What A Girl Wants

January 27, 2010

My husband had a vasectomy last year. There was a lot of discussion around it – another baby would not have been unwelcome, and so I wasn’t eager to close off the possibility – but we both knew that it would be madness for me to risk repeating the more or less pretty awfully terrible anxieties and stresses and mental and physical health concerns that I endured in my pregnancy and delivery and post-partum experience with Jasper. “You can’t go through that again,” my husband said, repeatedly, last spring. “We can’t go through that again.

He was right, of course. The pregnancy with Jasper wreaked havoc on my mind and body, as did his birth, as did the post-partum aftermath of that pregnancy and birth. In many ways, I’m still recovering. But still, I have moments in which the loss of the possibility of another pregnancy, another birth, another baby weighs so heavily upon me that it’s difficult to breath, in which the closing off of that future feels a little bit like heartbreak.

It’s a visceral, irrational thing, this feeling – a little bit like thwarted puppy love, like an unrequited crush – I know that I don’t need to have this desire fulfilled, I know that it’s probably better for me to not have this desire fulfilled, I know that the reasonable thing, the rational thing, is to reject this desire and put it in its place, but that knowledge is powerless, in those moments when that knowledge doesn’t stop the desire from pulsing and aching and drowning out everything but the want.

(I think about what we would name this child, I ruminate over whether Emilia and Jasper would prefer a little brother or a little sister or whether they’d care, I push aside the anxieties around another difficult pregnancy and birth and think about that feeling of fullness, I think about how we’d need a new vehicle, perhaps a new house, and then I think about how we couldn’t really afford it, anyway, and about how hard the depression was, this time around, and, really, we had a vasectomy, so it’s moot, this issue, and it’s all for the best anyway.)

And I have another moment, and I think: Beatrice. Oliver. Olivia. Alice. Theo. And my heart flutters, a little sadly.)

I don’t know whether, in those moments – and they are only ever just moments, sometimes protracted, sometimes not – what I’m yearning for is another baby, or just for the possibility of another baby, for fertility and promise and the experience of knowing that my body can do this, that it can grow and nourish and bring forth and nourish new life. I don’t know. I do know that when I look at my children I feel grateful and whole; I look at them and I don’t feel any lack, I don’t feel that anything’s missing, I know that we are complete as a family and that everything about us is good.

But then I have these moments, these utterly destabilizing moments of want and I’m confused. Just, confused.

Does this ever happen to you? How do you make it stop? Do you want make it stop? Or do you just keep your running list of baby names and make it a little game make-believe where you pretend that you have infinite abilities of baby-making and infinite resources for baby-sustaining and you can have as many or as a few babies as you like and you never wreck your body and you never get depressed and your boobs are glorious, resilient fonts of nurturing liquid gold that never ache or scab and you just get to live out the fantasy of motherhood as it never, ever is and then you have a shot of vodka? Or what?

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    { 146 comments }

    Heather January 29, 2010 at 1:42 am

    It happens to me. All the time. I always wanted “a few” kids. I was never sure exactly how many, but things haven’t worked out that way… I have one, perfect, healthy 7 year old… we lost 2 after him, then got divorced. I’m 1 year divorced, and approaching my 35th birthday rather quickly. I’m starting to (TRY) to accept that my son may be an only child. I say it outloud, a lot, to make myself used to it. But, my heart, and my womb literally ache for another child…. of course, that would involve the man of my dreams making an appearance, and I’m pretty sure he took a wrong turn and got lost ;-)

    mamaspeak January 29, 2010 at 4:57 am

    You put into words so well what I’ve been feeling for so long. My husband was all ready to “get the snip” 6 weeks after our 2nd child and I said to hold off. I couldn’t articulate why except to tell him to read DGM’s post on “the snip” and say it scared me. But really it was more that it was just so final.

    I’m 41, so it’s not realistic. I’ve had serious back problems since my 3yo was 6mo old. She’s a handful (snort, that’s an understatement) and if I had another like her I’d be in my grave in a couple months. I KNOW all that.

