Thoughtful Thursday: Experience

November 12, 2009

Thoughtful Thursday

(Note: Pregnancy and babies discussed.)

In addition to breastfeeding difficulties, the other big component of the hard time I’ve been having is some sort of hormonal baby blues. Much of the time I’m fine, but every few days for a few hours I’m not fine at all.

Right after giving birth it was more obviously hormonal, and I’d burst into tears at the slightest provocation. For example, almost any song. Or a particularly nostalgic Sesame Street clip on YouTube. (Seriously, when that happened, I knew I’d totally lost my mind.)

After the first week, there has been less crying. Instead, I either feel fine, or I feel desperate and forlorn. Thankfully, much more of the former than the latter. The main things that have been setting me off have been:

  • Breastfeeding difficulties
  • Being overwhelmed, generally by my inability to manage more than an hour of work per week or by dealing with two screaming babies on my own (which rarely happens — the alone part and the both screaming part — but oh boy, when it does…)
  • And, shockingly, thoughts of pregnancy

Before becoming pregnant, I wanted to have biological children but pregnancy itself wasn’t that important to me. When I was finally pregnant, I was so thrilled that I cherished every moment I could; even the difficulties like debilitating fatigue and hospitalization were special in their own way. Both before and during pregnancy, I reserved the right to consider additional children later.

Now, simultaneously I want nothing to do with future pregnancies or children and I also burst into tears mourning the absence of those pregnancies and children. Pregnancy kicked my ass, birth almost killed me, and I can’t even manage the two children I have. I have no business trying for or having more children — if I could even get pregnant again, which is almost impossible without treatments, which we’ve sworn never to do again. I’ve shed more than my share of tears over BFNs. TTC turned my life upside down for 7 years. Yet…

The yearning hits me at random times. Tidying up papers and finding an ultrasound photo, and realizing that I’ll never have a 3D ultrasound image of any baby because the Burrito and the Tamale were never in the right positions in the womb. Watching one of them move their legs now, thinking about how the kick would feel if they were still inside, and realizing that I’ll never feel another fetus kick. Jiggling the jelly that is my new abdomen, and remembering my beautiful pregnant belly. Looking at my now full-term babies (39 weeks gestation!), and wondering how it would have been to carry a baby anywhere close to full term, to hold that baby right away instead of touching it for a minute through a window in an incubator, and to go home with that baby instead of spending weeks in the NICU.

I think what gets to me most isn’t that I won’t experience these things again (or for the first time).

What gets to me is that I don’t have the option.

Most of the time now I couldn’t be happier, but sometimes I couldn’t be sadder. Who knew.

How important was/is the experience of pregnancy, as opposed to the baby itself, to you?


25 Responses to “Thoughtful Thursday: Experience”

  1. Quiet Dreams Says:

    The pregnancy was something I very much wanted, and if it turns out I never get it, will mourn deeply.

    Right now, my life is still settling down from great upheaval (and likely will be for a while), and so I don’t often think of my desire to be pregnant or give birth. (This “freedom” has only come at great cost and great pain in other areas, so I don’t think it’s anything to envy.) Sometimes, though, things hit me. One of my closest friends gave birth this week. She had a storybook delivery–no problems, gave birth at home, quick labor. One of the greatest things that I’ve lost due to IF is the belief that I could have such a thing (and frankly the thought of a home-birth scares me to death–I’ve heard too many stories in this community and elsewhere of what can go wrong). Part of me is so incredibly jealous of her, for being able to be pregnant, for having a wonderful partner to parent with, for having an amazing birth experience.

    When I saw her a couple of months ago, I was really jealous of her pregnant belly, of her baby shower, of the specialness of it all.

  2. ^WiseGuy^ Says:

    My brain is filled wih major vacuum.

    Well, before I answer the question, I must make it plain that everything is my perception and not from first-hand experience.

    As major a pursuit a baby is for me, pregnancy is also what I am looking forward to.

