It was barely two days in, and I was already feeling it. The year was 2012, and I had just returned from the hospital after giving birth to my baby boy and was surrounded by family. My brother and sister-in-law also recently had a baby, so it was a happy time for all of us. Or at least it was supposed to be.
I had a bleeding scare postpartum that I just could not get out of my mind. I was uneasy and exhausted. Most of all, I was worried about how I was ever going to manage parenthood with not just one, but two, children.
How would big sister Julia adjust to her new baby brother Owen? Would she be jealous? Or would she be so in love with him that I wouldn’t even have a chance to hold him myself? Perhaps Julia didn’t care at all and would rather spend her time with her own baby, the Dora the Explorer doll to which she had such an attachment. It was too early to tell, but either way, it was going to be hard.
I also wanted one more. Yup, just one. One more precious baby to love. While that may have seemed like a completely insane thought to have amidst all the chaos, it was 100% accurate.
I was only trying to be realistic. Already of “advanced maternal age” and a few months away from turning 39, the time to start trying for another was yesterday.
I remember the first few days of Owen’s life very well. He was cute and snuggly, big sister Julia was adjusting, and yet, I kept hearing that annoying sound in my ears: Tick-tock. Tick-tock. Time to make another baby.
After a few weeks, I was completely overwhelmed and noticed my heart couldn’t stop fluttering. I was nervous that I might have a medical issue and went to see my doctor who told me, although rare, postpartum women do run the risk of a certain heart problem. I was so flustered, I don’t even remember what he called it. But I do remember leaving the appointment thinking that I might die.
My attempt at reassurance from a professional had failed miserably. This appointment, which I was hoping would ease my mind, had me hitting rock bottom. I was struggling—mentally and physically.
What if having another was just not the best idea anymore? Would another mouth to feed completely break me? Was our family complete?
The sad reality was that no, our family would never ever be complete. And there was nothing we could do to change that.
In January of 2008, at the age of 34, my husband Brian and I found out we were expecting our first child. We were over the moon. Until that 20-week anatomy scan.
“I think we found a problem with the baby’s heart.” The words that would forever be imprinted in my brain. Our precious Liam was diagnosed in vitro with a serious heart defect named Hypoplastic Left Heart Syndrome.
He died on September 16, 2008 at only nine days old.
The grief I experienced after Liam’s passing was like nothing I had ever felt before. I thought I was going to die.
Slowly, I started to put one foot in front of the other and became pregnant with our rainbow baby a few months later. Julia was a joy and instrumental in my healing. By the time I found out I was pregnant with our third two years later, I had found the peace I thought I lost. But was I finally cured of my depression?
When I gave birth to Julia, I made the decision to go on medication to help with my mental health issues. It was the right choice, and I was able to enjoy motherhood while managing my anxieties.
Now, with Owen, and the passing of Liam four years earlier, I thought I had everything tackled. I had been off meds for a couple of years.
This time, I guess I didn’t make the right decision. On top of the pressure of wanting another baby while raising little ones, I was seriously breaking. I decided to let the clock tick-tock somewhere else and put it off. I also decided to go back on medication.
Suddenly, I was 40 years old and figured this had to be it. Another baby just wasn’t in the cards. However, my gut was telling me that just wasn’t the case.
I envied those who were “totally done” having babies and wondered when I would feel the same. When would the shop be closed, so to speak? When would I know for sure?
In recent years, having gone through endometriosis, losing an ovary and both fallopian tubes, I know it is biologically unlikely.
My son Owen, now 10 years old, continues to ask for another sibling. He feels it was unfair that he never got a brother, and it breaks my heart.
I know I am not alone. Throughout the years, I have encountered women who also have the constant sadness in their hearts—some due to loss and others infertility. For many of us, we will never truly feel as if we are “done.”
It is hard, but it doesn’t mean that life cannot still be beautiful. In grief therapy, right after the loss of Liam, a therapist told me that it was possible to experience both happiness and sadness at the same time. I didn’t believe her then. But I do now.