September 23, 2011

The question

A few months ago, people didn't dare to ask. Lulu was scrawny and bald-patchy and newborn-screamy. They would be insane to ask. But now that she's sleek and fat and so so so cute, they can't help themselves.

I don't blame them for asking. I like to think that my baby girl is so freaking ADORABLE and winsome and charming that people think it's my responsibility to bring more like her into the world. So these people--never family and friends, they know better--want to know:

When do you think you'll have another?

And I really don't know what to say.

I suppose I could tell them, these people in the park, the grocery story, these high school friends, these neighbors, about the one perfect week I had after seeing that positive pregnancy test before my pregnancy went entirely to shit. I could tell them about the half-dozen middle of the night ER visits in the first trimester alone, the blase faces of the doctors who told me that they really couldn't say whether my pregnancy would continue. Wait and see. My least favorite words in the English language. I could tell them about the horrible night in the ER at 8 weeks, when the triage nurse gave me detailed instructions on what to expect from the miscarriage she was sure was imminent. About the followup sonograms, laying on the table with my stomach in knots, hoping to see that little flickering heartbeat and being shocked and not shocked, each time, that it was still there.

I could tell them more than they wanted to know about slow-doubling HCG levels, progesterone suppositories, subchorionic hematomas. I could tell them about how I learned at a glance to tell whether the amount of blood on the toilet paper was "normal."

I could tell them about cervical insufficiency, about the thirteen weeks I spent in bed on my left side. I could tell them about the deep, soul-crushing boredom, the resentment, the two full seasons that I missed completely. About the crown I had to get on my upper back molar because nobody told me that spending 91 days with your hand propping up your jaw could put so much pressure on your teeth that they'd crack. How when I bought a pair of skinny jeans after Lulu's birth, I was so happy to fit into a smaller size than I'd worn before I was pregnant--until I realized that the only reason I could was because my leg muscles had atrophied from months of disuse.

I could tell these people who ask about how it felt to go into labor two months early, the prick of the needle as the nurses gave me steroids that would develop my baby's premature lungs. How there was talk of giving me magnesium, of keeping me in a weird twilight state between labor and delivery so that "the fetus" had more time to develop. How I panicked at the words HOSPITAL BEDREST, because as shitty as regular bedrest was, at least I could be at home with J.D. during it. I could tell them how the neonatal doctors came in to talk to me when it became apparent that I was having a baby that night, that it couldn't be put off, and how it felt when they used words like "ventilator" and "cerebral palsy." The long, long, long, long few seconds between pushing Lu out and hearing her finally give the squalling cry that meant that she could breathe.

How I got to hold her on my chest for thirty seconds before they took her away.

I could tell them about those two weeks in the NICU, the angry, jaundiced red color of my baby's skin, her skinny, skinny arms and legs, the IV in her HEAD. How she didn't have the energy to eat and lost so much weight--weight she didn't have to lose. How her heart rate plummeted and she stopped breathing when we tried to feed her. How it felt to leave the hospital with just J.D. I could talk about the visits to the hospital, four times a day, and then three after I nearly collapsed from exhaustion and hunger next to my daughter's isolette. About the baby in the isolette next to Lulu, who needed a machine to breathe, who looked more like a piece of fruit than an actual human being. He was Baby B Miller, a twin, and I couldn't see a Baby A, and to this day, I worry about where he was, what happened to him. I could expound for hours about the nurses whose kindness I still can't talk about without wanting to cry.

I could also go on and on about all the people who tried to "comfort" me by saying things like, "Well, at least you'll be able to catch up on sleep!" and "She's getting better care than you could give her," about the people who were upset about not being able to see the baby, and let me know how disappointed they were, like I had just decided not to let them come over today, like she wasn't hooked up to a bunch of monitors in the HOSPITAL. Like it was my fault.

I could tell them how I wonder to this day if it IS my fault, if there was something I could have done to make my pregnancy last longer. How I go back over those 33 weeks, trying to pinpoint the place where I did something that made her come earlier than she should have.

But then, on the other hand, I could tell them about how awesome it was to have Lulu inside of me, how every day I was pregnant felt like Christmas, full of the same excitement and promise. How I finally liked the way I looked, for the first time ever in my life, even though I couldn't see my toes or shave my legs. How I wonder what on earth I was doing with my life before I had her to fill my hours with smiles and coos and Lulu-ness.

I could tell them that we feel so complete, so perfect together, just the three of us. How I can't imagine loving anybody else that much, how when I do contemplate having another child, I feel a little sorry for those other kids of mine, because I know I will always love Lulu the most out of anybody on the planet, and nobody else--not even them--could possibly compare. How Lulu has made every moment I've ever been miserable in my life WORTH IT, because without them, I never would have gotten to meet her.

I could tell them how I can't imagine not doing this again.
But this all seems really TMI. Nobody wants to be that crazy lady talking about her cervix in the produce aisle.

So instead I just say I'm not sure.


  1. Oh my gosh, this is so beautifully written it brought tears to my eyes! I can't imagine what that was like to go through. I was on bedrest with my first for 14 weeks, so I can relate to how AWFUL that was. (I swear I still have water retention in my lower back from it!)

    And if you want to, you WILL do it again, and it will be just as beautiful all over again, no matter what it takes. Because that's what we women do. And it's something I get to hang over my husband's head every day when I ask him for a favor. :)

  2. Very well written. I'm only in my 20th week, and people are already asking when I want another. How do I tell them, I just don't know - that I wasn't sure if I would ever get pregnant again - that I had begun to feel that I had lost my one shot at this? How do I tell them that already my time for another is running out - that I'll almost be 32 when this one is born, and that everything after age 35 frightens me even more?

    I usually say what is really the truth - it's in God's hands. Quite honestly, I've learned over the past three years of trying, of a miscarriage, and now what so far has been a healthy (if not miserable at times) pregnancy, that I really have no control over the matter.

  3. What is it about babies and pregnancy that make people think it is perfectly acceptable to ask such an intensely private and personal question? Exactly nine months after Carl and I got married, people started asking us when we were going to have a kid. Approximately two seconds after Joy was born, they started asking when we were going to have another. Apparently my glowering and surly answers have started to sink in, because now that Grace is approaching two and a half years, the question is getting more infrequent.

    I admire your grace in answering "I don't know." My initial reaction is to always snap "None of your d*** business."