    I want to feel the nausea, fatigue, drowsiness that pregnant women talk about. I want to know what it feels like to develop sharp likes/dislikes to food and smells.

    I want to be treated special, the way pregnant women are treated.

    In fact, I want to end the still-barren visual scrutiny that I sometimes get surreptitiously subjected to.

    I want to watch my belly grow, sing songs to the baby, read comic books, whisper secrets, and cradle my bump.

    If I want to do all that, I am definetely looking at the pregnancy with as much eagerness as the end result of the pregnancy itself.

    The desire to know what one experiences in the process of bringing on a new life is very precious for me.

  3. loribeth Says:

    My dh will describe my pregnancy to you as a nightmare. And yes, there was stuff in it that was hard to deal with — the spotting, followed by the testing & the waiting & the many ultrasounds & the IUGR — not to mention the ultimate result. 😦 There is nothing like losing a pregnancy to make you realize that pregnancy itself is really just a means to an end. Ultimately, nothing matters except having a living baby (preferably healthy, of course — but I know plenty of bereaved moms who just wish for “alive” the next time, & everything else is gravy).

    But — I loved being pregnant. I wasn’t someone who obsessed over what kind of a birth I wanted, that sort of thing. And I have always found it difficult to be the centre of attention. I was lucky in that, overall, I felt pretty good physically throughout my pregnancy (a little fatigued, maybe). But I loved watching my belly expand. I loved going shopping for maternity clothes & feeling the little flutters inside and feeling like I was finally part of “the club.” Like you, I feel somewhat cheated out of the parts of the pregnancy I didn’t get to experience (the invitations went out for the shower, but it was never held, never got to prenatal classes, never got to buy the crib, dh never got to feel any kicks, etc.).

    I think it’s human nature to have regrets, no matter how well things turned out overall.

  4. Nishkanu Says:

    I’m not going to answer your question, but make two comments…

    1) Why on earth would you expect to be getting more than an hour of work a week done? Or even getting one hour done? You just had not one, but two babies! All you need to do now is take care of little ones and yourself. And with two, you shouldn’t be able to expect to do that by yourself. So forget about the siren song of that work. Surviving these weeks is more than adequate “productivity.”

    2) I’m not sure just after you had two babies is the right time to be deciding whether or not you will have more. You can’t predict the future, maybe in a few years things will look different. No one can handle two newborns right away, that is not a judge on your parenting abilities at all. I don’t think anybody, history of infertility or not, should take the first couple of weeks or even months with newborns as a good context in which to be deciding about future reproduction of various sorts…

  5. Sara Says:

    Well, to quote Steven Wright, “You can’t have everything… Where would you put it?” Seriously, though, I don’t think it’s surprising at all that you feel this way. You have been locked on a goal for seven long years. Even when the goal ceases to make sense, it’s still hard to change gears. Add to that the hormones….

    Be kind to yourself. You’ve got a lot going on…


  6. a Says:

    I loved pregnancy…in retrospect. During, I was not so enthralled. But, you do get special attention (not always desired), you do get special time when it’s just you and the baby and no one else can interfere, and there is a certain satisfaction in knowing that you are creating something. But, I had it pretty easy; aside from stress and fear (and some weird pains in my legs), I didn’t have any complications.

    However, the parenting part is a lot more fun (most of the time). You’ll get to that part sooner than you think. Right now, you’re still awash in hormones (it takes a while for the body to right itself*) and the babies are at the high need/low reward stage. In a couple more months, the rewards will become more prevalent, and your system will start returning to normal. So, hang on!

    *It took a year and a half for my system to return to normal (biochemically, I guess I would call it) after pregnancy. That was 6 months after stopping breastfeeding. It also took me almost 6 months to come off the emotional roller coaster.

  7. jill Says:

    Pregnancy is very important to me. I long to experience pregnancy just as much as I long to care for and raise a child. I am open to adoption (or even surrogacy if my situation warrented that) but would definitely feel cheated if I never got to be pregnant myself.

