I know that you’re used to my posts being silly and light, but this one is a bit different.
This is probably one of the most vulnerable and honest posts I’ve ever written, but I’m sharing it because 1) I feel for some reason that now is the time to share it, and 2) Hearing my struggles might help someone else going through a similar situation. All I ask is that if you start reading it, you finish reading it, long though it may be, so that you don’t get half of the story and perhaps take away the wrong idea from the post.
Being that I have a two year old and no baby bump, “the question” naturally comes up a lot. It seems that the expectation of all growing families is to have kids two years apart, and since I’m already behind the eight ball on that plan, and I have this public forum, I decided that I would write a post about where we are and why.
One of my reasons for writing this is to be open and honest about this issue. It isn’t a sensitive subject for me and it shouldn’t have to be for anyone else. That’s because it’s okay to have a different plan than the “norm”, whatever that plan may be. It took me a while to get to the point where I was completely at peace with where we were, without feeling like I was going to be judged against someone else’s ideas of family planning, and so I want to be able to share that openly and honestly, no holds barred.
My answer, as you’ve probably surmised by now, is always “no time soon”. To explain why, I’m going to tell the story of Ali’s first year of life.
Chris and I always had an easy marriage. We never went through that “tough” newlywed stage, or any sort of arguing or not-getting-along phase. We were married for six completely and absolutely blissful years before we had Ali. We were free to do what we wanted, when we wanted to do it, without consulting anyone or making any plans.
We started trying to get pregnant three years into marriage, and it took two more years before we actually did (another post for another day – I really do need to tell that story sometime, though. It’s a good one – remind me!!).
So by the time we had Ali, two months before our 6 year anniversary, the “ideal” of having a baby was unbelievably blown out of proportion in our heads. Because we had wanted it for so long, we had lost any touch of grasping the reality of having a newborn that we ever had, which was minimal to begin with.
So, needless to say, the “shock factor” of the 24/7 care of a newborn without ANY sort of response or positive feedback in return was quite all-encompassing for a couple of months.
Then, around two months, Ali started into an extremely unhappy phase. We had two terms that we coined to communicate about her behavior: an IFB (inconsolably fussy baby), and an ISB (inconsolably screaming baby). Chris got many text messages from me late in the afternoon that said something like this: “ISB all day long. Can’t wait till you get home.”
How is that for a “welcome home, honey!!”?
Anyway, this went on for two months, during which I researched everything that I could possibly find, practically bought stock in Mylicon, took her to the doctor a few times to be told she was teething (didn’t start that for, um, SEVEN more months), or that she had acid reflux and told to give her prescriptions that never helped.
One especially painful memory during this period was our family vacation. It was a 9 hour drive there and back. You can imagine the agony of the travel and of having an IFB/ISB staying in the house with seven other people.
It was an old beach house, and so it had an odd layout, which included an abnormally large, carpeted bathroom off of our bedroom. Ali’s “bedroom” was that bathroom, but she was having so much trouble not screaming through the night that Chris spent two out of three of the nights “sleeping” in the bathroom on the couch (yes, there was a couch in the weird bathroom as well) trying to give me a break. Of course, I was one room over, finding it still nearly impossible to sleep, as I’m sure all Mommies of infants can relate to.
When we got home from the trip, Chris and I did something we had never done before. After we got Ali calmed down and to sleep, we collapsed onto the floor, hugging each other and crying.
At her four month visit, I was able to see her actual doctor, and the cause was discovered. She had gained only 2 ounces in two months.
She wasn’t getting enough to eat.
Of course this broke my heart – I was so sad that I hadn’t at least tried some other solutions to see if it helped, since my suspicion all along had been that I wasn’t producing enough milk. But everyone said, “Oh, no, that’s not the problem. Your body will make as much as she needs”, so I had let it go.
Her doctor put her on extra-fattening formula, the type that they give NICU babies, as a supplement to nursing. The change was almost immediate. It was wonderful, yet heartbreaking at the same time. I felt like it was my fault – like I should have realized that the problem was me and fixed it earlier.
I remember one conversation I had with someone, telling them what the doctor had discovered. They said quite innocently, “Oh! That explains it! You were starving her!!”.
It was all I could do to hold back the tears. Even now, the thought breaks my heart.
