This tired, half-hearted feeling reminds me of when I quit twirling.
The beautiful, shiny, sparkly dream that consumed my first two years of high school no longer felt right for me. At the beginning of my junior year, I picked up the baton, flipped open the folder containing the routine written out for me by my teacher, and began to practice.
After a couple of reps, I was done. I halfheartedly tried again the next day. I didn’t feel like it the day after that. And just like that, I knew I was done. The passion that had driven me to practice every night, no matter how late I finished my homework (It’s not easy to practice twirling quietly in your bedroom at 2 a.m., let me tell ya.), was gone.
Amazingly, I don’t think I questioned it. I just accepted that, after trying and failing twice to make the majorette line at my high school, I didn’t want to try anymore. It wasn’t fear of more failure. I just wasn’t interested anymore. The fire had gone out. I feel amazement now that such a passion could be gone so suddenly. Perhaps it slipped away quietly during the summer while I was busy with reading lists and band practice. My heart quietly healed itself as life went on and I went with it. Perhaps I felt a trust in my judgment unusual for the teenaged me, a trust which abandons me still upon occasion.
I’m worried that I am feeling that way again right now, but about something of much greater importance. My passion to have another child might be gone.
The one desire that remained steady through my entire life was the one to be a mother. (Well, except for an exceptionally dark period of self-loathing in my mid-twenties.) Even when I wasn’t sure if I wanted to, or ever would be, a wife, I wanted to be a mom. A devoted viewer of “The Brady Bunch”, “Eight is Enough”, and “Step by Step”, I always envisioned a big family.
When I did marry at 28, my husband and I agreed we would wait a year to start our family. That didn’t last long. I knew before we married that I would want to start trying the second the ink on the marriage certificate was dry. I hoped against hope I could hold off. Conventional wisdom says to be married for awhile first, right?
We married in February and conceived our son the following October. At my baby shower, my aunt asked about the number of children we planned to have.
“Oh, three or four, I guess,” I answered. (The reality of pregnancy must have adjusted my ambition a bit.)
Our son Max arrived in July 2009. One terrible bout of PPD, a pregnancy-related herniated disc, and two and a half years later, our daughter Lucy arrived, in February 2012. Every time I gave birth, I swore I wouldn’t do it again. (I now squarely blame that on the fact that I gave birth sans epidural the first two times. If I had it to do over again, I would get the drugs.)
On Mother’s Day 2013, Lucy died of dilated cardiomyopathy, after a six-month battle that included listing for heart transplant. She was 15 months; Max was a couple months shy of four.
From my grief surged an unbelievable drive to become pregnant again. The only thing that could make the loss of my baby bearable was to have another growing inside me.
I became pregnant in June 2013 and experienced a missed miscarriage and D&C three months later. In November 2013, I became pregnant AGAIN and delivered a beautiful rainbow baby, our daughter Scarlett, the following July. Her big brother received the best 5th birthday present ever, four days late.
After another bout with PPD, I went on Zoloft. I feel better than I have probably ever in my life. One fact I need to fill in is that I became certain I wanted three kids after Lucy was born. Like, a week after. Three was the magic number. It just felt right. When I thought about four, I thought, “Whoa. Too many.” In my case, three was enough.
After Lucy was diagnosed, my husband and I struggled with this desire of mine, especially considering that her illness could be genetic. We didn’t know if we would have the necessary time and money for another now that we were parenting a chronically, perhaps terminally, ill child. But we also wanted Max to have a sibling if Lucy died. Due to the unpredictable nature of cardiomyopathy, we did not know if she would die young or when it would be if she did. She could live in to her 50s or not make it to her 2nd birthday.
After her death, it seemed a no-brainer to have another child. We wanted more than one. We wanted Max to have a living sibling. Scarlett is the joy of all of our lives now. The only way life to have life more perfect would include Lucy still living.
When Scarlett was 9 months old, we started trying again. I couldn’t shake the desire for “three all at the same time”. Also, after being pregnant part of every year since we got married, except 2010, I was ready to be done with the pregnancy part. I wanted our family complete. I was done wondering about it and more than ready to make it a reality.
The second pink line showed up in August 2015. I could hardly believe our luck. A spring baby, so I wouldn’t be heavily pregnant during the brutal Texas summer. Scarlett would be a few months shy of two, which would be a challenging, but wonderful, age gap.
Those possibilities vanished with the report from our NT scan. The baby showed signs of Turner syndrome. When we returned the following Monday for an appointment with the maternal fetal medicine specialist, there was no heartbeat. Another D&C followed the next day.
The most recent loss happened almost four weeks ago. We still don’t have the test results to tell us definitely what happened. I have changed my mind about whether or not our future includes another child with practically each passing day.
Besides all of the practical and medical concerns, I just might be having that “fire has gone out”, half-hearted feeling. Of course, it just happened a month ago, my hormones are still in an uproar, and I am on Zoloft now. All of that could be contributing to the lack of the desperation I felt after my first D&C. I have felt it this time, but only in brief spurts.
I just know that considerations that did not unduly sway me before – the newborn sleep deprivation, the demands of a toddler and a newborn, money worries- are enough to scare me away at least briefly now. Or worse, I feel apathy. I don’t want to be housebound and exhausted again. I think about ovulation and pregnancy tests and just do not feel the old excitement and determination. I was willing to do it all one more time to get that last kid, because I would know it was the last time. This loss reminded me that we can never be sure that we have reached the last time. Or, at least, a last time with a last baby at the end of it.
Maybe I wanted the baby I lost a few weeks ago, but don’t want another. Maybe I just feel this way right now. Maybe I’m just done. I’m 36. I’ve been pregnant five times, given birth three times, and buried one child. Maybe my desire for three came to include a subconscious desire to fill Lucy’s gap, to escape that loss. My heart might have healed once again while life’s duties carried me forward. Perhaps this is the way I am to have three children. I no longer feel sadness when I see three siblings in restaurants. I no longer clench my fists to keep the rage from surging out uncontrollably and searing everyone in its path as I tearfully insist to my husband that I want “three at the same time”.