After my son was born my husband and I expected to get pregnant easily again, but secondary infertility settled in like an unwelcome relative. Several chemical pregnancies, one miscarriage, many fertility drugs, and 28 months later, I gave birth to twin daughters.
I was 41 when I had the twins and wanted my tubes tied after the C-section, but the religious hospital I delivered at harbored far different ideas about birth control. Postpartum, I hoped that nursing would keep my ovulation at bay for awhile, but that idea was short-lived as my reproductive system went back to its normal monthly routine after just four months in spite of my round-the-clock nursing regimen. Abstinence, however, is foolproof. The twins were all-consuming, and any time we found ourselves suddenly alone, the only thing we could think of was sleep. Marital relations became an oxymoron for us.
At long last we emerged from the fog of sleepless nights and complete immersion in everything baby. We were finally getting some shut-eye, the twins detached from my nipples, and my own needs and wants slowly blinked back into focus. I started to lose the baby weight and gave away every last piece of my maternity wardrobe. With my childbearing years behind me, I looked forward excitedly to the next stage of our lives. I began to dream about next autumn when the girls would be in preschool five mornings a week. I could get so much done with three and a half hours to myself every day! Untethering from my children felt so liberating.
Lo and behold, my libido emerged from hibernation as well. No one could have been more surprised than our condoms, which had long since given up hope and expired. It was time to revisit our birth control strategy. We needed a permanent solution. After a long discussion, my husband volunteered for a vasectomy. However, I was concerned about whether he truly felt comfortable with the procedure. In the event of my untimely demise, I wanted him to keep his options open: to fall in love again, get married, and have more kids. But he reassured me that even if I were to prematurely expire like our condoms, he felt his family was complete and his life was full.
And then I waited. I would occasionally ask him if he made the appointment yet, and the answer was always “soon.” I figured this was something he needed to take charge of, so I stood back. One day in November he told me he made the appointment to meet with the doctor, and soon thereafter he had a vasectomy scheduled for three weeks later. I patted myself on the back for being an awesome non-nagging wife who gave her husband the time and space he needed to make this choice.
A couple of days later I woke up in the middle of the night with heartburn. I thought it was so odd. The last time I had heartburn was…no, must have been something I ate. The next night I woke again with heartburn. I stared at my fertility calendar app where I had marked the first day of my period but hadn’t tracked my ovulation or temperatures. Maybe, possibly, could I be? The dates were a little off, and it really would be a reach. But I got up and searched through my closet for the leftover pregnancy tests I had. Why I didn’t get rid of them I don’t know.
Only the trained eye of someone with fertility issues would see what I saw. A shadow, visible only when held at a certain angle, four feet from the eyes, squinting by the glint of a phone. It took three tests and two days until my husband could see the shadow. I assumed it would be another chemical pregnancy and that the faint lines would faint further into white by day four of testing. On day five, when the line was clear as day, I called my OB/GYN in a panic and went into her office for blood tests.
Yes, I am 43-years old and six weeks pregnant. Despite being married and of advanced maternal age, I feel like I could be on a reality show about teen pregnancy. I am tired and nauseous and angry that in one week alone I ballooned with 10 pounds of bloat.
Meanwhile, it is hard to get excited for a baby that might not be viable. There is a 40 percent chance of a miscarriage and an elevated risk of health problems for both the baby and me.
And yet, I cannot be sad about this unplanned pregnancy and sudden new direction. This baby was conceived against all odds, which almost seems like divine intervention (and an immaculate conception). Still, adjusting to my new reality is not coming easy. As my husband said, we felt that our family was complete. But if this baby should make it to term, I also know one thing is true: Your heart grows bigger with every child, and there is always room to love one more.
This post originally appeared on The Washington Post.