Although the formula had fixed the problem, I was still very much feeling like she should be primarily nursed. So I set off on a mission to “fix” my problem. I tried everything in the book (don’t worry – no gory details!!). One solution, suggested by my doctor, was to go on Reglan, a acid reflux medicine which oddly enough also helps lactation (and, ironically, was one of the medications that they had put Ali on when they thought that she had acid reflux).
However, Reglan has a side effect of causing depression, and has been found to cause post partum depression in women using it for lactation. My doctor lightly mentioned that when he prescribed it, but said he didn’t think I’d have any problems. I’m sure he was just trying to keep down the effect of the power of suggestion.
So as Ali got better, I got worse.
It was very gradual, which made the cause very un-obvious. But over the next five months, I became very depressed without even realizing what was happening. Thankfully, I had some very wonderful friends who had gone through similar situations and were able to help me see it, reassure me, and encourage me to go back to the doctor.
I went back to my doctor when Ali was nine months old. I told him what had happened, and he immediately said, “Oh – that’s because you were on Reglan. Happens all the time.”
So he took me off the Reglan, put me on an anti-depressant to recover from the damage already done, and left it up to me whether to keep nursing or not.
It was a hard decision, but with all the trouble I was going through to just get a minimum amount of sustenance for her (even on the Reglan I was not producing enough), I decided that without the Reglan, I couldn’t go through any more of that.
So I quit nursing, took my medication, and in about a month, I was back to my normal self, and for the first time in nine months, both Ali and I were happy. Life got drastically better extraordinarily fast.
Needless to say, the first nine months of Ali’s life were not what we expected. Obviously, if you’ve been reading my blog for more than a couple of days, you know that we are absolutely in love with Ali now. We love every minute of it and enjoy her and cherish her more than words can say. She is an amazingly delightful and sweet toddler! But those first few months were painful, to say the least.
One of the biggest leftover reminders is being responsible for a baby that is inconsolably screaming. I worked in the infant room at Church two Sundays a month for Seven and a half years. I LOVED it. I loved it years before we had Ali, and even while Ali was in that stage, I still liked it.
But after Ali moved out of the “crying” phase, taking care of multiple screaming babies at once is complete and utter post-traumatic-stress-syndrome-torture for me. I had to request to be moved out of the infant room because every time, I would leave the nursery, go find Chris and tell him, “I’m going to get my tubes tied tomorrow!!”.
All that to say, although we are pretty sure that we’ll have another child at some point, neither one of us are ready now. There are actually multiple other reasons as well, but I would say this is my main reason.
And yes, I know that the next child might be a perfectly perfect infant, that I might have no problems nursing, and that everything might just be easier and more perfect and idyllic and heavenly in every way (can you tell that a lot of people have tried to convince me to have another baby??). But we just don’t feel ready. If God tells us it’s time (or just makes it time without telling us), that’s okay. But we’re not ready to make that decision.
I have felt a lot of guilt and unsureness about this unreadiness of ours because it really seems like everyone we know is on the two-year-plan. It’s as if common knowledge is that the ideal age difference between children is two years or less – it is expected, and that’s just what you do.
But I now realize that it doesn’t have to be that way. There are plenty of functional, non-scarred people who didn’t have siblings for four or five (or more!) years. One of them being my husband, who was perfectly happy to have a brother five years younger than him.
So, the answer is “no time soon”. We love our little family. Having one child gives you this reality of having a “little buddy”, or “tagalong” that is so precious. And hey – two on one parenting isn’t such bad odds, either.
Everyone has different plans. God made us all different, gave us different experiences and different children. And that is GOOD!!!! This world needs people with different ideas and different walks of life. So if your plan is to have 24 kids, I support you in that! If your plan is to have no kids, I support you in that! If your plan is to have three kids exactly two years apart, I support you in that!
If you are struggling with any of the plethora of issues I have touched on in this post – infertility, having “shock” over the responsibility of having a baby, feeling pressure to conform to the “normal” expectations of when to have children, screaming babies, lactation issues, PPD, or any other issues in here and feel like it would help to be able to talk to someone who’s been there (or is there!!), please let me know!! You can always comment here, or feel free to email me.
For updated information on our “baby plans”, click here.