Friday, August 26, 2011

A tough question

How do you know when your family is complete?

This is a question that has plagued me for a while. When I was pregnant with Emily, I knew I wanted to have another child. Then I gave birth. Things didn’t exactly turn out the way that I expected. The delivery was difficult. Emily wasn’t breathing when she was born. Then she was taken across town to a different hospital where she would spend 6 weeks. She was hooked up to various machines and alarms, endured countless tests and examinations, had her g-tube surgery and struggled through feeding and weight gain issues. Add to that, a very difficult recovery for me (possibly because I was a little stressed and not taking care of myself as I should). The whole experience was just a bit traumatizing. So right after her birth, I thought one child was plenty.

Of course, when Emily came home and we got a team of people helping us with her care, things settled down quite a bit. We got into a routine and things really started to feel “normal”. So I started to warm to the idea of expanding our family. Around Emily’s first birthday, Mike and I decided to try for a second child. With Emily, it took us a while to get pregnant. If any of you have dealt with infertility, you know how hard it can be. Every Mother’s Day that passes, every baby shower you attend is sort of like pouring salt on the wound. You start to feel like everyone else in the world is having babies except you. Of course, that isn’t true, but that is how it feels. Many of those same feelings came to the surface as time wore on and I was not getting pregnant with a second child. I felt like I was living in limbo constantly. Could it be this month? Am I pregnant now? And the disappointment that came every month was wearing me out!

Well, after a year, I talked to my doctor about it. We decided to try a fertility drug to see if that would help. I didn’t feel comfortable doing anything “drastic”, so this drug was a last ditch effort for us. My doctor suggested we give it 3 to 6 months. Mike and I decided that if this didn’t work we would be done. We ended up deciding on just doing 4 months because we were absolutely drained by this time. After 4 months, we weren’t any closer to getting pregnant than when we started. On one hand, I was relieved to be done with the roller coaster. It was nice to get back to “normal” life and not be so consumed with having a baby. On the other hand, I felt like there was no closure. I almost wished the doctor would tell me that there was a medical problem and I couldn’t get pregnant. Then we would have an answer – we would know that our family was complete.

Although I was happy to be done with “trying”, I still had this desire for a second child. I would go long stretches where I was happy with our family of three and then it would hit me at the oddest times. I would be in a store and see a shirt that says “Big Sister” and get teary-eyed. Isn’t that silly? But I wanted Emily to have a little sister or brother. Someone to grow up with, to play with, to be silly with, to torment, to bond with. At the same time, the idea of getting pregnant terrifies me. I cannot go back to that na├»ve outlook I had when I was pregnant with Emily. I cannot assume that everything will turn out OK. I know what can happen now. I know there are no guarantees. If God wants me to have two children with special needs, that is what I would have. That scares me just a bit. I know the joy that comes with raising a special needs child – Emily is such a blessing and I wouldn’t want to imagine my life without her. I also know the work, the worry, the stress that comes with raising a special needs child and I am not sure I could handle it being doubled.

This inner debate is the reason why I cannot seem to find a definitive answer to the question. As Emily has grown, I have kept all of her stuff just in case we had another girl (except for a few things I gave away in the beginning when I was convinced that I didn’t want any more kids). I have all of her clothes from when she was a tiny baby. I have her crib, her pack n play, her tub and so many other things. We moved to Kentucky almost 8 years ago. We had a storage unit while we lived in our two apartments. Some of it was Christmas decorations and luggage and summer/winter clothes, but some of the stuff was not touched for years. Now that we live here and have our stuff in the garage, we have been trying to go through the boxes to determine what can be tossed and what to keep. When it comes to getting rid of Emily’s stuff, I cannot bring myself to do it. I am just not ready to close that door completely.

So that makes me wonder...Is our family complete and I just cannot accept it? Or do I feel this way because God wants me to be open to expanding our family.

I wish I knew for sure...


Anonymous said...

Oh my word do I ever understand what you are struggling with! Paul and I have been on and off with this for years now. I am always more inclined to adopt, foster, etc. and circumstances keep changing in our lives that keep this from being feasible. I just don't ever feel like he has the same relentless desire for a family as I do.

