I don’t need my barista to ask if I want more children

Motherly Collective

“You look too young to be a mom,” the bright barista smiles at me, as she hands me my morning espresso. 

“Thanks,” I respond, grateful for the compliment after waking up at 5 am with my toddler. 

She’s being kind I think, surely I look closer to 40 than 30 right now. I secretly hope my sunglasses are concealing the dark circles beneath my eyes.  

“Will you have more kids?” she asks, handing my card back to me through the drive-thru window. 

I pause, initially startled by her intrusiveness. We are acquaintances. We are friendly. We are not friendly enough for this discussion. 

Not wanting her to feel as uncomfortable as I do, I shake my head before lightly saying,”The one I have is a bit of a handful, I think I’m done.”

She nods, and I know she doesn’t have time to hear my whole story, nor would she truly want to know. 

It’s strange, mourning a soul that only exists within the confines of my imagination. Still, they live in the long list of baby names saved on my phone, the baby items I splurged on hoping to reuse again and the clothes I hoped to hand down to my next child. Their soul lives in my dreams, hopes and now my losses. They live in the pit that forms in my heart when strangers ask if I’ll have more children. 

I drive off, coffee in hand, taking a sip of the rich, chocolatey liquid. I seek warmth as if it will heal my broken heart. 

The truth is, I want more children. Unlike so many who struggle with infertility, my body is fully capable of becoming pregnant. I am fertile, but my body has failed me in other ways. Seven months after giving birth to my son, my bone marrow failed. While my health has rebounded following immunosuppressive therapy,  I am not cured of my condition, and while I can’t prove it—I firmly believe pregnancy incited my disorder. Physically carrying a child of my own is out of the question. I need to be present for the child I have, and another pregnancy would undoubtedly be too risky. Surrogacy is financially unobtainable, and I haven’t quite come around to the idea of adoption yet. At this point, I will not get the opportunity to be a mother again, and as much as I outwardly pretend to have accepted that fact, internally it feels as if a piece of me has died. 

The barista’s words sting. She doesn’t know that only days ago I was rummaging through baby clothes my toddler had outgrown. I don’t know why, but I can’t seem to part with some pieces. My brain continues to tell me I am done having children. It is a fact I must come to terms with. Yet, my subconscious says,” save the romper.” So, I carefully fold and pack the items too dear to give away in a large, plastic storage bin, just in case they come of use again. Alongside onesies, sweaters and matching holiday outfits, a nameless handknit Christmas stocking sits lifeless and blank against pastel baby clothes. Perhaps one day I’ll embroider one of our dog’s names on it. For now, it exists as a poignant reminder of a human family member we will never gain or name. 

While I dreamed of passing on my grandmother’s name, I must also recognize it’s not just my body that is incapable of having another child. The truth is, even if I was cleared to physically have a child, I’m not sure I actually want one or if I’m mourning the idea of one. My postpartum experience was far from ideal. I loved and bonded with my son instantly, but those early days were filled with fear, anxiety, depression and a life threatening disorder. Part of me wishes I could do it all over again, that I could get a second chance at pregnancy and new motherhood. 

If I could do it again, I’d prioritize myself more, I’d slow down and I’d savor all the mundane soft moments. I think of all the future moments I will miss like tea parties with my daughter or watching two boys wrestle in the family room. What hurts the most is knowing how important my own sibling is to me, knowing that bond is one of my most cherished things in my life. I am worried my son will feel alone, and I know one day he will ask why he doesn’t have a brother or a sister.

I mourn the loss of possibility. The loss of a dream. I can no longer innocently wonder how many children I will have, if they will be boys or girls, or what I might name these theoretical children. I think of the excitement that preceded my first child. His little soul was wrapped in a giant bow of anticipation, wonder and joy—and I mourn the fact I will never get to experience that again. I wonder what kind of mother I could be if I wasn’t battling a life threatening disorder?

It’s hard enough to watch those who experienced their first pregnancies alongside me, continue to add to their families. They had a choice. My choice was taken. While I’m willing to discuss the topic with close family or friends, I’d rather not discuss the topic of fertility or family planning with my barista. Yet, she is one of many strangers to ask me if I will have children or if I want a second child. At least, she didn’t insinuate I was selfish or lazy for having only one child as others have. Still, she doesn’t know me. She doesn’t know my story. She doesn’t know what I am going through, and no woman should have to be continually put in a position to defend or explain her reproductive health with total strangers.

This story is a part of The Motherly Collective contributor network where we showcase the stories, experiences and advice from brands, writers and experts who want to share their perspective with our community. We believe that there is no single story of motherhood, and that every mother’s journey is unique. By amplifying each mother’s experience and offering expert-driven content, we can support, inform and inspire each other on this incredible journey. If you’re interested in contributing to The Motherly Collective please click here.

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