First of all, thanks so much for your well-wishes about our newest Baby Duck.
I also want to say that I know pregnancy announcements can be loaded for anyone who has had to cope with baby loss, ongoing struggles to get pregnant, or infertility. Please know I'm sensitive to the fact that this is a tender subject. Given my own experience, I'm painfully aware that one person's good news can be another person's grief trigger and I completely understand if that's the case for anyone reading this blog.
So here's the backstory on Rerun:
Right around the time Zuzu gave up the boob (at 15 months), I was hit with the certainty that I did not want her to be my last baby. I wanted to have the whole experience one more time, and David was totally on board with that. Up until that point, I wasn't really sure whether Zuzu would be our only living child. Pregnancy scared me, my memories of med-free labor were, let's say, VIVID, and my biggest worry was that 9 months of Zuzu's toddler years would be spent with me being totally anxious and focused on another pregnancy.
David and I had talked quite a bit about it (because we are planners!) and he assured me that he would be okay with whatever I decided. As scary as it was to contemplate another pregnancy, I figured that by the time Zuzu was three years old, we'd probably be ready for another baby. She turns two at the end of June this year, so I thought maybe we'd start trying that fall. A few of my friends were pregnant with their second rainbow babies and while I was happy for them, I wasn't envious AT ALL. I had no desire to go through the physical stuff of another pregnancy at the moment. I definitely did not feel emotionally ready to deal with the anxiety of another pregnancy. And after seeing several friends have kids less than two years apart, I had no desire to join that club! I really only want to deal with one baby in diapers at a time. So my plan was to wait until Zuzu turned two, and then evaluate and see when we'd be ready to start trying to have another baby.
I have to say, there was a part of me that felt rushed to have another baby before I turned 35 (I'll turn 34 this summer--right before Rerun's due date), but mostly I felt like the status quo was pretty freaking great. Eventually, I hoped Zuzu would have a little brother or sister, but I was in no hurry.
Without getting overly TMI (just a little TMI!), you may recall that it took us a while to get pregnant in the past. We "quit preventing" for two months and then tried in earnest for four months before getting pregnant with Eliza. By "trying," I mean careful timing, ovulation kits, basal body temperature taking, taking prenatal vitamins in advance, eating a healthy diet, cutting out caffeine and soda, and doing a lot of googling and obsessing (at least on my part).
After we lost Eliza, we waited the recommended three months before we decided that our desire (desperation?) to have a living baby was stronger than our fear. Easier said than done, though. Every month, my grief was amplified by negative pregnancy tests and I felt like a double failure for not being able to keep my baby alive and not being able to get pregnant again. When we hadn't gotten pregnant on our own after six (long, long) months of even-more-obsessive-than-the-first-time trying (among many other things, I made David take special vitamins, purchased a fertility candle, and insisted he couldn't use the seat warmers in the car in case he was cooking his sperm), I scheduled an appointment with a reproductive endocrinologist, had my cycle monitored, discovered that my follicles were developing properly but I wasn't actually ovulating. I cried and freaked out and stressed out about the cost of everything we were doing, and finally had a hormone shot administered (by David, in my butt cheek!) to make me ovulate.
It worked, and I got pregnant, but it was so scary. I felt like I had "tricked" my body into doing something it wasn't able or willing or ready to do on its own. I felt like I had willed this pregnancy into existence and it seemed so fragile and like it could disappear so easily (after all, if my first baby could die after 34 weeks of healthy and normal development, what was keeping this baby from doing the same?). I felt like I practically had to hold my breath for the next nine months--like one wrong move on my part would make this pregnancy fall apart.
This time was... different.
The first week of December, I was experiencing my usual slump before Eliza's birthday. At the same time, work was crazy with end-of-semester business, I was thinking ahead to Christmas with Zuzu and trying to figure out how I could make more of an effort to embrace the holidays this year, and--like it or not--our calendar was full of school events and social events, so even though I'd tried to block off time around Eliza's birthday, I felt tired and stressed out. I didn't have a lot of time to dwell on my sadness, but it was inescapable and weighed heavily on me.
On December 3rd, I was drinking a glass of wine, grading a stack of papers, and texting a friend who asked how I was doing with Eliza's birthday coming up. I said something about how I was functioning pretty well but I knew the grief and anxiety were getting to me because my cycle was wonky (obviously she's a good friend and oversharing is how we operate). I'd had some spotting the week before, but my period had never actually started and now I was on day 34 of my cycle. She asked if that was normal for me and I said no--in the past, stress had caused me to have shorter cycles, not longer ones.
She said, Maybe you're pregnant.
