Something quite rare happened to me today. I had a conversation with my wife. For like 20 minutes. Uninterrupted. Well, it was sorta uninterrupted. All four of our kids were in tow, but we were at a playground, and for once they seemed relatively content without us. For the most part at least. Sure, we had to stop mid-sentence for the occasional refereeing. And twice, I allowed one of the triplets to use my shirt as a Kleenex. Regardless, there I was, carrying on the longest conversation I’ve had with Caroline in months, albeit while wearing two fairly impressive streaks of snot near my abdomen.
That conversation centered on Caroline’s current pregnancy and one word kept coming up. Complicated. Why? Because we’ve both found it hard to reconcile the joy that we’re experiencing with the other feelings that have accompanied that joy. And that’s a complicated thing, indeed.
We’re not alone. Rebecca Martin wrote an essay yesterday on Babble called “Dealing with an Unplanned Pregnancy” which detailed the complicated feelings which she experienced. And that’s exactly what we feel we’ve been doing to this point — dealing with our unexpected pregnancy.
After all, that’s what you do with things you don’t expect, right? You deal with them. And for Caroline and me, it wasn’t supposed to be like this. Already blessed with four kids, the only fifth we ever contemplated was the one full of bourbon that’s locked away in our liquor cabinet. And the only reason we weren’t more diligent about safeguarding against the prospect of having another child was because we didn’t think it was possible for Caroline to get pregnant without hormone shots to help her ovulate.
But, once we got passed the initial shock, we were both onboard 100%. And as such we thought the pregnancy would go like her other two. But then something funny happened — this pregnancy proved to be a lot tougher than we had imagined. And we’re pretty sure we know why. Getting excited about the pregnancy didn’t make the valid reasons why we never planned on having any more children magically disappear.
Most everyone would agree that a child’s toddlerhood is quite trying for the parents. And, simply put, our triplet toddlers have brought us to our knees. Throw in our 9-year-old (who is now officially an expert on everything) and our life is full. Far more full than the last time Caroline was pregnant. As such, my beautiful wife has found herself in an unusual predicament: one in which her pregnancy is not at all enjoyable.
I know. What pregnant is enjoyable, right? That said, whenever Caroline has been with child(ren) before, she’s wanted to be pregnant. But this time? At age 41 with four children? She doesn’t want to be pregnant. But she is. So here we are. Stuck between the miraculous joy over the imminent arrival of our fifth child and the valid reasons why we never planned for that fifth child.
And the spot in between is a complicated one — riddled with guilt, I might add. Especially when you factor in this little tidbit: given that conceiving is a challenge for us, we’re all too aware of how lucky we are — of how many couples would give anything to be burdened with such a “plight” as expecting a beautiful baby boy.
In light of all this, I suppose it stands to reason that Caroline has had a harder time than we had anticipated with this pregnancy — particularly the mental aspects of it. And while the mental difficultly is far more of a burden on her, it’s not exactly a picnic for me to watch the woman I love more than life itself struggle as she’s struggled.
You know what else is hard? Simply articulating all of this. Not just because of how aware we are that many couples would give anything to be in our shoes, but also because I realize that describing our feelings could open us up for comments like this one: “Boo hoo. If you didn’t want to have a child, you shouldn’t have gotten pregnant.” Or this one: “That’s great. Think how your child will feel if he ever figures out you didn’t want him.”
But, again, we never thought it was possible for us to get pregnant without help. And, we do want this child. Very much. It’s just that the pregnancy has been way harder than we ever imagined. So it’s not that we’re not thankful or excited. It’s just…complicated.
Martin’s essay centers around how her unplanned pregnancy made her lose fear of the unknown. Who would this child be? How would she make time for him? What types of sacrifices would he call for? Would the child impede on the “fun” things that seemed right around the corner for her two existing children?
Her essay was incredible, and I highly encourage you to read it. But Caroline and I have no such fear of the unknown. Once you learn you’re expecting triplets, you’d best lose that fear, for once your trio arrives, nothing is ever, again, the way you once knew it. So we’re okay with the unknown elements that are sure to come with giving birth to a fifth child who has four siblings, three of whom are 3-year-olds. We get it that we don’t get it.
We’re just struggling with the complicated emotions that this latest edition of the unknown has brought along with it.
Funny enough, I actually know someone who was an unplanned child. And, odder still, like our Grand Finale, he was the fifth child in his family. That someone is me. So Caroline and I can’t help but feel there’s a certain amount of fate that’s steering this boat. But fate doesn’t make everything else go away. It doesn’t make what we’re dealing with any easier.
But you know what will make things easier? The moment Grand Finale draws his very first breath. And that’s what keeps us going. That’s what makes us feel better whenever it dawns on us that we’re not reveling in this pregnancy like we did the last one. That we’re not enjoying the process that Caroline loved so much the two times prior.
Because at the end of it, we’ll get to hold a baby boy whom we never could have imagined even in our wildest dreams. And he’ll have an entire life in front of him. An improbable one. One that insisted upon being. One that was made possible by love. And by chance. A chance which, at least medically speaking, was so remarkably slim. And one day, we’ll never be able to imagine life without him. And that realization gives us chills.
So here’s to our Grand Finale, the wonderful little defiant miracle that he is. No matter how complicated and difficult waiting for him to arrive proves to be.