Number Three

maddieWhen you’ve had a traumatic pregnancy and birth experience, the question of having more children becomes very complex.  With healthy, relatively easy pregnancies, the question is, “would we like another?” and, if yes, “when should we try again?”.  But after two 25 weekers, it’s not that simple.  Then the question is, “I’d really like another, but should we risk it?”

The older Madeleine and Reid get, the more I can make peace with what we went through after they were born.  They are doing so well, so incredibly well, and I live with an unending sense of gratitude that our story had a happy ending.  But I still struggle with my own feelings about my pregnancy.  I struggle with the reality that my body was unable to carry my children long enough to keep them safe.  And I still mourn the dream I had for my children’s entrance into the world, one where they would be big and healthy and screaming and we’d hold them right away and take happy photographs and bask in the glow of our newly-created family.  We would cry tears of joy instead of tears of fear and sadness.  There would be no need for resuscitation or ventilators or surfactant, nobody would ask if I’d had my steroid shots.  And then when they got a little bit older, we’d be excited to do it all again, to welcome a new, big, healthy baby into our family just like we did with the twins.

People ask sometimes if I’d like more children.  They ask mostly because of the idea that twins are an “instant family”, that you can happily stop after that and not miss out on anything.  I tell them I’m not sure, or yes, maybe I would like that.  But really I know that I would have more children in a heartbeat if I could, but that I’d never forgive myself if it went awry.

When Madeleine’s brain hemorrhage was first diagnosed, my heart broke in a way it never had before.  I distinctly remember sitting by her Isolette while she slept, still so very tiny, and I cried and apologized.  “I’m so sorry Madeleine,” I said, again and again.  “You don’t deserve this, my sweet girl”.  In that moment I wanted so badly to take back my decision to get pregnant, the decision we made with a sense of hopeful optimism about all the wonderful things to come.  I was so happy to know I was going to be a mother, and I fell overwhelmingly in love with Madeleine and Reid the moment I met them.   But our decision, the one that brought me so much joy, meant that a tiny, helpless, perfect little human was suffering.  A little human who deserved so much more.

Madeleine is thriving now, surpassing everyone’s expectations in terms of development.  I am so, so incredibly happy for her, my amazing girl, and for the awesomely full life that she is going to be able to have.  But I still remember that day, the day I realized that everything she was going through came down to a decision we made for us and for her without her consent.  We didn’t know that then, of course, had no way of knowing what was going to happen to us –  but we know now.  We know about incompetent cervixes and bed rest and premature labour.  We know about ventilators and brain bleeds and shunts and NEC and infections.  About ROP, and sepsis, and bowel obstructions and hearing loss and PDAs and seizures.  We know that babies don’t come home.  Could we ever take the chance and roll the dice again?

I know that many mothers go on to have perfectly healthy, full term babies after a premature delivery.  I know that a second pregnancy would mean a high-risk obstetrician, a cerclage placed much easier, and constant monitoring.  I’d also have the experience of having been pregnant once, and better able to recognize all the warning signs I see now in retrospect but had no idea about at the time.  There are lots of reasons to be hopeful.  But are they enough?

I don’t know the answer now, and maybe I never will.  I feel comforted knowing that, regardless of my pain, I am so wonderfully lucky for the two beautiful, healthy children that make my world brighter, more colourful, more alive.  I’ve already been given more than I could possibly ever need.  But I do still wonder what would happen if we were to ever try again.

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11 thoughts on “Number Three

  1. From one perspective, I can see why you would feel guilty for making this choice for Madeleine, but what if she chose YOU to be her mother, knowing exactly what was going to happen. Knowing that she would have surgeries and months in the NICU and be seperated from her brother, her mother, and her father during the first few months of her life. What if she knew all of this and decided that having you as her mother was worth experiencing all of this pain and discomfort. Poor Madleine; I think not my dear. She is blessed with the mother of her choice, a decision which will continue to bless her for the rest of her long life!

  2. I so agree. I had 2 perfectly normal uncomplicated pregnancies before the loss of our 3rd, and I am so uncomfortable with the fact that things could go horribly awry. Even when there is nothing I could have possibly done to prevent pre-e, that thought still lingers, and challenges my contrasting want to expand our family…. I hear you loud and clear and so many mothers keep being expected to just wash their hands of things after a traumatic birth, as if it’s all behind them (especially when their babies survived). Not everyone understands the weight that type of thing carries long after the trauma.

    • Yes! An experience like that changes you forever, I think, even if you have a million healthy full-term pregnancies afterward. I think maybe it’s that you no longer get to live in the dreamy bubble of thinking that pregnancy is all happiness and rainbows and fat, crying babies that go home right away. Now you have to face the fact that so much can and does go wrong for so many women and maybe you could be one of those women. Not an easy choice, to say the least!

  3. Having 26 week twins, 96 days in the NICU & still amazed that so far (at 11 months) the girls are perfect, this really hits close to home. Just 4 days ago a cousin had a 9 and half pound baby for her first pregnancy, and while thrilled I kept thinking how different the two first birth experiencea were. Within minutes of the full term, big & healthy baby’s birth, pictures were on Facebook, congratulations were called & texted in and everyone celebrated his wonderful birth! With the twins, family & friends were terrified we would lose them. There were lots of tears, prayers and then the minute by minute watch to see what would happen next. No one dared “exhaled” until the twins ca me home. We still explain that while they are 11 months, adjusted age is 7 and half. While they are perfect, with no lasting issues of being 26 weekers, AND we know how BLESSED we are, the thought of another pregnancy, although very much wanted, is scary…

    • You are absolutely right about the response! With a healthy, full-term baby, it’s joyous, everyone is congratulating you and wanting to see photos, wanting to know all the happy details. With preemies, it feels like people aren’t sure how to respond (and understandably so!). I sent out some photos to some friends and family after M&R’s birth, but I was (and am) very conflicted about that choice. On the one hand, it is sad, and scary, and it’s hard for people to see photos like that. On the other hand, it is STILL a celebration – they are still here, they are still my perfect, wonderful children. Very difficult balance to strike.

      (Such wonderful news about your 26 weekers doing so well, by the way! Preemies are little warrior miracles!)

      • Yes, they are definitely little warriors! Sophia and Olivia had to be to survive. I am their Nana, Mommy’s Mom, so their Mommy and Daddy are my hero’s! I have been with the twins every day of their life, even the 10 days before their birth when labor first started. My daughter wanted me to be with her and her husband because a “perfect pregnancy” suddenly became terrifying. When labor could no longer be stopped and the twins were delivered (on Mom and Dad’said first wedding anniversary), we suddenly were thrust into the world of micro-preemies. As you said, the announcement of the birth is so different, than a full term baby. I stopped calling family and friends the night they were suddenly born, because I could not hear “oh, I am so sorry” one more time. They were here, they were beautiful, they were so loved and they were fighting every second to live. The three of us soon learned (my husband is passed and the other grandparents states away), that while we took pictures and videos, they were not shared – others just did not see the beautiful babies we did. As I wrote earlier, while it was wonderful that when the cousin’s baby was born big and healthy, my heart ached remembering the response my daughter and her husband got on their twin’s birth. One relative actually commented that it was nice to be able to “celebrate” his birth, rather than go through the twin’s early birth! Thankfully, the cousin could not be more sensitive and has called my daughter for advice, telling her she is the best new Mom she knows – meant the world to my daughter. As for a third baby, they would love this. However, the thought of an early birth again is just so scary…

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