When 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.