If I had a nickel for every time someone told me that I have my hands full, I would be filthy rich. I have three kids. In today’s world that’s apparently the equivalent of a small army. I’ve even been asked which one of my kids was the “oops” child. The most frustrating question for me is if I’m done having kids.
Here’s the thing. We’re done, but it’s a sensitive subject for me.
I’m telling you this story not to gain your pity, but because I’m not the only one with a situation just like this. I’m not the only one who walks away from that question with an aching heart.
Between my second and third child, we suffered a loss. At 8 weeks we saw that beautiful heartbeat flicker and a gummy bear shaped wiggle. Everything looked perfect, and we were overjoyed. We were blessed, again.
Considering it was my third pregnancy, I knew I’d grow quickly. I pulled out all of my maternity clothes and started sorting my son’s old clothes – elated to be thinking about sweet baby 3.0. I knew, without a doubt in my mind, she was going to be girl. We preemptively started a list of girl names, Charlotte topping the list.
At thirteen weeks my husband and I anxiously watched the ultrasound screen light up. We watched the technician put the gel on the wand. I graciously lifted my shirt and rolled down the top of my pants, eager to see the growth. Pregnancy is amazing that way; a couple of cells turned into an entire person in only a few short months. But Charlotte didn’t make it to term.
We knew something was wrong almost immediately. The tech, previously chatting our ears off, went cold and silent. There was no bouncing baby and no flicker. My heart sank to the floor
Our dear Charlotte would never take her first breath. She would never cry for me. We wouldn’t see her smiles nor hear her laughter. No first steps or first days of school. Only silence, devastation – loss.
My doctor was nothing short of phenomenal. She comforted me the best she could. She assured me Charlotte had felt no pain; then when we were ready, discussed the options we had to deliver her.
We chose to induce labor and deliver her at home. After all, a person is a person no matter how small. We sobbed through Hobby Lobby looking for just the right box, and went home to wait.
The medication worked as expected and I labored for several hours. I hemorrhaged. I should have gone to the emergency room, but my stubbornness won over. I just wanted to hold her, if only for a moment. My husband and I buried Charlotte together. We said goodbye to all the hopes and dreams we had for our sweet baby and returned home, solemn.
I was physically weak, and in emotional turmoil like I’d never experienced before. The loss of a child at any stage is devastating.
Time passed and the bleeding didn’t stop. Charlotte was gone, but the endometrium was not. I went through a D&C surgery, and then an infection followed by a second D&C when the placenta still held strong, leaving a chunk even post-surgery.
After two long months, it was over. I should have been relieved a delivery, infection, and two surgeries later. I wasn’t. I was just empty. A part of me was missing.
A few months later we decided to try one final time. We were blessed with another pregnancy. It was different now. I felt like I had been robbed of the joy. Every gas bubble terrified me. I checked for a heartbeat daily. I counted kicks and stayed on a strict diet of pregnancy-approved foods. I wrongfully blamed myself for Charlotte, and I wouldn’t be responsible for the death of another baby.
At 35 weeks I labored and delivered a perfectly healthy little boy. Somehow he avoided NICU time, even as a preemie. My rainbow baby made his appearance and I couldn’t have loved him more.
Immediately following delivery I had a bedside curettage surgery. Somewhere along the way my uterus decided to be difficult resulting in the placenta growing through the uterine wall. The condition is called placental accreta, and it’s potentially deadly.
Knowing this gave me my answer to what had happened with Charlotte.
Six weeks later my body healed and I returned to my beloved doctor for the go-ahead to continue on with life.
I’ll never forget her words: “It would not be wise to be pregnant again.”
IF I were able to get pregnant, there is almost no chance I’d make it to term. In addition, the placenta would likely grow through my uterus again. Considering the scar tissue from the last surgery, it could grow further and attach to other organs.
I would certainly need a hysterectomy at delivery, but even then, I could bleed out and die.
It was quite possibly the most sobering thing I’d ever heard. The risks were far too great. Our family was officially complete. In that moment I felt I’d been robbed again. This time, robbed of my decision to close those doors myself. It was the end of an era.
I’ve come to terms with our situation. I know how lucky we are to have three healthy children, and I don’t take for granted that privilege. I know not everyone is blessed with pregnancy or healthy births.
I suppose the point is simply this: everyone is fighting a battle you know nothing about. Women are especially vulnerable during childbearing years. Some don’t want children. Some want them more than they could begin to describe. Some, like me, are lost somewhere in the middle.
When someone asks me if I’m done having kids they remind me of that hurt. Suddenly the emptiness of Charlotte floods over me. The doctor’s words haunt me again. I smile and simply say, “We’re done.”
but behind that smile I’m crushed.
So I beg of you; next time you want to ask – simply say, “What a beautiful family you have,” and walk away. I’ll tell you my story when I’m ready.