Another Baby

This past July, I thought I had the flu and just couldn’t shake it. I was dog-tired, achy, and a little nauseous. My sister was the one who was first to think I might be pregnant. I thought that was silly. It had taken us years to get our first son, and the fertility specialists told us not to expect the next one to come any quicker.

So, imagine my surprise to find that pink line one morning…

I now have the perspective of having been a woman who desperately wanted a child, who prayed, fasted, did fertility treatments, begged and pleaded to get my first baby, but for the past few months, I’m a woman who sometimes wanders around my house wondering how I can do this again, so soon after the first and before I feel like I really have a handle on my firstborn’s medical issues. I joke with my husband that I have Pre-Partum Depression, but most days, I don’t think I am joking.

The guilt for not being ecstatic about this next child is one of the most difficult emotions I’ve been experiencing over these past few months. It’s hard for me to appreciate the blessing that this baby came so easily (after all, we were planning on having another one eventually), and yet, I remember the heartache of infertility.

One of the topics I never tire of reading in the Bloggernacle is infertility, but for the last couple months, I can only quickly gloss over them and then, feel tremendously guilty for the rest of the day. When I look at my sister and her husband and how they have suffered, particularly in the past year, trying to have a baby, I want to tap God on the shoulder and say, “Um, do you realize you sent this baby to the wrong sister? It was supposed to go to Rachel, remember?”
No one could be more surprised about my reaction than myself. After all, I grew up with the idea that someone in my position (stable marriage, financial situation, etc.) would welcome a child whenever God saw fit to bless them. Yet here I am, feeling overwhelmed at the thought of late night feedings, buckling two kids in the car, or worse yet, having another sick kid. And, I’m only going to have two! What about a woman who’s having her sixth or seventh and doesn’t know how she’ll make ends meet?

This has made me wonder how often other Mormon women go through this and just don’t talk about it because of the Church’s rhetoric on motherhood. In so many Church talks, it comes across as highly idealized, a role we take on proudly no matter the sacrifices involved. I appreciate that the Church values the role of motherhood so highly. It’s a tough job, and for me, it feels increasingly like that sort of validation is hard to get outside of the Church.

But, when things start to feel dark, I think this portrayal of motherhood can make those who aren’t ready to take on that role feel more isolated. I’m back in a place that feels very similar to when I couldn’t have a baby. I can’t read Church talks on motherhood, and I don’t want to hear lessons on motherhood because of my self-imposed guilt.

I know I’ll appreciate this baby when it’s born; I already love it. I know there is an end in sight, and that’s a relief when I remember the waiting, month after month and year after year for my first. However, the emotional energy I’ve spent on these feelings is considerable, and despite my best efforts, I can’t shake these feelings. If motherhood is my most important role in this life (and I can only assume the next since the only role I know Heavenly Mother has is bearing children), what does it say about me that I’m not sure I’m ready to take on more children just yet?

EmilyCC

EmilyCC works for a national non-profit and lives in Phoenix, Arizona with her spouse and three children. She is a former editor of Exponent II and a founding blogger at The Exponent.

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  1. Caroline says:

    Emily,
    My sympathy and best wishes go out to you. It must be so hard to be expecting a baby that you’re not ready for.

    I think I was lucky with my baby, since I had to try a year to get pregnant. By the time I did, I really wanted it to happen, so I’ve been pretty happy with motherhood so far. But if I got pregnant anytime soon, I know I’d feel much like you do. Not being able to have a baby is heart wrenching, but it’s also heart wrenching to have your body producing a baby you’re not ready for and not excited about.

    I think you’re right that LDS women don’t talk much about this problem. Since motherhood is so idealized, there’s not much space for us to talk about pregnancies that were not wanted.

    My heart goes out to you, Emily. I hope that as soon as this baby is born you’ll feel all the excitement that up to now has been missing.

