I’m the type of person that doesn’t take no for an answer. When I set goals for myself, I achieve them. I make things happen. So when something happened in my life that I had absolutely no control over, it was a hard pill to swallow. Even worse? The “no” was no more kids.
In 2011, I gave birth to Eleanor nine weeks early due to HELLP syndrome, a very extreme form of preeclampsia that occurs in approximately 0.2–0.7 percent of pregnancies. The mortality rate of this medical condition is as high as 25 percent. After some severe pain in the upper right side of my abdomen, I saw my midwife and had blood work done at the hospital. My platelet count was nearly zero and the doctors were amazed I was still standing. One said to me, “I’m surprised your co-workers haven’t found you on the floor of your office” (due to seizure, stroke or…worse).
The diagnosis led to Eleanor being delivered by emergency c-section just a few hours after my test results came back. Overall, we were both as healthy as we could be, considering. When I was having trouble breastfeeding, a lactation consultant told me not to stress. “Your body went through a trauma. It wasn’t saying, ‘start making breast milk’, it was saying ‘I’m dying’.” That really put things into perspective.
I spent a week in the hospital, and Eleanor had a five-week stay. We both came out of it happy and healthy. And after all that, you’d think I wouldn’t want another one, right? Wrong. Having Eleanor actually made me want more kids. I didn’t want her to grow up without a sibling.
At first I received the advice that more children wouldn’t be the best idea, but I continued to research. I made an appointment at my fertility clinic (that helped my hubby and I conceive Eleanor, quite easily). My doctor, whom I adore and trust completely, said a second pregnancy wasn’t out of the question. He scheduled an appointment for me to meet with a high-risk obstetrician for a second opinion. She, too, told me that while I would have to be monitored closely, a second pregnancy was only slightly risky.
And so, late in 2013, we made the decision to give it a try. I wasn’t scared, not even slightly nervous. However, I kept my appointments and treatments a secret, not wanting to worry our family. Plus, I didn’t want the extra pressure put on us while going through fertility treatments. “How is it going? Are you ovulating? What did the doctor say? Why aren’t you pregnant yet?” Those were questions I didn’t want to hear.
I began fertility treatments – just some meds to help me ovulate, same as my first pregnancy. With Eleanor, I basically took five pills (Clomid) and was pregnant. I assumed it would be just as easy this time. But it wasn’t. Things didn’t happen during our first round. Then nothing again in the second month, or the third. I was having never-ending ultrasounds, injections and blood work, usually at 7:00 am so I could get to work on time. Still, I wasn’t really stressing. I figured it would happen eventually.
By round four, we opted for insemination. Then again for round five. And then round six. And still nothing happened. This was definitely a blow – emotionally and financially. Everything looked good – eggs, uterus, tubes, sperm. But we still had no luck. The next option was IVF, but the risk of multiples made me nervous (multiples could be very, very dangerous for me and my condition), never mind the $10,000 price tag attached to the procedure.
So I stopped.
This was a tough decision. It’s so easy to say, “Just one more time…just one more time.” I had to make the call. When I decided to give up on the dream of baby number two, it was a relief and also heartbreaking.
At the same time I was coming to this decision, my cousin was close to delivering her first daughter. We are very close and I was over-the-moon happy for her. I visited her in the hospital after the very adorable Lilly came into the world. Their hospital room was next door to the one I stayed in when I had Eleanor. The smell and sounds of the hospital, and holding that beautiful girl in my arms led to a complete emotional breakdown in the car on the way home with my mom. I hadn’t planned on telling her what I had gone through. But seeing the new baby really brought all the emotions out.
After a much-needed cry, I told my sister and dad in the following days. It felt good to let everyone know what we’d been up to for the last year.
The thing is, I’m not upset for me – I’m sad that Eleanor won’t know what it’s like to have a sibling (or, maybe even first cousins). The thought of having Lilly in the family is very comforting to me. I know that those two girls will grow up together and will be able to turn to each other.
I had held on to so much of Eleanor’s baby stuff and now I am happy to pass them on to Lilly. The office and spare room in our home had never been decorated in hopes of one of them being turned into a baby room, but now we are starting to redecorate.
We will be just fine, our little family of three (six if you count our two dogs and fish). But fair warning: Eleanor is going to be one spoiled little girl.
As a footnote, I’d like to add a list of things that you should never say to a woman who is trying to conceive. Wait. I should correct myself. Never say these things to any woman, ever. You don’t know what she is going through. Reproducing is her business, not yours.
1. “So now that you’re married, when will you get pregnant?” This bride may never want kids or may not be able to have kids. Don’t ask.
2. “Kid X is getting older—now’s the time for baby number two!” Luckily, no one ever said this to me. Just because baby number one is over the age of two, doesn’t mean the parents are ready for a second. Or WANT a second one. They may be battling infertility issues. Or not getting along. Or having financial trouble. Never put that pressure on a woman.
3. “It’s just not the right time./Everything happens for a reason.” If you’re trying to conceive, these words are of no comfort. You tell me—what IS the reason I’m not getting pregnant? If you can offer sound, logical reasoning, I might listen.
4. “There’s always adoption.” Guess what? There isn’t always adoption, especially when it comes to babies. It takes years, money and patience. And for some women, it just isn’t the same.
5. “At least you have Kid X.” Yes, I am grateful to have Eleanor, but I want another one. That doesn’t make me greedy. Not being able to have two is (almost) the same as not being able to have one. It still hurts.