Thursday, September 5, 2013

Three Tiny Babies

I want more children. I always saw myself having three kids. I love being a mother. It is painful watching M go through every stage and thinking, "This is the last time."

Before M was born, people would ask since we were having a girl and we already had a boy, if she would be our last. I said that if everything went well, we might consider a third baby. But, what I was really saying was, "I want a third baby, and I hope everything goes well so that we're able to have three kids."

Everything did not go well.

When M was born, I heard the high-risk doctor say to the nurses that there was too much scar tissue from my first C-section. I heard him say that he was having to make another incision to get her tiny body out. I knew what that meant. If the sudden birth of a 26-weeker weren't enough. If the sudden preeclampsia weren't enough. If the arrival of another 2-lb baby weren't enough to keep me from dreaming about more babies, the very real possibility of my uterus rupturing from multiple incisions was. Every time I said crazy things to my husband about having more kids (probably the only person to whom I admitted such craziness), I always came back to my role as a mother. I have never been a risk-taker, so why would I start now by risking my own life as my children's mother?

I believed that as time faded the horrors of preeclampsia, as the incision healed, as I became healthier and less sleep-deprived, as we fell out of the NICU routines and back into a peacefulness at home, as M grew bigger and fatter, as life moved on, I would be satisfied by two children. My mom said she knew she didn't want more children, and the decision was still hard. Surely life would be simpler with these two lovely children. I would make peace with it.

My husband remains on the fence, as he has every right to be. Only a woman, only a mother would stew about whether or not she'd have more babies. He's so bogged down at work and at home that he doesn't have the energy to think about more babies. I agree with him. Except that for me, it doesn't require energy. It's just where my mind goes every time I see how fast my tiny babies are growing up. I can't help it.

And even as we make permanent arrangements that will end our ability to have more biological children, I still feel like things are being left undone. I feel like there's more to our story.

I still have a baby out there somewhere.

It makes no sense, so I don't usually talk about it. I should be glad to get back to life. I should be glad to leave these hard years behind. I should be glad to make the next years about balancing my professional and personal lives, instead of throwing all my eggs into the child-rearing basket.

And, yet, more time passes, but things don't get easier. I reject the decision that was made for me. I want a bigger family, not for the work that it is now but for the blessings it will bring in the future as we watch our children grow. Raising babies, especially tiny babies, is hella hard work, and it's not for everyone. But, it is for me. Even on the hardest days, I believe in family.

So, where do we go, and what do we do? My husband and I have put so many of our goals on hold these last three years, and 2014 will be a year of us moving those front and center. Maybe actually moving. If M is healthy enough, we want to move to a place where we see ourselves raising our family. We have so much to do in our personal lives before we can really contemplate adding another baby to our family. And so we wait. I guess I've learned to be more patient, so even though the thought is always on my mind, I'll tell it to rest awhile. We'll see what happens.

But, here's the point to this confessional: When I think of adopting, I'm overwhelmed by the decisions. Private or foster care? Baby or toddler? International or domestic? And can we afford it? How would it affect our family?

It is scary.

But, the one thing that feels right is: preemie. I want another preemie. That sounds crazy, doesn't it? But, it's all I know. I know preemies. That is what we have. I think back to our first NICU stay. There was a baby no one visited. She had no name. She was just a baby in a box waiting for a home. I wanted to scoop her up and love her. Plenty of children in this world need a good home and a family to love them. But what feels right for me is another preemie, a preemie without parents able to help her grow and develop, a preemie without parents to advocate for her.

And that's where I lose my husband. A preemie? Haven't we done our tour of Preemie Duty? But, if I'm being honest, I think I'm a better, more experienced preemie mother. What would I do with a "normal" baby? What do you do with a baby who just rolls over or a toddler who just walks or a child who just talks? Every stage is so crucial, every milestone so anticipated, every change so monumental with a preemie. In a funny way, it's become my comfort zone. It's my identity. It's the one thing that unites my babies the most, the thing that knits our family together. It's the foundation of our lives as a family of four, this sense of gratitude we've all developed. And I cannot imagine adding another member to our family who didn't share that connection.

Isn't it funny how that happens? The foreign becomes the familiar. The trauma becomes the salvation. The dark brings such light. And the lady with two tiny babies wants a third.

(I think?)

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