Having Another Baby?

Having Another Baby?

For many years I’ve had 3 learning partners, and this has been a busy time for all of them.

One of them, Sara Debbie (as you read last week) is recovering from running the NY Marathon. And the other two, Efrat and Chaya, gave birth this week to baby girls. In fact, they even overlapped for a few hours at the hospital!

That means that twice this week I visited the hospital where I gave birth to all three of my sons. And gazed in awe at my friends’ exquisite newborn babies, breathing in the intoxicating smell of Dr. Fischer soap, discussing birth and girls’ names as well as Hashem’s mindblowing kindness.

And this morning, leaning over Efrat’s baby, I thought to myself, “Maybe one more time…To have another baby, like this baby, just one more time.”

But that feeling passed real quick– like snow melting on the ground when it’s already a degree too warm.

I’m turning 45 next month. I can’t go through it all again– the months of nausea and weakness and (as I got older) the troubling physical symptoms.

Also, postpartum was always tough for me. Coping with mood swings and anxiety. Or, all too often, NOT coping with them.

“No,” I thought, looking at Efrat’s 24 carat diamond. “I sort of want, but I really can’t.”

I want to focus on the kids I have, and, as our rabbi put it when I discussed this topic with him, “investing my energy now in raising them to be good Jews.”

Yes, it’s a bittersweet feeling. To know I won’t, it seems, ever feel the magic of holding a newborn baby of my own again.

But I am overwhelmed with gratitude and awe that somehow I DID manage to do this. 19 years of nearly uninterrupted pregnancies and nursing. These 8 children who fill me up so completely, with feelings and emotions I didn’t dream existed 19 years ago.

The most difficult thing I’ve ever done. And, hands down, the best thing I’ve ever done.

Thank you, Hashem for everything. For what was, and for what is, as well.

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21 comments

  1. this was beautiful

  2. When you get to hold your grandchildren, that’ll be pretty darn close to holding your own newborn, no?

  3. for me at least, it’s not the same at all

  4. What about when you haven’t had 8? And you are younger, but you feel that way? I feel like I “should” want more children, but I honestly and truly don’t. I can just about manage with the 3 I have, and the idea of going back to the pregnancy, then newborn sleep deprived, hormone messed up stage fills me with a sense of horror. Yes that is why halacha allows me not to, but there is this societal pressure to have a large families, and to just have another and another.

    • I am a big believer that each person is different. One person can thrive in the chaos of 12 kids, while another might struggle with just 2. Or those with difficult pregnancies who want more and can conceive more, but the pregnancy itself negatively impacts the family – and there are still the outside pressures of having more children. It hurts, it really does. But if you have fulfilled the minimum mitzvah and you really don’t feel that you can continue beyond that, for whatever reasons…you should be free to make that decision without being made to feel guilty.

  5. Mina Gordon

    This is a decision that the individual woman herself presents to a Rov for halachic permission, whether based on medical advice, emotional vulnerability, or other factors.
    Please don’t use your far-reaching website to encourage women to think twice about having one more, unless there is good reason to stop.
    If you were already a billionaire, and someone offered to give you another million dollars, would you say that you need time to think it over?

    • Please consider the following:

      1. Not all Jews see consulting with their Rov as “permission” especially if the couple already has a big family.

      2. The mitzvah of pru u’rvu is specifically the husband’s of course in full partnership with his wife. The woman has other mitzvoth d’oraysa (from the Torah) which she must consider together with the blessing of children. When you refer to children as a blessing to be compared with another million dollars, so is the marriage (perhaps even more so, as a mitzvah) and so is the life the wife and husband already have and must continue to invest in and constantly improve! It’s not like this is a choice between children or no children, or between investing in your Jewish family or spending the next decade on the beach. It’s not that kind of a choice! There are “million doallr opportunities” every day in a large family and it’s unjust to present only the chance for another child as that kind of gift.

      3. Hashem gave us not only the blessing to be able to bear and raise children but also brains, to learn Torah and use our understanding to serve Hashem truly, and husbands and rabbonim to work these issues out with, together. It’s is not only not a sin, but a mitzvah, to think things through thoroughly and to sometimes reach conclusions which may be popular but aren’t the truest service to Hashem. It depends on so many things.

  6. I agree and disagree with Mina. Of course each woman will make their own decisions and yes, good to ask a Rav. But please Chana Jenny do not stop or even second guess your posts. They are so honest and real and touch us Jewish Moms on so many levels. If you start to PC your posts, they will not be the same. I think your viewership is highly intelligent and can certainly make distinctions between your life and theirs.

  7. This is such a difficult and sensitive topic, especially for women in their late thirties and forties,
    where that reality of being young and having “lots of time” to “still have children” is coming to
    its inevitable ending point. I think it’s great you posted your personal experience on this issue.
    It’s good for other women to hear why another woman realized the end point of having new
    babies had to come to a stop, even before her menstruating years ended. There’s a ton of
    pressure in frum society to have large families. There’s many reasons why it’s not a good
    possibility for all, for example shalom bayit problems, financial pressure (yes! It’s very very
    expensive to raise frum kids, especially here in the States with the tuition crisis!), physical or
    mental health issues, having a special needs child, etc etc. Those who can’t have large
    families for one or more of these issues feel alienated and at times are treated like a pariah
    and tormented by well-meaning people with insensitive questions and comments that are a
    private and sensitive matter! There is no shame in saying or knowing one may need to
    Stop having kids or have less than a large family and sharing stories openly and honestly
    like Chaya Jenny did is helpful and therapeutic to those struggling with this very very
    sensitive topic. Feeling like you can’t have more and validated by your rav on this is ok,
    and a personal journey for each of us and there’s no shame in it!

