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If you, too, are plagued by what-ifs and maybes and are harboring a stash of strollers, maternity clothes or cute newborn booties, the essential thing to know, says psychologist Priscilla Marotta, Ph.D., is that these longings are completely normal. "You'll probably always have a bit of yearning," she says. Here are other ways to quiet the questions and make a decision you can live with:Give it time
Is what you're longing for really another baby, or a way to hold on to your youth? Live with the feelings for a while. "Don't rush into any decision either way," says psychologist Diane Sanford, Ph.D., who also advises couples not to use permanent means of birth control, such as a vasectomy or tubal ligation, that leaves little room for changed feelings.Activate your intellect
Think about the realities, such as the cost, the energy it will require, the affect on other children and the impact on your marriage, advises Marotta. "Talk to your spouse; talk to other mothers," she adds. Lori Edel, 37, of Austin, Texas, struggled with the question of whether to have a second child, but ultimately decided against it. She was on bed rest during a chunk of her first pregnancy, and had a C-section after two-and-a-half days of labor. "It took me a year to get over that," she says. "Part of the reason I knew I was done is that I wasn't eager to repeat it."Allow yourself time to grieve if you decide not to have more children
"You're mourning the lost potential. Each child is like a new opportunity," says Sanford. "Some women grieve over this longer than others."Consider the trade-offs
No, you won't have that rapturous experience of giving birth again, but look at the bright side: You'll be blessed with something most mothers desperately crave--a sliver of freedom. Maybe you'll have time to work on your painting or go back to school. "I say to myself all the time, 'There are other things in life besides having babies,'" says Caroline Dougherty, a stay-at-home mom in Stockton, New Jersey. "Now, I'll move on to those other things--watching them grow up and enjoying my free time."Look forward to grandchildren
Now you know why your mother pestered you for so long.--Jeannie Ralston