    My family is perfect. We have two smart, beautiful, perfect children. I don’t long for a boy (we have 2 girls) in fact, I fear that I’d get a boy, I love the experience of my girls so much, I want another. I ache for another. I want so much to be pregnant again. To have that experience and savor it. (I had wonderful pregnancies & deliveries.) To be able to nurse another tiny baby in the middle of the night & smell the top of her head with that new baby smell and snuggle with her while we rock. I want it so bad I can smell it.
    I shouldn’t want it, but I do.
    .-= mamaspeak´s last blog ..Rite of Passage — The Haircut =-.

    wm January 29, 2010 at 9:32 am

    You’ve portrayed the tension between our mammalian instincts (focused on unhindered reproduction) and our logical minds very well. It’s a difficult tension to deal with. But I guess I try to remember that it’s evolution speaking through you.
    .-= wm´s last blog ..Lessons from Nurture Shock =-.

    The Queen of Hyperbole January 29, 2010 at 10:41 am

    I think about this all the time. Intellectually, I know that another baby makes no sense, but romantically, I want one. My guess is that it’s biological, this desire to keep on procreating.

    Catherine January 29, 2010 at 2:14 pm

    I am 44, mother of one five-year-old, and leaving in a few minutes to go see my friendly old fertility doctor to talk about donated embryos. That’s how crazy I am. My son was IVF at 39. Had two miscarriages when he was two and three. Thought we were done. Adoption started rearing its head. I tried to push it away. We have no money, no space, our kid is wonderful in every way. Had horrible post-partum depression after his birth, which challenged my marriage. We are fine now.
    But the baby-hungries, they are like drums in my heart. My husband is not exactly excited to have another, could not deal with adoption, it turned out primarily because of not being sure of prenatal care. So, embryo donation? I’m looking into it.
    Probably we won’t end up doing it. We are older and our finances are now stable, but only just. Not a lot of space. It’s crazy.
    But I hold my neighbor’s newborn in my arms and it’s like coming home. I can’t describe it.
    I’m crazy, but it’s time to go to the fertility clinic now, so I’ll stop.
    .-= Catherine´s last blog ..Independence, inter-dependence =-.

    Erin January 29, 2010 at 5:15 pm

    I just wanted to say that I’m pregnant with #2 and I’m *already* second-guessing our decision to have only two. We found out the sex of the baby on the ultrasound a few weeks and somehow finding out made things shift inside me – it was like, wow, this is my family, this is it, no more wondering, no more surprises. It made me feel empty in a way I would not have imagined, and I started thinking – maybe we could have three . . .But the fact is that we can*not* have three. I had hyperemesis in both pregnancies, and the second has been way worse than the first – the debilitating vomiting/dehydration, trips to the ER, fear and anxiety and severe depression were crippling – I almost went on short term disability because I couldn’t get out of bed for weeks. My husband said no more, we can’t go through this again. And I agree. But. . .

    Mary Stewart January 29, 2010 at 6:17 pm

    I think I will always want one more no matter how many I had. We have two, one of each, and my husband had a vasectomy when our daughter was six months old. That was always our plan. When we first started dating and talking about things like this, I wanted three, he wanted one so we settled on two. But I do hope for a happy accident every once in awhile. I even told my husband last month that if I was pregnant and it was a girl I wanted to name her Grace. This is how I manage to deal with it, and I mean JUST ME, I know that just ONE more would never be enough. I know that no matter how many I had I would always want one more.It might sound crazy but it helps me. I am completely aware that I am going to feel like this forever and I am alright with that.
    Love your stuff :)
    Mary

    Susan January 29, 2010 at 8:39 pm

    You hit the nail on the head for me!

    I just had a tubal ligation done in December for a lot of reasons (health, finances etc…..). My kids are almost 6 and 4. It took me 3 1/2 years to get to the point of being okay with it, I agonized over that decision. Now that there is closure and there isn’t a huge possibility of an oops, I am REALLY okay with it. Sure I think we’ll all wonder what another baby would be like etc….its human nature and biology (I agree with that!).

    So with that in mind (knowing that it IS human nature), I am choosing to do my best to enjoy the AWESOME kids here with us now.
    My mom always said “look forward and not back” and that is what we do our best to do.