And I snorted into my GLASS OF WINE because, no. Just, no. We weren't trying, we weren't ready, it wasn't even CLOSE to being on our radar. True, we weren't actively preventing (I had no desire to go back on the pill), but after having to use medical assistance to get pregnant with Zuzu, I fully believed that having another baby would require some serious effort. I would need to cut out all alcohol, start taking vitamins, go on my organic, healthy-fats, low-sugar diet, and make sure I was getting more exercise. I was not one of those idiots who gets pregnant by mistake. Plus, and most convincing, (again, an overshare), romantic evenings in our house were so infrequent these days that it just wasn't possible.
Our conversation moved on to other things, but I woke up in the middle of the night that night and couldn't get back to sleep. I felt totally normal. There was no way I was pregnant. But I also didn't feel at all like I was about to start my period...
The next day on my way to work, I stopped at a pharmacy and picked up the cheapest pregnancy test available. I knew I wasn't pregnant, but I just needed confirmation. I didn't want to face Eliza's birthday wondering what was going on. And if I wasn't pregnant, then I needed to figure out why my cycle was so wonky, which truly had me worried. I took it in the bathroom down the hall from my office, then raced back to my office and locked the door, peering at the stick to see it develop.
One line. A small sigh of... relief? regret? A combination of these two? Also the concern that there was something wrong...
I took a photo and texted it to my friend. "I think it's negative."
But then I noticed something weird. The test had a "control line" and then the pregnancy indicator line. It was the control line that wasn't there. The pregnancy indicator line was super dark. WTF.
I chugged a bottle of water and repeated the test.
This time, there was no mistaking it--two pink lines. I stared at those two lines, illuminated by my desk lamp and my computer screen, not sure whether I wanted to laugh or cry, glad that there wasn't something inexplicably wrong, still in disbelief that this was even possible.
This was two days before Eliza's birthday. I was exhausted and grieving and completely unprepared for another pregnancy. Once again, the timeline I had imagined in my head suddenly looked nothing like my reality. I was pregnant on December 4th for the third time in four years. To say my emotions were all over the place is an enormous understatement.
I was supposed to go to a friend's house that evening for a little Hanukkah party, but I was so overwhelmed with this news and so not ready to share it with anyone but David that I bailed on the party and headed home early. I texted David and told him I wasn't feeling well and asked him to please get home early (he didn't because of course).
When he (finally) got home, I was in the kitchen and Zuzu was in her high chair eating dinner slash whining. David came in and we gave him the normal greetings and then I asked if I could talk to him about something.
He's fairly used to me starting conversations like this, with subjects that could range anywhere from paint colors to swimming lesson plans to really serious things, so he said yes. I suddenly felt shaky and my heart was racing.
The conversation went like this (as I assisted Zuzu in shoveling applesauce into her mouth):
Me: You know how you said that after Zuzu was born that you'd be fine with it if I didn't want to have any more babies?
Me: And you know how you said that you'd also be fine with it if I did want to have another baby?
Me: Well, what would you want if it were totally your decision?
David: (pauses for a minute, thinking) Well, I guess that I'd just want to leave it up to chance.
Me: (pauses to think about how freaking perfect that answer was) Okay. Well, how's August for you?
David: (nods calmly) You want to start trying in August?
Me: No, dude. I'm due in August.
David: (freezes) Wait. What? (silent beat.) You're pregnant?
Then I nodded and started crying because OMG emotional and then there was hugging and kissing and celebrating and laughing.
I've always said I don't like surprises, but waiting to find out whether Zuzu was a boy or a girl until she was born was the best surprise ever (because I'd been hoping so hard that I would have the chance to have another daughter). Now I have to say that getting surprise pregnant with Rerun was the best outcome I wasn't hoping for.
While the universe continues to mock my plans for family making, there is enormous relief in the fact that I didn't have to stress and worry about getting pregnant again.
I confess, though, that because I know several people who are actively trying to get pregnant again or who are coping with infertility or recent miscarriage, I couldn't help but feel a certain kind of guilt for having mixed feelings about an experience that many people were desperately hoping for. I also felt some guilt and sadness, and then guilt and sadness about not feeling completely happy. (Because there is NOTHING I won't overanalyze).
Plus there's the fact that I have always rolled my eyes at the thought of people getting pregnant by accident. Like You know what causes that. How irresponsible can you be?
The timing also complicated things, of course. I was so shocked by the unexpected turn of events that my grief for Eliza, even on her birthday, felt somewhat distracted, and there was also some sadness that the good news of pregnancy was so close to the anniversary of the saddest day of our lives. Again, I felt guilty in both directions.
It took a couple of weeks for my wild emotions to settle down and for both of us to start to believe that this could be real, let alone start to get excited about it. But then David went with me to my appointment at 8 weeks, just a few days before Christmas, and we saw that little bean with the flickering heartbeat in the middle, and we looked at each other with teary eyes because That's our baby. Another baby Duck. The best Christmas gift I didn't know I wanted had just become a gift I didn't ever want to have to live without.
So... it looks like I may have to rethink my stance on surprises. But for now, I'm hoping things remain boring and uneventful until this little one makes his or her appearance.