“Mama, it’s hard to wait for a new baby,” my 3-year-old announces from the backseat one afternoon on our way to the grocery store. With such simplicity, my daughter names the complex feelings that I carry with me wherever we go.
“Yes, it is hard to wait,” I echo back to her. It’s especially hard when getting pregnant the second time takes much longer than you anticipate.
With my first pregnancy, my husband and I were wonderfully naive. We stopped using protection one month, and the next month I saw two pink lines staring back at me from the bathroom. I came out smiling, while holding the stick in front of me like an award: “We’re pregnant!” It just happened, without questions, worry, or Google searching.
I had a textbook pregnancy and gave birth to a beautiful daughter nine months later. We adjusted to parenthood slowly, with tired eyes and lots of coffee. Two years passed and our clingy baby became a delightful toddler. I had just weaned her when we decided to start trying to conceive again. Naturally, I assumed it would be like last time. I did the calculations quickly in my head. If we conceived in August, or at least by September, we would have another summer baby. Perfect, I thought, regardless of gender, we could use some of our daughter’s hand-me-down clothes based on season and the same newborn sleep sacks that were designed for the warm summer months.
The first month that I got my period, I was baffled and surprised.
But each subsequent month, my surprise turned to disappointment and then fear. Every month, I actually convinced myself that I was pregnant. A few days before my period was supposed to start I started looking for signs. Oh, I took a nap this afternoon because I was exhausted. I must be pregnant. I woke up last night and went to the bathroom three times. Surely, that means I am pregnant. I read through WebMD’s convenient list of early pregnancy symptoms, and I convinced myself I had every single one. The mind is a powerful organ, but not strong enough to actually make you pregnant.
The day I dreaded most each month was when my period started. With the usual cramps, came tears of disappointment and an ache in my throat that was hard to swallow. Hoping is hard work, but waiting is even harder. I never expected it take this long to get pregnant again.
Five months later, I saw the familiar two pink lines. I was suspicious, so I took three pregnancy tests that weekend to confirm. It was the middle of December. On Christmas morning, my husband and I announced to my entire family that there would be another grandchild come August. We were overjoyed and our almost 3-year-old couldn’t stop talking about the new baby.
Two weeks later, we lost that baby.
It’s now been four months since my miscarriage, and I am sometimes still surprised by my sadness. It’s not the first thing I feel every morning. Let’s be honest, the only thing I feel each morning is the desire for a few more minutes of sleep. But those feelings of sadness still sit below the surface. Like a bruise that is barely visible on the outside, but when you poke it, it still hurts.
It’s been almost 10 months of wanting desperately to have another baby. I find myself searching Google for answers and explanations as I come across words like, “secondary infertility.” I have done blood work and have no medical reason to believe that we won’t be able to get pregnant again. I would never say we have struggled with infertility, but maybe something equally confusing, waiting with no answers.
“It can take an average, perfectly healthy couple anywhere from 6 to 12 months to conceive,” my OB positively reminded me one afternoon while I sat in a paper gown on the exam table. I am still not sure if that is disheartening or encouraging.
When we arrive at the grocery store, I unbuckle my little girl’s car seat and she hops down, her brown curls bouncing with her. I see a pregnant mother get out of her car next to ours, her belly swelling over her stretchy pants. She smiles kindly, and I offer a half-hello-nod. She waddles away as I rest my hand on the empty spot below my belly button. I know without even doing the math, I would have been five months pregnant today.
My heart aches as I let myself feel the emptiness inside. My daughter pulls my other hand, and my attention back to the grocery store as we walk toward the door. “Can we get Cheerios?” she asks excitedly. I smile, loving that my daughter still thinks of Cheerios as a treat.
“Of course,” I say, as I lift her up to into the cart.
I am well aware of the gift it is to be a mom. I am grateful for the daughter I have, and I long to have another baby. It feels hard holding gratitude and longing side-by-side. The two aren’t mutually exclusive, but sometimes it feels like they are. I have one adorable, delightful baby, but that doesn’t negate the longing for another one.
Despite my questions and deep desire to understand, I also have hope. Maybe that’s part of the problem. Each month I hope that I am pregnant. And each month I am not.