Deciding on a Third Baby: My Heart Has Other Ideas

“We’re done” he tells people, “I mean, we have one of each. If there was a third kind then maybe we’d go for another one. We’ve got a son and a daughter and they’re both healthy. What more could you ask for?” Sometimes when he tells people this (often perfect strangers) he’ll enthusiastically add “Time to get the big V” using his hands like scissors to playfully ‘air snip’ at his crotch.

And he’s correct. We have one of each. They are both fantastic and healthy, and I’m not getting any younger. These facts coupled with a friend’s baby being diagnosed with a terminal illness when our daughter was six months old pretty much sealed the deal for us. We’re done.

But this idea, this thought of “being done” is just a bit too much for me. So I tell him, “Stop telling people we’re done.”

“But we are” he says.

“Yes, but what if we changed our minds. All these people you’ve told would think we didn’t really want another baby.”

“I don’t want another baby” he says.

This is where I start to feel irritated and resentful of his assuredness. I too am 95% sure but there’s something about his absolute ‘sureness’ that makes me unsure.

So one day while driving in the car I say, “Hey, please stop telling everyone we don’t want anymore children.” Sensing that he thinks I’m trying to tell him I want another baby I have to quickly add, “Look I’m not saying I want more kids. I’m 95% sure I don’t want anymore kids. I’m just saying, there’s no rush to make any permanent decision. It’s just that as a woman, well, being able to have children, to still be young enough to be fertile, to give birth, to be the mother of a nursling. It just feels like once I close the door on all that, I close the door on being young. The next thing you know you’re going through menopause. This society totally devalues “old women.” This baby thing, for me is all wrapped up in my mortality. And for as much as I complain about what a pain in the ass it can be to care for small children all day, what assholes preschoolers can be, this is the most fulfilled I’ve ever felt in my entire life. I’ve never been this happy. I truly really enjoy being a mother.”

He takes it in. We continue on our errands. We never talk about it again.

A few weeks later we spend the night in a hotel without the kids for the first time since our daughter was born. We drink cocktails. We spend $186 on a steak dinner at 10 o’clock at night. He jokes with the waiter about how he’s going to get a vasectomy. We go back to the hotel and have sex while the snow falls outside. We wake up feeling hung-over and old. We go to brunch.

And then over eggs Benedict he says, “So I’ve been thinking about it and I’d love to have more children, but you realize if we do that you’d probably never go back to work again. You’ll never have a career.”

I’m sure we had a coherent conversation that followed about the pros and cons of having more children. CHILDREN! Plural. But as I sit here a month later I can’t remember what we discussed. And now that having a big family has been presented as an option, essentially being a stay-at-home-mom (a housewife, a homemaker, whatever you want to call it) forever seems kind of appealing.

Dare I admit it?

I was once destined for a PhD in literature. Headed for a career as a college professor. I had dreams of studying 20th Century American Lit at Tufts. Could I really be happy as a housewife? Is that all I would be? Would there be resentment and feelings of unfulfilled potential? And even if I was content, do I want the world to see me as just another suburban, white woman in a minivan?

Days and days go by and it consumes me. It is practically all I can think about. I look at my children and feel security in the idea of having more of them. It wraps around me like a warm winter coat. As though having more would some how safe guard my heart. As if I would have spare children incase the worst were ever to happen. But this is not how love works. You don’t simply divide your love between your children; as though you have a finite amount to dole out in equal percentages. It is not this way. Love doesn’t divide, it multiplies. You’re only opening yourself up to more heartache. Instead of two little people walking around with your heart in their pocket there are now three, or four, or five.

I talk to a friend. I make a pros/cons list, which of course is of no help for these sorts of life decisions. I know having more would be irrational, but choosing to have children is never a rational decision. I search Google.

Google!

I try to give myself a year to not think about it. “Just wait until Lids is two” I tell myself.

But my heart. My heart has other ideas . . .

Oz&Lids_bench

 

sunglasses

dinner

hug

 

**Endnote: I wrote this nearly a year ago. A few months back I made the definitive statement that I was done. Guess who came home from work the next day saying he wants another kid? The indecision continues…

 

 

The Difficult Truth about Miscarriage and Pregnancy Loss

I miscarried my first pregnancy. The pregnancy was not entirely a surprise. I had gotten off the pill a couple months prior with the intention of trying to get pregnant after an upcoming vacation. It was mid May 2010 and we were smack in the middle of two graduations. We had just returned from my brother’s law school graduation. It was a Tuesday, and I had the day off to clean the house in preparation for visitors coming for my own belated college graduation. The previous month had been filled with paperwork, final exams, and a four hour handwritten exit exam. And so it was that I found myself one week before we were to embark on a Caribbean cruise, standing in our downstairs bathroom alone, staring at two, very bright, pink lines. I immediately began shaking and grabbed my car keys. I drove to the drugstore and spent $50 on all variety of pregnancy tests.

