As my one-year-old daughter grew out of her clothes and I began to store them, I wondered if I should initial all the clothes that I loved best, so they would make their way back to me if we let someone else borrow them. But I couldn’t decide if I needed to.
Well, our second child might be a boy.
But wait…there might not even be a second child because secondary infertility is a real thing.
Do I even want a second child?
The questions were overwhelming, so I settled on keeping the clothes organized by month and season and letting that be enough.
I was filled with joy and enthusiasm when my daughter reached the milestones that other mothers call bitter-sweet. I thought it was excellent when she started to stand on her own and to feed herself. I celebrated her first words and the ability to entertain herself with no tinge of sorrow. I am eager for her to continue to grow up because it means we can all leave the baby days behind.
The truth is, her baby days, especially the early ones, hold no sweetness for me. When we came home, I was in excruciating, debilitating pain due to a 4th-degree tear. I didn’t have euphoric days of watching my baby sleep or snuggling her and taking whiffs of her newborn smell (I’m still not sure what that actually is). I was overwhelmed at the thought of her waking, and I hated that I had to sleep with the light on so that it would be easier for my mom and husband to prop the pillows around me so I could attempt to feed her without sitting upright on my “exit-wound.”
At four months my baby was sleeping through the night and eating like a champ. I was killing it at work and my smile reached my eyes again. But I still carried my pillow with me so I could sit down for longer than 10 minutes and I had a panic attack after hearing a friend’s traumatic birth story. My husband held me while I sobbed. “I can’t do it again. I don’t want to do it again. It can’t be that way again.”
I began seeing a counselor. The counselor helped considerably.
I know there are many factors that contributed to how extraordinarily difficult the first eight months of my daughter’s life were. I had a baby in December when the daylight hours were few, sickness is high, and the post-holiday blues leave everyone feeling disconnected. I know that many of those could/would be different if we were to try all of this again but, frankly, I’m scared. I’m sick-to-my-stomach-terrified when I think about having a newborn again.
I am profoundly aware of the high the costs of pregnancy and raising an infant. I lost personal space and opportunities for regular hygiene. I lost the ability to wear my favorite clothes and shoes. I lost nearly all of my modesty. I lost comfortable intimacy with my husband. I lost SO much sleep. I lost myself and didn’t know who I was for ten months.
And yet, I love my daughter, and I have gained things that are much more precious than what I lost. Personal space was replaced with tiny fingers clutching my shirt. My favorite clothes have changed to things I can run around with her in. Modesty is overrated, and I can now have pain free sex again (three cheers for that!). Things are definitely better, but I’m so scared at the thought of going back to that time, of losing all that we’ve gained back.
Tonight, I packed up my breast pump and all the bottles. I don’t know if I’ll be the one to unpack those things in the future. I don’t even know if I want to be the one to unpack them. I don’t have to have that answer today, or next week, or next month. I don’t have to make any final decisions, yet.
When we do make that decision though, I don’t want it to be made out of fear.
My perspective has changed so much with each month of this journey, and I know it’s likely that my feelings on this will change too. I sincerely hope I look back on this season five years from now with grace and understanding for myself. Perhaps I’ll be rereading this post with another adorable clone of my husband on my hip, or perhaps with just one long-legged kindergartner telling me to put my phone away.
Either way, I hope I continue to celebrate each milestone without sorrow.
Bio: Sabrena Deal is a wife, mom to a one-year-old, professor, photographer, and foster parent. She loves to read, hike and share good food with friends. She blogs (occasionally) at www.joshandsabrenadeal.wordpress.com