I always wanted five kids. Heck, I wanted a baker’s dozen at one point. I grew up with one sibling and always envied the other kids I knew with multiple brothers and sisters around the dinner table. I craved ‘the big family’ with loads of cousins and aunts and uncles in every corner.
My husband did not come to the table with the same big brood mentality. So, we settled on four when I was still pushing for five and he was aiming for three. Four sounded like a great number. Even, balanced, “enough but not too many” for us. Four can all fit in the same car, afterall.
So we had our first son, then our second, and just recently we welcomed our third baby – a girl! I wish I had known going into the operating room that day for my cesarean section that we’d be done, she’d be the last. At a blessed three. I wish I had known because maybe I would have decided to get my tubes tied while on the table. Maybe I would have felt differently. But what I felt that day was an immense amount of fear and anxiety, and a small sense of loss while redrawing the picture in my head.
See, when we had our first son, I had been in labor for two days before I required a c-section. There wasn’t time to think about how the two days of labor had risked both our lives in some ways, and how the cesarean was a necessary but huge surgery that also opened me up (literally) to a lot of risks, like the loss of too much blood or the risk of thrombus. Having a second child after that? Well, now I was at a higher risk for uterine rupture with scar tissue from my previous cesarean birth – something that could most definitely put my life and my baby’s life in jeopardy. When we wanted to get pregnant again, my doctor warned me (again) about the scar tissue I had and what that could mean, especially having kids so close in age. You see, with every cesarean, it gets harder and riskier. When you cram three pregnancies into 3.5 years? That factor goes up the risk scale quite a bit.
When I went in for one of my third trimester doctor’s appointments during my last pregnancy, my doctor asked me if I’d like to consider having tubal ligation while in surgery for my cesarean. I was caught totally off guard. No one had brought this up to me before. She could tell I was taken back. “You don’t have to decide right now, but it is something to consider.” With the look of surprise, clearly still plastered across my face, she went on to explain that it is simple for them to conduct this procedure while I am already on the operating table with a c-section surgery. She also explained that research has indicated that tubal ligation may reduce a woman’s risk of ovarian cancer significantly, especially before the age of 35. “No, no,” I told her. “I am not ready to make that kind of decision.”
I went home that night and recounted the conversation with my doctor to my husband. “Well, are we done?” he asked, supportively. Done? What a simple and impossible question while still pregnancy with my third.
“I don’t know,” I replied. “I don’t want it to be done….I don’t think. I still want a fourth.” The picture in my head was a family with four children. It hasn’t mattered to me the gender, or in what order, or even that we were running out of places to put all these said children in our tiny house. But, I was still committed to four. When people would ask us “so is this it for you guys?” (which by the way is a very personal question), we would both shrug and vaguely allude to maybe having another child in the future. We both wanted four. We really did. That was our “complete.”
As I hobbled through the last few months of pregnancy – huge and uncomfortable – I neatly packed some of my early maternity clothes up in my closet for later. Ya know, for the next pregnancy. I went through all our baby clothes and sorted out things I would save for my next child that were going to be out of season for this little one. But as my delivery day rolled around, I felt myself becoming increasingly more nervous. I was losing sleep. I was excited, I told myself. I was thrilled. I couldn’t wait to meet her. This was all true – but there was something more I didn’t want to admit then. I was petrified. I was rolling the dice again. Dice with big wins and big losses.
On the morning of my cesarean, I couldn’t wait to get to the hospital and meet my sweet baby girl. I was packed up and ready to go long before we needed to leave the house at 7:00am. But once we arrived, the pit in my stomach had returned and the anxiety had taken over for the excitement. I could feel myself talking faster (and I already talk fast) and getting “chatty” with nerves.
When walking down the hallway on my way to the operating room, I wanted to throw-up. What if something happened to me during this and I’d leave three babies in this world without a mother? What was I going to miss? What if something happened to my baby? The what-ifs flooded my head.
It wasn’t until I was laying on the table with bright fluorescent lights above me in a sterile, cold room, naked, surrounded by doctors and nurses, with an anesthesiologist at my head — that I was convinced I never wanted to do this again. I never wanted to be in this room again, with people cutting through scar tissues while trying to safely pull my child from my body. Why hadn’t I banked my own blood ahead of time? Why was it taking so long? Was she okay? Was I okay? I could barely enjoy her precious arrival into the world. I barely cried or smiled as they held her up or even when they brought her to me to put her on my chest. My joy and happiness, though present, was covered in a residue of fear.
To some, this whole thing must sound incredibly spoiled and selfish – who am I to feel any sort of loss, regret, or lack in my life with three beautiful, healthy babies? One isn’t enough? What about two? Oh, three isn’t enough? I assure you that each of my children are “enough” and I feel blessed to have them. I have handfuls of close, dear friends, coworkers and acquaintances who have suffered through painful years of infertility and treatments. I know their dream of pregnancy, of just one healthy child, deserves compassion, understanding and respect. I feel all of these things for them.
This isn’t about comparing our family journey with others – not the folks I see with six kids who say my fears are exaggerated, not the friends who envy just the ability to carry one child. For us, for our journey – it has come to an end I just didn’t expect yet and wasn’t prepared to give up at the time the “giving up” came to me.
The picture in my head of our family of six felt as real as a photo you could touch and look at in real life. A fourth child was a thought, a feeling, a place in my heart I have had to grieve. It’s odd to “give up” something you never had and were never promised to begin with. But as I lay there on the operating table, I felt him or her fall away, the picture blur. I have rolled the dice enough for my own health, and that of my babies. I have endured the fears enough. I am lucky, blessed and truly spoiled to have what I have and what holds me back also pushes me forward. I’d rather be here for the three babies I have than to risk not being here for four.
I know that sounds dramatic to some, and others are rolling their eyes at the beginning, but that’s my truth and I am happy to share it.
To read more about our journey in parenthood, visit my posts here!
- Preparing for Breast Pumping
- Preventing and Treating Heartburn While Pregnant
- Everything You Need for A C-Section Recovery
- My First’s Birth Story: Labor and a C-Section Birth
- The Truth About the First Day of Maternity Leave Alone
- 11 Ways to Relieve Morning Sickness: Pregnancy and Nausea
- Pregnancy: What is ‘nesting’ and why do we do it?
- 10 Products You Want as a Nursing or Pumping Mom
- What is Power Pumping? Ways to Increase Breast Milk Supply