I vividly remember my six-week postpartum appointment after my second baby was born.
I spent the bulk of the appointment nodding, as my OB/GYN did her best to sell me on an IUD. And not-so-subtly suggesting that we (my husband and I) consider a permanent birth control method. My methodical nodding and blank stare must have registered, because she asked the question I constantly heard for nine months – “You are done having babies, right?” My answering wince and shrug were not convincing. Although the question was asked a thousand times by many different people, my internal reaction was always the same. I felt shame and embarrassment, but mostly I felt anger. I deeply and truly wanted another baby, but everyone thought I was insane to feel that way.
Although this was only my second child, I’d also been a surrogate twice. Both times proved to be incredibly difficult twin pregnancies. So I mentally understood where my OB was coming from – four pregnancies and six babies was a lot on one body. Even though my head knew why she was saying these things, my heart wasn’t ready to get on board. So I nodded and went home.
Three months later during a routine blood draw, my life changed.
I was told that due to a rare antigen/antibody combination that my husband and I share, having more children was out of the question. With a broken heart, I made an appointment to talk with my OB about that permanent solution I’d been avoiding. Luckily I have a fantastic doctor. She immediately asked why I had such a drastic change of heart in such a short time. When I explained the situation, she told me that although it wasn’t ideal to have another baby under these circumstances, it certainly wasn’t impossible. There was even a chance it could be totally fine.
This news left me with two choices. One, I could get my tubes tied and avoid any negative outcomes for myself and any future babies I conceived. Or two, I could selfishly try for another baby and risk endangering mine and the baby’s health. Not to mention that I’d be adding emotional stress to the children I already had. So I nodded and went home.
For over a year I researched, got follow up blood tests done, and emailed with my doctors.
During that year, one thing became incredibly and painfully obvious – I wanted another baby. And not just to have another baby, but because the nagging sensation that my family wasn’t done growing didn’t go away. So we went for it.
From the moment I saw two pink lines until the day he arrived, my heart never fully settled down. The sensation of mild panic never left me. Maybe it was the diagnosis, or the fact that I started spotting blood three days after telling our whole family (including our ten-year-old daughter) about the pregnancy. Maybe it was the fact that I never had a single moment of morning sickness. Or perhaps it was because I didn’t experience any tenderness in my breast when my 18-month-old daughter nursed. If this was a healthy, viable pregnancy, wouldn’t I feel it? Wouldn’t my body show me that the baby was still there?
For nine long months, my mind was a mess. Each day, I worried that my selfish motivation to have more children would be the reason I lost my baby (a fact I’ve never revealed to anyone until this post).
As mothers, it’s our job to be selfless. To be giving. To sacrifice our bodies, time, and freedom for the good of our kids and family. But that’s not what I had done.
My third trimester screening results showed that I had Gestational Diabetes for the first time in five pregnancies. My first thought was that I deserved it. This became one more source of stress to worry and cry about. However, I was determined to manage it without medication because insulin leads to induced birth, and induced birth generally leads to complications.
Turns out that no matter how hard you try, some things can’t be avoided. After weeks of increased insulin doses, stress monitoring every few days, and weekly ultrasounds, I was induced.
For 26 hours I labored against fate.
My emotionally draining pregnancy ended in an equally stressful emergency c-section (but that’s a post for another time). All that really matters is that after nine months of worry, fear, and heart palpitations, my son was born healthy.
As soon as he was placed in my arms, all of the stress left my body. My soul was able to exhale. The breath I’d been holding since my first ultrasound came out in a sigh of relief. For the first time in almost a year, I shed tears of joy, not worry. I may have been selfish, but I hadn’t been punished. The child I was told not to have wasn’t a reason for panic. He was a blessing. My family was complete.