  2. Anonymous says:

    I could have written your post, Emily. We struggled with infertility for years, then had DD #1. Seven months later we got a little careless, never dreaming that we were even capable of “accidental” pregnancies and were shocked when we found out that DD#2 would be along shortly. We were excited. However, one year later when we did it AGAIN, and found out we were expecting a third, I was not excited. I was afraid. DD #2 had been a difficult (though much loved of course) baby, and I was very upset.

    A month before DS #3 was born, I was in tears almost every night, wondering how I would handle having a just barely 3 year old, not quite 2 year old, and a newborn. I remember saying quite a few times that I just wanted the baby to stay in my tummy for a few more months – much easier to take care of that way. The night before my c-section I had a full blown freak out. I was depressed, and for me, it wasn’t related to hormones, it was related to terror.

    I couldn’t express that to anyone but my husband and sisters though. That’s just not something you tell people. Or at least it’s not something I tell people. It’s not just LDS culture, I think it’s in the parenting culture at large – we aren’t supposed to expess anything but love for our children and happiness about having them.

    The first three months were quite hellish for me, but two years later, things are wonderful, and our feelings are no longer conflicted, obviously. But I can relate to what you’ve said, and send you cyber-hugs…

  3. Eve says:

    Emily, I think Caroline put it so well: There are all kinds of heartbreak. And you make an excellent point about infertility. Since motherhood is supposed to be endlessly fulfilling, those of us who can’t have children get all the sympathy, while those who don’t really want to have children or are struggling with the children they have find their problems almost unspeakable.

    FWIW, if I were in your situation, I would be struggling just as much as you are, probably more. Years of infertility don’t make the prospect of a child you’re not sure you can handle any less overwhelming. I suspect, as you do, that lot of Mormon women struggle in silence though these kinds of situations. I don’t if it helps, but I can’t have children, and I don’t think you have to feel guilty in the least about your anxiety and exhaustion.

    Motherhood looks really, really hard. Mothers of all people deserve space to be honest about how they feel and where they are.

  4. Anonymous says:

    Emily, how close will your babies be?

    I’m sorry you’re feeling so overwhelmed. I appreciate your sensitivity to how your reaction feels to women who haven’t had the experience you have, like your sister. As an infertile person, I’ve encountered those who were not so sensitive, with really tough repercussions for me personally.

    I can’t give you too much helpful advice, obviously, but I can tell you that my two closely spaced kids gave me hell for two years but are now delightful best friends, most of the time.

  5. Anonymous says:

    On a positive note, I wanted to echo what Ana said – my closely spaced kids are wonderful friends now. We don’t seem to have as many problems with fighting and sibling rivalry. They all play together really well and are best, best friends. They enjoy a lot of the same toys and activities.

    Now that they are out of the teeny tiny baby stage, I really enjoy how close together they are and definitely wouldn’t trade it for anything. DS and DD cried every day for a week when oldest DD went off to kindergarten the first time.

  6. M&M says:

    I will come out of lurkerdom here to make a confession. I was MAD — yes I said MAD — when I found out I was pregnant with #3. My first two were 15 months apart and I didn’t want to do nursing and pregnant again. And I thought that sounded like good wisdom and order anyway. #2 and #3 were only 18 months apart. I did do the nursing and pregant thing again for a couple of months. It took me at least half my pregnancy to start adjusting to the idea, and to connect with the baby in any way. Ito made her a blessing dress to try to serve the not-yet-born little one, to hope I could love her. I was terrified. I was overwhelmed. I didn’t know how on earth I could do it. (When she was born, my oldest was not even three years old.)

    Never could I have dreamed that I would not be able to have any more for the health problems that hit when she (#3) was not even 18 months old. The Lord works in mysterious ways. I also couldn’t have seen what an amazing blessing their close ages have been, for them and for me. And I can’t even tell you what a treasured blessing she is just because of who she is, too. Of course, I can’t imagine life without her. And I am glad the Lord overrode my “wisdom and order.” 🙂

    I have talked with many Mormon mommies who have felt overwhelmed, afraid and sometimes upset at surprise pregnancies. I hope it helps to know at least that. You are not alone. I personally think that motherhood is often a process, not an event or a constant state of being. Sometimes we feel strong and able, and sometimes we struggle and worry and wonder if we are up to the task. But God seems to trust us anyway. 🙂

    May He bless you in this new adventure.

