I have seven children, for a woman who started out not wanting any, seven is indeed a very large number. Each child was born to me at a different stage in my life. My oldest came when I was just learning to be a woman. While she grew into her childhood, I was outgrowing mine. Thank God it turned out well, for there are many such mother/daughter pairs that have not.
My second child was born when I was just learning to be a wife, my third when I thought I knew how to be a mother. I went back on the pill, stayed on it for four month, despite headaches so concentrated I could feel other people breathing. I was told they would eventually go away, so I kept with it, but they just got stronger and stronger.
One day, while I crouched on the sofa, head in my hands, feeling like my head was about to crack open, the lights dimmed. I looked around the room and realized that I couldn't see out of my right eye. It was as if someone had pulled the draped shut over that one eye. I had suffered a mini-stroke.
Two years after that I had my fourth child, and as we had always talked about, our last. It was like having The Little Women at my house. Four little girls that played dress-up, loved books, enjoyed tea parties and doted on my husband and loved me with all their might, what more could I want?
My first son was conceived after hormones took my body as their hostage. Yes, a thirty-two year old woman that has already done her best to keep the earth populated with humans still feels her biological clock ticking. I remember grabbing my husband by the collar and pushing him into the laundry room (why the laundry room, I still don't know) and kissed him passionately. With down-cast eyes and a sultry tone to my voice I asked him for another baby.Just one more baby.
I can still see that look he gave me, as if I was trying to play a joke on him. He laughed me off, but I just kept on asking until he agreed. We planned for a girl and ended up with a little boy who remained nameless for four days.
When he was nearing his first birthday I was seized by this fear, my little boy could end up being just like Joey, from Friends. Both were hyphenated Americans (Italian-American vs. Hispanic-American), both were the babies in their family, and both were the only males, not to mention that both of them were named for their fathers and shared that very same name.
The fear of my son walking around asking people ""Hey, how you doin'..." while checking himself out in the mirror lead me to consider having a sixth and last child. I figured he would either end up with a little sister that would teach him to be protective, or a little brother he could grow up being pals with. Both would teach him responsibility the way having a dog, or a cat couldn't. Seemed like a very good plan.
A simple argument between the obstetrician and I, about where exactly I could feel my baby's head. lead to an emergency c-section, a totally wild ride that my husband and I did not want to repeat. The whole thing was surreal, a little leg in full view, an epidural that didn't take, feeling the scalpel slice across my abdomen, and having to beg for the anesthesiologist to put me under, only to wake up fifteen minutes afterwards, alone and confused. Okay, maybe surreal is putting it mildly, it was terrifying.
I was done with having babies after that. We decided that the best thing for us was for him to go in and have a vasectomy done. Four months after the birth of my last son, and I still couldn't walk without pain, but still no vasectomy. First birthday came and went, and still no vasectomy. I would initiate talks about one of us going under the knife, but my husband's response was always the same, "I'll do it, just let me find the time..." I gave up trying to talk him into. I thought about going back on the pill, but I was fearful of what could happen.
I waited too long. I knew the moment it happened, I was pregnant again. When I confirmed it a couple of weeks later, I threw the offending pregnancy test at my husband, along with a few choice words. He had been there when the doctors told me what could happen if I tried to have another baby. I felt betrayed by him, as if he hadn't done enough to protect me.
I was angry, not just with him, but with myself. I was scared too. What about my other children? Who would care for them if not me? Who would love them in my place? Was it fair to them that we let this happen? No. It wasn't.
As a family, we spent seven months living in fear. I went into labour and spent two weeks in the hospital. I went home on full bed rest. My children would come into my room and just sit, long sad eyes and droopy smiles betraying them every time. It felt like they were watching me die, and not bringing forth life.
I wasn't easy on any of them either. I would see and feel their sadness and then I would turn it around and take it out on my husband. I broke many plates, and nearly every single one of our cups the night after the OB gave us some particularly bad news, and my children witnessed my very sorry display. If I could take back that evening, I would. Instead we bought more cups.
I grew tired of my incarceration and allowed myself the luxury of walking around the house. We scheduled an induction. We lived in silence for a full week. It was the longest it had ever taken me to birth a baby, but nine hours after I went in I had a most uneventful delivery.
I didn't take any joy in it. I took my son to my breast, I fed him, I washed him and swaddled him, but my heart was still with my other children back home. Yes, I had given birth, but now I had to recuperate, and all that resentment and anger doesn't go away overnight. It doesn't go away after a week or two, or maybe ever.
I love my son so much, and he makes my family complete. It shames me that I was such an ugly person to him while he was still unborn. I took great care to eat right, to take care of myself, but it was mostly out of fear of what could happen. I cannot say to him "I loved you even before you were born" because I didn't. He wasn't real to me then, but I can say "I will love you for ever and then some" because I will.
This little bundle of unbridled love is everything I couldn't be, and he has taught me so much, not just on how to be a mother to him, but how I can be a better mother to all my children. He has taught me to love just for love's sake. He has taught my older boys that it is okay to hug and kiss, to giggle and cry, to jump for joy.
I thought I knew everything there was to know about being a woman, a wife, a mother, a human, but it took one little kid to point out the glaring truth. I know very little about any of those things. I am constantly learning and revising what I know, and what he has taught me is only the beginning of things.
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