Hi, how are you? Yes, I mean you. I know you’ve probably already adjusted to…
I remember the exact moment I felt an overwhelming urge to dump a full beer on the head of a total stranger for the first time. No, it wasn’t in a crowded college bar at 3 am or in line at a concert. It was in a quiet restaurant in December of 2016.
“You guys don’t have kids?”
Those words cut through the air like a knife as my husband and I sat down at the end of a bar to grab a quick bite to eat. “Nope!” my husband quickly jumped in and immediately turned away from the stranger who decided that our life had become his business that day.
“That seems weird though…doesn’t it? I mean…that you don’t have kids. Given your age and…” he trailed off and turned back to his beer as it became clear that he wasn’t going to get any further acknowledgment from either of us anytime soon.
I was still bleeding from my most recent D&C when this stranger was drinking a beer and deciding to insert his opinion into our life.
This was our second miscarriage in less than four months.
My husband Andy and I had been together for 10 years and married for four. We thought getting pregnant would happen “whenever we decide we’re ready!” and were exhausted and confused by how hard it was to get those two little pink lines.
Our first miscarriage hit me like a Mack Truck at 11 weeks: a solid three weeks after we had seen a strong heartbeat at the doctor’s office.
If telling Andy about that first pregnancy was one of the happiest moments of my life, having to call him to say “it just went away” was one of the worst. If our first miscarriage was like a Mack Truck, our second was much more like death by a thousand cuts (s/o T. Swift).
Despite not seeing a heartbeat at week eight, the doctors urged us to keep waiting with “cautious optimism.” After two agonizing weeks, over the Thanksgiving holiday no less, we found ourselves back into the exact same waiting room for another D&C. A weird version of déjà vu that I wouldn’t wish on my worst enemy.
Months later, we got pregnant again. I held my breath for the first 14 weeks (when I wasn’t puking) and after the end of that first trimester, I was able to accept that we were going to stay pregnant. We celebrated for a few weeks until our mid-pregnancy ultrasound when the doctor found “some cysts on your baby’s brain that are likely nothing…” but resulted in a number of additional scans and specialists. Finally, at week 26 we were told we could breathe easy. Our daughter Gracie arrived on Halloween, a healthy little peanut with oddly hairy shoulders.
Because we struggled to get and stay pregnant, I put a lot of pressure on myself to “enjoy every moment” of new motherhood. I kept reminding myself that this was the moment we had worked so hard for, and I was beating myself up for not being able to enjoy it.
This didn’t help the postpartum anxiety and depression I was experiencing. And while my doctor assured me that this was “supernormal for people like me” (read: obsessed with my career) and my husband was incredibly supportive, I wrapped my feelings in a thick cloak of guilt.
At about 10 weeks postpartum, I started to come out of a haze (#thankyouzoloft) and found myself alone at another restaurant, eating lunch with one hand and nursing our daughter with the other.
“She’s so cute! When are you going to have another?!” Asked my peppy waitress while she went to freshen up the water glasses at a nearby table.
I eyed my very full beer just out of reach and willed myself not to throw it. (Side note: I’m going to wager that anyone reading this and judging my choice to have lunchtime beer has never had a tiny, squirmy human attached to their body 24 hours a day).
After the marathon I had just completed to bring our daughter into the world, I was shocked by how quickly people, especially strangers, expected me to start running all over again.
Unfortunately, their subliminal messages started to creep in and somewhere along the way, I noticed that I started to insert the word “just” into my description of our family.
“We have just one daughter.”
My memory of all the pain I went through for Gracie began to fade and the repetition of that not-so-innocent question “when are you going to have another?” was creating some serious self-doubt. Like having one child somehow made us less whole as a family and less deserving of feelings of appreciation and accomplishment.
In March of 2021, my husband and I found ourselves very (very) accidentally pregnant, only to experience another miscarriage a few weeks later. As I lay in that same room for yet another dreaded internal ultrasound (this time alone and double-masked, thank you #globalpandemic), I was finally flooded with peace: Gracie is now three years old, she’s healthy, and she makes me laugh every single day.
When I got up from that table, I chose to leave my feelings of guilt and self-doubt there in that room I hoped to never see again.
I pictured them like a cloud surrounding that awful paper gown they make you wear and the ultrasound technician with her terrible bedside manner. I left them hovering around those cold stirrups while I walked out into the early spring sunshine.
Not only is Gracie amazing but I realized it was time to stop letting other people’s insensitive questions stop me from feeling whole.
Recently, a new client innocently asked, “Are you going to have another?” while trying to kill some time as we waited for someone else to join the meeting. I confidently replied…
“We’re so lucky to have Gracie. And that’s perfect for us.”
Then, instead of reaching for a beer to pour over his head (which would have been hard to pull off on zoom anyway), I reached for the question I wished he had asked me instead: “What are some of your dreams for yourself and your family?” I asked.
…and 15 minutes later, we were still talking about boats.