The end of my first pregnancy couldn’t come fast enough. I was uncomfortable, weary and anxious to meet the little person who had tumbled and kicked his way through nine slow months inside me. Whenever people asked how much longer I had left, I automatically rounded up. Seventeen weeks was presented as “almost halfway”; six weeks became five or, depending on how eager I was in that moment, “just over a month.” I was in a rush to breeze through the race in anticipation of the gold medal waiting at the finish line.
Now, with only a matter of weeks left in my second pregnancy, I find myself holding tight to this moment, wishing time would slow down rather than speed up. Not because I’m more comfortable, have more energy or feel less anxious to meet my second baby. Because I have no idea if this is the last time I will carry a child inside me.
It’s a strange feeling, the not knowing. If you’d told me several years ago that I might be done having children by 28, I’d have laughed in your face and explained that you were sorely mistaken. If you’d said that I’d only have two kids, with just 17 short months between them, I’d have told you all about the three or four we planned to add to our family, each appropriately spaced at least two years apart.
Two and done was never the plan.
But neither was a crushing miscarriage with my first pregnancy. Or the inability to produce enough milk to feed my firstborn. Or a uterine bleed that lasted most of the first and second trimesters of my current pregnancy and had me so subsumed with worry and anxiety, I suddenly stopped seeing a third baby as a foregone conclusion.
Several months ago, as I lay stretched out on the examination table, waiting for the results of the ultrasound to tell me whether or not those dark spots near my baby’s brain were the cysts the doctors thought they were, I was convinced this was it. This will be our last baby, I thought, without a trace of doubt. I couldn’t take this again. I clutched my swollen belly and I just knew.
Now, after those days and weeks and months of tear-filled anxiety have receded in the rearview, I hear myself starting to talk about a third baby again. “I’d need years to recover from this pregnancy,” I tell my husband, “but maybe I could do it with enough time to forget.”
And then the other unknowns rear their ugly heads, the endless white noise filling up my restless brain.
Right now, there will be one child for each of us. We are not yet outnumbered. That means mommy can take the oldest to Saturday morning swim class while daddy brings the youngest to karate. It means we can split up at the water park so the boy under 36 inches can play in the splash park while the taller one accompanies daddy on the fast slide. There are enough rooms in our house, there is enough space in our modestly-sized cars; right now, there is enough of everything to go around. But with three? Maybe not so much.
Money is tight enough with one baby, let alone two or – someday – three. Would it be irresponsible to bring a third child into our lives if it meant less of everything for each of them? Or would we be so happy to add another child to our family that we wouldn’t miss the family vacations we can’t afford to take, the extra items on the grocery list that aren’t in the budget this week, the summer camps and sports teams we just can’t make work this time around?
My husband grew up with next to nothing but has a childhood full of memories that revolve around his two brothers. I grew up solidly middle-class – rarely wanting for anything – with only one sister with whom to share my parents’ love, attention and finances. And yet I longed for more siblings, for the chaos of a life like the one my mother-in-law describes from my husband’s childhood. What will my children want? What will we want?
I clutch my swollen belly and I just don’t know.
I realize how preemptive this line of thought seems; I am not even finished gestating my second baby and am already thinking about whether or not there will be a third. But a small part of me worries that I will have wasted the end of my last pregnancy complaining about lower back pain or glossing over those oh-so-frequent rib kicks that I may never feel again. What if this is it and I’m not savoring every last second?
I am a believer in God and I know His plan trumps mine; He is probably up there laughing at my incessant wondering and worrying, because my life’s plot has already been written without the need for my input. But I’m a planner, too, a thinker and a grand schemer, and something about the unknown of a might-be-the-last-but-not-quite-sure pregnancy is unsettling to me.
The many mothers who have come before me say “you just know” when your family is complete. And I firmly believe I will know when that time comes, whether that’s in 20-something days when our second son is born or many years from now when we welcome a third to our family. But, at this moment, it’s all coming up question marks.
So, for now, I will regard my swollen belly with reverence and count the kicks with awe, just in case it’s the last time. Because living in this beautiful, tangible moment makes more sense than worrying about the unknown future. And maybe I’m just not meant to know right now.