Facing the fact that I can’t have any more kids is just so hard.
She turns to me, her eyes shining bright with excitement, her skin already glowing with the secret she can’t hold in any longer. “I’m pregnant!” she squeals. My arms automatically wrap around her, this girl who I call my best friend but who has been more like a sister to me for the past decade of our lives. As my tears of joy start to fall, there’s a stray tear of sadness for myself mixed among them. Every time someone shares with the the happy news of their pregnancy, I’m thrilled for them. But at the same time it means facing the reality of my own infertility and the fact that I can’t have any more kids.
My best friend and I experienced our first pregnancies together and had our boys within a few months of each other — she, a singleton, me, twins. But our paths to parenthood were very different.
Her pregnancy was super smooth —she basically snapped her fingers and was pregnant. I, on the other hand, had a much harder time conceiving, but finally became pregnant with twin boys. My pregnancy was difficult: I went into premature labor at 27 weeks. The doctors managed to convince the babies to stay put inside me, but I had to remain on strict bed rest until they were born. They made their debut at 33 weeks and spent time in the NICU before coming home. Fortunately they are healthy now, at five years old, but because of the complications I had, additional biological children are not in my future.
I’m in a stage of life where everyone around me — all my friends and the parents of my children’s classmates — are having their second child. Since I’m one of the only moms around who has a flattish tummy or doesn’t have a newborn in her arms, the question of when I’m going to be pregnant again comes up a lot. I’m 34, I present as a healthy female, and I love kids, so I understand why people ask me when I’m going to have another baby. Especially because I have twin boys, people always ask if I’m hoping for a daughter.
I know these questions come from a good place and no one’s trying to intentionally hurt me, but every time someone asks why I’m not pregnant or trying to get pregnant it’s like a taking a knife to the heart. It’s a reminder that there’s something wrong with me; that there’s something my body can’t do. I don’t want to break down and cry in the middle of school drop-off, nor do I want to share the intimate details of my medical history with a mom I only know from preschool. When I get questions like these I tend to avoid the conversation by saying something like, “Maybe,” or “We’re thinking about it.”
But for the rest of the day I’m a bit off-kilter after these encounters as I remember the experience of being pregnant. I feel my stomach bubble with a bit of indigestion and try to recall what it was like to feel the flutter of tiny feet inside of me. I tell myself to be grateful that I know that feeling at all instead of being bitter over the fact that I’ll never experience it again.
Sometimes I’m at peace with it. I look for the possible perks, such as how another child would require getting a bigger car, and to be honest my backing-up skills are already pretty awful. But I’m struggling with how much of this is out of my control. As much as I’m thrilled for my best friend, if I’m being truly honest there is part of me that’s a bit envious, too.
When it’s someone I see in the store, or even a parent who I interact with at church or at the school who’s pregnant, I can maintain a safe distance. I can be happy for them, but protect my own emotions. But this isn’t a pregnant stranger I can envy from afar. She’s my best friend. We were in each other’s weddings, we know each other’s deepest secrets. I love her, and I already love her unborn child. I’ll see this pregnancy up close and personal, and that’s going to require putting my own feelings aside.
I don’t understand why I was chosen to carry this cross, but I know that although my womb may be empty, my life is very full. I’m so fortunate to have two little boys that call me mom, and I remind myself daily that there are couples who are still struggling with infertility to have even one child when I’ve been blessed with two. I also realize that family isn’t defined by blood alone. Being so close to my best friend and her son at times it feels like having another child of my own. Getting to be “Aunty Meg” to this new baby will be a gift to me just as much as it’s a gift to my friend.
So I’m going to throw her an amazing shower, and I’ll bake her all the treats she’s craving. I’ll paint her toenails when she can’t see them anymore and I’ll insist that she’s glowing, even if it’s just sweat. I want her to have the calmest, most comfortable pregnancy that she possibly can. And when I see her wearing my old maternity sweaters I’ll try to be grateful that they’re being put to good use instead of wondering why it’s not my own baby bump that’s filling them instead.