My husband and I have three boys, all two years apart like stair steps — ages 6, 4, and 2. I got pregnant when each son was 16 months old, so when my youngest turned 16 months and I wasn’t pregnant again, you can imagine the range of emotions I felt. I had no plans to be pregnant, in fact, I couldn’t be pregnant, and the realization that there would be no more babies was hard for me to fathom.
You see, pregnancy has been difficult for me. My last one ended with a 100-pound weight gain from gestational diabetes, which had me on more insulin than the nurses had ever seen. I also had hyperemesis, which landed me in the hospital once, and in bed for three months. It was bad, it was hard, yet I’d do it again for a baby.
But the clincher is that I also have anxiety and treatment-resistant depression. When I told my psychiatrist of my plans to get pregnant again, she was skeptical. She reeled off the drugs I’d have to stop taking, and that’s when I knew I’d never be able to have another baby. I’d never be able to get off those drugs without significant danger to myself, which meant giving birth to baby number four wasn’t going to happen.
Because you can set a clock by my ovulation — every 28 days — my husband and I have to take steps to prevent pregnancy. And every single time we do, my heart hurts. I want that baby; I want to have another baby.
I know that my arms aren’t even empty; I have a 2½-year-old who still wants to be toted around some of the time. But he isn’t the warm weight of a newborn, the sharp scent of a baby’s head, and the soft curl of floppy limbs. He’s growing quickly, my baby; he talks intelligibly and refuses all baby carriers. Soon he’ll hop on one leg, instead of two. He’s already learning letters. He’s too big, this walking, talking brute of a boy.
I know I should be grateful for what I have: three handsome, smart, funny sons. And I am. My 6-year-old reads at an astounding level and can tell you anything about extinct animals. My middle son draws intricate abstract pictures and gives the best cuddles on Earth, at least for now. And then there’s my baby — oh, my baby. They keep me busy; they make me laugh and learn and play.
But I still want another baby.
Not just another baby — I want another person. We feel incomplete with our party of five; I want there to be six, seven — even eight of us. I always pictured a large family, the way the kids would look out for each other and love each other and always have one another. Three kids isn’t a large family; three wasn’t my dream; three isn’t enough.
Of course, we can always adopt. And we will, eventually. Domestic adoption first, then, hopefully, foster care, once the kids are a little older and can understand the concept better. We’ll get there, one day. I know we will.
But I will never be pregnant again.
I will never feel the first flutters of a baby in my stomach; I’ve given that up. I’ve given up feeling a child kick and move and squirm later on, when they’re big inside you and lean against your hand. I’ve given up having a gorgeous belly again. I will never again wear the formal maternity dress hanging at the back of my closet. I bought it for my sister-in-law’s wedding, and I always kept it in case something else came up; nothing will come up now. I can sell my maternity clothes, the ones I carefully collected and curated over the course of three pregnancies; I’m done with them.
I will never give birth again. My mother will never come down to watch my kids while I go to the hospital. My dear friend, my OB whom I love, will never deliver another of my children. She will never coax me to push in place of a doula, will never be the first gentle hands to catch my child. She will never plop him down on my chest, and in a stunned stupor, I will never, as I did with every one of my children, manage a “Hi, baby.”
I grieve; I grieve my conditions, which make it impossible to get off my medications. I grieve the child, and the experience of bringing him here: the pregnancy, the birth. I grieve sleeping with six pillows and feeling him shift inside me. I grieve the feeling of being one, yet two. But mostly, I miss the baby, the child, the one who won’t be. I grieve that I have to make this choice. Because I’m still fertile, I feel isolated and alone in it. I hurt that it’s for the best.
But mostly, I just hurt.