one

In 2009, my wife and I talked about having babies. Specifically, I informed my then-girlfriend, who was already the mother of three, that if she did not want to have more babies, that was it. It was a deal-breaker for me. “BABIES,” I said, “plural. Not BABY.”  I wanted, specifically, two babies.  Also, she had to want the babies, not just be willing to go through it for me. Because babies should be wanted, all of them, each of them. There is a big difference between wanting a baby and agreeing to have a baby because the person that you love wants one. She did not answer right away. She said she would think about it, and come back to me. And she did.  A day or so later, she said she was in. Whole-heartedly in.  Babies I wanted, and babies I would have.

And then, you know, life happened. For one reason or another, it wasn’t time to start trying to conceive until late in 2013. Then it took us nearly a year to get pregnant. So it wasn’t until six years after that original conversation that we had our first baby together.

By the time Bumby was born, the other kids were kind of… old. The next-youngest was 9, and the oldest was 14. Having another child when your next-youngest is 9 is very different from having another child when your next-youngest is 3.  To further complicate matters, the Big One was decidedly moody about the topic of adding a fourth child to our nest, and made those moods known throughout the entire experience of talking about a baby, getting pregnant with a baby, being pregnant with a baby, and having a baby. It was, frankly, rather miserable for my wife and me. Although Bumby and the Big One are fast friends now, it is far from clear that she in particular, or any of the older kids more generally, would welcome another addition with open arms.

Then there is my wife. She agreed to babies, this is true. She knows she agreed to babies. But she has reneged. She is happy with our family of six. She is not getting any younger, and although she loves our children fiercely, she also looks forward to our empty nest years (as do I!). She would like to have those empty nest years when she is still young enough to do fun empty nest things and does not have to take too many prescription medications. Before I ever got pregnant with Bumby, she made it clear. She wanted this one more child very much, but only this one more child.

So that leaves me.  I wanted babies. I have been quite clear on this, always. I did not want just one pregnancy, just one baby. But I agreed to stop after one, because I still feel just as I did in 2009, that each child should be wanted by its family. Knowing how the rest of the family felt, I almost hoped that being pregnant would not live up to my expectations. Maybe I would feel about it the way so many women do — it is acceptable as a means to an end, but not altogether a great experience in and of itself. I may even be miserable, or have complications. It is weird to almost hope for these things, but I wanted it to cure me so that I would not yearn to go through it again. So that I would be content with just one baby.  No such luck. I had an easy, uncomplicated pregnancy.  I was at home in my body for the first time since puberty. I felt beautiful. I marveled at the changes and adored having Bumby close to me and with me, always. I wasn’t even really uncomfortable until around 37 weeks, and slept well. Something about the pregnancy hormones agreed with me, and I was just happy the entire time. I can count on one hand the number of times I was angry or sad for the entire pregnancy. Then, I had an uncomplicated vaginal birth just one day past my due date.

After which, I met Bumby. I fell in love with him, hard and fast. Postpartum came with all the rawness and separation and plummeting hormones that it always does. Sometime in those early weeks, I became furious with my wife.  How could she, knowing how amazing it is to have a child, knowing how fast and fierce and primal the love is, how could she say I can’t do it again? When I agreed that maybe just one baby would be enough, I didn’t know what I was giving up. But she has been through this before. She knew what she was asking of me, and she asked it anyway.  How could she? She didn’t answer.

I cooled off, and my hormones balanced out.  I still wanted another child, but I stopped being mad at my wife for being done.  She could not make herself want another child any more than I could make myself not want another child.

My confidence as a parent grew, and I found I can actually manage four kids on my own, while my wife works or has a late dinner. I make decisions about the older kids that I previously would have deferred to my wife. I love them more, and have more patience with them.  Bumby started sleeping, and I started getting my life back. I went back to work part-time, and found a work/life balance that works for me.  Bumby started walking, and talking, and making jokes. I went from staring at him adoringly, to interacting with him. The love grew. I got my hair cut, without Bumby in my lap. I left Bumby with the sitter so I could go to the 5th grade science fair with his big brother. I started planning our spring garden, now that I have a fun toddler to plant it with, instead of a baby who won’t be set down long enough for me to plant even one tomato plant. I became me again. But now, me with Bumby.

And you know what?  I can’t imagine having another baby. I sometimes would like to have an afternoon of baby Bumby back, where we just nurse and nap and I eat strawberries in the sunshine while he stares at his own hand. My pregnancy and our first year as a family of six were the hardest and most wonderful months of my life, and I will remember them forever. But I don’t want to do them again, and I don’t want to do them with another baby.  I am done, with one.  I am sure that I will still have my moments of longing, but in the main I am, shockingly, at peace with this.

Before Bumby was born, we were a blended family. A family, yes, but there always seemed to be shifting alliances — me on the one side and my wife and the kids on the other, or the adults on one side, and the kids on the other.  Various divisions. Bumby has brought us all together. We have gone from a collection of people, to a whole family. One family. We are all brought together by loving this little guy more than we thought we ever could. We don’t need another baby, because we are complete now. I don’t need another baby, because I had the baby I was meant to have. Thanks, Bumbs.

