Because most philosophies that frown on reproduction don't survive.

Wednesday, December 02, 2009

Life Happens

Thanks to all of you for your congratulations and kind wishes; they mean a lot to us.

We're very fortunate to have a congenial readership, and so we can dispense with the givens up front. Yes, we're delighted at the idea of a new life; yes, it's exciting to think of a little brother for Jack, or another beautiful girl. Yes, even though we weren't expecting or planning to have another one so soon, we're glad to see our family grow and we look forward to meeting baby and introducing him or her to the world.

There, that was sweet. Now let's be a bit more gritty.

We were in denial, and then in shock, for several weeks after we discovered we were pregnant. It's hard to complain about a surprise pregnancy without sounding bitter or hostile, and yet the idea of five children is still hard to come around to. I think it's understandable that I'm not excited about having three kids under five years old again. I think it's excusable to feel ambiguous about the process of being pregnant, which is nine months of weariness and discomfort followed by some hours of miserable agony. It's less excusable, but perhaps understandable, to not immediately relish being that woman who drags her five small kids places. People think four kids are cute. People think five is a lot, and tell you so.

We had not planned to be pregnant; we did not want to be pregnant; many of our future plans involved not being pregnant. (So much for the big tenth anniversary trip we were just starting to save up for.) We did not cheat or push our luck or take risks; we made what appeared to be a standard call. Perhaps our scientific rigor was lacking. We had grown complacent, not taking the temperature at the same time every morning, and when the baby walked off with the thermometer after what seemed obviously to be three days of temperature rise, we figured it didn't matter. And it didn't, because it would have been too late by then anyway. The point is, we thought we had played it safe, and met a standard that had held us in good stead in the past. Only, we were wrong.

The only reason I go into any detail at all on this point is that I know that we can't be the only couple in the world to find ourselves in this situation. Everyone knows, or ought to know, that birth control fails. Most of the pregnancies of Darwin's coworkers resulted from birth control failures, and even something so drastic as a tubal ligation isn't always infallible. (I've just wasted a stupid amount of time trying to track down the British news story I read last week about the woman who became pregnant 13 years after having her tubes tied.) But I think that there's a secular perception that charting one's fertility is so fraught with pitfalls or unreliable that if you get pregnant it's really your own fault. Don't you know what causes that?

And yet, what this comes down to is a control failure. We thought we had the next few years mapped out, and that we were really in charge. As life-changing events go, we're lucky. Instead of losing a job or dealing with some terrible disease or injury, we're getting a baby who will bless and enrich us for the rest of our lives. And we've received a fairly clarion signal that we're not really as in control of our future and our fertility as we thought. And if any well-meaning person asks me, "So, are you done yet?", I can pretty honestly say (through politely gritted teeth), "I don't really know." Because it seems that in the end, it's not totally my call. Life happens.

ADDENDUM: I should add, now that I'm not sleepless and nauseous at 3 AM, that writing out what we've been chewing on for the last five weeks privately is very therapeutic. For various reasons, including some early miscarriage worries, we were reluctant to talk about the pregnancy earlier, which perhaps is good, because we don't have a month's worth of "What the hell!" posts archived. It's very refreshing to get all this off my chest, and now I have to go contemplate getting this cup of tea off my stomach. Toodles.


Anonymous said...

What are you doing up at 2:20am????
Being a mom, I suppose. Anyhow, lovely post. Birth "control" is selfish. NATURAL family PLANNING includes God. Big difference.

BettyDuffy said...

Four to five felt like a big mental transition, but a fairly easy one in practice. You'll find new ways to get the rest you need, and who knows, you might decide to go on that anniversary trip anyway.

Praying for a healthy pregnancy and baby!

Anonymous said...

Dear Mrs. Darwin,

I think it is entirely appropriate to be anxious about being pregnant at any time, much less when it is unexpected. It's not just the sudden realigning of your future, I think it's the knowledge either of something completely new and unable to prepare for, or of knowing pretty much what it will be like and knowing you won't really ever be prepared! Having a small baby around is stressful in and of itself, no matter how many times you've done it before. The baby gear marketing megalith thrives on this emotion.

The first time I got pregnant, it was a control failure. I had been taking a decongestant and forgot, knew and forgot, that it would dry up mucus everywhere. And to be perfectly honest, I wasn't anxious about being pregnant, I'd wanted to have a baby since our honeymoon. I was anxious because I knew my husband would have an increase in his own anxiety, he is a worrier and always has a constant baseline of fretting.

