|Copyright JSH 2011|
Those words came to me in an email after I had stated that I do not intend on having anymore kids. Am I sure that's what I want? No, I'm not sure. At this time, it's the right decision. Unless I have some life-altering epiphany or God personally chucks a dove through my window, I am done getting myself knocked up and pushing babies out of my body. When I tell people this, they think I must be insane. They think I must not know my own heart and my own body. It's not an easy decision to make.
As I write this, my news feed on Facebook is blowing up with news of a pregnancy announcement. I am happy for the person, but I will be honest and tell you that it stings my heart a little bit. I secretly have been jealous of people announcing pregnancies and having new babies. It's because I know those days are done for me. I'm done charting temperatures and obsessing over gobs of cervical mucus. I'm done peeing on sticks to determine fertility or pregnancy. I'm done carrying secrets for a few weeks before surprising everyone with a happy announcement. There are so many things I will miss about being pregnant. I see preggoids every day and jealously gaze upon their bellies knowing I won't ever experience a gloriously large belly with brand new stretch marks again. I will miss the feelings of my little baby kicking, rolling and dancing within me. I will miss keeping my hand on my belly and telling my little one - through my heart - that all will be well and mama loves him/her. There are so many joys in pregnancy and I will miss each one and I long for them when I see other women experiencing it.
I always wanted at least 6 kids for as long as I could remember. I didn't come from a large family - I have two older brothers and that's it - but I just loved the idea of large families. If you told my 20 year old self that her 33 year old self would be writing a blog about being done after three pregnancies she would have told you to fuck off because that's just dumb. And here I sit, writing about being done after three pregnancies that resulted in two live children. Me...the girl who has been so involved in birth activism since she was 16 years old. I was born to have lots of babies on my hip. That's what I always told myself. It wasn't just one thing that changed my cards and gave me a new deck entirely. It's been brewing. I've slowly had to realize that something I always dreamed of won't come to fruition for me.
My first pregnancy was relatively smooth. I had a hiccup here and there because a few things nearly risked me out of a birth center birth and my birth plan was eventually fucked up by my own midwife, but things were pretty smooth overall and the birth could have been much worse. I had a glorious and giant belly. I was happy and secure and didn't worry much about pregnancy or birth. I started to show symptoms of pre-eclampsia in my final week of pregnancy, but my midwives helped me manage that with diet. I was able to give birth naturally. Breastfeeding came easily and so did mothering. I like to think I did a splendid job during the first three years of my son's life. I was the quintessential gentle mother and attachment parent. I was calm, happy and I loved my role as a mother above all else.
I got pregnant again in 2010 and things rolled along perfectly fine until 8 weeks when I discovered that my baby, River, died and I ended up miscarrying. I don't know why it happened. Maybe it was from low progesterone. Maybe my thyroid was wack. Maybe I was exposed to something scary at my job in a veterinary clinic. Maybe God hated me. I don't know why and I never will. That miscarriage kicked me down a giant negative hole from which I have barely escaped. Gone were my days as a gentle mother. My poor son was caught in the crossfire of my grief and my inability to control my emotions. I became depressed, withdrawn and enraged. My family, my friendships, my job and my sanity suffered big time. Horrible thoughts about the death of my baby would invade my mind at all hours of the day. I couldn't escape it and knew that, if I survived, I would never be able to get through something like that again. I was lucky to have the strength of my family and a few good friends to pull me through and push me back towards some passable semblance of sanity. I question whether I would ever be pregnant again. I ached to carry a child once more and to successfully bring that child into the world, but I was wrapped up in a fear of loss and ashamed that I had lost my sense of serenity in my parenting.
Despite my fears, I charted, temped and progesterone (Progest-E) supplemented my way into getting pregnant again in November of 2010. I told myself and my hubby that there was at least one little spirit who was still waiting to make her way into the world. I knew I was meant to have a little girl. When that line showed up I was excited and terrified. When I first got my positive preggo test with my son, I was terrified of becoming a new mom and being good enough. With my 2nd, I was terrified of having more than one kid and loving more than one. With this third pregnancy, I was terrified of loss. From the day I peed on that first stick (I probably took a wee on 10 in subsequent days, obsessing over the darkness of lines even though I know that it means nothing) to the moment she flew out of my vagina, I could not relax. That fear of loss was stuck right there in the back of my mind at every moment. It was completely palpable. I was afraid to truly bond with my baby because I felt like I was always sitting on the edge of tragedy. The fact that my pregnancy wasn't as smooth as my first did not help matters. By the time I was 8 weeks I was experiencing a lot of pain in my tailbone. This left me in a panic because I experienced the same symptom just days before my miscarriage with River. After breathing some calm into my brain, I told myself it was likely due to the fact that I have a retroverted uterus and the weight of the growing baby was putting pressure on my tailbone. This does happen to some reason and it usually resolves itself by the 2nd trimester when the uterus is large enough to tip into a more forward position. From that time on, I had near debilitating pain in my tailbone and pelvis. I did yoga. I walked. I stretched. I belly danced. I whined. It didn't help. Granted, it would have been worse without all of that. There was constant pain on my pelvis' part and constant worry on my brain's part. There were many days where it felt like my vagina was being stabbed by at least a thousand knives. Now, that may sound kinky and perhaps it's in the pages of Fifty fucking Shades of Grey, but I assure you it isn't a walk in the park. Speaking of walks