None of my three pregnancies have been planned. My first was the result of a short-lived relationship following an awful breakup and a string of alcohol-infused nights. My second happened when my new husband and I decided to try natural planned parenting by tracking my cycles and eschewing other forms of birth control. Let’s just say that neither of us is a rocket scientist.
The news that I am pregnant with my third has probably been the most earth-shattering for me. Despite feeling settled with our combined family of four kids, and more in love with my husband than ever, the plus sign on the CVS pregnancy test broke something inside of me. The first dozen people I told about the pregnancy, including my husband, had to hear the news between wailing sobs.
I know that my life isn’t ruined. I know that I will never regret bringing this beautiful baby into our lives. I know that he or she will bring myself, my husband and my kids a world of happiness. This pregnancy may end up bringing us more joy than we ever could have planned. I’ve never had misgivings about any of those truths. I just had other plans for this phase of our lives.
In those first early weeks, as the shock weighed heavily on my shoulders, reminders of just how inconvenient this pregnancy and baby are going to be for me seemed to pop up at every turn.
I called my running friend and told her I would not actually be able to run the Chicago Marathon with her in October. Why not? I’ll be three weeks out from delivering a child. Talk about inconvenient…
I had plans of enrolling my soon-to-be-two-year-old in preschool a few mornings per week in the fall. That would give my husband and I, who both work mainly from home, a few hours of focused, quiet work time — and would give my inquisitive, intelligent daughter a chance to learn more than I can teach her at home. She will still benefit from it, at least.
My small business revenue goals, that are highest in the final three months of the year, will now need to be scaled down – just in time for the holiday shopping season. Inconvenient pregnancy. Again.
There is also no veil of naivety this time around. Any moms reading this probably remember the pregnancy euphoria from the first time around. Being a mom was going to be SOOO great, and perfect, and easy! Our firstborns were all going to eat on a schedule, sleep through the night early on, happily play independently, and never throw tantrums in public. OH! And they would never get colds, or ear infections, or fevers that meant we had to pick them up from childcare early. With my first, I anticipated challenges. I often think I over-anticipated them to the point that being a single, working mom DID feel easy — compared to the obstacles I had imagined in my mind. My oldest daughter was (and is) happy, independent, a good eater and a great sleeper too, which has helped.
With my second, I think I over-estimated my circumstances. I thought, “I’m married now, so I have help. I work at home, so my time is more flexible. I’ve been through this once before — how hard can it be?” And it was hard. REALLY hard. I was so busy patting myself on the back during the pregnancy for setting up everything perfectly for this child that I selectively forgot that at her birth, I was also going to have a 3, 4 and 5 year old at home — and that the income my family had come to depend on from me would disappear if I took too much time off. My little Erinn was a high needs baby who could not be set down, fought sleep with every ounce of her being, and needed mommy to nurse her every hour or so. In other words, she was a baby. One that needed my full attention. And once I adjusted my mentality to serving her in that capacity, my attitude improved. But it was still a tough time.
We’ve moved past those early, clingy days now. Since Erinn became mobile, she wants very little to do with my husband and I. Occasionally she climbs on our laps with a book and asks us to read it, but for the most part, she is happy playing independently or with her older siblings. The days of wearing her for 12 hours in a carrier seem like ancient history. I had just gotten to the point where I could actually smile about it and say “those were the days.”
I was content being past the baby phase for good, and was ready to focus on the elementary school grind, with a younger toddler in tow. I was ready to shed those final 5 pesky pregnancy pounds during my marathon training. I was ready to take on even more work and continue to earn more for my family so we can take more trips, improve our home and finally buy a vehicle that we can all fit in together. My mind and heart had decided that our family was complete.
The Path to This Pregnancy
So if I really felt that way — how did this baby come to be?
I stopped using Nuva Ring a few months ago. After several collective years of using it between pregnancies, I decided I didn’t like it anymore. I was experiencing mood swings and some headaches. I missed my window for using it one month, and then the next month had terrible cramps and spotting. I thought about the fact that since the age of 16, with a few small breaks, I had been continually taking birth control. Even though science says that is likely a health benefit to me, I started to get freaked out. How could something so unnatural be good for me? I started to drop hints to my husband that it was time for one of us to take the final step and make the decision to be done procreating. He kept putting me off, telling me that I was too young to know for sure yet, and that he would feel badly if I changed my mind later on. The conversation usually ended with one of us saying that we would talk about it more later on, perhaps after Erinn turned two in May. In the meantime, we would take precautions.
This baby happened at 4 a.m. on a Wednesday morning. For some reason, my husband and I were both half awake in our King size bed, no children between us. Drowsily, we snuggled close to each other and instinct took over. We both drifted back to sleep for another two hours. Later that day, I had to ask myself if I had dreamed it or if it had happened. I felt panic wash over me when all signs pointed to reality. I rushed to the calendar in the kitchen and counted two weeks, exactly, from my last period. It was probably okay though, I thought, my period had been late then and I was irregular by at least a few days since giving up the Nuva Ring.
