When Facing the Unexpected
I'll be honest...this may be the most difficult post I've ever written. It involves sharing a whole lot of personal information, going waaaaaaay out of my blogging comfort zone, and going in to more details about my body than I ever would have imagined I would share online. (I should probably take this opportunity to inform you that I'll be discussing my cycles, natural family planning, and as I said, a whole lot of personal information. If you're prone to getting squicked out by discussion of periods, post partum hormones, etc, you may not want to continue reading). For a long time, I thought about avoiding this post altogether, and just posting the standard happy announcement. But...that wouldn't be honest. I've been making an effort this past year to share everything; the good, the bad, the ugly, and not just gloss over the trials and tribulations we face as a family, simply because it's not a neat and tidy story. So, honesty it is.
For those of you who haven't guessed by the picture or the first paragraph, I'm pregnant. Twelve weeks. And this pregnancy was very, VERY unplanned. Let me back up a bit.
After Gianna was born, Will and I agreed to wait before even contemplating getting pregnant again. We had multiple reasons for this decision, but the most important reason had to do with my health. I made an appointment with my neurosurgeon when Gianna was a week old (I had a excruciating back pain during my pregnancy with her, and I knew something was seriously wrong). My neurosurgeon immediately scheduled me for an MRI, and when I got the results back, he said that without a doubt, I needed surgery. I had a microdiscectomy when Gianna was 4 1/2 months old, and the second-no joke-I woke up in recovery, my neurosurgeon was standing over me. He said that when he actually opened me up, my back was far worse than the MRI had shown, and I was going to need spinal fusion surgery. His exact words were, "I don't know how you were walking, let alone carrying a pregnancy." Since then, I've been in a lot of pain. I've been attempting to manage the pain through weekly PT appointments and pain medication, but it really isn't ideal. So, Will and I both agreed that we needed to get my back fixed once and for all before even considering another baby.
As far as birth control goes, we use NFP. I understand there are quite a few, shall we say, strong opinions on the matter, but we use it for both health and religious reasons. We have used NFP successfully in the past, both to avoid and achieve pregnancies. No, it's not always easy, but it worked for us. Until, obviously, now.
I've heard many people (health practitioners, NFP instructors, friends) talk up ecological breastfeeding-in other words, exclusively breastfeeding your baby for as long as possible, babywearing, co-sleeping, not using a pacifier-as a fantastic way to delay the return of your fertility. Now, I realize that EB works wonders for many women, and I myself have many friends who WILL NOT get a period until their babies or toddlers are completely weaned. I am...not one of those women. Despite exclusively breastfeeding, babywearing constantly, and co-sleeping, my period returned at two months postpartum. Not cool, nature. Not cool at all. It was especially difficult for me, as I now had to worry about charting my cycle with an infant who had, at best, unpredictable sleep patterns, not to mention I was taking pain medication daily for my disaster of a back. I tried to chart, I really did, but it seemed like the universe was working against me. In addition to getting my period at two months postpartum, I was getting two VERY heavy periods every month. I was exhausted beyond belief, getting migraines constantly, and having painful PMS back pain on top of my already excruciating back pain. Will and I were being obsessively careful about avoiding sex during what I thought was my fertile time each month, but again, my body was doing all sorts of screwy things.
At the beginning of February, I was looking through my CycleGoPro app on my phone, and realizing, "ugh. Lovely. Time for my first period of the month to show up. No wonder I've been craving pizza and ice cream lately." Well, a few days went by, and no period. I started to feel cautiously hopeful; hey, maybe my body was finally starting to right itself! Could it be that I wouldn't have to suffer through this nonsense more than once a month? Well, twelve days went by. At that point, I was confused, and I was starting to get nervous. I pulled Will aside one day after he got home from work, and asked him if he thought I should buy a pregnancy test. Will laughed, and said, "There's just no way. That would seriously be a one in a million chance. Buy one if it will put your mind at ease, but I really don't think you have anything to worry about. If you're not-and I'm SURE you're not-I think you should give your midwives a call to see if they can figure out what's going on with your body." That made sense, and I agreed that the chances of me being pregnant were slim to none, so I ran to Walgreens, picked up a test, and came home just as Will was getting Gianna ready for bed. I told him I was going to take the test immediately just so I could sleep that night without worrying, and Will agreed. I went into the bathroom, peed on the stick, and prepared to wait a few minutes for the results to show up.
