My husband and I have been married 12 years. We’ve been infertility patients for about 10 of those years. God has blessed us over the last 7 years with 3 pregnancies and 4 beautiful children.
When I was pregnant with the first two singleton pregnancies, I never hesitated to share my infertility experience with people who were interested or asked. I never for a second felt ashamed, and people who knew were always supportive. I never felt like it was something to hide. But then I moved to a new place and people didn’t know about our past experiences. They just knew that I already had 2 young kids and was now pregnant with twins.
When people first found out it was twins, and that I already had 2 littles at home, the almost universal first response was sympathy. (Which secretly in my head was what I was feeling too, but I didn’t need every stranger to confirm my fears that it was going to be awful). So the first response was always something to the effect of, ‘Oh gosh, I’m so sorry’, or ‘Oh!…(with a look of horror on their face)’, or ‘wow, you’re going to be busy!’. Then, inevitably, the very next response was wondering how in the world this happened to me.
One of the first conversations I had about it being twins was actually at work. Another nurse heard me say it was twins, expressed her condolences, and then asked something about it being fertility treatment, which I confirmed. It never crossed my mind that I shouldn’t. And she literally said, ‘well it’s your own fault then.’ She immediately went from sympathy to blame. That was the first time I felt somehow ashamed of it, like I had ‘done it to myself’. I had a few similar, although slightly less harsh experiences, and I never admitted to having fertility treatment again. Those who were close to me knew about it, and I didn’t figure it was anyone else’s business.
The most common question was ‘Do twins run in your family?’ That was easy. I would say no, then they would say something about how surprised I must have been. Yes, I was very surprised, I’d say. Which was all true. I would say the second most common question was ‘Are they natural?’ This question always irritated me. What’s the opposite of natural? No, there was nothing unnatural about my babies, thank you very much. I assumed they were trying to ask about infertility treatments, and I know they didn’t mean any offense, but since there’s a whole range of ART (artificial reproduction technology), and I wasn’t going to go into all the personal details with people who weren’t already privy to that information, the answer was always ‘yes, my babies are natural.’ Also not a lie.
Now, for those of you who may know me, and may be interested in what exactly I had to do to get my babies, (because people seem to wonder about that stuff), let me tell you. My body doesn’t work the way it’s supposed to. I have terrible endometriosis. I have PCOS. I don’t ovulate on my own. I don’t have regular cycles. My hormones are all jacked up, and until I had surgery to repair it, my uterus was not shaped correctly. I have to have surgeries and medications to fix those things in order to get pregnant. Aside from the medications, everything else is ‘natural’. My husband and I conceive a baby ‘the good old fashioned way’. There are no test tubes or turkey basters for us. HOWEVER, being an infertility nurse for 3 years, I have helped many many women have their precious babies using those means (although we would never use those terms, I use them in jest here), and I will tell you every pregnancy is beautiful and ‘natural’ no matter what means were used to bring it here. And I can almost guarantee you that none of those women want to talk to you about how ‘natural’ or not their pregnancy is. So don’t ask.
Okay, back to the twins. I never would have chosen twins for myself. If I had been given the choice between having twins or zero more babies, I would have chosen zero more babies. I was scared. Terrified, more like it. About everything from diapers to college tuition. But now that they’re here, I wouldn’t have it any other way. It’s been an amazing experience and I can’t imagine not having both of them in my life. They are 2 blessings, and I’m so thankful that God saw fit to see His plan through over mine. I’m so thankful I didn’t get my way on this one.
Now let’s get to this pregnancy, since it’s actually what the title of this article is all about. After the twins, I was very done with having babies. I didn’t want any part of any more babies. I was ready to get out of the baby phase of sleepless nights and diapers, and move on to the phase of little league and school plays. One of the drawbacks to having 4 small children is that it makes it very difficult to go to the oldest one’s activities. She just finished kindergarten, and it was near impossible to go to her school programs or family lunches without it ending in total chaos, tears (usually mine), and a whole array of nasty looks from other parents. And the comments. Oh, the comments.
So I didn’t want to have any more babies. In fact, just the thought of more babies would leave me rocking on the floor in the fetal position. The inevitable question of ‘prevention’ came up once I started having periods again, as irregular as they were. I have had my share of hormones in my life. I’ve been on hormones of one type or another for most of my life since I was 16. I don’t like the way they make me feel. And besides, it seemed unnecessary for the ‘broken’ woman to take the birth control. So I asked my husband to get a vasectomy. His first response was that it was maybe a little overkill and unnecessary. A fertility patient always knows there’s a chance of getting pregnant on their own, but it’s often so slim, and after so many months of unsuccessful ‘trying’ in our lives, it seemed a little crazy to do something so invasive. Plus, let’s be honest. We have 4 small children. We don’t have a lot of sex right now. The chances were reeeeeeal slim. But then he realized how worried I was about whatever the odds were. I told him how absolutely devastated I would be if I found out I was pregnant. So he agreed, if only for my piece of mind.
And then I found out I was pregnant.
And I was devastated. And I thought all kinds of horrible things that a mom shouldn’t think. And I cried. A lot. And felt a tremendous amount of guilt that I wasn’t immediately rejoicing for this obviously miraculous pregnancy. I mean, we’re pretty close to Immaculate Conception here, folks.