But I'm afraid I don't see much difference between getting pregnant because I thought I was infertile and wasn't because of Sudafed and getting pregnant because I thought I was infertile and wasn't because I forgot to take a pill at the right time every day. Both are operator failure, right?

We miscarried that pregnancy. And the next. And then we had a beautiful son, now 16 months. But
because I'm being treated for myopic degeneration in my left eye with an anti-angiogenic drug - bad for growing a baby - I know if I were to get the news I'm pregnant between now and February, I will be even more deeply conflicted and concerned than I thought was possible. I would choose my baby over my eye in a heartbeat, but what if the drug has already caused damage? I'm not sure I can bear another ghost.

bearing said...

Congratulations and practical sympathy at the same time. I was going to send an email and ask how you were doing - this is a great post. I know I've never quite gotten over the "control" thing myself, and probably deserve to get a surprise myself one of these days...

Sometimes we feel like we're not allowed to express those ambivalent feelings, I think, and always have to keep fighting the good fight against anti-child sentiment. But I've rarely felt 100 percent happy about even my planned pregnancies. There's always been some dread mixed in with the joy.

Bridget said...

Wow....exactly how I felt after finding out about my 4th pregnancy (she is now 6 months old!). I completely get what you are saying!!

mrsdarwin said...

Cliff: that was pregnancy insomnia. Bleah!

Betty: Thanks. I found three to four an easy mental transition, but a hard one practically. I'd be glad for the reverse!

Geeklady: Ha! Darwin was just taking some hardcore sinus medication last night, and he calls in from the bathroom, "Hon, it says here that this might interfere with our birth control." "Oh, well then," I said. Anyway, you'll be in our prayers -- that's such a scary situation.

Bearing: thanks for the thoughts! Feel free to send an email anyway. You have a much more engineering bent of mind than I do, so you probably won't have to worry about the bad data problem. :)

Bridget: Congratulations! Is that four girls now?

Jamie said...

I was astonished when I turned up pregnant with #5. Could not have been more floored. Best wishes to you!

Brandon said...

Well, you'll be in my prayers. But, while I'm sure each case is different, I did once talk to someone with five children who said that some aspects of it got easier through the magic power of delegation -- "With four, you're still managing a crowd," she said; "with five you start running an organization."

Anonymous said...

Wow, they put a warning label on it? That's both funny and cool.

I hate taking the stuff anyway, it makes me both sleepy and wired and I'm almost as miserable as I am with the stuffy nose.

Alishia said...

You are fully legitimizing your blog tagline! Congratulations! I'm glad to hear your mixed feelings. We were just talking about our future childbearing as we had three in 3.5 years and my husband is in the middle of law school. In a way I feel like it's our opportunity to play God's fool in the fertility game!

AnotherCoward said...

If you want to open this up as a forum of mixed feelings, you just let me know because I'm full of them. I'm a father of 4 (our youngest born a few months back), and I have serious misgivings about a 5th child given our emerging family dynamics (highlighted just prior to finding out we were pregnant with our last child).

All the same, there's nothing to be done but celebrate life and give it the best of chances when it is found. It is fascinating and a joy even if burdensome and crowding.

My prayers for many blessings in your pregnancy and of peace, virtue, and health in you and your family.

Anonymous said...

My Mom was one of 12. She didn't like it. I'm an only child.


Roger Miller said...

After being surprised and blessed with our fifth, seven years ago, my wife and I gave up trying to 'control' our future and let God tell us when we were through. Now that we have had two more, I cannot help but laugh at God's sense of humor. We have also had the same misgivings and whatever you want to call them about the size of our family, but seeing their smiling faces makes that all go away. Four to five is really easy, as was five to six and six to seven. :) I wish you nothing but the best with your newest blessing.

Anonymous said...

For what it's worth - I feel encouraged seeing all these people commenting on your newest baby. Kinda makes me realize there are "others" out there too. Looking to a hopeful future.

mrsdarwin said...

AnotherCoward, more power to you on venting about ambiguity. You're the audience I'm writing for.

Amber said...

You know, I was just thinking the other day about how few of the bloggers I read are pregnant right now... it was only Bearing, but now I can add you to the list too!

