The other day, I pillowed my face into Joey’s neck, kissing and tickling her as she laughed whimsically. When my eyes met hers, she flashed me the sweetest smile. The curl in her lips could only have read, “I love you so much,” and I hoped she could tell how much I love her too.

Mother's necklace with child's initials - Coming to terms with the last baby

Author’s Personal Collection/Franky Hunter

Though, something hit me in this moment.

When it did, it hit me like a ton of bricks.

…I’ll never have another baby.

We’ve made a real wave in terms of talking about fertility, pregnancy, miscarriage, stillbirth, and neonatal death. One thing I have trouble articulating, especially because I don’t hear anyone talking about it, is the perplexing phenomenon that is life AFTER pregnancy. Throw in life after pregnancy, after loss, and, well…that’s another layer to a “grief sandwich” that I didn’t know I ordered.

Without even realizing it, in my years of conceiving, growing, and loving my babies, I have inadvertently formed my sense of self around these journeys.

There will no longer be that rush that courses through my body, wondering if the dye will set in to make that coveted second line on the test.

There will be no more overthinking HCG numbers, random cramps, or other symptoms.

The days of hoping for the best, while expecting the worst are a thing of the past.

The first heartbeat, the first ultrasound, the first time we hear, “It’s a boy,” or, “It’s a girl.” Over.

There will never be a time where I pick up another onesie and question whether I would be jinxing myself if I bought it.

I’ll never have to do another kick count, blood pressure reading, or heartbeat check.

I’ll never sit in the maternal-fetal medicine (MFM) office again, biting my nails to nubs, convincing myself that on the other side of the door, I’ll hear that another one of my babies is gone.

And I’ll never get a chance to hear those first cries, when the stark reality of knowing complete silence first is still so vivid in my mind.

Even though I knew it would come one day, I never really thought to prepare for all the lasts while I was so busy chasing all of the firsts.

For so long, I have spent my days in between joy and mourning, fantasizing about my next baby while simultaneously being deeply fearful of carrying another life.

What I’ve prayed for is already here, and what I’m scared of losing I’ve already lost.

Yet, the one thing that I didn’t anticipate I would ache over, was being through with the season that was ultimately dreaded. Getting pregnant, being pregnant, staying pregnant–especially with the odds stacked against it.

On one hand, I’m relieved. Even grateful. Regardless of mortality, I’ve had three beautiful babies. More so, I got to carry them, feel them, deliver them. That is not a blessing I can overlook.

As much as it is bittersweet, it’s probably the right decision to close this chapter and move onto the next.

On the other hand, I’m scared.

I’m scared of not being scared anymore.

The uncertainty of pregnancy has brought me to my knees, and yet, it’s a battle I’ve found a curious safety in. Knowing that my body is mine again, and will now always be mine, leaves me with this definite loneliness that is both tantalizing and dismal. Part of me wants to hold onto it and never let it go. After all, it’s the last piece of the puzzle I’ve spent the last four years trying to create.

Maybe I should have gotten used to what can’t be. Loss will teach you that. Because now, the rest of my life I’ll watch as others move through the motions that I have already hustled through. There will always be another pregnancy announcement, another birth, another baby that is gone too soon. And I’ll have to remember that every time there is, the reasons why I’ve already said goodbye.

Possibly, I’ll always yearn for that “one more time,” credulously thinking I’ll do it better than the last; assuming that I can correct the regrets from my last pregnancies as easily as a flip of a switch.

Or there’s a chance that as much as I feel not ready to be done, perhaps I’m even less ready to face the baggage that has been pushed to the wayside as I focused on bringing more children into this world.

Ready or not, here I come.

Please be gentle.

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