I have a confession.
Last year, I had a miscarriage.
And I was relieved.
It feels amazing to admit that. It also feels terrifying. The world is full of opinions about women and their bodies and family planning choices, abilities, and desires. I know that. But I’m going to share this anyway. Because this isn’t about a reproductive debate, it’s about my family. It’s about me.
In March of last year, my husband and I had mostly-protected sex. We used a condom, but not until later in the game. Nevermind that we have had sex this way hundreds of times over the course of eight years without getting pregnant. We pushed our luck and it (finally) pushed back. We conceived.
Within days, my boobs started to feel like sharp razor blades were protruding from the inside out. Random nausea assaulted me. I gagged and threw up when I changed my baby’s diaper because the smell was so horrendous, which had never happened before. I gained 10 lbs in less than a week. But the clear giveaway was the bone-crushing exhaustion. My husband and I were cleaning and doing laundry on a Saturday while our the-nine-month-old son napped. When he ran down to the basement to switch over a load of laundry, I felt an overwhelming wave of exhaustion hit me like a ton of bricks. I went to our room immediately, crawled under the covers and slept for the next three hours without moving a muscle.
I woke up, disoriented, with the sounds of my baby and husband playing in the living room. I pulled the covers back, put my feet on the floor and took three steps. Then it struck me like a lightening bolt: I was pregnant. The boobs, the nausea, the heightened sense of smell, the rapid weight gain, the exhaustion…all of it. And where was my period? I checked my ovulation tracker on my phone. Sure enough, my period was a few days late.
I fell to the floor, the wind knocked out of me. I kept falling, my face hitting the cool hardwood as debilitating panic and despair instantly flooded my body. My husband came in a few minutes later, hearing the hoarse, dry sobs coming from my mouth. He laid down next to me, stroking my hair, waiting for me to get the words out.
“I…think…I’m…pregnant. I can’t. I can’t. I can’t.”
The next day, I woke up to blood everywhere. I went to the bathroom where big clots passed through me, falling into the water below. Having experienced an early miscarriage before I became pregnant with my son, I knew what was happening. There was no joy in the passing, but there was peace. And I wept with relief.
The panic and despair that had flooded my body so intensely the day before slowly started to dissipate, along with the exhaustion, nausea, ultra-tender breasts, and heightened sense of smell.
Two months before the miscarriage, my son was diagnosed with FPIES. I’ve talked about it here often, but at this particular moment in time, I was solely responsible for providing nourishment for him. Because of his extreme FPIES allergies, he was unable to eat solid food. His life was 100% reliant on my breastmilk, which required me (and his milk donor in Texas) to eat a very restricted diet.
Pregnancy would have changed everything for us. It would have put my son’s ability to thrive in grave danger. We were already spending hundreds of dollars a month to ship diet-compliant donor milk across the country. We were sinking into credit card debt to keep my son alive. We had tens of thousands of dollars of medical debt from his birth, stroke, and stay in the NICU. My husband and I were barely keeping it together. Our marriage was cracking under the strain of daily demands. Life with a special needs baby is unimaginably challenging. It was a dark, dark time for us.
Another baby would have broken us all. Maybe irreparably.
I didn’t talk about the miscarriage much. I shared it in passing with a handful of close friends. When people offered me their condolences, I shrugged it off. I changed the subject. I didn’t want them to know that I wasn’t sad. I didn’t want them to know I wasn’t upset. I didn’t want them to know I was more than okay. I didn’t want them to know I was relieved on a level I didn’t know existed and it seemed wrong to express that somehow. Especially when some of my dearest and closest friends where experiencing profound infertility and wanted nothing more than the baby I despaired at having. It felt ungrateful. It felt crude. It felt heartless. But maybe I was all of those things.
So, when it happened again last month, I said nothing. For weeks. To anyone. Because the truth is, I still am not ready for another child. My son is in a much better place now than he was a year ago. I haven’t pumped since the end of February, and he has enough safe foods to no longer be dependent on my milk for growth. My husband and I are healing and growing, along with our son. We are digging ourselves out of the massive debt we accrued with all of the doctors and hospitals and extra measures we took to help our son heal and thrive during the first year of his life.
Getting pregnant this time did not induce a debilitating panic attack. (Although, it did produce surprise because we have been incredibly diligent about about birth control.) It did not send me into a downward emotional/spiritual/mental spiral. But it did strike the same chord of relief when I miscarried. Because I’m just not ready. Life is easier but my son still requires loads of extra care.
When I finally started to share and the sympathy started rolling in, I deflected, changed the subject, and did the masking that I did before.
But I’m stopping all of that now.
I give myself permission to accept my reaction.
I give myself permission to feel deep relief without guilt.
I give myself permission to want another baby, but not right now.
I give myself permission to trust what is, and not what I think I should be.
It’s time to stop judging feelings as right or wrong.
It’s time to accept what is.
And this is what is: My relief does not make me selfish. It does not make me heartless. It does not disqualify my precious friends who are struggling profoundly on their fertility journey. It does not mean anything at all. It’s just a feeling, and like all feelings, it will pass. Something new will rise up in it’s place.
One day soon, I’ll feel grief for those beings who would be my babies. I’ll feel grateful that they chose me to be their mama, even if it was only for a very brief moment in time. Maybe I will still feel the relief of knowing that life did not give me with more than I could bear. Or maybe I will feel all of those things at once.
But for now, relief is enough