in the park, those became limited. I am a very active person and I like to be out and about. We take frequent walks and hikes, but those activities became limited when I was pregnant. I was not able to keep myself in the proper shape. By 20 weeks, I realized it was never an issue of my uterus dry humping my tailbone. I actually had symphasis pubis dysfunction (SPD). That's where the little bit of cartilage that holds your pelvis together (feel your pelvic bone right by your clitoris - that's where it is) just says, "fuck it," and gives up on it's job and makes you all out of whack and painful. I need to write a separate post on that one of these days. While it is agonizing for some women, including myself, it is not threatening. Doing my job became more difficult and I stupidly did my best to work through the issue and not complain about it. Because when you complain about it to women who have not suffered with SPD you are met with eyerolls and comments that, "of course your back and your crotch hurt when you're pregnant. Suck it up." So, that sucked. In the middle of my second trimester, I developed the flu from hell. I was sick for three weeks straight. It ended in a trip to the hospital where they diagnosed strep throat and Scarlett Fever on top of the flu. My mind was washed in anxiety over losing the baby due to my constant 102 degree fevers and the stupid illnesses. I recovered from the flu and started to feel more definite and regular baby movements. I was happy. Then, toward the end of my second trimester, I apparently decided to have high blood pressure one day. My BP spiked to 158/70 one day at work and continued with an erratic pattern for weeks. The initial fear was placental abruption, which wasn't the case. Then we ruled pre-eclampsia out. Turned out I had iatrogenic systolic hypertension - translation: we really don't have a fucking clue why your blood pressure is high, so take it easy. My midwife was frustrated for me. I managed the pressure with diet and acupuncture (it literally dropped the day I got my first treatment and never came back) and I faithfully check my pressures through the day, gave in to many blood and urine tests each week and was ordered to restrict my activity. I was placed on desk duty at work and had to keep my feet up at home. After my pressure got under control, my feet started to swell to the size of small toddlers. I had pitting edema and deep calf pain. Oh fabulous - now we had to worry about the possibility of deep vein thrombosis, which does run in my family. Another hospital trip. No DVT, but I was given more orders to stay the heck off my feet. Because that is easy with a 4-going-on-five year old. Wait, we're not done. I then ended up with a ruptured ear drum and was completely deaf for two weeks. So, my crotch hurt, I was worried about blood pressure, my feet were fat, I wasn't allowed to be up for more than 15 minutes at a time and I couldn't hear the people who were talking to me and asking me if it was normal for a human to have "ankles so big." Oh, and I was anemic. Geez. I was constantly worried that the other shoe would drop throughout the entire pregnancy. Here I am, some birth activist who tells other women to truth their bodies and I was unable to relax, exhale and truly trust in my own body. I was always scared.
I don't even consider that pregnancy to have been complicated. It was just colored with a lot of ups and downs, and the downs really affected my psyche. I knew by the end of that pregnancy that I will likely never have another baby. It's been almost a year since I gave birth to my daughter and my feelings are pretty much the same. I don't think I can do it again. It's not just the physical things that worry me, the fear is incredibly overwhelming. I've had constant anxiety about terrible things happening to my children since my miscarriage and to have that heightened during pregnancy is rough. I don't want to put a sweet, developing little baby under so much stress in what's supposed to be the warm and nurturing environment of my womb.
I also think I'm a crappy mother. My emotional life has changed drastically since my miscarriage. I have been working hard to rid myself of so many negative feelings and rage. It's a constant battle on some days. I miss the super gentle and laid back person...mother that I was before losing my baby. I yell way too much. I get overwhelmed too easily. Perhaps I can't emotionally handle another child. I feel weak to admit that.
Maybe I'm a wimp. Maybe I should suck it up. Maybe I wasn't truly meant to be a mother. Whatever it is, I think I'm done with the pregnancy and birthing phase of my life. It makes me so sad to type those words out. There is a large part of me that feels like I failed myself. I won't ever be that glorious fertile Goddess, always beautifully pregnant. My dream of a large, happy family is dashed by my own emotional, physical and even financial short-comings. It's not an easy decision to make. My husband is saddened by this. He wants one more and he feels a bit bummed when I tell him that I feel like we are done. He is very understanding of my reasoning, though, so it's not an issue that causes a rift in our relationship.
It's other people. I constantly get, "oh come on! You love preggos and babies. You can squeeze out one more!" As if it were really as simple as "squeezing out one more." I've also gotten, "you can't let a couple of bad experiences get you down." Really? A dead baby isn't a bad enough experience? Really? I know people aren't trying to tell me what to do and they don't intend harm when they make comments. It sends a bit of a pang through my heart when I am constantly reminding folks that, yes, the uterus is closed for business.
It goes without saying that we must always be careful when we advise other people on their reproductive happenings. We never know what is really going on inside a woman's heart. For many reason, the decision to have more children is not at all easy and takes a lot of thought. It's definitely not always an easy decision to stop having more kids, especially when you have always planned on having a big houseful of them. Of course, the moment you change you mind and say, "sign me up for 6 more kids," the world will then accuse you of being a "breeder" with too many kids and ask if you realize that your vagina is not a clown car. Sometimes, you just can't win.
What about you? Did you originally intend on a gaggle of babies, but ended up scaling back on those dreams? Has the decision whether or not to have more children been hard on you and your family?
P.S. looking through some pregnancy photos of mine to choose for this blog was sad. Just sad. I will miss that part of my life.