When you know, absolutely know, that this baby is your last, every joy and every blessing can be two-edged, a mix of grief and pain and guilt and love so strongly felt that it’s painful.
It has been a hard, hard year. The initial euphoria of holding my miracle baby gave way to the reality that I would never again experience all of the terrible and wonderful stages of life-giving: the morning sickness, the growing belly, the kicks, the hiccups, the kid-at-Christmastime anticipation of knowing that tomorrow is the day that you’ll meet your baby, the moment when you first see him or her, the nursing, the…the everything.
It is so beautiful.
It is a transcendent gift, this life-giving.
And it is so much more fragile and uncertain than I ever realized.
Acceding to my doctors’ recommendations that I have a tubal ligation done during my cesarean was, as I had prayed, an abundantly clear decision given the state of my uterus and abdominal cavity.
But even so, I have been mired in a morass of grief and guilt and uncertainty and the feeling that I was too young to have this stage of my mothering over with and the feeling that I couldn’t bear it if I were to never again hold my own baby in my arms.
On Toni’s first birthday, I cried all alone in the van, thinking over and over again to myself, I’ll never have another baby under a year old!, and, when I weaned her a little over a week ago, reluctantly but because I needed to to be able to begin to support my sagging emotions and mental state, I burst into tears on a date with Jarret and at home and so many other times, finally giving myself over to mourn the fact that the one mothering thing I did well, this nursing thing, was done and never coming back.
I’m feeling better now; I think I hadn’t let myself mourn the loss of my fertility that entire first year, choosing instead to drown those negative feelings in ice cream and mind-numbing entertainment and obsessive house projects, but now that I have tried to clean up my eating and removed ice cream as an option, I’ve had no choice but to feel the feelings and I cried more about ending nursing in a week than I did the entire first year of Toni’s life. And that’s been a good thing.
I will never know if I could have had more beautiful babies like Honoria and Antonia, babies healthfully brought almost to term despite the concern of my doctors. Maybe I should have had more faith. Maybe I robbed myself and my family by giving into fear. Maybe I would have died in my next pregnancy, robbing my husband and five currently existing children of a wife and mother.
But, even in the worst-case scenario, even if I have made a mistake, God is with me. Regardless of the might-have-beens, He is good. And if it weren’t a mistake, but simply one of the hard things in this life, He is with me. And one thing I am waking up to after fourteen months of fog and grief is that I have six beautiful people in front of me—a wonderful husband, five amazing children. And they need me back and normal and healthy and happy and ready to nurture and serve them and to be grateful to God that I have been given so much more than most in this world.
There’s always grief in the feminine experience of fertility in the life of a woman, whether she is single and her biological clock is ticking or married and struggling with infertility or miscarriage or the loss of an older child or having her last child, whether it be first or eleventh. And there is, alternatively, hardship in the blessing of fertility as an overwhelmed mother learns she is to be blessed with a sixth child when she’s hardly started healing from the nutritional and emotional tolls of her five previous sweethearts or the woman who deals with postpartum depression or hormonal imbalance after each pregnancy, as I have. Or the mother with a child estranged or addicted.
It’s never easy, this life, is it? I’m thankful for the few to whom I’ve entrusted my story this year, like when I cried talking to Cheryl in Panda Express and across the lunch table at Holly’s house and when I should have cried in the nursery with Carrie, but, you know, I was at church and it would never do to emerge with red eyes looking like a weirdo. I hope that from now on, I can be as real in person as I wish to be on here, showing my weakness and allowing others to do the same. Because it is the only way forward.