I wrote the post below nearly a year ago, the night before I left for my sister's bridal shower. At the time it was something I needed to write, but was too raw to talk about or publish. Lately I've been feeling more at peace with the finality of the size of our family of five, so I planned to revisit the topic and edit my old post reflect the acceptance I thought I felt. And then today a friend posted she was pregnant with her fourth and it hit me like a ton of bricks- pure joy for her, punched-in-the-stomach spiraling downward feelings of mourning and sadness for me.
So apparently one year later and the rawness below is still where I'm at. I wonder when it won't be.
~ ~ ~ May 2014 ~ ~ ~
When I was in the hospital about to have Cora, I was asked about 50 times by 20 different people if my tubes were being tied with the c-section. "No." I kept saying, only to change it to "NO!(!!!)" when I was asked yet again minutes before heading to the OR. I understood why they asked- it was baby #3 and they were already cutting me open so why not tie some tubes while they're in there, but no, I felt strongly, VERY STRONGLY, that I was not ready to be physically unable to have another child. I was only 30 and 30 felt way too young to make a decision that permanent when it wasn't necessary. While JP was 99.99% sure we were done with Cora, I was only about 92% sure, and even if I was at 100%, you just don't know where life will take you. I normally don't make decisions based on unlikely worst-case scenarios, but what if something happened to one of the kids? or JP? What if we just woke up one day and didn't feel our family was complete? I have no idea what my life and thoughts will be for the next decade, but I know I would never want to regret the premature robbing of my ability to bear children. IUDs are effective and mindless and work great for me, so there was simply no reason to take future choices away from myself and I could not have felt more strongly about that.
Fast forward 5 months and I find out we can't have any more children after all. As a not fully understood side-effect (by me, anyway; the one freaking time I stay away from google) of a treatment JP's on for a thing I can't go in to, he is sterile. Completely and permanently. He told me this off-hand in April after one of his million doctor appointments and I felt like I had been punched in the stomach. Everything froze. I froze. I was... I don't even know. I immediately started crying. JP, alarmed at my reaction, cried out, "But we're done! Right?! It's okay, I told the doctor it's okay, we're done!".
But I wasn't.
I wasn't, I cried. I'm not. I'm not done. Not for sure, anyway. Nothing about a single moment I've had with Cora- not pregnancy, birth, recovery, infancy- in not one single moment have I felt closure, finality, or happiness at the thought of never doing this again. I have carefully packed away baby clothes, just in case. I have saved my maternity clothes in a bin in the garage, just in case. The moment Cora was born I pictured another little one 2.5 years later, completing the Landon + Claire and Cora + baby #4 buddy system I'd already created in my head. I joked about a fourth almost immediately, to the shock of JP who thought I'd lost my mind. And maybe I had and maybe we wouldn't have ever actually had another- we have a 3 bedroom house, we work, we hate minivans, we've already paid more to daycares than either of our college educations cost times two... but maybe we would have. Maybe. I love our big family. I love having a house full of young kids. I read the essays complaining about the tedium and awfulness of young children and I just think, that isn't true for me. Not that I don't understand it, I just don't feel that way and my kids don't behave that way and I LOVE this time in our lives. I love being the mom of our young growing family- watching the kids play together, going on family walks and bigger adventures, just living the day to day. We're busy and happy and may well have been done with the growing, but we're 31 and 32. We were supposed to have time to make a decision about the size of our family a few years down the road.
But now we don't. There's no decision. It's made and we didn't get to make it. Circumstance did and that sucks and there are so many other things about those circumstances that suck and this side effect that is in many ways irrelevant is just an extra punch in the gut. And I know that there are so many people who can't have children at all or can't have a much desired second or third and who knows if we even could have or would have had another, and we have three beautiful wonderful kids and we are so blessed and I know that. I do. But I spent about a month crying at random times and staring off into space because there is no possibility of me carrying another child of JP's and sometimes it hits me so hard I feel like I can't breathe.
I assumed that if we didn't have more children, it would be more of a non-decision; a realization at some point that we like where we are and we've moved on from the baby days so let's just go ahead and give away those baby clothes in the bins in the closet. Instead, I pack up Cora's 3 and 6 month clothes with the certainty that no baby of ours will wear them and I cry.
I wasn't done. But we are. And there are times when the finality of it just tears me apart.