate myself. While I think I'm at peace with our family being complete it is a milestone that goes unnoticed. But a milestone that carries with it a grief and sadness for a season that is ending. A season of wonderful. A season of hope and anticipation and even a joyful unknown of what might be. Yet as you've said we enter this new season with no fanfare, no commencing and so somehow it just feels like a drifting into a new place. Whether we want that place or not, whether it was purposeful and of our choosing or not we just "end up" there with no ushering from others and no guidance on how to navigate it. I look forward to reading through the comments to hopefully glean some wisdom, insight or simply some comradery in this new journey.

Tammy said...

I was a kid rock star before having my own! I thought I would have a house full of kids. Becoming a mom (after miss carrying our first) tripped the insecurity & perfection trigger in me like nothing else had. When our second born was 2 & I wanted another my husband didn't feel the same way. He Iwas & is (our girls are 18 & 16) an amazing hands on dad. I was crushed to realize he didn't want more children. I still struggle with feeling like if I wasn't so stressed as a mom he would have been willing to have more. It still has a sting of rejection to it when I think about it. When I turned 40 I clearly remember wondering if I would be a better (more relaxed, & able to just enjoy) if I had a baby then.. I hadn't thought about having a baby or yearned for it in years. It just pops up sometimes. I have always felt I just didn't have what it takes to have more than 2. It saddens me & feels like a failure. p.s. My daughters are amazing & God's grace has covered my shortcomings with them. Beyond grateful!

Lynette Cox said...

So good to read that I am not alone in this path. I am struggling with looking forward to what God has for us as in this new phase as we are done having babies and mourning the fact that I will never hold my own little baby in my arms again. It is such a weird place to be. I have never really heard anyone talk about how to deal with this and I think that we must all think we are the only ones that struggle through this phase so we keep it to ourselves. Thanks for sharing.

rccalyn said...

We have just decided that we are complete as a family of 6. It was not easy for me at all. It was mostly my husband's opinion that we should be done (I was lucky to get baby #4 out of him), though I now see the benefits of moving past this season. I just don't see how I will ever not want to get pregnant again (I love being pregnant), deliver a baby again (I love having babies), and nurse a tiny baby again (I love breastfeeding). I'm currently still nursing #4 but she is an active toddler and already I see it disappearing in the near future. I'm perfectly happy not having more kids - kids are fun but we have enough of them. But I think I will always want more babies. Then I think how selfish I am, as some women never even get to have babies of their own or have devastating losses (I had 3 miscarriages as well). I am so blessed to have these 4 children. It's a sensitive topic to discuss with anyone, which is probably why it just isn't discussed. I really appreciated reading all these comments about it. Now I know I am not alone.

Meghan said...

I'm curious if you have ever read Theology of the Body? It is so packed with truth and goodness it could bring you the peace you are searching for in this area of life.

michelle mason said...

In my case, I had my first two, then just didn't want to go through all the work again. But I thought, "in 20 years, if I stop now, will I wish I had had more?" I kind of knew the answer was "yes," and I was running away from it, afraid of having a third. I completely loved the two I had, I just thought three would be wasaaayyyyy too hard! But then in church one day, the message was about Mary's attitude toward being the pregnant unwed mother of Jesus, and she said "be it done to me as you say." And in my heart, I felt like the Lord was saying "Remember that motherhood is something I called you to. Don't shut the door on it until I do." At that point, I relaxed. I felt like the Lord wasn't necessarily telling me to have more, I felt like He just wanted me to trust Him with it. So I did. And it was another year or so when I got whacked hard with the desire to have another. But it was an overnight change of heart and mind! And then I couldn't get pregnant fast enough! I got instantly pregnant but miscarried, but then got pregnant instantly again, and my 2nd and 3rd child are 3 weeks and 3 days less than 3 years apart. When that third baby was 6 months old, I had a sense of instantly feeling like there was still one missing from my family! I remember the exact moment of pushing him in the swing; his adorable overalls, striped long sleeved t, his bright blue eyes. It was that instant! Then I had my fourth (took 6 months to get pregnant, since I was still nursing) and when that 4th was born, I simply KNEW I was done! Two boys, two girls, and for the next several months, I had a sense that the Lord was singing over me? Like He was pleased with me for bringing all the people into this world that He had intended for me to bring. Fast forward almost 4 years and my husband left me, and it was a nightmare and too long to write here, but it's on my blog in the post dated 9/11/14. The Lord actually used the situation to bring me a new husband (would have never remarried unless it was EXACTLY God directed!) and used that for my husband and I to recscue our 5th child. And then the Lord brought is one more! A "Redemption baby!" So at one point I was "done" after 2, and now I have 6, and each is amazing, and my heart sees how each one is such a gift to each other, and the youngest two are helping heal the older four and etc, etc. The only one I did not birth I am praying to adopt within this year, but the Lord will have to cause some breakthroughs to happen first.
So I would tell all women wondering if she is find having babies to pray about it, seek the Lord and talk with and pray with your spouse! And pray that you two will be on the same page. And also that if you are questioning, then you might not actually be done! It might be time for another! But seek the Lord about it. I am 38 and now say "I THINK I'M done!" But the Lird has the right to change my plans. He's the Lord of my life.

Joni said...

I'm just now reading this post. I'm in my 6th decade of life now, and I just wanted to say that every season in life requires a surrender from us to the will of God. The way I've learned how to truly surrender is to ask God to help me let go. I have a few prayers that God has said no to. Some are still on hold. So I wait. I love the verse that says "I wait on the Lord, my soul waits, and in His Word I put my hope." We don't know what's going to happen in the future. We don't know what is truly best for us. Only God knows. And we can trust Him.

Letting go of heartache, disappointment, and despair by pouring out our hearts to the Lord, leaving all--every single bit of it--at His feet, clears the way for future joys and pleasures from the Lord Himself. The closer we walk with Him, focus on Him, lean and rely on Him, the easier it is to get through each season of life.
Isaiah 45:3 tells us He has secret treasures to share with us. I want to stay so in tune with His will that He shares those secret treasures with me. Those spiritual riches are what truly matter because they satisfy the soul and the hidden person of the heart in each believer.

So let God Himself mentor you through each season. He is the only One who knows you through and through. :)

Walt & Katie said...

What a blessing to hear your thoughts....I am a mom of 8 on earth & 9 in heaven (miscarr.) & I am yearning for more! Actually, God has given us so many specific promises of 2 more! But 6 years ago, I fell deathly ill, & was finally diagnosed a yr ago w/Lyme disease. It has been very difficult to watch my child bearing yrs. going by w/out another precious baby in our arms! We haven't given up hope, but it has been much harder trusting at this point than all the earlier years!
May we be found faithful to HIS holy calling! Thx u 4 bringing this up...I so long to discuss this w/kindred spirits! : )
Jer 29:11