The first time I was pregnant, the physical journey was the hardest part for me. Building a baby, watching blood sugars, dealing with body changes … the list was long but included mostly body changes, and also a boatload of excitement about crossing the threshold into “parenting.” Back in 2009/2010, it was inconceivable to me that something “bad” would happen during a pregnancy. Once you are pregnant, you just stay pregnant and everything is cool, and then the baby is born. Back then, my biggest fear was the actual birthing of my daughter. Having never had surgery before, I was petrified of the c-section and everything promised to come along with it. Looking back, I was grateful that I had no idea what it was like to “try” for a baby, and to spend the pregnancy wondering if everything would be okay.
And even though my first pregnancy was a little chaotic, with lots of doctor’s appointments and a four week hospital stay due to preeclampsia, my worries were somewhat limited. I just didn’t know any better. From start to finish, my body did what it was supposed to do, and my child was fine. My headspace during the pregnancy was also reasonably solid, hormones not withstanding.
But this time was very different. The birth of my son came after a lot of discussion. Birdy was about three when we decided we wanted to have another baby, and based on our previous experience, we figured we’d become pregnant right away. Our experience with “unexplained secondary infertility” was startling. What do you mean, it’s hard to become pregnant? We got pregnant right away the first time. Why are we charting things and purchasing ovulation kits and now our cars are wearing a path between our home and the fertility clinic?
After 19 months of trying, I became pregnant as the result of fertility treatments. I miscarried around the eight week mark, during a conference in the summer. There was something highly surreal and emotionally numbing about examining discharge in a hotel room at Disney World at 2 in the morning to confirm that I had miscarried to completion. It was the first time I’d ever experienced contractions. It was the first time I’d felt hopeless. It was the first time I’d ever felt limitlessly sad.
When I became pregnant again, 25 months after hoping to expand our family, the fear was instant, consistent, and did not abate until I heard my son cry in the delivery room three weeks ago. Physically, this pregnancy was healthy and “normal,” with blood sugars that performed almost predictably, no pregnancy-related health concerns over the 38 week gestation period, and my body actually seemed to like being pregnant this time around.
Emotionally, though, I was unwell for the majority of the experience. I never felt calm. Every appointment was something I panicked before and got all emotional with relief afterwards, because that certainty of safety was erased the summer prior. I didn’t want to tell anyone I was pregnant. I felt oddly detached for the first few months of pregnancy, afraid to emotionally invest in the child I was growing. I didn’t want to have a baby shower. I was scared that if I acknowledged this pregnancy, it would leave me. When the Braxton Hicks contractions started in the third trimester, I freaked out because contractions, in my mind, were tied to miscarriage. Pregnancy after loss tripped me out entirely. And even though there are so many people who have felt these same things and dealt with similar issues, I had trouble finding the support I needed for these feelings. It was hard to admit that I felt entirely unsettled. It was even harder to try and mask those feelings with the joy that everyone seemed to expect me to feel.
“Did you want to consider a tubal ligation after the c-section is performed?”
My high-risk OB/Gyn asked me this question around the twenty week mark of my pregnancy, after they did the big anatomy scan to check on the baby’s development and organs. I was still all jumbled up, emotionally, but knew for sure that I was not equipped to go through another pregnancy in efforts to have a third child. I longed for Birdy. And my son. And I knew instinctively that they were the limit of what both my body and mind, and our family, were able to manage.
So while we scheduled my c-section date (originally set for August 31st, but that timeframe ended up truncated), I signed the papers for the tubal ligation. It felt strange to elect permanent sterilization after battling for years to have this baby; the finality of that decision weighed heavily. But it also felt right, considering my age, health history, and our desires as a family. After my son was born and we confirmed his health as excellent, the operation was completed and that chapter of my life was closed in full.
When I look at this little man I’ve made (and he sleeps soundly in my arms while I type this), I know in my heart that every decision we’ve made is the right one for our family. That fourth chair is filled with the result of the hardest work I’ve ever done, and I couldn’t be happier.
There was always this promise, this question, this gentle hum of you, my son. We’ve always wanted you. It just took a long time to get you here.
We’ll take good care of you, I promise.