It was a joyous surprise.

I had always known that it’s best not to share pregnancy news until you’re out of the first trimester, but the excitement clouded our judgment. My entire family would be together at the graduation, including my divorced parents. It seemed the stars had aligned. Everything felt right.

As I sat at my commencement ceremony my husband snuck out and purchased a onesie printed with the words “Product of CU Alumni”. He had it gift wrapped. In the crowded corridors after the ceremony he whispered in my ear, “I found the perfect way to tell everyone we’re pregnant. You’ll see when you open your gift.”

The look on my father’s face when he saw me pull baby clothes out of that box. He had longed for a grandchild and this would be his first.

dad-open

dad_surprised

A party followed at my mother’s house. Even my Mom (ever the cautious one when it came to sharing pregnancy news) was so excited that she encouraged me to share the news with a couple old family friends. The day was filled with many hugs, smiles, and whispered congratulations. I spent the rest of the party trying to pretend as though I was drinking.

A few days later we flew to Florida. While my husband, brother and sister-in-law enjoyed our seven-day cruise by drinking and sleeping in, I was on a very different vacation. I awoke early before anyone else to sit on our balcony at sunrise and watch dolphins swim alongside the ship. I wrote letters to our baby in my journal. I thumbed through a pregnancy book I’d picked up before heading to the airport. I ate balanced, healthy meals. I laid in the shade and read “To Kill a Mocking Bird.” While swimming in the rough surf in Costa Maya, my sister-in-law yelled at me, “Be careful with my little niece or nephew in there!” My brother told me he thought the baby was a girl.

Soon we were back home. We went to our first OBGYN appointment where there was an ultrasound, and a technician who furrowed her brow in concern. There was no embryo visible. “Perhaps your dates are off,” she said. But I knew they weren’t. The doctor told us we’d do another ultrasound in two weeks and that it was possible it just wasn’t big enough to visualize yet. He said this all in a very relaxed manner as if it were normal, as if it happened all the time, and then a nurse came in and handed us a gift bag. There were prenatal vitamins, parenting magazines, and the tiniest little diaper you ever saw.

The next two weeks were the longest of my life.

By the day of our next appointment I already knew my diagnosis. It was a blighted ovum. A pregnancy in which the egg implants and the embryo begins to form but quickly stops growing. The body however, continues to believe it is pregnant. An amniotic sac and placenta continue to grow, as does the mother’s belly and breasts. A cruel joke.

We found ourselves in a dark room, staring at a screen looking at nothing but an empty, black sac. The doctor explained that the sac was still “perfect,” and my body likely wouldn’t even realize there wasn’t a baby for several more weeks. I was offered the choice of a D&C or to miscarry naturally. I chose the later. I will spare you the details but the short of it is that I waited several weeks for my body to figure out it wasn’t pregnant. And then I bled, painfully, and slowly for seven weeks.

It was a most awful summer.

My son was born almost exactly a year from my first appointment. Since becoming a mother I have become part of a club I had known nothing about. I would learn that my experience was not only very common but nothing in comparison to what so many other women have gone through. This is the truth about miscarriage and pregnancy loss that no one tells you, it happens all the time. Since having my son, terms like spontaneous abortion, subchorionic hemorrhage and incompetent cervix are now part of my vocabulary. I know of six women that have suffered the horror of delivering a still born baby. I have watched a friend’s belly grow only to lay on a table (excited to find out the sex of her baby) and hear the unthinkable, “I don’t see a heartbeat.” I have sobbed for a friend that was faced with the awful decision to either abort her still living baby or wait for it to die in utero from a fatal chromosomal defect. I have met women that had a perfectly normal ultrasound only to find themselves sitting at work twenty-four hours later, hemorrhaging at their desk.

Why didn’t I know this before? Why don’t women talk about this?

It is because many of us feel guilty. Our bodies are supposed to be healthy and fertile, our wombs perfect hosts. When a baby dies inside of us no matter which direction you point to find a reason your finger will inevitably circle back around to the mother, because everything occurred in her body. On her watch. After my miscarriage I made the mistake of confiding in a client. She was in her fifties and I assumed she’d had enough life experience to know this sort of thing was common. When she looked at me and innocently asked, “Well, do you know why that happened?” I wanted to slap her, hard. I stood there feeling impotent, unable to produce a child. Others in an attempt to comfort me offered, “Well, maybe it’s because you were on the pill for so long.” A common misconception unfounded in science, and also yet another “answer” that was my fault.

This is why we don’t talk about it. Because of blame, because of shame.

The truth is that it’s amazing how often pregnancy results in a healthy baby. Sperm meets egg and that little ladder of DNA swirls around and around. How do all those little pieces fall together and click into their proper place? And yet they do. They do so often, but sometimes they don’t.