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one pink line, and the problem with maybe

This weekend, I got my period.  Again.

Friday, I was sure I was pregnant.  I planned to test on Saturday morning, because then we would have some time to revel in it before getting back into real life. How could I not be pregnant?  We used a different donor, the donor that we thought we were meant to have been using all along, but originally had not chosen because he was an open donor.  His numbers were much better!  I had the HSG test, and my tubes were clear.  My prolactin levels were down (still not in the normal range, but very close).  We timed it right, finally, for our two back-to-back inseminations.  I would surely be pregnant this time, lucky try number six.

There are lots of women who feel nothing, less than nothing, no pregnancy symptoms at all, before they are late.  So I could be one of them.

When I woke up Saturday, I knew I was not pregnant.  “Are you going to test?” my wife whispered.

“It’s going to say no. Give me just one more minute to hope.”  But I had to go to the bathroom, and eventually I couldn’t put it off any longer.  I set the test on the nightstand and put my head on my wife’s shoulder for three more minutes.  I was right.  It was negative.  I stared for a while at that blank, white space next to the one pink line before I got up and threw the test in the garbage. I crawled back into bed and cried, for kind of a long time.

This was the worst loss.  The other times, I knew it might not work.  I really, really thought this time would work.  I let myself read week 3 on Amalah’s zero-to-forty pregnancy calendar (and week 4, and 5).  I had a dream that I had a baby, and it was a boy, and BT was happy about it.  I avoided brie, and smoked salmon, and drank sparkling water, just in case.  I hoped.

On Sunday, I had the worst fucking cramps I have had in a decade, and got my period. I spent a good portion of the afternoon sitting on the couch with a heating pad, feeling sorry for myself.  I discussed Clomid with my wife and my sister, who is a consultant that works with pharm companies and knows things about drugs.  I talked with my wife about how long we would do this, and how hard it is on me emotionally.  We talked about Clomid, we talked about IVF.

The thing about not being pregnant, month after month, is that you start to think that it’s you.  I am starting to lose faith in my body’s ability to become pregnant without some further assistance.  I look at my lifestyle, and I think, maybe it’s because I refused to give up drinking.  Or even drinking coffee.  Maybe I should do more yoga.  Maybe I should not have skipped acupuncture. Maybe it’s all the late nights of work.  Maybe it was staying home to care for my son, and catching his cold.  And you know what? Maybe it is.  Or maybe it’s not.  I don’t really know.  I don’t know why I’m not pregnant yet.

In the end, we decided that we are going to try one more “natural cycle,” and I am going to really give it a go doing all the shit they tell you to do in books about fertility.  I am not going to eat crap that’s bad for me.  I am going to cut down to the four drinks a week they recommend when you are trying to conceive.  I am going to re-give up the second cup of coffee and the diet coke that has been sneaking back into my hands on the weekends.  I am going to do better with remembering both the prenatal vitamins and the B-6.  I am going to diligently try to get to bed earlier, even if that means no Downton Abbey for me.  If it works, so much the better.  If it doesn’t, then there are worse things than being super healthy for a month, and it will give baby a little head start on having a healthy mama, when I start the Clomid in March.

feelings, and stuff

Obviously, I am not pregnant, or you would have already had 13 posts between the end of the two week wait and now, with me gleefully holding positive pregnancy tests and over analyzing all the goings-on in my body.  No news is bad news, I guess.

December was our fifth try.  I realize in the world of trying to conceive, that is not technically a long time.  But we aren’t in the ordinary trying to conceive world.  We are in the fertility clinic world.  And five months is a long time, in that world.  I know that statistics are thrown around, which say that a normal, healthy, heterosexual couple can take a year to conceive.  But I can’t help but feel like those normal, healthy, heterosexual couples aren’t really trying all that hard for the first few months.  Like, I am sure, for example, that they are not getting ultrasounds to make sure they are ovulating, they haven’t had their hormones checked, they aren’t even necessarily peeing on sticks.  They’re just sort of having sex on day 14 and hoping for the best. We’ve really stepped it up a notch from there since day one.  You know?  Which makes the five months a long time.

Then I think about the months leading up to our first try, and I realize that we were meeting with the RE nearly a year ago.  And suddenly, the heart-wrenching devastation each time it doesn’t work seems a little more normal.  It’s sort of agony.

Also, as one of my friends pointed out, what kind of cruel trick of nature makes you find out you are not pregnant and HAVE YOUR PERIOD AT THE SAME TIME?  I am already an irrational, weepy mess when I get my period.  Then nature was like, I know, this is the totally perfect time to let this person know she is not pregnant.  When she’s a fucking walking train wreck and has house guests.  Good idea, nature.  Although, technically, nature did not force me to have house guests when I got my period, but still.  Nature knew they were there, and let me not be pregnant anyway.  So I had like 15 minutes to silently weep in my room before getting dressed, blowing out my hair and going to Cafe Wha with what felt like 900 in-laws.