At the time I sat down to write this, I still wasn’t okay with the idea. I hadn’t accepted it yet. But we all know that that doesn’t matter. The baby is coming whether I’ve accepted it or not. At this point, while I’m still not excited, I have come to a point of acceptance. I’m just praying that someday I will think of it as a huge blessing that I wouldn’t have chosen for myself, just like the twins.
So I knew at some point, I was going to have to tell people. And I could already picture people’s faces, hear the questions and responses. And I was so worried about what people would think when they find out. Why? Because I’m an insecure people pleaser. Because I experienced the whole gammet of awkward questions and responses with the twins. And because I’ve heard all the ‘behind-their-backs’ conversations about other women who have been pregnant with a 4th, 5th, or more child. I know what people say. I know all the nasty, catty, disrespectful things people say in this situation. So let’s get all that out of the way now.
- No, we weren’t planning it (see the ad nauseam description of that above). No, I didn’t want it, but I’m not going to say that out loud to you. You can know that I’m trying very hard to be okay with this myself, so anything you say that’s negative is going to set me back towards reaching that goal.
- Yes, I do know how this happens. No, I’m not some ‘radical’ that is against birth control. No, I’m not trying to populate the Earth. And you don’t need to tell anyone around me or behind my back that I just need to keep my legs closed. This also includes telling me my husband needs to get a vasectomy. I told him the same thing. That’s my job, not yours.
- No, I have no idea what I’m going to do about __(fill in the blank)___. I’m fully aware that we can’t fit another child in our house or in our car. There are a million and one details that are going to have to be worked out over the next few months. I’m overwhelmed with it.
- No, we are not rich. In fact, we’re close to broke. I don’t know how I’m going to pay for more braces, another wedding, or another college tuition. I want to provide all of my children with all the same things that you think I should provide them with. I feel terrible we’ll probably never make it to Disney World. I already feel incredibly irresponsible for this happening, however miraculous.
- I promise you don’t need to remind me of any of the things that will be harder now. There is no way you can think of any situation or scenario that I have not already thought of. I have thought, in detail, about every stage in our life moving forward, and how a 5th child will impact that. There’s nothing you can add.
- Yes, I know we’re too old to be having babies, outside of Hollywood. When the baby is born, my husband will be 40 and I will be 37. I know the risks that come with that. You don’t need to tell me. But if Joanna Gaines can do it, Joanna Maltsberger can too, right? If I only I had her bank account and house…
- Yes, thank you, I realize I can’t even control the other 4 that I have. I know you think, and I agree in the moment, that I have no business adding another one to our brood. We draw a big crowd anywhere we go when we’re all out together. People stop and watch us go down the aisles at Target or HEB. It’s kind of like a train wreck. Or a circus. We make all sorts of people feel better about themselves. I know what people say about the pregnant woman who is dragging a bunch of screaming, unruly kids through the store. If I hear you say those things, or if I see you roll your eyes, I’m liable to let you have it. Possibly a throat punch. Because I’m already stressed out. And embarrassed of my children’s behavior. And now I’m also hormonal. Tread lightly, dear stranger.
Here’s what I do want to hear from people: Honest, heart-felt, encouragement. You know what would be awesome? Success stories. Do you come from a big family and it was amazing? Tell me. Know someone who had a bunch of kids and survived with their sanity? Bring it on. Tell me how full of love my heart must be, not how busy my life will be. If you can’t say anything nice, please don’t say anything at all. If you can’t keep a straight face, look the other way. Want to be extra, super helpful? Buy me a box of diapers.
I’m struggling with this more than you could know, and have unspeakable guilt about that. I’m trying so hard to get to the place where I’m excited, and have terrible guilt that it’s not immediate. I’m working hard towards smiling and saying ‘thank you’ to the good wishes. It’s a process. Right now I’m filled with fears. Fears of being ‘enough’ for another baby. Fears about being able to keep another child safe, protected, and provided for. Fears that they’ll someday be resentful of all the things I wasn’t able to give them because we had so many. Fears that now there’s another one for me to potentially screw up. Or that will get screwed up by this increasingly screwed up world.
Clearly, these are my opinions only. I don’t presume to think that everyone in my situation would feel the same way. I’m sure that most other mom’s are much better mom’s than me and immediately feel all the warmth and excitement toward every pregnancy that a good mom should.
And please don’t be offended by everything I’ve written. A good portion is only half-kidding.
But not really.
And if you’re a friend or acquaintance, please don’t worry that you said something in the past that offended me. The majority of my bad experiences were with strangers. Or situations I don’t attribute to one specific person. No worries.
I’ve always been an open book. If you are genuinely interested about any of this experience, I’d be happy to have a conversation with you about any of it. I just know the hundreds of awkward comments and assumptions I experienced with the twins, and already the comments that I’ve gotten about this one. I’m not sure why, but I feel like I need to justify myself, or defend myself this time around. Somehow explain that I didn’t do it on purpose. And while I know that’s crazy, and that I don’t owe that to anyone, I still feel the need.
Maybe it’s for me, or maybe you’re reading this and don’t know a thing about me, but have someone else in your life who is pregnant. Maybe it’s their first, maybe it’s their tenth, maybe it’s one, twins, or even more. Maybe some of what I’ve ranted about here will help you avoid an awkward conversation with them. Or maybe not.
That’s all I’ve got, folks, go forth and multiply.