I read a survey recently in which people were asked what they believed were common causes for miscarriage. The people were wildly misinformed, and yet 15-20% of pregnancies end in miscarriage. Can you guess what people believed were common reasons for miscarriage? The mother having an unhealthy lifestyle, the mother being stressed, the mother lifting something heavy, the mother having an STD etc. The mother, the mother, the mother…

This is why we don’t talk about it.

I remember having a real fear that people would think I couldn’t maintain a pregnancy because I was overweight. I was mortified to think people would view me as too unhealthy to carry a child. Turns out my fear wasn’t irrational.

No one wants to be judged, especially when they’re grieving. Being deemed a “bad mother” is the worst thing a woman can be. It seems this judgment begins as soon as a woman becomes pregnant. Perhaps it is because of this impossible standard that there is a bit of a secret society amongst mothers. Perhaps we don’t want to scare off future members, so we edit, we sugarcoat, we downplay.

When my sister-in-law had her first baby she looked at me with tears in her eyes and said, “You were so strong. I don’t remember you ever crying those first two weeks.” I looked at her and told her the truth, “I was so exhausted. I had postpartum anxiety. I cried every single day. I just didn’t do it in front of you because I didn’t want you to think I was crazy.”

I did her a disservice. I should have let her see it, the reality. I should have told her.

oznewbie

An Accidental Letter to My Daughter: If You Should Choose to Marry a Man

I began to write this story, and something else came out. So, this is for my baby girl. An unrealistically specific and thorough check-list if you choose to marry a man.

 

“You’re married right?”

“Yep”

“How long have you been married?”

“Four years.”

“Wow, really? How old are you?”

“I’m twenty-six. We got married young.”

“Do you have kids?”

“No. We actually just got married because we love each other. Pretty strange, huh? We got married young and I wasn’t even pregnant.”

“People always say marriage is work. Is that true? Is it work?”

 

I had this conversation with a nineteen-year-old girl, eight years ago, and it stuck with me.

We were sitting in the common area at our local community college, both waiting for a Humanities class to start. I was an “older” student returning to college. I was old but still young enough, cool enough to talk to, and ask life advice. I really liked the girl too. She was pretty, smart, and most importantly, funny. I explained to her that all human relationships take work. What I really wanted to tell her was to stay single as long as possible. Of course, I wouldn’t want her to overlook her life’s great love in hopes of landing someone better. “Be picky but not too picky” is the best I usually advise, as unhelpful as that is. More importantly I should have told her to never ever get married before she’s twenty-five. While we’re at it, try to marry a man five years older than you, but no more than six years older. This would be ideal. Perhaps I should have just said:

Marry when you are twenty-five.

Your husband should be thirty.

Ideally he should come from the same socio-economic background, and should love and respect his mother. Although, he shouldn’t value her opinion over yours.

He should:

-Be kind, smart, funny and honest, bonus if he can dance.

-Think you are smart, funny, honest and kind, and want you to dance.

-Own tools but also write love poems.

-Never disrespect you in a sexual manner or share personal details about your sex life with his friends.

-Be jealous without being controlling.

-Find you beautiful, even if you gain weight. Even better if he buys you jewelry or clothes simply for the pleasure of dressing you up, but he should NEVER tell you what to wear.

-Never tell you who to be friends with, where to work, what to study, or who to be.

-NEVER (not even once, not even when he’s drunk) lay a finger on you in a violent or angry manner.

-Share your religion and politics as these beliefs are part of his greater world view and therefore very important. If this isn’t entirely possible he should at least agree with your stance on abortion.

-Have the utmost respect for your reproductive power as a woman. If you were to become pregnant on accident his first response should be, “I will support any decision you make.”

-Be a motivated, hard worker. He should be successful. Success is a symptom of hard work. It is up to you how you wish to interpret that.

-Not break the law. He should NEVER EVER have a drug or alcohol problem. I will tell you that a man with an addiction will FOREVER have you at his mercy. Run far away from this type of man. He will age you, he will suck all the joy from your existence and/or he will pull you into his addiction. Do NOT allow any person to take your life from you this way. It is not your job to fix anyone, no matter how much you love them. 

unnamed

rob&lids

reading

 

Until you have a child your only responsibility on this Earth is yourself. Enjoy this time, it doesn’t last. Do not choose a man that needs a mother, because once you become an actual mother you will learn to loathe his existence. He will be a drain on your already exhausted body and mind. He might not necessarily make lots of money but he should have a desire to support you. That being said, he should also support you in your career. His career shouldn’t come first, even if he makes a lot more money. He should understand that being satisfied as an individual is part of the larger joy of life. Career and identity play into this equally. If you choose to stay home when your children are little he should understand what a very difficult job that is. He should never grow accustom to you always being home. He should praise your sacrifice. He should never view his work as more important than your work at home.

He should be your best friend, your dance partner, the keeper of your secrets.

And perhaps, most importantly, he should be good in bed. Because really, if he’s not, you’re better off as friends.