  8. Sarah Says:

    Why are you still working? That is just madness? Are you unable to take time off? Ouch!

    It sounds to me like, in addition to the horemone aspect of it, you are going through a grief process, and probably dealing with the trauma you expereinced during IF. We always keep ourselves together until we don’t have to anymore, and then the pain comes tumbling down. Not that you have time to read, but I wonder if Brooke Shields memoir of PPD would help you thorugh this. Have you ever looked at Ask Moxie’s advice on how to deal with PPD? It’s all low intervetion stuff, but might help you feel a bit mroe grounded.

  9. Beth Says:

    I’m in the middle of it now, but to be honest the pregnancy isn’t the important thing to me. I’ve always wanted to be a mom, and I’ve always wanted that mom-ness to begin with a child’s very first breath. I want to be present for every second of someone’s beginning, and the only way I could really imagine being there from the first instant was to carry the baby myself.

    True, I’m enjoying being pregnant, but this isn’t what I dreamed about my whole life. And I’m a little worried about giving birth. It’ll be my first time, and possibly my only. What if I’m not good at it? There’s no prectice run, no second go.

    Anyhow, the living, breathing baby is my dream. Pregnancy is just another step to go through to get there.

  10. Ana Says:

    I second Nishkanu on both points. I’ve heard time and again that your only “job” the first few weeks is to survive and feed the babies (bottle, breast, whichever way you choose). Give yourself a break & stop the guilt!! (yeah, easier said than done, right?)
    And PPD or just post-partum blues is enough to keep you from wanting to consider further children—you definitely need to wait until you get out of the first few months, let things calm down, and THEN reassess your feelings.

    In terms of your question, I have always looked forward to the pregnancy aspect and have been ridiculously jealous of all those pregnant ladies. Having gone through a large part of it now, I’d say it was one of the most difficult things I’ve ever done, physically. Thankfully I’ve had no scary complications but the symptoms I’ve had were way worse than I ever expected & I have been very unproductive (and extremely guilty) the whole time. I do love the attention and feeling the movements and showing off the now-ginormous belly, but in and of itself, I can’t say that I’d do this again if it was just the aspect of experiencing pregnancy. If, though, this all results in a real, live, healthy baby, it will all be worth it.
    I did have an experience that made me wonder about how things that don’t/can’t happen seem to take on an immense significance in our minds, similar because those doors are closed to us…
    A few weeks ago, I was told I had a condition that would certainly result in a c-section (and one that would likely recur in subsequent pregnancies, should I be so lucky, and thus result in me not ever having a vaginal delivery). I never thought I cared about this at all, but suddenly I became very sad for the birth I wouldn’t get to have—the surprise of not knowing exactly when it would be, the grabbing my bag & rushing for the hospital, etc… Stupid little things, but nonetheless I felt sad for a bit that I’d never get to experience them. I later found out that the condition had changed…no scheduled c-section after all…but if I hadn’t had that scare, I wouldn’t have appreciated the fact that right now the options are open to me. Maybe your feelings are similar—and the hormones have made them take an even greater significance.

  11. Mel Says:

    I would tell you that the pregnancy wasn’t as important, and yet, I obviously have a lot of emotions concerning the twin’s premature birth, the post-birth experience. I felt safer having them out, but I also didn’t really want to share them with anyone, hence I wanted them back in. I became extremely selfish and I still am. My mother had to have a talk with me because I would never let Josh do things–not because he couldn’t, but because I wanted every bath, every tuck-in, every diaper change because what if we only got 100 baths and I gave a few away to others to do. Wouldn’t I regret it when we were nearing the end of giving a bath and I thought about the other ones I could have done (I’m aware that I’m completely crazy). It took a long time to realize how much those milestones also meant to Josh and to step back and stop being to greedy. I’m still greedy, but I’m less greedy.