  7. Anonymous says:

    Over the years I have known many women who felt as you do, frightened, scared and overwhelmed. Please know that you are not alone in feeling the way you do and have no reason to feel guilty. Any woman who has experienced the fatigue etc. of a newborn will understand why you don’t feel ready to do it again, yet. A good friend of mine prayed for years to have a second baby, ached and longed for it and her second pregnancy brought great joy, her third, less than a year later was not quite so joyful and the 4th brought depression and the comment “would someone please turn off the baby machine”. She too felt guilty because now she did not want what she had previously earnestly prayed for. All worked out well in the end but my point in telling you this is DON’T FEEL GUILTY. What you are feeling is normal and common. There are women who can’t have children, women who don’t want to have children, women who have more children than they want etc. and etc.. If all of them are feeling guilty because they aren’t “normal” then what is normal? Relax, mourn the loss of your personal timetable, get rid of the guilt and you will be fine. Best wished to all of you.

  8. M&M says:

    There are women who can’t have children, women who don’t want to have children, women who have more children than they want etc. and etc

    This reminds me of something I read in a book by Pat Holland. She said something to the effect of, ‘I had three children and wanted eight; some of you may have wanted three but had eight.’ This whole having-a-baby thing comes with a lot of inequity and mismatch sometimes with what we think we want.

  9. Kristine says:

    And then there are those of us who have three that seem like eight!!

    Emily, I could also have written this post. It was several years and several miscarriages before #1 arrived, and then number 2 and number 3 were conceived (I swear!) just because my toothbrush was too close to dh’s in the bathroom cabinet. I was pretty depressed for most of pregnancy #3, and for much of the first year that I had three kids under four. But it does get better, and now I’m really glad to have them so close.

    Have you seen Marni (?) Aplund-Campbell’s anthology _With Child_? It’s the most honest account of the range of emotional reactions of Mormon women to motherhood that I’ve ever read, and it was helpful to me in coming to terms with my own unexpected feelings.

  10. Maralise says:

    Emily–I wish I could read your post without wanting to either call you on the phone immediately or run away from the computer screaming.

    I have so many mixed feelings about this topic. I’m not familiar with your background but it sounds like your oldest has some health issues. I really think that could add to the weight of this pregnancy immensely. My youngest (an unexpected, difficult, overwhelming pregnancy) has a chronic illness and I am panicked at the thought of having more children. A friend said the other day, “You ONLY want two?” As if that were an unpardonable sin.

    I have definitely learned that I am not in control (and sometimes I wonder who is) and I’m learning to be ok with that. But, since I’m not, I just try to make it through each day, living in the moment, without completely losing my mind. You know? Sometimes low expectations are a good thing, because it’s hard not to exceed them.

    My thoughts are with you…

  11. Vada says:

    Like others have said, you shouldn’t feel guilty. Just because others are struggling with different things, or because your past struggles have been different, doesn’t invalidate the struggle you are having now.

    I have two children less than 18 months apart (and right now they’re 4 months and not quite 22 months, so life is crazy around here). I occasionally feel guilty complaining about my struggles to moms (or potential moms) who are trying so hard to have children, but I have to remind myself of the same things I said to begin with. Just because they have different struggles doesn’t invalidate my struggles. Having two little boys is hard, and presents its own challenges, different from those of not being able to have children. We all need to be understanding of the struggles others are having, and just have love for each other.

    Also, even though both our pregnancies were planned, I was never happy about being pregnant, and I’ve never felt any guilt over it. Others long to be pregnant, and friends tell me how glad they are for the blessing of being able to bear children, but I don’t feel it. If I could have gotten my kids without the pregnancy, I would have done it in a heartbeat. I also tend not to tell anyone when I’m pregnant (I don’t lie about, just don’t go out of my way to announce it), because everyone invariably says “Congratulations! That’s wonderful!” And my natural response is some sort of growl. Generally I grit my teeth and pretend to smile, but that’s about the best I can manage. And you know what? That’s okay. I love my kids when they get here, even though they are a handful.