The first question that comes to my mind as I think back over years of agonizing over this issue until I'm emotionally exhausted, only to start the same emotional agony all over again in a short time is: Is this something both of you are struggling with or just you? I have known couples who have confirmed the extention of their family through God prompting each one separately and then I have also known couples in which the wife was more sensitive to the expansion, and the husband, though in agreement, lagged behind in the same desire. There is no absolute rule to knowing what to do but I do understand what you are feeling. It is for each couple to decide of course.

If God has another child for you, be it special needs or not, wouldn't it be sad to miss out on the light/life that child would bring into your world? If a second child would be special needs, whether through adoption or biological, wouldn't it be straight from God's Sovereign choice to be born/adopted as-is as your child? All you can do is rest in the Sovereign care of God, as you have been doing these several years with Little Em, and look what grace, blessings, and testimony they have brought to you and those her life has touched!

On the other hand, I am reminded of what a friend named Rebecca told me in Discipleship class for SWI (you probably remember Rebecca too). She wrote me a looong letter that stated, among many other things, that this longing may be something I have to die to each day in my life. This was based on the fact that Paul and I were not unified and that we could not have biological children. I had never heard that before. I still wonder when these desires surface if this is something I will have to die to every moment of my life.

I will be praying for you all in this, as I know how exhausting this can be.

I think a new addition for you and Mike would be awesome of course and I pray peace and closure for both of you.


Anonymous said...

We've been down the fertility drug road as well. We lost one baby and then couldn't get pregnant again. It's been very hard to handle at times, but we've both come to the realization that above all God knows what's best and in his infinite wisdom lies the answer. We probably won't know "why" until we're in heaven but I'm sure it will make total sense then. In the meantime, we've been surrounded by many children at church and in the community that we care for as our own and have been truly blessed in that way. We'll continue to pray for you and Mike and that you'll have a peace about the situation soon.

Mindy Burt

Stephanie said...

Short answer - I have no idea. I have never had that feeling that my family is complete. I knew after Will and Ben I wanted at least one more. After Ellie I honestly got to a point where I was OK with never having another baby. And then the next week I found out I was pregnant. After I lost that baby I knew I wanted another one. After Sam, Joel decided we are finished birthing babies. The c-sections are just too hard. Since Sam I've gone back and forth between being totally satisfied with 4 to wanting another pregnancy to wanting to adopt. Is my family complete? I don't know. Will God give us more kids? I don't know.

I hear your disappointment, hurt and frustration. I wish I had the right words to fix it, to make your desire go away or to give you a formula to make your desire come true. Unfortunately I can't do that. I am sorry, my friend.

Holly said...

Just wanted to let you know that I understand your back and forth.

We too, go over the possibilities almost daily.

Also, in an effort to make myself have closure I got rid of everything! Just a crib and a swing left in the attic. I try to loan them out every chance I get too. Getting rid of the stuff hasn't helped our decision making skills.

I think I have been feeling it more since Caleigh will be starting school.

Good luck. Prayers!

Amy said...

So sorry! I have no real answers--but I do hurt with you! I "get" the pain of learning others are pregnant and while being happy for them--the personal pain is deep! And, going to or hosting baby showers for others while struggling with wanting children and knowing it's a good and pleasing desire and yet God has just not blessed. After being told we wouldn't have children, we found out we were pregnant, only to suffer a miscarriage. Pregnancy no longer equals a baby to hold on earth for me.

Through these experiences I will say, my view of children has been forever changed. They are truly a gift from God! We are not in control as we so often think we are--instead, He is the giver of life.

"I just wish I knew for sure...." Praying God will comfort you and lead you. There are so many things in life that "I just wish I knew for sure", yet, God just hasn't shown me yet. For now, it's a day to day (or minute to minute) going to Him. Trusting He is at work...but it's hard!

Anonymous said...

When you hit menopause- then you'll be done. God really did put a default in the system to let us know when it was over. In the meantime, just stay open to His will, whatever that may be, while being the good wife and mom that you already are.

Tara said...

This is a hard decision. After Amelia was born, I was SO sure I wanted a 2nd baby. That feeling still lasts even though I'm expecting.

I want Amelia to have a sister/brother. So does Ben my husband. This baby is due May 1st.

I have always loved children. I didnt let CP stop me. The chances of my 2nd child having Amelia's kind of CP is really rare.