Part 1 of a series of 8.
“Look at this,” I mumble out of the corner of my mouth as I shove the white and purple plastic stick in Sir Hubby’s direction. The two younger kids are nearby and it is too soon to clue them in yet.
“Uh. What exactly am I looking at?” he replies, his tone already rising an octave. He senses danger.
“C’mon. Really?” I hiss. I know he has seen a pregnancy test before.
“No, no. I know what it is. I just don’t know what it says,” he confesses.
“It says oops.”
And so begins our journey towards meeting Loin Fruit Number Five, or LF#5 as we like to call the little critter.
Of course our LF#5 is loved and wanted. LF#5 simply has shown up in our lives about three years too early for me and has forced me to confront some of my personal issues about responsibility and control. Our youngest, T-Bird, just turned one in March of this year…likely around the same time her little-sibling-to-be was undergoing some rapid cell division. This was, of course, right before I suddenly came down with a “mysterious flu-like illness” no one else seemed to have, which didn’t go away for about two months. Well, it hasn’t gone away even now that it is the middle of June. But at least now I know that I am not battling the flu.
All four of my children have a minimum of four years in between them. I, of course, have heard of (and even seen in person) women who have children closer in age. My cousin and his wife had their two girls close together and jokingly said that other people walk on fire…but that they decided to run through it instead. And I had friends growing up who were close in age to their siblings, and they did things like played together and subsequently grew up to be friends. Wait a second. My own mother had two children under two—me and my younger brother. So, okay actually, there are plenty of examples in my life. It just wasn’t for me.
I really loved having four selfish years with each of my babies and a fully-verbal, fully-potty trained, fully-weaned, fully-sleeping-through-the-night, preschooler to share in the joys of welcoming our new baby. I chose the spacing of my children to best match my particular style and comfort level with parenting. I have a tendency to become easily stressed, easily overwhelmed, and easily burnt out. All of my children have vastly different needs, and at vastly different times of day. They each tax their own particular set of mom resources in their own way. And clearly, telling two teenagers and a 6 year old to “hang on” or “ask later” when I am busy with the baby usually works pretty well since they have all reached (and hopefully mastered in the case of my teens) the appropriate developmental stage to do that, or even help out when required. Having one set of issues to deal with for each child made sense to me, rather than trying to spread similar resources between similarly aged children. I never planned to have more than one child under the age of four at the same time. And now I am going to have two under two.
So, that begs the question “How did we let this happen?” I have been pregnant before. The stork has never left anything in the cabbage patch for me. And, to top it all off, I am a doula, parent educator, and attend births as a midwifery assistant. You would think that I would understand how the whole thing works, and even recognize a few of the symptoms. So, did pregnancy even cross my mind? Not once. I’m not confused about the relationship between ovulation and breastfeeding. I know that even exclusive, full-time breastfeeding is not a reliable method of preventing pregnancy after the sixth month. I’m fully aware that ovulation can happen before your regular menstrual cycle returns. I am familiar with all methods of “birth control.” And to be frank (oversharing), with our busy lives, conflicting schedules, fatigue, full-time breastfeeding, and co-sleeping, abstinence is practiced around here more often than not. With all of this knowledge, I can’t help but feeling a little disappointed in myself. Surely, even if the signs of ovulation were very subtle, I should have been more responsible. If I wanted to prevent a pregnancy, then why was I not doing more to make sure that I didn’t get pregnant? Where does this attitude of feeling guilty come from? I am having a baby, not receiving a jail sentence! Why am I being so hard on myself for having a body that WORKS perfectly?
A local Fertility Awareness instructor, Kathryn Hamilton, includes this information on her website:
Women have gotten pregnant on every type of birth control out there, including tubal ligation. We need to change our mentality about fertility – our only healthy and natural option is to be AWARE of our bodies and of our fertility, and make intelligent choices accordingly.
Here is a passage from Lunaception by Louise Lacey (which Kathryn highly recommends):
“Today Western society …[has] a multibillion industry devoted to “birth control”. The term accurately reflects our characteristic attitude, which is to attack problems, try to control things. This is birth control we are talking about; women’s bodies, not street traffic. How it is possible to regulate or control a living body? Putting physical restraint upon a living thing sometimes means death and always raises the possibility of damage.
Our culture takes the attitude that the control of living things is both desirable and possible. The basic assumption is that we can run the show better than if we let the show happen by itself. We can do nature’s job better than nature – an amazingly presumptuous point of view. But we never do control anything. We only manipulate. And often destroy.
So, not surprisingly, in the name of birth control, we have more than a dozen ways to try to master nature. And because control doesn’t work, no matter how many people think it does, we have in more than a dozen different ways been unsuccessful at “controlling” birth.
If I follow in the footsteps of my mother, aunts and grandmother, it is likely that I only have a few more years of fertility remaining, and I would like to make some peace with my body before then. I would love to feel like we understand one another and have reached a place where we have a few moments of mutual respect before our relationship changes forever. Sir Hubby and I did want to have another baby…perhaps my plan of “controlling” it for another three years would have left me unable to have another baby at all. Perhaps I am just scared of not being in control. Perhaps the universe is sending me this new little critter at exactly the right time for our family. Perhaps I will discover all the joys that I have missed out on by having a large age difference in my children. Perhaps it will all be wonderful in ways that I have yet to imagine. Perhaps I can forgive myself for not being more vigilante about my own fertility cycle. Perhaps forgiving myself is a healthy place for my body and I to begin this journey together.
Preparing for pregnancy, birth, and parenting is a major part of my life. I teach it to other families. I preach it in the work that I do. I live and breath pregnancy and birth and parenting every single day. I didn’t think that I was prepared to be pregnant again so soon. But my body seems to think that we are doing just fine, or else it would not have had what it needed to become pregnant and continue providing milk for my T-Bird.
I’m growing a new life! In MY body! A baby! A real baby! Wow. Does that ever stop being miraculous?
I’m excited and scared and confused…all the things that expectant parents usually are. Having already had four children does not automatically prepare you for having a fifth. I wish I could feel confident and sure about every aspect of this, but this pregnancy is just as new to me as each one has been before it. Every pregnancy, like every child, brings with it unique challenges, and unparalleled joys. I hope to share those challenges and joys with you, API Reader, over the next few months. Will you please follow me as I reflect on each of the AP Principles as I prepare for LF#5? I’ll be counting on your insights, experiences and advice to get through things like preparing for tandem nursing, positive discipline for my toddler, co-sleeping tips for a bigger family, babywearing with a bigger belly (and a cranky back), responding sensitively to my family (and myself) when it all gets to be a bit much, providing consistency when so much is fluctuating, and of course finding some balance in all the chaos.