  12. I loved being pregnant – even though in the beginning I was quite anxious that things might go wrong, but that passed and then it was just something so wonderful and I cherished every moment of it, especially after 5+ years of IF. Having the baby is amazing. I can still look at him sometimes and wonder if he’s really mine (the first few days after birth just looking at him made me cry). However, I’m going through a bit of a rough period at the moment, where I’m asking way too much of myself (and my baby, like that he should be sleeping more…), I’m dead tired, and it’s come to the point where something has to change (on my part – ‘just relax’ – sounds familiar???) otherwise I will go completely crazy. This is very difficult for me. The doc said that baby’s not gaining enough weight – other people say it’s fine for breastfed babies – I now have heard so many opinions and advice and I’m so stressed that I can hardly take a decision of how to go on. So I need to take a step back, try not to worry about the details, review my options, and listen to my heart. And sometimes, I think it was so much easier when he was still in my belly… (before this all happened, I was thinking about baby #2 already – now it’s just too much – but I hope it will change again soon, because I would love to be pregnant again, and I would love to have more kids too).

    We new mom’s have to remind ourselves to take it easy, one step at a time. We can’t do everything, priorities have changed. And as my friend wrote to me yesterday: have faith in your baby (babies) too, he/she will show you the way.

  13. BB Says:

    I don’t think I am in a state of mind to answer your question yet! I feel like I still have a long way to go and don’t know how I will feel if/when things get difficult.

    Though, all I can say… is you have done a great job holding on to your emotions and being strong and doing the best you can to bring healthy babies in to this world (you are a great inspiration to me). You deserve all the happiness and satisfaction in life… this feeling of a big change in life, along with emotions hopefully will pass, and you are and will be a great Mom to your kiddos!

  14. Jules Says:

    Did not enjoy pregnancy much at all, even knowing in all likelyhood it was to be the only one I’d have. In hindsight I sometimes wish maybe I had more pregnancy pics and such but for the most part was glad to be done with it.

    Although when they told me it was “baby time” I realized while I was ready to be not pregnant I was nowhere near ready for two babies. I also made the mistake of trying to catch up on work and do too much, and was nauseous the first time I watched the girls alone.

  15. Kristin Says:

    For me, the experience of pregnancy itself was paramount. That said, if I couldn’t have carried my own children, I would have had children any way they came (surrogate, adoption, form out of a pumpkin patch, whatever)!

    And, I think not even having an option makes it so very hard to deal with.

  16. Carrie Says:

    Very deep question.

    Of course having a baby is the ultimate goal, but not being able to be pregnant would have been a very difficult pill to swallow. I’m sure it would continue to stay lodged deep in my throat thinking about everything I could have missed. I had two very difficult pregnancies, but being able to experience it all was unimaginable. I would have been envious of all the pregnant bellies I would have seen wishing I could have been them.

    I’m truly blessed to have experienced both, even if it was not the “typical” pregnancy/birth.

    I also do not feel comfortable risking myself for another pregnancy, my children need me.

  17. Billy Says:

    Being pregnant is very importnat for me. I want to have a child, but I also very much want to have this thing growing in me, to feel a bond from as early as possible, and yes, in some ways to be normal, like any other womsn..
    I believe biology is less important to me. I think if I was given the option (both ending in a healthy ba`1by) between my eggs in a surogate and a donor’s eggs in my womb, I would take the latter. Anyway, I am now pregnant (and with my eggs :-)), so it’s really only theortical.

  18. Billy Says:

    Damn.. my cat just jumped on my keyboard and sent comment before I could proof read..

  19. Wanting something does not mean that once you get it you can’t find it hard or scary or impossible. Infants are crazy impossible, and having two at once is doubly insane. I worked so hard to get pregnant with my first daughter, and cried pretty much every day during her first four months. With the twins it was a bit easier as I knew from experience that infancy would pass quickly.

    What you are doing is VERY HARD. No matter how much you wanted it, it is okay to acknowledge that having infant twins is really, really hard. (On the up-side, it gets easier after 9 weeks, again at 3 months and again routinely after that!)

