Now that Kitten has turned two, we get a lot of comments about whether or not we’re “going for 3”. This question frustrates me for so many reasons. Mainly, it’s rude and it’s not anyone’s business. The person making these seemingly innocent comments has no idea that they could be opening as huge wound for the person they’re asking. My go-to response to these people is “we’re done with two”. Then the person will typically joke and say “you never know, accidents happen”. Again, how is this any of your business, even if you are a well meaning acquaintance or colleague? Then I say, “we’ve taken steps to ensure an accident won’t happen”. Sometimes even then people will tell me about their friend’s cousin Joe who was born after his father had a vasectomy. At this point in the conversation I just about lose my shit and try as delicately as I can to say “I’ve been told that it would be dangerous to my health to have another child”. That usually shuts them up.
As I said in my bio blurb, I had horrible pregnancies and excellent labors. That’s the short version of the story. Here’s the longer version.
During my pregnancy with Lovey I had a handful of annoying complications: morning sickness, heartburn, migraines, sciatica, and oddly post-nasal drip. I assumed most of these would occur because I had been a good doobie and read all my pregnancy books. The nasal symptoms were by far the worst and most irritating but no prescription or homeopathic remedy did anything to ease the symptoms. I was told that the only thing that would resolve the issue was giving birth. Sure enough, and hour after Lovey was born I could breathe through my nose.
When the time came for my pregnancy with Kitten I naively thought that I would be healthier the second time around specifically because I was now gluten free. Silly Cora. My second pregnancy was miserable. Not only did I have the same annoying complications of the first pregnancy including the post-nasal drip but I also had: plantar fasciitis, asthma, hemorrhoids (everybody’s favorite pregnancy symptom), and repeated illnesses. During my pregnancy Lovey brought home a strain of viral bronchitis that Honey and I got. The problem was, I never got healthy after the first illness. The bronchitis turned into pneumonia and once that finally cleared up, I had three sinus infections in succession. I am the only person I know who has been put on bed rest during pregnancy not because of the pregnancy, but because of illness. While no one is quite clear why I was so sick it is clear that there is a direct link between increased estrogen (as in pregnancy) and inflammation and immune vulnerability. There are fancy scientific studies about this link that can be found here, here ,and here. One of the doctors in my practice explained to me that for some women pregnancy decreases their immune systems and they are then at increased risk for illness. This risk increases with each subsequent pregnancy.
My doctors worked together to try to find solutions to my illnesses that were safe for the baby and assured me all along that Kitten was developing normally and had no adverse effects of my issues, despite the overabundance of antibiotics and inhalant steroids I was taking. I was working a very stressful job at the time that didn’t help either. I took more sick days than I’ve ever taken in my life and had to have my work day shortened by an hour because the back and foot pain were so severe I had trouble walking. I was the sickest I have ever been. At one point I joked with one of the OBs that I didn’t think I should have any more kids because I feared the next pregnancy might kill me. He stopped what he was doing, looked me in the eye and said, “I don’t think another pregnancy would be a good idea.” Not exactly something you expect your doctor to say. Finally a few weeks after a fall on black ice at work at 34 weeks I tearfully requested that I get written out of work early. Permission was happily granted, although I remained sick until about a week before Kitten arrived. She was born perfectly healthy and still rarely gets sick I might add.
During that time I wrestled with feeling like I was supposed to enjoy the miracle of pregnancy more. I did consider my pregnancy a blessing but didn’t feel like I was allowed to truly express how awful it was. Everywhere I turned there were people saying “Oh, I loved everything about being pregnant”. Me: not so much. During my pregnancy I had a close friend who was struggling with many years of infertility and I couldn’t help but think how overjoyed she would be in my position. As a result, I kept a lot of my feelings about my pregnancy to myself. I think deep down I wasn’t totally honest with myself about how emotionally difficult my pregnancy was either. I certainly didn’t realize initially how upsetting it would be to be told by someone else that I was done having babies. Even though we were pretty sure we were done with two, Honey and I both had a hard time accepting the finality of our decision. I placed blame on myself that our family would not grow any larger. It’s something I still struggle with, especially as Kitten grows older and the itch for another baby intensifies. In my heart of hearts I know that we did the best for my health and safety. Even so, it still pains me every time someone asks “So, are you ready for another one?” If only it was that simple.