  12. Eve says:

    Vada, I just love your response to people’s congratulations on your pregnancy. I’m amazed at the number of innocent expressions of goodwill that can emit a growl from me on some days, and I’m sure if I could get pregnant that pregnancy would be among them.

    Back when I was at BYU, one of my visiting teachees was going through a rough pregnancy. Our ward had a very well-intentioned and zealous sister in charge of the Pursuit of Excellence program who stuck elaborate goal plans on all of our doors with the request that we set many goals and return them to her. When my visiting teachee told me that she had ripped hers up in a rage and told her husband that her only goal was not to throw up all the time, I knew we’d hit it off.

  13. EmilyCC says:

    Thank you, everyone for your kind comments. I’ve just been sitting at my computer, amazed at each commentor’s thoughtfulness. It really helps me feel less lonely in all this.

    Ana, my kids will be about 20 months apart–an age that is doable, but still a little overwhelming for me.

    Kristine, I do love *With Child.* My MIL gave it to me right after #1 was born.

    Maralise, I think the health issues of #1 are a bigger concern than I gave them credit for earlier. #1 has a rare gastrointestinal disorder that we’re still learning how to manage, and because the disease is pretty newly diagnosed (within the last 5 years), we just don’t know much about his quality of life. I think the idea of caring for him plus another (much less another with the same disease) is a bigger part of my ambivalence than I give it credit for.

    Vada, I’m with you. I hate telling people I’m pregnant. I’m usually not a fan of the ward rumor mill, but when it’s come to getting the word out for both pregnancies, I’m happy there are others who will spread the word around.

    Again, I really appreciate everyone’s comments. The emotional energy I’ve spent on this over the past few months has taken its toll, so it was really nice to have a place to vent and try and work things out

  14. Maralise says:

    Emily–if I may be bold, what is your son’s diagnosis? My youngest has EE (eoincephalitis esophogitis). This diagnosis is also new with ambivilent long-term knowledge. It took us two years and about 15 specialists to figure it out.

  15. Maralise says:

    I’m such a dork….it’s eosinophillic esophogitis. I just reread my comment and realized that I typed the wrong thing. Hall of Famer-er responsible parent. Yikes.

  16. EmilyCC says:

    Hi Maralise, whoa! That is what my son has (actually, he’s been diagnosed with EG because those darn eosinophils were all over his digestive tract). I’d love to hear more about how you and your child cope. My email is clyde_curtis at yahoo dot com.

  17. JKS says:

    I wanted to wait until my second was in 1st grade before having a third. I just felt like it took a lot of energy to work with him and I didn’t want to short-change him or deal with the stress of a new baby.
    However, we got pregnant with #3. I admit I was a little mad at God. I was also happy, but I kind of wondered what God thought he was doing.
    I found the following, however:
    1. Things change in 9 months.
    2. The benefits of a child having a sibling can outweigh the negatives of less parent attention, or more stress/chaos.
    My third child is now 2.5 and I feel so blessed that Heavenly Father sent her to our family. He really knew what he was doing.
    So, even if it seems overwhelming, there are always upsides. Your child getting a sibling close in age could be a huge blessing in his life. Even if things seem tough at first, this child will bring unknown blessings.
    I don’t feel guilty about the negative feelings I had while pregnant. I think it is ok to be scared. I thought I knew what I was getting into (post-partum depression, marital strife) and I hadn’t wanted a repeat of the worst year of my life (when baby #2 was an infant). It was a far, far better experience and I love my daughter so much and I’m thrilled she came to our family.
    I haven’t chosen to have a #4, though. Honestly, I don’t know how anyone does choose to have a baby (after #1). Choosing to be sick and tired and useless and being less effective as a mother, or a wife…..who wants to choose that on purpose?

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