Thursday, March 11, 2010

First Things First

If there has been one consistent thing in my life over the past 10 years or so, it's been my desire to have a baby. I know...that's crazy, right? I am 42 years old and I already have three beautiful daughters. No one could say that my life is not busy enough as it is. It's not like I feel like I am missing out on anything. It's not even about having a boy. On the contrary, I feel like my daughters are such blessings that I would love to have one more.

When I turned 40, I kept thinking that the desire would "go away". I thought that I would wake up one day and suddenly feel like I was too old and that I was satisfied with the size of my family. Steve had always maintained that he only wanted two children, so I knew that I was damn lucky that he agreed to three. Yet, the feeling didn't go away. In fact, if anything, it has only intensified over the past two years.

Last July I went in for my annual exam and casually mentioned to my doctor that I was thinking about having another baby, but wanted to wait another two or three years because, by then, I'd be done with my MBA and would likely be established in a new job. I was surprised when she said that, if I was serious about having a baby, I needed to start immediately! She said that, at age 42, I was already seven years past the time that doctors consider safe. Seven years!

I guess I always thought that people started worrying about birth defects and such after a mother turned 40. I figured I was only a couple of years off. I didn't know that the cut off date for "advanced maternal age" was actually 35.

That summer I was taking a negotiations class. I had written in one of my papers that I thought that one of the reasons I was not a strong negotiator is because I write myself off or underestimate what I am capable of. I challenged myself to take more chances and shoot higher when it comes to the things that are important to me. And nothing was more important to me than my family (and adding to it). So I decided to use the negotiation techniques I learned in class to have a serious conversation with Steve about having another baby.

To my complete surprise, Steve did eventually come around to my way of thinking! I never dreamed he would agree to a fourth child. In fact, I felt guilty even asking him, because I knew that he had given me Athena as a bonus. I think what did it for him is that I said that all the funnest and most rewarding (and challenging) things that we have ever done in our married life have involved the children. I love spending time with them, and (although I am a good parent), Steve is an excellent parent. I love watching him interact with his girls. We make a good team.

What's more, the girls were excited about the idea too. That kind of surprised me too, especially from Hannah and Heather. I thought they would consider it "gross" and think their parents were too old to be considering another baby. (They probably do still consider it "gross" but are willing to overlook that in exchange for a baby brother or sister). The girls were immediately on board and were arguing about names, where the baby would sleep, etc.

A few short months later, I was pregnant! Yea! My "advanced maternal age" was apparently not so advanced that I couldn't conceive. I was due July 27th. I was still in school at the time, and extremely busy with my last three graduate classes, my job, the holidays, and taking care of my family. Sadly, on December 6th, I suffered a miscarriage.

It wasn't entirely unexpected. Dr. Kolwitz performed an early ultrasound the week prior and couldn't find a heart beat. I was hoping that maybe the dates were off and the baby was just not as far along as we had calculated. But, unfortunately, that was not the case. My "old" egg wasn't viable and I lost the baby.

Of course, I had never had a miscarriage before. I got pregnant so easily that I figured it would all be a piece of cake, in spite of my age. My other three pregnancies were text book perfect. I had high hopes that this one would be no different. However, that was not to be. I cried for days and also thanked God for the miracle of my healthy babies. Someone like me, for whom pregnancy and birth had always been so easy, takes such things for granted. I thought often about Gwen's fertility struggles and felt guilty that I was mourning over a miscarriage when Gwen couldn't even have a baby of her own. I felt selfish. Still, I wanted that baby. We all did. It was a great disappointment.

I told Steve (and I still believe this) that God has a plan for us. I think it will work out. Maybe it is wishful thinking, but in my mind, I still see a healthy baby for us. In my heart, I still feel like God is going to take care of it for us...on His timetable, not ours. It's a matter of having faith and being patient.

So Dr. Kolwitz gave us the green light to try again in February. I think I did ovulate that month, but apparently our timing was off, because I started my cycle on February 23rd. Yep. That's the day I broke my leg! When I found out I wasn't pregnant, I texted Steve from work and told him that we should go to Mug Club that night. That was code for "I started my period, so let's go have a beer". That night we fed the kids, I brushed my teeth and got ready to go. I was rushing down the stairs when I fell. So much for Mug Club! And now that I am on pain killers, I am not allowed to have any alcohol. It might be a long time before I can make it to Mug Club again.

I have to say that I did have my doubts as I was sitting in the hospital in extreme pain. On one hand, I was relieved that if I was going to break my leg, I was at least glad that I wasn't pregnant at the time! That would have been devastating! On the other hand, I was thinking that maybe this was a signal that I shouldn't be getting pregnant at my age. The recovery time for this will definitely push my baby schedule back by several months.

First things first: I need to focus on recovering from this. I would love to use this as an opportunity to get into better shape and take better care of my physical self. This has been five months of some of the most challenging health issues I have ever faced. My emotional self needs to be ready to cope with pregnancy as well. I want to do whatever it takes to make sure that my baby gets a healthy start in life. I still think God has a plan. This is just a detour, not a dead end.

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