Growing up, my older brother would frequently ask me if I knew that I was adopted. (I’m not – classic big brother torment.) He did it so frequently that one day I kind of started to believe him. So I asked my mom if it was true. Her response, “Oh yes, because having a 3 year old and a 1 year old wasn’t enough, adopting a third child just sounded like a great idea.”
I have a 3 year old and a 1 year old now… I totally get it.
I am so, so incredibly blessed to have two beautiful, healthy children. I am lucky that I’ve never had to know firsthand the pain of infertility, miscarriage, or infant loss. I thought I was losing Nora in the first trimester, and it was pure hell. I am thankful and grateful every day, and I hope I never have to know the pain of losing a child. Because I am certain it will kill me.
Having grown up the third child, I think I took for granted that three was to be my magic number. I never put much thought into it – it just would be that I would have three kids. This was fact, with little to no consideration for how daycare costs $250 per week, per child; or that having a baby generates a 5 figure hospital bill, minimum; or that three car seats don’t easily fit in the back seat of a small SUV; or that sharing bedrooms is a logistical nightmare when a baby wakes to feed throughout the night. In fact, I don’t think I really thought about any of these things until I was actually pregnant with Charlie, and subsequently with Nora.
Ignorance is bliss.
Two children down, and we are at an impasse. Life (including my bank account, house, vehicles and sanity) says, stop – no more. My husband is ready for the big V. And everyone I know has decided I should be fulfilled because I got “one of each.”
Logically, I know we should be a family of 4. (If I need a reminder, I just need to read about my soup mishap.) A third child would mean huge changes: new house, new cars, one of us quitting our job because the daycare bill would exceed our salary. A friend once told me, with two kids you’re good because your defense is man-to-man. But with three or more, you’ve got to switch to zone…. and they’ll always find the weak spots.
Still, my heart hasn’t caught up with my head. Not at all.
Tristan was always clear about his desire for just two kids. As was I, with three. I guess, when it came to making sure we were on the same page about the “big ticket items” before getting married, we both just understood that we wanted kids. And that was good enough. This is not a deal breaker for me in our marriage, but our discord does make it more difficult for me to process the whole thing. He wants to be done with the car seats and the baggage and the extra effort to do anything and the newborn hangovers after sleepless nights. And I get that. I certainly can’t force him to want more babies. And as such the decision is no longer mine, by default. In fact, it has been made with very little input from me. He has been good about allowing the option to stay on the table (i.e. not taking permanent steps to prevent babies), but in my heart I know where his head it at. And so it is done.
That leaves me here. Grieving. This unspoken, unacknowledged, voluntary loss of my fertility. I’ll never again know the panic of two pink lines, or feel a baby’s kick from within my belly. I’ll never experience the adrenaline rush of labor and the pure ecstasy of a new life born. No more breastfeeding, or pumping, or newborn hangovers after sleepless nights. There will be no “me”, no baby, of our family. No middle child. No two sisters or two brothers. Every first becomes a last.
Does anyone ever talk about this? I don’t feel like we do, maybe because we fear it may make us seem selfish or greedy or crazy for wanting to add more to the chaos. Am I selfish? Am I crazy? Possibly.
I am lucky to have been given the gifts I have. I know this. I feel it. I do. And I will not miss the morning sickness or the hemorrhoids or the excruciating pain of childbirth. And I do look toward the days where I have relatively self-sufficient kids with longing. But the best I ever felt in my life were those 18 months of my pregnancies. And, hands down, the very best moments of my life were when those two little babies were placed on my chest for the first time. Incomparable. No other moment will ever surpass those two. There will only ever be third place.
So, I grieve alone and in silence. Feeling silly for mourning a baby that never was nor ever will be. I have, in reality, lost nothing – yet it still feels like a significant loss to me. Perhaps this is just one of those things that no one warns you of when you become a parent. The “normal” things that no one talks about. Like, how breastfeeding is actually really hard. And how that first poop will be more excruciating than actual labor.
You will mourn your childbearing years, as soon as they are done. Even if you actively make the choice, little moments might just take you by surprise and transport you back to those feelings of joy. Maybe we should have one more. It must be normal to have these feelings, even if they are just as quickly followed by the affirmation that – Nope, we are D-O-N-E. We’ve achieved the greatest thing in creating new life so it’s normal to reflect on it with awe, right? It makes sense. These are the best moments of our lives, after all – the moments we became mothers.