I didn't even need to wait 10 seconds. The second line appeared almost immediately, and I burst into hysterical sobs. I was crying so hard I couldn't even see. Will, naturally, was in a complete panic, and he was yelling, "What's wrong? Are you okay? Open the door!!" I opened the door, handed him the test, and collapsed on our bed, still sobbing. "WHAT? How is this possible? There's no way...is a false positive likely?" Nope. False negatives are fairly common, but false positives are almost unheard of. Will was doing everything he could to calm me down, I couldn't stop crying, Gianna started crying because she saw her mama was upset...it was chaos.
I cried all night long. I woke up every hour on the hour, remembering the positive pregnancy test a few feet away from me on my nightstand, and I would just burst into tears. Will would wake up, hold me, tell me that he loved me and he would take care of me, and tell me everything was going to be okay, and he would rub my back until I fell asleep again. I just couldn't believe it. The thought of going through another pregnancy with chronic back pain made me want to vomit. Even if I didn't have chronic pain, the thought of two under two (especially with two older children) was absolutely terrifying to me. Our families were going to freak. My neurosurgeon was going to think I was dumber than a box of rocks. And last but not least, how was this going to affect Gianna? I already suspected that my milk supply was dwindling, and I was taking a bunch of lactation-boosting herbs to continue nursing her. None of which were safe to take during pregnancy, so I had to immediately discontinue using them.
It took me a long, LONG time to come to terms with this pregnancy. I cried at my first appointment with my midwife. I cried pretty much every single night for two weeks straight. I felt selfish and ungrateful, knowing how many friends I have who are struggling with fertility and would kill to be in my position. I cried when I finally admitted defeat, realizing my milk supply completely dried up, and I had to switch Gianna to formula. I didn't want to tell anyone. I avoided talking about it with Will, and every time he gently brought up announcing the news to family and friends, I talked him out of it. After I got over my initial sadness, I felt anger. At everything and everyone. I was angry at God, for clearly giving me more than I could handle. I was angry at society, for making me feel embarrassed and needing to defend having more than the "acceptable" number of children. I was angry at NFP for failing me. Most of all, I was angry at myself. For not making an appointment with my midwives as soon as I realized something was kind of screwy with my body, for not making the time to take a Creighton NFP class (with my friend, who is a certified instructor and had offered her services to us in the past), and for not being more careful. And most of all, for seeing this pregnancy as a huge burden. I was so ashamed of myself when I realized I had resentment towards an innocent baby, a baby whom I knew I would fall in love with the moment he or she is placed in my arms.
I ended up confiding in one of my close friends, and she gave me some great advice. "Don't show your fears or sadness to those you know won't understand, but with those who WILL, don't hold back. " We eventually told our families, a few more of our close friends, and shortly thereafter, we made the official announcement online. For the most part, people have been very supportive and happy. We've had to field a few of those "hilarious" questions such as "ya know what causes that, right?" (Har! Good one!). I've also become more comfortable admitting that while yes, a baby is always a blessing, that doesn't mean I can't be scared about the timing, or sad about the circumstances. I had this (irrational) fear that I would be kicked out of some kind of Catholic club for not being over the moon about another pregnancy, and that couldn't have been further from the truth. My Catholic sisters were supportive, understanding, and as patient as can be with me while I cried about my fears and grumbled about our hyperactive fertility.
Everything is going to be okay. I know it is. I will make it through this pregnancy, and at the end, we will have a beautiful, and, God-willing, healthy baby to show for it. Yes, our life will become slightly more chaotic, but that's certainly nothing new. I'm slowly allowing myself to feel excitement over the impending newborn stage again, and buying tiny little clothes and hats for our newest addition. I'm doing everything I can to try and manage my back pain, and get as much rest (as possible) during the exhausting first trimester. It wasn't easy, but letting go of my fears, anger, and anxiety has given me the peace of mind I so desperately needed. I'm slowly but surely getting back into a daily prayer routine, and in the midst of my worries, remembering that I have so, so much to be grateful for.