Which, I guess, is what led to the New Year’s Day Explosion, where I broke down the door of our bedroom.  I hate New Year’s in general, but everyone was finally gone, and the kids were at their father’s for the day.  So, I was all “YAY, we have a day to ourselves, let’s watch football on TV and order pizza and stay in pajamas all day.”  And the Wife was all, “We can’t, it’s our friend’s birthday and we said we would shower ourselves and go to her house for a party.”  Why, why, why do we have to have friends at times like these? Friends with birthdays even. Ugh.

So we decided that, since we were getting out of bed anyway, we might as well clean up some of the Christmas that was all over our house, and my wife let me know that she did not like the Christmas presents I got her.  Not any of them.  The sweaters were too casual, and also like one she already had, etc., etc. with all the other presents too.  She didn’t hate the presents, she just didn’t like them.  So could she exchange them, please?  Which is totally rational, but anyway caused me to flip the fuck out.  It was like some kind of angry animal was unleashed in our house.  I was a screaming, sobbing, mess of feelings.  All wild and negative feelings, like angry and sad and miserable.

Wife was kind of, shall we say, overwhelmed by the strength of my reaction to a request to exchange a sweater at the Gap, and went into our room.  In all honesty, she was pretty pissed at me.  You’re supposed to be gracious, I guess, when someone wants to exchange a present you got them, which I decidedly was not.  So she went into our room, and she locked the door.  Now, this is against the fighting rules.  Every couple has fighting rules, I think, and this is one of ours: We aren’t allowed to lock another person out of a shared space during a fight.  Partly because it’s so totally infuriating to be locked out of your own room, and tends to cause the fight to escalate.  Also, one of the loathed presents was in the room and I needed to get in there so I could examine it.  When I tried the knob and it was locked, I could have done any number of things; for example:  (a) asked her to let me in, (b) gone to sob on the couch some more instead, or (c) put my shoulder into the door as hard as I could and try to break it down.  I went with (c). I just football-style rammed my shoulder into the door, which, yes, got me into the room, but was also a totally insane thing to do.  I popped the trim off and split the doorjamb in half.  Shards of drywall went flying.  Without a word, I walked in and got the present, and just sat on the floor and stared at it.  “Um, you broke our house,” a small voice said from the other side of the room.

It was like the splitting doorjamb split open something inside of me, and all the real feelings came out.  Why couldn’t we have a baby?  And why did there always have to be so many people around that I didn’t even have one second to be sad about that, before I had to bop off to hear a cover band and make small talk?  And why, why, why on our one day at home, did we have to go to our friend’s house for her birthday, where there were going to be a bunch of other suburban women that totally intimidate me and make me feel weird for wearing a hooded sweatshirt that I have had since I was 16 instead of grownup people clothes?  It’s New Year’s Day!  I don’t want to wear grownup people clothes.  I am tired of being grownup people.  I am mostly, though, tired of putting on an act, and pretending I am fine when I am so totally not fine.

I don’t really know how to cope with the not being pregnant thing.  It’s not a concrete loss, that people understand.  I didn’t lose a baby, no one died.  It’s just a slow, slogging, low-grade kind of stress and misery.

So, then, I did what I had to do.  I cried for like 2 more minutes, then I pushed our non-baby out of my head, got in the shower, got dressed, and went off to my friend’s party and acted like a grownup.  Although I did wear the hooded sweatshirt from when I was 16 and drink Bud Light, so not a total grownup.  She is my friend, after all, and knew what she was getting into when she asked me to come.

late

This Saturday at noon, I was two days late. Maybe not by any normal calendar, but since I have started tracking, I realized that I always got my period precisely 10 days after I ovulated. Which meant spotting on Thanksgiving, period Friday. When that didn’t happen, I knew. I just knew I was pregnant. There was nothing, nothing there. It was the only explanation.

So my wife and I finished painting our son’s new bedroom, and packed up our car and drove to a small town in upstate New York. We walked around the town and looked in antique shops. We bought a coffee mug, and a $15 picture of a boat. We walked down to our inn and checked in. My wife handed me a pregnancy test, and I unwrapped it while I walked into the bathroom. I looked at her through the open door, as she sat there on the edge of the bed, looking back at me, holding the instructions that I already knew by heart. She read them aloud anyway.

When I sat down to do the test, there was blood. I threw the test into the trash, because I’d already opened it, and I cried. I crawled onto the bed and cried some more. I curled into the smallest possible position, completely inside my wife’s arms.

I have never had my hopes up like that before. I’ve always hedged, and knew there was a chance it wouldn’t work. I’ve never been two whole entire days late. The timing would have been perfect. I could have told my family in person, when they were here for Christmas. I would have had maternity leave during my favorite season. The baby’s birthday would have been nicely spaced away from the other kids’ birthdays. A million perfect stars, all lining up. Except that it didn’t work.