  20. Photogrl Says:

    Considering I’m less than 48 hours away from my beta to see if IVF#1 worked, obviously pregnancy is important to me. Is it the end all be all? No, I’m fortunate to have carried DD. But after 5 losses now after her, I would really like to end all this struggling on a high note, you know?

    I do know that if I’m lucky enough to EVER be pregnant again, I’m going to try to cherish every moment. Good and bad.

    And if I’m not? I just don’t know.

  21. Michele Says:

    I cherished every second of every pregnancy because I didnt want to lose even one precious second with the child/children I was carrying. It breaks my heart that I will never have a normal pregnancy. That my babies will never have a nice, 40 week in-utero journey with a well mother. It just breaks me. I am uber grateful for the time I did have with every baby, inside and outside. But it is still something I mourn.

  22. shinejil Says:

    I hated being pregnant, hated it. Well, I liked what I hoped would come out of it: a person to raise and love. But if I could somehow have been chemically lobotomized for nine months? I would have seriously considered it.

    Birth and child care have proven relatively easy, by comparison. Sure, like you, I have those incredible moments of overwhelming sorrow or regret that the life that I once had, so long ago, is no more and that I can’t enrich my intellectual life or do my work at the moment. But this is temporary (or so I remind myself) and usually the blues for me come when I haven’t been taking care of myself enough.

    Basically, I would give birth once a week for a couple months, versus being pregnant again. Though, in the ultimate contradiction, I am starting to long for a second child, if possible. Maybe we’ll get lucky, or maybe we’ll adopt. But no more treatment.

  23. shinejil Says:

    Oh, one more thing. It was really, really hard for me for weeks to just put my little guy down and let him fret for a moment while I went to the bathroom, got a bite to eat quickly, changed out of a pee-soaked dress, etc. I was getting seriously depressed and resentful because of this.

    Now it’s gotten easier, and I just put him down when I need a moment. I think we have to learn that the crying, though it pierces our hearts, is a part of this. It’s unavoidable. And there’s a difference between some fussing and real dreadful distress, you know? Though with two going at once, it must be even more difficult to deal with…

    Anyway, you’re coping with a truly tough challenge, in a historically unprecedented context: women are expected to work outside the home and to take care of infants at home alone with little to no outside help, as others are far away and/or working. This is not how humans evolved, and this new configuration makes for many, many maternal tears.

  24. Yeah, the not getting any work done nearly drove me crazy the first few weeks. I worked out a deal with my hubby where he took care of Betty before he went to work and we called in a babysitter 3 hours a day. Still, I do miss the feel of accomplishment that comes w/ getting a lot of work done. The thing that’s really not covered in the mommy wars is some women (like myself) just wouldn’t be good stay-at-home moms. It took me a while to figure out that I just don’t have the attention span to spend every waking moment concentrating on Betty. That got real boring real quick, also I started feeling frustrated with the situation. Now that I have help and am working part-time, I feel much more balanced. But I’d say I’m just now feeling fully adjusted and I’m over 5 months in.

    My point is, try to be patient with yourself. This is a huge life change and there’s nothing you can do to instantly adjust. You’re so clever, and you’ll get it all figured out eventually. But until then it’s going to be a lot of emotional ups and downs.

    I don’t miss being pregnant, but I know a few women who did. And I imagine I might feel differently when I’ve completed our family or if IVF doesn’t work the next time. Every ending is a kind of death that we have to grieve. I cried on my honeymoon. Not b/c I particularly liked planning my wedding — I didn’t. But b/c it was all over. I hope that makes sense.

  25. Elana Kahn Says:

    How did I miss this one? I thought I commented here, cuz I know I read this post. In either case, for me it’s very important to have the experience of pregnancy. I love to feel a baby inside of me, and I would love to actually give birth naturally one day. Although I’m sure I would love an adopted child (or one delivered via surrogate) just as much as one I carried myself, it’s very important for me to actually carry the child.

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