I didn’t say a word to my husband, or anyone else, and tried not to worry in the coming weeks. I ran more than usual and went about my normal family, friends and work business. The date for my period came and went, but since my last cycle was five weeks, I wasn’t too concerned.
We celebrated my stepson’s seventh birthday and as he blew out his candles, I wondered briefly if perhaps he would get his biggest wish of all in the coming year: a brother.
That Sunday, four full days after my period was due, I went for a 10 mile run alone. I tried to push away any worries or thoughts about the possibility of a baby. It was tough. By mile 7, I had decided I would stop by the grocery store after the run and pick up some items for lunch — and, oh yeah, a pregnancy test too.
Back at the car, I hid the pregnancy test in my purse so my husband wouldn’t see it when he unloaded groceries. I walked inside my house and said I needed to pee really badly (which was true) and locked the bathroom door behind me. Two minutes later, all my worries seemed less paranoid — the truth was right in front of me, in the form of a purple plus sign. I was going to be a mother again.
I called my husband into our bedroom and started sobbing. I managed to get the words out and he held me for awhile while the tears flowed. He was happy, I could tell, but trying to hide it since I appeared to be so distraught. In the coming days, he didn’t say much but I could feel his pent-up joy filling the space between us. I made him swear not to tell a SOUL — not even his parents. I wasn’t ready to answer the swirling questions in my mind, and certainly not ready to answer those of other people. I told my running buddy the news, and she was ecstatic for me. I texted my college pal and was candid about my true feelings. She called me and sympathetically talked me off the ledge. I told my sister in law and apologized because just the week before she had mentioned wanting to try for her second. I told her that I wasn’t trying to steal her thunder and that I was really, really sorry. Like my other friends, she was thrilled to hear the news and had nothing but positive affirmation for me.
I told my mom, who immediately praised the Lord for the blessing of another grandchild.
My in-laws were coming to stay with us for a night so I told my husband, reluctantly, that we could tell them the news. See, we live in a house that they own. They live two hours away and we pay rent to them, but in the end, the house is their responsibility. Eventually, they will sell it (possibly to us) but in the meantime, we are the stewards. We do our best to keep it clean and maintained while both working and raising four children. We do a pretty good job, but it seems that every time they visit, they find another thing wrong that I have not yet noticed. Pen marks on the wall. A broken chair arm. An antique table leg with a dent in it (their table). A large amount of dust on top of a ceiling fan I had neglected for the past month. Dried food stuck in the microwave. Soap scum in the shower. The list goes on.
I tend to tense up when they come visit, even though I very much love their company and so do my kids and husband. I try to appear in control, and like a put-together wife and mother, when they are around but inevitably, something always goes awry and I look like a bumbling fool (in my own mind). I was nervous to tell them that we were accidentally pregnant… again. I didn’t know how they would respond to the news that another house destroyer would soon be around.
We told them in the driveway so the kids wouldn’t hear, and I sobbed (of course). Instantly, their faces lit up and they showered us with congratulations and gave both of hugs. I admitted that I was still adjusting to the news and my mother-in-law shared with me that she too was bummed about her surprise third pregnancy but that she can’t imagine life without that (now grown) child. I left for choir practice and by the time it was over, she had sent me a text reassuring me that everything was going to be fine and that I was an amazing mother. My father-in-law told me congratulations again when I saw him later that evening.
In the past 6 weeks since finding out, I have felt nothing but support and love from my friends and family. I’ve been sicker than my past two pregnancies combined and my husband has faithfully kept our house clean, our children fed and has run out to buy me whatever bizarre food sounded good in the moment. My friends, both near and far, regularly text, call or email me to see how I’m feeling and reiterate their excitement for me. My clients who know have showered me with compliments and happy wishes for the new addition. My kids, though they don’t know the official news just yet, have been kind and sympathetic when I haven’t felt well and brought me ice water when I asked.
I’ve finally started to look beyond the inconvenient pregnancy factor and see the gift of fertility for what it truly is. I’ve started to look past my own insecurities to what this child will mean on larger scale — to my husband, to my children and to the other people in our lives. My life has improved progressively for every new child that has entered it, biologically or through marriage, and I know that trend will continue. There are women who will wait their entire lives to be pregnant just one time and it will never happen for them. I’ve been blessed with three pregnancies — THREE — without “trying” much at all. That, in and of itself, is something to celebrate.
Only time will tell what impact this little one will have on our lives. Will Ferris finally get a brother? Will Erinn (who appears to HATE babies) warm up to her own sibling? Will we find a vehicle we can all be in together in time? What will my business look like in a year? What will my husband’s work responsibilities look like in a year? Are we all going to fit in this house??!
The answers will all come with time, along with a lot of other blessings we know nothing about yet. When I leave my littlest at the Kindergarten door, those “inconvenient” years of early childhood will seem like a flash in the pan and I won’t be able to remember what my life was like before him or her. My children are my greatest joy, my best friends and my fellow travelers through life. Adding one more to our tight-knit group will just make the journey that much more interesting.
As my dad often says when all of his kids and grandkids are assembled in one room, “My cup runneth over.”
Indeed. And I welcome the overflow.
All photos courtesy of Amy Straka Photography
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Tags: combined family