People start asking you very soon after having a child if you plan to have a second one. A harmless and understandable question, sure. But it always sends a shock through me.
I know the socially appropriate way to respond, so I smile and give a lighthearted, “Maybe!” or “We’ll see!” Sometimes if I have the time and energy, I tell them I’m 6 months postpartum and still in physical therapy from the complications during my daughter’s delivery, so I’m not yet ready to think about it. Sometimes they accept that and move on, sometimes they dig in deeper and say, “Trust me you will forget about this and have another kid.”
There’s nothing wrong with asking if I want more children— the issue is typically what comes after I say “I’m not sure, my daughter’s birth was pretty traumatic.”
I quickly learned that outside of close friends and family, people generally respond with “You’ll change your mind and do it again, just wait and see. You’ll get over it.”
And the truth is that I would love to give my daughter the built in best friends that I have in my own sisters. I would love to watch her fight with, love, and snuggle up to a sibling of her own.
But it’s complicated.
And can’t be answered in a few short words.
I’m not sure I could answer it in long words, either.
But still, they ask.
And still, I feel the shockwave roll through my body thinking about my daughter’s journey into this world.
I remember wearing a paper gown
sitting on a paper sheet
Listening to muffled voices through paper thin walls
Looking at the stack of papers in the doctor’s hands
Everything was paper.
A nightmare conversation but I was wide awake
A nightmare conversation, and I’m wearing a paper gown
Shouldn’t one dress more formally when discussing matters of life and death? What’s the dress code here— black tie? Semiformal? Certainly it’s business casual, at minimum.
Up until that day, the conversations had been typical– talk of birth plans, breathing techniques, and baby names.
But that day did not host a typical conversation.
“If I have an allergic reaction and stop breathing while in labor, how quickly can you get me to the operating room to save the baby?”
And people, they ask, “When will you have another? You think you don’t want to do it again, but you will, trust me.”
But I remember the doctor’s face as she told me there wouldn’t be much time to save the baby if I had an allergic reaction and stopped breathing. I remember the doctor’s face as she told us what we desperately needed (but hated) to know— how they would attempt to save me and the baby if I was given antibiotics, had an allergic reaction, and stopped breathing during labor.
And they ask, “Don’t you want to do this again?”
But I remember bleeding too much while in labor, the baby’s lifeline, oxygen source, and blood supply trying to give up before it was time. I wasn’t giving up, so why was my body?
And I remember the twinkling lights in my hospital room that illuminated the blood streaming down my legs. The hot, liquid proof that my daughter’s birth was not unfolding as I had imagined it.
And I remember her heart beating too slowly, and mine beating too quickly.
And I remember the doctor’s face when she told me I needed the antibiotics— the baby and I were at risk for septicemia.
The last time I had antibiotics I stopped breathing. I woke up to tubes in my nose, tubes down my throat, heavy compressions on my chest. I only had one life to lose then, now I had two.
The last time I had antibiotics I almost died and now we, the baby and I, needed antibiotics. The nightmare coming to life, or so it seemed.
And they teasingly and unknowingly say, “You need to give that baby a sibling, get on it!”
I remember watching the nurse put the antibiotics into my IV— crash cart on standby, resuscitation team on standby. I remember feeling like I was being forced into suicide. It felt like suicide to let them inject the medicine into my veins. I remember a lump in my throat and saying to my daughter in my swollen belly, “I’m doing this to help save you, and I’m so sorry if it takes me away from you. But I’m doing this to save you.”
And they say, “It wasn’t that bad, you’ll forget and want to do it again! My birth was traumatic too, you’ll get over it.”
But like it was yesterday, I remember laying on a stiff bed in the ER, my two day old baby at home without me. Still with bruises on her head, arms and legs from the IVs. My two day old baby was at home with bruises on her body, and I was not there to kiss them. Isn’t that a mother’s job? To kiss the bruises? To hug the pain away?
I remember the nurse holding my hand and looking at me with an expression I couldn’t quite read. The doctor coming in a few minutes later saying I had to stay in the hospital, and the medicine was on its way.
And I remember laying in a hospital bed, my baby two days old at home without me.
Bruises on both of my arms from so many blood pressure readings.
The alarm bells in my room every 30 minutes, reminding us that I was still in danger.
The nurses coming in every 30 minutes.
Their expressions that I couldn’t quite read.
The double vision.
The inability to stand on my own.
Hearing people ask me questions but unable to answer them.
My two day old baby at home, her body covered in bruises matching mine, without me.
I remember clutching my chest and screaming for help over and over again throughout the night.
Isaac holding my hand and saying “It’s okay, breathe”, but nothing felt okay and breathing seemed like a secondary concern next to my heart not knowing how to beat correctly.
I remember Isaac holding my hand and telling me stories, so many stories.
Stories of how we met, how we fell in love, how we got married and built a life together, how we had been through so much and would get through this, too.
How I closed my eyes as he told me stories and felt myself falling back asleep, secretly wondering if I was falling into sleep or into death.
And my two day old baby was at home without me.
And still they ask, “When’s baby number two coming?”
But I remember the breaking of my husband.
The breaking of his face, his heart, his world over and over again.
And they ask “Are you going to try for another?”
I smile and say a few polite words
I say the socially appropriate thing
I say, “Maybe, we’ll see.” And who knows, maybe another is in God’s plan. I’m not ruling anything out.
But I am alive and so is she, and every night we snuggle into the arms of the man who held our matching purple and blue bruised hands, not knowing if this was goodnight or goodbye.
And all of what I have right now is exactly enough.
This will always be exactly enough.
4 thoughts on “Exactly Enough”
People really don’t think before they speak and don’t think about the words they choose. Like you, my traumatic and stressful pregnancy and Brian’s early delivery still didn’t stop people from asking, prodding, etc. After the 2nd miscarriage and years of autoimmune disease rollercoasters, we stopped trying to give the polite expected answer. We started to just lay it out. “My husband/wife and I had tried but felt it was not worth my/her life to give Brian a sibling.” The questioning and prodding finally stopped which helped us move on and stopped my awful visions every time someone asked me. Baker is one lucky girl to have you and Isaac as her parents. No matter what you and Isaac decide in the long run, that won’t change and she’ll be fine.
People can really suck. Sorry you have to hear this crap, from people who don’t understand, and don’t care.
You really do have a way with words, I could see you writing a really good book if you so desired. I can’t imagine the horrible feeling’s you described with such raw intensity.
Hope you, Baker and Issac continue to do better, and stay safe through this time, God Bless.
It amazes me how commonplace such personal questions are not considered intrusive by the vast majority of people. However, this realization didn’t come to me either until I went through 4 years of emotionally debilitating infertility treatments. I’ll never forget (or forgive) my ex-mother-in-law’s comment: “I assume you just hate children or you would have had some by now.”
Reminds me of when people tell my mom “just being stressed” over her disease.