Being pregnant for what I know to be the last time is a funny thing. It makes the whole thing so much more precarious, as if there is more on the line. And doesn’t that make just no sense at all? Being pregnant with either of my girls would have been the same risk, exactly one baby. Why does knowing there will be no more after this one make everything different?
Well, it’s simple really. Last means no do overs. It means never hearing the phrase “Oh well, you can try again.” Because when I miscarried in 2011, that’s exactly what went through my head. We could try again. There would always be a next time if we wanted it.
Last denotes the final chapter in my child bearing years. It makes me feel old, frankly. It makes me feel like time is slipping past- HAS slipped past- and seems to be speeding up. These are the feelings that must make men go out and purchase sports cars, perhaps just for the tiny side mirrors that hide receding hair lines and sagging neck skin. I went for the more economical choice and dyed my hair pink. Seemed like the prudent thing to do. Right? Because when you get to a certain point in your life, you have learned to care a bit less about what everyone else thinks- Thank God- and realize that life really is short and what the heck are you waiting for anyway?
But even while my hair may communicate that I’m a fun-loving, happy go lucky chickadee, the psychology of Last has made me worry and stress like never before. My first pregnancy I was naive. I was 21. My body worked just as nature programmed it to. I distinctly remember assembling a crib by myself when I was eight months along. I never worried about exerting too much energy or lifting too much or doing anything that would otherwise hurt me or the baby. Labor and delivery was textbook. The whole thing was textbook, start to finish.
Ten years later I was doing it again. It began the same way; we wanted to get pregnant, so we just did. Just like that. I was healthy all the way through, except of course for the horrible morning sickness that lasted the first three months, but I remembered that it was just the same the first time around. The only hiccup was the fact that I had to take the gestational diabetes test twice to confirm a negative result. Other than a three hour inconvenience and the disgusting beverage I had to drink, it caused me no extra stress or concern. Again, textbook labor and delivery. Obviously, my body was made for this.
I noticed a shift when we decided to go again a couple years later. It wasn’t happening immediately like before. My body wasn’t getting the hint. When I finally became pregnant at the end of 2010, something told me it wasn’t gonna stick. I was too healthy. I didn’t feel nauseous. At eight weeks, I miscarried. It wasn’t traumatic or scarring. It was just a bummer. And it was a turning point because I knew I would never trust a pregnancy again.
We put the whole idea on the back burner for awhile. I had lost the drive for another baby. So a couple years went by and the thought of trying again was overshadowed by the realization that my clock was indeed ticking and if this was really something we wanted, we would have to start focusing. And again, nothing happened. By mid summer 2013 I had really come to terms with the idea that my body had officially hung it up. (My uterus had retired and was perhaps vacationing in Bermuda. I mean, how would I know? Organs are so bad at keeping in touch.) And then invariably right when you start to accept your circumstances, BOOM, you’re knocked up. I was nervous to get through the first eight weeks. I was nervous to go to the first check up and hear a heartbeat. Would there be a heartbeat? Slowly but surely I got comfortable. I thought this might actually be the real thing. I allowed myself to consider names and how crazy it would be to have another baby in the house. I even pondered the idea of a boy…. But that seemed even too much to ask.
But the nerves never totally went away. I was reminded that I was of “advanced maternal age” and therefore I’d be required to attend genetic counseling. The doctor ran down a laundry list of genetic abnormalities the baby could have, that we could test for, that would radically change the direction of our lives. Of course our insurance would cover none of the testing just based on my age and I eventually decided that things would turn out as they were meant to, whether or not I took any of the tests. I put the tests out of mind.
Then came the day for the genetic counseling appointment and the ultrasound that I hoped would show us the sex of the baby. Imagine my euphoria when the technician clearly showed me we were having a boy. Imagine my sadness when the doctor came in five minutes later to tell me that she had found a “marker”- an abnormality that could mean a problem. It was Choroid Plexus Cyst, a cyst on the brain that forms when there’s a pocket of fluid that isn’t draining as it should. Holy hell, a cyst on the brain!? Are you kidding me? That sounds horrible, right?? She went on to tell me that if it was indeed a marker of the chromosomal defect, Trisomy 18, it would make the baby “incompatible with life”. Just that simply, incompatible with life. Crap, where do you go with that?
Suddenly the reality of my situation had drastically changed. I was alone at the hospital, having to call different labs to compare prices of the blood test that now was a necessity, my husband was calling me and wondering why the heck I had been there for three hours and I was left wondering how I was going to tell everyone the news. I had only had a few minutes of celebrating a boy. Now it seemed silly to celebrate at all.
So for a week I drove myself nuts. I even convinced myself that the baby had stopped moving and made an extra visit to my ObGyn’s office to make sure he was still even alive in there. But during that week I researched these cysts and it turned out they can be completely benign and self-resolving over time. The doctor never said that. I would’ve appreciated both ends of the spectrum, not just the worst case scenario. Didn’t she realize that this was my last? There would be no do overs. I needed just a little hope that maybe things could still be fine. At the end of the week, it was. Everything came back negative. No Trisomy 18. No Down Syndrome. But oh, did they mention that I had a low lying placenta? Yeah, add that to the list.
It was all a blaring reminder that my body at 36 was nothing like it was at 21. Nothing could be taken for granted. While my uterus wasn’t permanently on vacation like I had thought, it was certainly suffering from a bout of senioritis. It could see the end in sight and it wasn’t too keen on this last assignment.
At 36 I get tired. I get aches and pains when I’ve done too much. I can’t lift- which isn’t easy with a four year old running around. I try not to stress out, but this is my last. We have to get this right. We can’t go out on a bad note. And let’s not forget, this is the boy. The only one. No do overs. The crazy thing is, it’s not like there’s a finish line. There’s no safety zone. I could have a good pregnancy and a devastating delivery, an easy delivery and then get hit with SIDS. I perfect childhood and then a diagnosis of mental illness. And you wonder why moms have wrinkles???
So if I’m going to enjoy this last go around at all, I’d better put all of these worries aside. Regardless of first, second, or last, they were all one of a kind. A million different variables that came together to make up Hannah, Zoe, and now Robert. Three reminders that life isn’t about do overs, it’s about individual experiences, each existing for a purpose, juxtaposed with stupid crap like pink hair. Best to keep it all in balance.