Along with the decision to have a child, the decision to stop having kids is one of the biggest a couple can make. And like all important choices, it’s not always clear cut. “I think it is more difficult for some couples because of expectations or previous plans, as well as the fact that we change over time—the realities of having children change us,” says The Local Moms Network contributor and family therapist Caitlyn Dunn, LCSW.
“For example, maybe you always envisioned having 3-4 children, however, you didn’t know that it would be difficult for you to leave your kids and go to work, so you decide to stay at home. So you want more children, but financially it won’t work for your family. Other examples might include: having a child with a disability, having really difficult pregnancies, having a traumatic birth, not having a strong support system, or the emotional overload of having children—suddenly one or two children is enough to handle,” says Caitlyn. She adds that while couples are often on the same page, in her experience men are the ones holding out for more kids. “Women are affected physically and if they’re the primary caregiver are effected more emotionally as well,” says Caitlyn. Here are the biggest signs you might be ready to give away the baby clothes and cribs—and a few reasons to hang on to them. Plus, a few smart tips if you’re really stuck.
You’d Suffer Physically From Another Pregnancy & Baby
“I think often there are physical signs first—the last pregnancy felt harder on your body than other times, it was harder to bounce back after, the exhaustion of having a baby/toddler took more of a physical toll than previously, etc.,” says Caitlyn.
You’re Emotionally Tapped Out
Does a late period send you into a spiral of panic or depression? Or when a friend tells you her happy baby news, you’re happy but relieved it’s not you? These could be signs, says Caitlyn.
You’re Eager to Get Rid of the Baby Gear
“Another sign you’re done is that when someone comes over who is either expecting or has a baby, you send them away with whatever baby stuff they can fit in their car,” says Caitlyn.
You’re Completely Enjoying the Stage You’re In
How do you feel about where you and your kids are right now? “When your baby or other children reach a new milestone the sadness and nostalgia for the baby stage is now replaced with the hopeful, optimistic feeling of enjoying who your children are becoming and daydreaming of what you can now experience with them,” says Caitlyn.
Now, on the other side, do you feel pretty good, ready to tackle pregnancy, and/or the thought of being pregnant makes you feel warm and hopeful? Does giving away the bouncy chairs and swaddles make you teary? Or you can’t stop bringing the idea up to your partner? You may not be done yet, says Caitlyn.
Need help deciding? Caitlyn says to communicate with yourself, and your partner, as clearly as you can. “I know it sounds silly but say it out loud to yourself, or write it down in a journal, ‘I am not having any more babies.’ How does it feel? Is there a sadness? A sigh? Do you begin to tear? Then maybe don’t get rid of all of your baby stuff. Or, do you feel relief? A sense of hope and optimism about what is to come with your family? Then you might be done,” says Caitlyn. And if you’re in between? Give it time if you can, says Caitlyn: “If you feel sadness, but also a lot of cons come up…then you might not be done and could revisit it with your partner later on, as perhaps the timing isn’t right or you need to take some steps first like working on finances, working on your relationship, etc.”
This story originally appeared on The Local Moms Network.