  8. Mina Gordon

    Unfortunately, the mothers of large families also are the recipients of insensitive and intrusive comments. They too may feel pressured and shamed by a society that is not family friendly. Even in the frum world women can be made to feel bad about being “pregnant again??!”
    Whether a woman has 8, 12, or 20, whether she has 5, 3, 1, or none, is no one else’s business. We should be supportive of each other even if our lives are on different planes. My only plea to Chana was that she not veer from her usual tone which is so encouraging of the first mitzvah. (I love the “Oh No! Not a Positive Pregnancy Test” essay”) .

  9. Savta Chocolate

    As a Jewish Mom and grandmother in her mid-50’s, I have learned 2 of the most important ideas are acceptance and appreciation. Accept who you are and where you are in life. Accept your limitations, as well as your husband’s and kids. That’s really important when you see your daughters/daughters-in-law wrestling with those same issues you did 15 ,20 or 25 years ago! Accept they are not you, and may make different decisions than you did. That’s true for friends and community members too.

    No, holding a brand new grandchild is not the same as holding my own newborn, but that’s okay. I need to accept I’m not in that stage anymore, nor do I have stamina for it either.

    And appreciate the blessings you have received and enjoy them! As Bracha wrote last week in her wonderful poem, those hard, demanding years seem never ending when you are in the middle of them, but then all of a sudden they are behind you! And I think that is the hardest thing to accept…

  10. Thank you for your essay. I know that one thing that attracts all of us to Jewishmom.com is Chana Jenny’s constant, unwavering simple honesty.

    I am a mess during a fair amount of pregnancy and for a long time after i give birth. In general, I am not a person that handles stress well. Before I was married, I would use words such as relaxed and easy going to describe myself- but I now see myself as an extremely anxious person. Although I once dreamed that I would be the mother of a large family, now I simply do not feel that I have the personality type to handle so many children. I now wait a few years between each birth. I know that my childbearing years will come to an end before I know it and sometimes I wonder if I will regret not “using these years to the fullest”. But sometimes I also feel that its not fair to my family if they have such a stressed out and anxious mother either.

  11. Just curious, don’t yell at me. Instead of people always thinking “Stop having kids” every time they are stressed out. Why don’t they work on the stress itself? Go to therapy, listen to hashkafah tapes, do all types of things to work on being ready to have more children. So address the stress and anxiousness rather than the immediate conclusion of stopping to have kids. We don’t get rid of a husband or kids when they are stressful…
    Just a thought, not a judging statement!

  12. I’m also not making judging statements and I hope no one yells at me either- I just dont understand why the focus has to be on “working on being ready to have more children”. not everyone can or is cut out to have such a large family. period.

    • I think the reason why people come with this attitude is because the default in halacha seems to be to have as many children as Hashem gives you. I.e. you don’t choose TO have children, you may need to (for physical/emotional/family reasons) choose not to have children (either at all or at this point in time).

      As far as what we’re cut out for, maybe it’s something we grow into? (Totally not judging, everyone works this question out personally with a Rav and mentor.)

  13. BH

    WISHING YOU MUCH YIDDISHE NACHAS!
    shulamit

  14. I started family very late due to infertility. We finally got pregnant for real. ( My age, 31) . For the next 12 yrs it was either pregnacy or nursing. I was glad to get pregnant. Glad to have a family. Now I’m glad they are grown up. Out of the house. Married etc. So many women go nuts when they see a baby. I wonder if it means they have some need to hold and cuddle a tiny infant. And that need hasn’t been fully realized. I always wondered. This is my personal experience. Everyone has their own story and their personal decisions should be respected.

  15. Thank you Chana Jenny for this post! Very important and validating.

  16. One thing that’s missing from these responses is that Hashem doesn’t give us more than we can handle, and he knows better than I do what I can handle.

    How many of the difficult periods in your life were your choice? How many of us thought we could handle a special needs child, serious illness, etc.? But we come out of it stronger and with a better sense of ourselves.

    A child, lehavdil, is also a blessing mixed in with all the challenges, so once you outgrow the difficult physical stage, you have a person! A speaking, thinking, beautiful Yid!

    I also wonder why anyone who made “pro-baby” statements had to preface it with “I’m not judging”. If you think everyone is judging you for your choices, clearly you’re not really at peace with them. This should be a forum where pro-baby opinions can also be voiced without fear…

  17. I always wondered how a woman would know that she was finished with childbearing.
    It seems that some women have a firm, unwavering decision, whereas others still think about it and feel pain mixed with joy when faced with babies or (older) pregnant women.

    • right now this decision feels firm and it doesn’t feel difficult– but then again I still have a baby (almost two, but still a baby for me) and I’m still nursing him. When I stop nursing and he grows up, I wonder if I’ll feel more mixed emotions?

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