Congratulations on this new little one. The thought of another pregnancy makes me rather weak in the knees too, although I know it is bound to happen at some point. (Especially since we've jettisoned NFP for "well, let's just see what happens" - a year of almost complete abstinence will do that to you!) I'm looking forward to having another one... but being pregnant again, no.

Thank you for your post, and know that you and your family will be in our prayers.

The Opinionated Homeschooler said...

Your crowd of four, five, or however many are always welcome at the Opinionated Household. Offspring #2 wishes you lived next door.

Most of the parents I know aren't Catholic, and most are my age or older (let's not discuss how old that is). When I was pregnant with #3 it was at, for those who believe in tight control over fertility, what is supposed to be an advanced age. It was eye-opening how many people, women and men, confessed to me that they or their spouse had been sterilized after the second child, and how they now regretted it.

So not that it helps right now, but ten-twenty years from now, you will likely be hearing from your age-peers not "Are you done yet?" but "I wish we...."

Mrs. Cranky said...

I'd like to add our hardy congratulations on another certainly adorable Darwin. You're already my hero running your little brood of four!

Since I was an only child (until age 17) and Crankycon was sort of an only child (way youngest of 5, nearest sibling 13 years older), I'm a little scared about what number two will mean for us. I really have no clue how to handle two at once. You start adding up to 3, 4, 5, and I'm flummoxed. I've herded kids at day care, but that's only for a few hours a day. And it turned me into a caffeine addict.

We're just leaving it all up to God at the moment. Since we're starting later than you guys, I think making it to five would be a challenge. We're already old and grouchy.

AnotherCoward said...

Two is easy - you still have one on one defensive coverage. It's when you get over two that you really have to start thinking about how to play the most effective zone defense.

Natalee said...

Congratulations on your pregnancy! And yet, I can totally relate to all the ambiguous feelings as well. I am 33, with 7 children. Is that enough said? I have been where you are, and a few more babies after that too ... with negative thoughts and looks from others, as well as critical remarks from friends and husband's coworkers.

Here is what I learned: During the earlier pregnancies when I wasn't so sure myself I was happy about it, I think my negativity came through and invited negativity from others. They don't understand the insanity of not wanting to be pregnant and yet not "doing something" about it. (Yes, we were trying to practice NFP as well through the last 3 pregnancies).
But then something miraculous happened ... my older kids grew up a little, I got a little more positive about the number of children I had and the latest pregnancy. God's grace alone, let me tell you. I embraced it, and my positive thoughts and feelings were projected and others became much more positive. Now all we get are compliments and admiration. (OK, mostly)

I don't know how old your older children are, but I assure you that as they get a little older, people start to put two and two together -- that you are a functional, happy family with wonderful kids. It takes away their snarkiness!

Good luck!

Stacey said...

A friend sent me your blog because I'm feeling just the same way. But I'm unexpectedly expecting number 7. And we aren't catholic. Or Mormon. Or anything else that traditionally has larger families. This means I'm all alone at church. Our families think we are insane. FIL offered to pay for the big V. I'm really sick and really
miserable and scared I'm having twins (again). It's just hard to be joyful in this situation. I just feel that I'm in a vicious cycle. If I could find joy, I'd feel better physically. But if I felt better it would be easier to find joy. I'm just really glad God knows what he's doing. Because I'm flummoxed.

Christina said...

"Because it seems that in the end, it's not totally my call. Life happens."

Well put, MrsD. I must admit it's refreshing to hear of so many others who are frustrated by their own reactions to pregnancy. My husband and I were married at the beginning of August and found ourselves (very unexpectedly) expecting just six weeks later! We had just made the decision to lighten up on our NFP rigor, but the news still came as a bit of a shock. Panic set in as I realized we are two grad students barely able to make ends meet, then panic gave way to fatigue and depression as I went through fourteen weeks of violent illness. My mythical vision of the radiant, bubbling-over-with-joy mom was burst and I felt like a horrible wife and mother for not being more excited.

I still have waves of panic and don't expect the fatigue to lighten up, but when we saw our little girl wriggling around on the ultrasound, I felt as if God had just shot me through the heart with a dose of humility. Yes, I was (and sometimes still am) sick. Yes, I am afraid. But, like Stacey said, I am so glad God knows what He's doing-- and those waves of excitement are becoming more and more frequent. I hang on to Matthew 18:5 and find comfort in hearing all of these other testimonies. Thank you so much and may God bless you all (and your little ones)!


"Whoever receives one such child in my name receives me."- Mt 18:5, RSV