When You Aren’t Ready for Another Baby

When You Aren't Ready for Another Baby

Five months pregnant with baby #3.

I know a lot of people who have had their second, third or fourth baby without as much planning as they would have liked. I know a few post-vasectomy babies. I know a few anniversary babies. I know one (very tired) mama with Irish twins. There are plenty of theories on what constitutes the perfect age gap between siblings. There have even been scientific studies to determine the ideal age gap for siblings. There are also health benefits and consequences to just about every arrangement.

So many factors determine when we have kids and how many we have–age, income, lifestyle, career, illness, your relationship with your partner—it’s just really no one’s business but your own why you spaced your kids like you did. When you have two kids, I feel like there’s less scrutiny. When you have one child, everyone–even total strangers–will ask when you are having another. When you already have two or more, people react to a pregnancy like it’s bad news.

I got a lot of comments when I started to show with #3, since baby #2 was still less than a year old. People actually had the gall to ask if it was planned. I always responded with, “What can I say–we have a happy marriage!” And that usually made people uncomfortable enough to quit prying.

Those questions were hard for me not only because they were invasive and overstepped major boundaries, but because baby #3 wasn’t planned. We wanted to have three, always. But we planned to start trying when our middle daughter was 2, not 10 months. I was convinced that I could track everything ovulation-related after baby #2 and then when we were ready, we could time it just right and get a boy. I never got the chance.

My second period after Alice was born was a week late. One day I reached up to get something out of the microwave, and I felt it–like a goldfish in my pelvis. I froze. No. Nononononono. I forgot what I was doing in the kitchen and ran to the bathroom. I grabbed a pregnancy test and sat on the toilet. Both strips turned red the moment liquid hit them.

I burst into tears. I just had a baby. I couldn’t do this. I couldn’t do another labor, another long pregnancy with my back aching and legs cramping, only this time chasing two toddlers instead of one. We drove a tiny Honda Civic. Our house only had three bedrooms. I cried more.

My oldest daughter came in the bathroom. “Mommy, please stop crying…you’re scaring me.”

I ignored her and she ran to get daddy. He didn’t even know yet. He walked in and asked what was wrong. I held up the test and continued to cry. He took our daughter into the other room and closed the bathroom door so I could have privacy, and I loved him for knowing I needed space in that moment.

I began imagining scenarios that would lead to me not being pregnant any more, and the tears slowed to a halt. I realized that wasn’t what I wanted. I already loved this baby. I already couldn’t wait to meet her. I knew so many women who had lost babies, who couldn’t have babies, who would have cried tears of joy in this moment.

I still felt horrible and sad and overwhelmed. But I was too blessed to wish this away. So what if our car was small? Babies don’t take up much room. So what if our kids would have to share a room? They were scared of the dark anyway and would probably sleep better. I was in a committed, supportive relationship with a man who was an amazing dad. I had a very flexible part-time job. It wasn’t ideal, but we could do this. I could do this. I walked out of that bathroom refusing to shed another tear.

It still stung when people asked nosey questions about our timing, about our house, about our car and everything else. At first I told everyone it was unplanned voluntarily, but I soon got tired of apologizing for our lives. We were the only ones affected by this pregnancy. I decided not to care what anyone else thought unless they were planning on pitching in.

We brought Clara Howard Burt home after spending about 12 hours in early labor and two in hard labor at home, and 45 minutes in transition and pushing in the birthing tub at the hospital. Clara was the easiest baby of all three.  She nursed a ton, rarely cried, and to this day goes down for bed without a peep. She’s the child who carefully puts all her clothes in the hamper and puts her shoes away before she gets in the tub. She says “thanks” without being told. She can find my keys and phone when they’re lost. She’s amazing, and she’s just what I needed.

It’s hard to have an unexpected baby, no matter how fortunate the circumstances. It can be hard to be grateful, even when you know people who deserve to have news like this. It can be financially hard, even in the best of times. But you’ll survive, and you’ll love, and you’ll be fuller than ever before.

Erin Burt is a freelance writer and mother of three girls who lives and writes in Queensbury, New York. 

Comments are closed.