Or seven, or six, or five, or four, or three. And quite honestly, I'm deeply ambivalent about whether I even want two. I'm truly happy with my one amazing daughter. I used to want two or three. I even thought maybe four. But then I became a mother, and parenting was no longer theoretical, it was my life, and it was SO much harder than I had expected. I quickly revised my ideal number to two.
About a year after the Little One was born, I very suddenly and desperately wanted another one. This is apparently very common. Something about surviving that first year with your firstborn and becoming incredibly nostalgic and wanting to do it all over again. And I thought it would be good if my kids were close in age. Good for us, to get through the tough stages faster, and good for them, to improve the chances that they could be friends as well as siblings.
When she was about 20 months old, we had an "oops" moment and conceived. It was a welcome "oops" pregnancy, as we were planning to try for another child soon thereafter. We were excited, and I was determined not to be as anxious this time around. Our first pregnancy had ended quickly in an early miscarriage, and though this is very common (not to mention something we might not have even known about in the days before the early home pregnancy tests), it was devastating for us. From the moment we knew we had conceived the Little One we became exceedingly anxious. And though I enjoyed the pregnancy overall, the anxiety definitely put a damper on the whole experience. So this time, I wasn't going to give in.
As the first weeks went on, the Hubster was doing pretty well in keeping the anxiety at bay as well. He was calm and supportive and reassuring that all would be well. As for me, my only concession to worry was to occasionally say "I only want to see that little heartbeat and then I'll be fine." We were out of town around week 8, so our second appointment was pushed ahead to somewhere between weeks 9 and 10. My wonderfully understanding OB had promised an ultrasound at this appointment, to help reassure us, so we knew we would be able to see our little peanut. I was excited about the appointment, eager to receive that reassurance.
In a way, though intellectually I knew it didn't work like this, I felt that if I didn't worry, everything would be fine. Magical thinking, I guess. So I worked hard at keeping the anxiety at bay, and I was certain that everything would be fine. When the OB couldn't find the heartbeat with the Doppler, something he said he could usually do with someone as slender as I was at the time, I didn't feel any panic or dread. I completely believed him when he said everything was probably just fine. And he had promised an ultrasound to check things out anyway, and I didn't want to miss out on that. So in a way I was absurdly relieved that he couldn't find it, because I was afraid that if he did, he wouldn't order the ultrasound. Can you believe that? I was RELIEVED. I didn't WANT him to find it. I wanted to see the peanut. It didn't even occur to me to begin to get nervous.
We went down the hall to the room where they do the ultrasounds, and the tech soon had me ready to go. She soon found the peanut, and began pointing out the features of the "sac" and "fetal pole," all familiar to us as second-time expectant parents. I still didn't see anything wrong. I was just waiting for her to find the little pulsing light that would signify the peanut's heartbeat. I knew it would be there somewhere. It had to be. But then she suddenly said, "I'm sorry, I don't see a heartbeat," and began to shut off the equipment. Just. like. that.
I stared at her, stunned, as the Hubster squeezed my hand. My eyes sprouted tears before I even knew I would cry. I wanted to yell at her, to shout, "KEEP LOOKING! It has to be there! Keep looking, please!!!" She had to be wrong. The moment had become surreal.
(Ultrasound techs out there? Do us a favor. Take the moments to KEEP LOOKING. You know it's over, you know you're not going to find it. But the patient is not the image, the patient is a woman on the table, with her partner or other loved one by her side, and she needs you to at least pretend to keep looking. Let her see that it isn't there. Don't stop so abruptly. Because it will take us a few moments to catch up with you, and we need to see it for ourselves.)
We went back to the exam room, where the OB expressed condolences for the loss and talked to us about how to proceed. The evidence showed that the peanut had probably died around seven and a half to eight weeks, which meant that my body wasn't miscarrying as it should have. I didn't even know how to process that information. I was sort of relieved that I hadn't begun to bleed at home, for I knew how awful that was, but I felt sick to think that I had been walking around for possibly as long as two weeks without knowing what had happened inside of me. How did I not know? The OB offered two options: wait a bit to see if my the miscarriage would happen naturally, or have a D&C. I chose the latter.
Before they wheeled me in for the procedure I asked my OB one more time if he was sure it was over. We wanted to believe that they had been wrong. He took a moment to sit and explain everything, detailing the evidence from the ultrasound. He also told me that he was a man of faith and that there was no way he would be doing this if he had any doubt. I'm not a religious person, so my physician's faith had never been of concern to me in my medical care (and to tell you the truth, I don't really want my physician relying too much on God's will, just in case it makes him/her not fight as fiercely for my life in a critical moment!), but I did find this reassuring in this moment.
Physically, I recovered quickly (the whole D&C was a breeze actually), but emotionally it took me some time to feel better, as it does for everyone. Some days were tougher than expected. My birthday was bad (the baby's due date), Christmas was slightly melancholy (we "should" have had two kids), and when my birthday came around again I felt a little blue realizing that the baby would have been a year old already.
We had put pregnancy plans on hold for awhile after the D&C, but tried again last summer, trying to time it for early this summer. We're now debating whether to try this summer. The Hubster wants another child, the Little One keeps talking about a baby sister, but I'm feeling more ambivalent than ever. Things are finally falling into place. My career is about to be properly launched. The Little One is entering her final year of preschool. We're out of diapers, pull-ups, and even those nighttime underpants. The sippy cups are gone. We sold the stroller, high chair, and pack-n-play months ago. I'm turning 42. I'm feeling beyond this stage of having babies and taking care of an infant, a toddler, a three-year-old. I had a ROUGH postpartum period, for months, and really don't want to experience that kind of thing ever again. It took two years to really feel like myself again, and three years to completely recover my mental sharpness. And above all, we are a happy little family. Why mess with perfection?
And yet... I'm feeling a little bit of melancholy to realize that this will be the last year of preschool, that a year from now I won't be the mommy of a very small child anymore. I can't yet part with the baby and toddler clothes stored in my garage. I'm old enough that I can't really change my mind in a few years. (Yes, I know that maybe I physically COULD, but I have no interest in pregnancy after a certain point. I barely have interest in it now.)
I didn't really intend to tell this whole story today. I was sitting here trying to think of something to write, staring at an episode of Jon and Kate Plus 8 on the t.v. (big marathon this weekend in preparation for the juicy season premiere tomorrow night ... stop judging me, you KNOW you're gonna watch it), taking in yet another scene of a roomful of screaming children and feeling intensely grateful that my house is never filled with such a cacophony, so I started to write about that. Posts sometimes have a mind of their own.