    Sierra Black January 29, 2010 at 9:25 pm

    My husband and I recently decided that we’re done having kids, though we haven’t done anything to make that decision permanent yet.

    I felt (feel?) a little conflicted about it: I love kids, I love my kids, I always pictured myself having a big family, I’m young and had healthy pregnancies and relatively easy births…

    I know a lot of women in their early forties who regret not having more children, or feel bitter that their husbands said no when they wanted more.

    I really do not want to wind up there in ten years. But. There’s so much more I want to do with my life. Right now, and hopefully going forward, I’m just focusing on alll the great things I can put my energy into now that I’m not pregnant or caring for an infant for the first time in six years.

    I get to sleep at night. I can work for money, do stuff I love. I can have ENTIRE CONVERSATIONS. I can read books. I can travel.

    This is running long, and deserves it’s own post later. But I just wanted to say that I’m finding a lot of freedom in being done with babymaking, even though I’d have been happy to have more babies.
    .-= Sierra Black´s last blog ..Choosing a Greener Life Together =-.

    Life with Kaishon January 30, 2010 at 11:26 am

    Good morning. I am visiting from the blog awards today. Congratulations on your nomination.

    I can’t imagine what you are feeling or experiencing. I imagine that is very difficult.

    My husband keeps saying he isn’t ready for a baby yet. This makes me nervous as I am VERY old (As in 33) : ) I long for a baby and pray that this is the year I will get pregnant!
    .-= Life with Kaishon´s last blog ..All you need is love… =-.

    sixis January 30, 2010 at 2:51 pm

    I was so sad when we decided to stop. We stopped at 2, mostly because my second was born when I was almost 41. Saying goodbye to the possiblity of a third was traumatic, no matter how sensible/realistic, etc. it was. Having had two pretty healthy kids at 36 and 41, I was pushing my luck to try again at 43. [And yes, I know just how incredibly fortunate I am to have conceived them at all.] I just couldn’t take the risk of a bad outcome for their sakes. I know a lot of people would disagree. But I know that I wasn’t strong enough. Good luck. It’s tough, but it does get easier. Envisioning life with both kids in school, no diapers, no teething issues, eventually no sitters for dinners out. Sort of a nice consolation.

    Accidents January 30, 2010 at 9:26 pm

    So above? I commented about strangely entertaining ideas of another child very recently despite it being totally out of character for me? And I joked, “am I about to get my period back, or something” (been breastfeeding for almost a year).

    Well, yeah. I got it back. TODAY. These effing bodies, I swear. Who is in control here?
    .-= Accidents´s last blog ..What was wrong with me. =-.

    kim January 31, 2010 at 12:45 am

    I’m done. I spent the first five months of this year in major angst, trying to process the fact that I was only going to have one child (we were unemployed, no money for fertility treatments, much less reaing the kid, I was 43, etc.) I worked hard at it (and firmly believe it is a form of grief, and that there would always be moments when it hurt) when blammo, I got pregnant. 3 days before our insurance expired.
    This pregnancy was far easier than my first, but I still spent the entire time saying, never again. Sometimes it was because I felt like crap, sometimes to remind myself to pay attention. I will miss feeling the baby move. Everything else? Not so much.
    I’m 44, this last girl has a chromosomal abnormality (very minor, but still) and I have the family of four I’ve always wanted. I may wonder what a son would be like, but I don’t think I’ll yearn for one. I’m excited to have Hubs get the snip.

    phoenix January 31, 2010 at 2:57 pm

    margaret kay, because in the fantasy world in which my body and brain and lifestyle and sanity and two bedroom home can handle another baby, i get to choose to have a girl.

    lizneust February 1, 2010 at 12:08 am

    I read this days ago, and started to cry. It cut just too close to home.

    So here goes. I have been pregnant four times but I only have 2 children. Each of them was a wanted child. The first pregnancy was the one that still makes me cry when I least expect it. I was 17 weeks pregnant – going for the big sonogram to find out if it was a boy or girl. We were so excited – out of the woods and into the second trimester. I’d stopped being sick. They said it was a good sign being so sick. We were completely unprepared for the “I’m so sorry.” It was a boy, and no one knows why he died.

