Friday, June 30, 2006

The Mommy Track

I was going to work on my novel tonight. I was. But then I decided to visit the bloggers who've recently visited me, and what with one thing and another, I've got something on my mind.

Kailani told about her journey of miscarriage and heartbreak between her first and second daughters and how blessed she feels. Here, Interstellar Lass was pondering over her ability to get pregnant without even trying much and her subsequent tubal ligation after two children. Now in a happy (2nd) marriage with a childless man, she's wishing for more children, with him. It's a tough thing. I won't burden you with my thoughts on their situations; go read their posts.

As I read and responded to these posts, my train of thought zoomed down some well-worn tracks. The memories followed me as I did the dishes, my mind got tangled up in knots, and eventually I realized I had to get this out of my brain or I'd be paralyzed. So here goes.

First, I have to say that as I grew up, I always wanted to get married young (20-ish) and have kids, preferably several of them. It was just something you did. Just so you don't worry, I also wanted to be a glamorous international spy, a hard-nosed editor, and a writer of movies and books. I'm still working on the last one.

However, my plans for marriage and parenthood went awry. When I was 24, I married my college boyfriend and agreed to put off children for a couple of years. It's a darn good thing I did. Not that I thought of it as good at the time. Especially when my biological alarm clock went off. Once he did agree we could start "trying," the process was a constant source of misery to me (especially while my hormones weren't being regulated by lovely b.c. pills). It was made worse at the time by my ex's attitude, which can be summed up in these quotes:

"I don't want to have children until I've done something with my life!" (spoken in a wail, and prompting the inevitable response: "Well, when were you planning to start?" He was 26 at the time, and had been out of college for 3 years. He still didn't have a job.)

"You'd make a lousy mother. Even your plants die; how do you think you could keep a child alive?" (Idiot. And I was an idiot for even considering this idea seriously.)

"I read that masturbating at least once every 24 hours keeps the sperm count too low to fertilize an egg." (Apparently this was true. He thought I wouldn't catch on. Gack.)

Without knowing anything else, you can see why that relationship didn't last much longer. The rest of it wasn't any better. And I had wasted most of my 20s on it.

When I was 30, I married a sweet, wonderful, and intelligent man who was also a single father. #1 Son was 3 at the time, and The Man agreed that we ought to start trying for a baby right away, so that they'd be semi-close in age. Well, I got pregnant right off the honeymoon, and we were ecstatic. (I think I've blogged about this before.) Eleven weeks into the pregnancy, the doctors found a lethal birth defect, and at 17 weeks, the baby was born and died. Leaving the maternity ward with no baby to take home was much more painful than the 30 hours of labor that preceded it.

Trying again was nerve-wracking in a way I'd never experienced. Chucking my beloved career, leaving Hawaii, and taking a low-paying job in a place I'd never been, I could handle that. But taking the risk of losing another baby... ouch. It was scary. I had an emotional breakdown on the anniversary of my baby's death. I panicked when the doctors sent me for ultrasounds; knowing that the previous problem was a one-in-a-million fluke didn't help.

At seven months, I had to be hospitalized for a heart...well, problem. I described a similar episode here... Once they got my heart stopped and started again, they put me through a ton of tests, including an ultrasound scan of my heart. None of the good results did anything to convince me that this pregnancy was going to be any more successful than the previous one, despite having lasted longer. I couldn't shake the feeling that no matter how long I was pregnant, I was simply incapable of producing a viable offspring.

On my due date, I had a major panic attack while in the doctor's office. I was hospitalized again and sedated heavily. That Friday, they promised, they would induce labor if the baby hadn't come yet. Well, he didn't. (In fact, to this day, I've never spontaneously gone into labor, unless you count--- well, that will come later.) Early Sunday morning, my Pirate Boy was born by c-section after a LONG and excruciating labor. And do you know what? As I held him in the recovery room, he was all I could think about. He was my whole world.

That's one wonderful blessing that comes from having known the pain of losing a child: Any child you have in the future becomes more precious to you than you could have imagined. Especially the one that comes first. It was probably best that I was that devoted to this baby son, because I had to go through some stuff for him. But I would have given my life if necessary. And even though I knew what was involved, I felt that I'd like to have another baby.

We started trying when Pirate Boy turned 2, and I got pregnant right away, though I didn't have medical confirmation. In fact, it was just about the fourth week when I started to bleed, so I thought I'd been wrong. But no, I wasn't. I was on vacation, it was my anniversary, and I was having a miscarriage.

We kept trying, and succeeded again right away. This time, my suspicions of pregnancy were confirmed by the fact that I had a small tachycardia every day starting in the fourth week. I spent most of my pregnancy having to lie down for a couple of hours every afternoon. My feet started swelling in the first trimester, and I felt like the entire pregnancy was a little touch-and-go. But the tests showed no problems, and when my red-haired punkin was born 8 days early by elective c-section, he was tall and strong and ready to play football.

As I lay on the table waiting to be stitched up, the doctor asked again whether I wanted her to tie my tubes while she was at it. I was sorely tempted. I decided against it at the time, although The Man and I had no plans for more children. Since then, I've second-, third-, and fourth- guessed my decision. Birth control is expensive, and I'm not close enough to menopause. That one small act would have saved a lot of money and worry.

However-- I didn't do it, and here's why: it's the "can't" syndrome. I have this problem in relation to treats and things, too. If there's chocolate (or ice cream, or whatever) in the house, I can take it or leave it, and I usually leave it. If I know I don't have any of the thing I want, it's all I think about. Hence, if I couldn't potentially have children, I'd want to, desperately. And that's not what I really want. If I can't be more mature, at least I can recognize it.

So where are we now? Well, we're out of birth control because I can't afford it anymore. But we will not be having any more children. If we did, it would be over my dead body.


Happy0303 said...

I'm sorry to hear about your long and rough journey to motherhood. But you're right, you look at your children and appreciate them that much more. I still get a little sad when I think about the little boy I lost but when I look at my baby girl, I can't imagine life without her.

Scone said...

Thanks, Kailani. And thanks to anyone else who manages to read all this. I don't get to talk about it much with my family because my road to motherhood was the easiest of us three sisters. The youngest had to have one ovary removed in her early twenties, and the other is married to a man who can't have children. Each has one precious little daughter now, which is wonderful, and all the more so after the long hard journeys.

Dorothy said...

Your road has been equally heart-wrenching, Scone. You have sacrificed so much for the love of your precious babies and have experienced equal, if not more heartache, because you actually went through the physical trauma combined with the mental anguish of losing a child and a miscarriage, not to mention the lasting physical affects caused by the pregnancies. Your brand of pain is not less valid than theirs. Your pain is just as real and deserving of sympathy and the caring of your family. **Hugs**