    My second pregnancy was our eldest daughter. She was conceived just before the first baby would have been born. I would have never met this amazing little girl – we just celebrated her 6th birthday today. She is so wonderful, and funny and awesome. I cannot imagine never meeting her. But I still mourn that little boy. Even though I couldn’t have had him and the goofball who sings Abba off-key.

    My third pregnancy was pretty uneventful, although I started having really painful back spasms. After my second daughter was born, we weren’t sure what we wanted to do. We’d always talked about three. When she was 2, we decided to go for number three.

    I got pregnant so fast the 4th time. We were overjoyed and cocky. The day before my first OB appointment, I miscarried. I was sad, but we could try again, right? Two weeks after the miscarriage, my back quit working. Three bulging discs, 12 months of hard core physical therapy, and a fleet of doctors telling me that another pregnancy wasn’t a good idea.

    So I mourn that baby, too. The one who wasn’t even a sonogram picture, and the one who had countable arms and legs. But I also mourn the possibility of future children I am not going to have. That third child I am never going to have – a boy? a girl? And I imagine them – all three of them with my two girls – running around our house and making noise.

    You’re not alone.

    haley February 1, 2010 at 2:18 am

    I remember coming home from the hospital with my daughter, now 2, sitting down in her nursery and crying because now she would start growing up. The day she was born, I started grieving the loss of her babyhood. Now, I’m starting to feel twinges for a second, but I think, ‘the sooner I have a baby, the sooner it will grow older and I’ll be sad that I don’t have a baby again.’ How psycho is that?

    Trenches of Mommyhood February 1, 2010 at 8:04 pm

    This feeling I know all too well. As the mother of 3 boyz, I will always, I think, yearn for the little girl I never had. Her name would be Lydia.
    .-= Trenches of Mommyhood´s last blog ..Are You Google-able? =-.

    Stephanie February 2, 2010 at 9:42 am

    Wow.

    I am so incredibly glad I found your blog, and so surprised that I haven’t before. I have a 10 month old named Jasper, and he surprised us by coming 2 months early, at 31 wks, 5 days. His birth was beautiful, but also terrifying, and the doctors who were there didn’t help.

    My husband had a vasectomy, in part because of our experience and in part because Jasper was born with a form of thrombocytopenia, which would repeat in any subsequent births. We’re actually still dealing with it–we have an appointment with a new hematologist for him today. I recently wrote about the daughter we’re never going to have (http://www.casadekaloi.com/2010/01/this-bird-has-flown.html)..and..I don’t know. I understand where you are coming from.

    I’m so glad to have found you.
    .-= Stephanie´s last blog ..what we’re doing tomorrow =-.

    Mary @ Holy Mackerel February 2, 2010 at 10:39 am

    Such a difficult thing. I too have gone through this over the past few years. My two children are now older, but I still think about the possibility of having a third, although I’m now entering menopause. There is still a part of me that wishes I had gone for it, had the third, instead of hesitating because hubby said he was done, that two was enough.

    Milissa February 2, 2010 at 3:13 pm

    I guess I am a bit of the “odd woman out” in this discussion, but I can honestly say that I have zero desire to have another child.

    We have a son who is 2.5 and is (mostly) a joy. He sleeps and eats like a champ, he’s smart and lovely and just generally wonderful. People are always telling us that we should have another. Don’t you just love people?

    Back when my husband and I were discussing whether to have kids, we “decided” that we wanted none or two, not one. So we got started and had Kid #1…and neither one of us ever got the urge, desire, or “pull” to have Kid #2. I have tried to picture our family down the road, with another child, but that picture just won’t come to mind. I can only ever picture the three of us. For us, the old adage about just knowing when you are done having kids is 100% true.

    Crystal West February 7, 2010 at 11:45 pm

    Gosh I feel the exact same way. Horrible last pregnancy, complete placenta previa, vertical uterine incision. I was urged to have my tubes tied but in that moment on the operating table I couldn’t do it. Now, 18 months later I am scheduling my husbands vasectomy with that same running list of baby names going through my head. I know it’s best for me and my family but still…

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