Growing up I was never one of those girls who wanted babies. I mean, I liked them, because who doesn’t like babies? I babysat and I was good with kids, but I would never see a baby and feel that ache everyone speaks of to have my own. I had a friend who would always say she was born to be a mother. I didn’t know what that even meant. But I did know that I probably wasn’t.
So you can imagine why, in May of 2006 at the age of 27 when I became very unexpectedly and very unintentionally pregnant, I was absolutely terrified. My husband and I sat silent in the dark of our tiny apartment and said nothing for hours. I kept thinking about how we had no money and no health insurance. I broke down sobbing, not knowing what we’d do. Sick with worry about how we would ever afford any of it. And also, not entirely sure I even wanted a baby.
I called my mother. She was elated. She kept telling me…
“This is good news.”
“You will figure it all out.”
“Babies bring their own bread.”
I did have a brief thought that, like with a headache, if I slept, it would go away; but pregnancy doesn’t work like that. I didn’t sleep that night.
About six weeks after finding out (making me 10 weeks into the pregnancy), I started to be in a good place with it. Ready or not, I was going to be a mother. Maybe this was a good thing. Maybe it really was going to be okay. Babies are beautiful, right? How can a baby be bad?
I found a doctor who agreed to see me as a cash patient. When the day arrived for my first appointment, I was feeling very anxious, but the thought of getting one of those blurry black and white pictures made me smile a little. I checked in and handed over $100, which feels like your life’s savings when you’re 27 and working a part time desk job. I was led to a small room with peeling flowered wallpaper. I drank all the water in the world and put on a gown. I lay on a cold table and looked hard at the monitor while an unfriendly doctor put a bunch of warm goo on my belly. She kept pushing and rolling and not saying anything. I made small talk, none of which she responded to. After a few minutes she let out a heavy sigh and said, “I’m just not seeing anything.” Shaking her head, she stopped, looked at me, and said sternly, “Sit up please.” She started speaking very fast with words I didn’t understand, and then she said the words…
I left my appointment in a fog of confusion. What just happened? So that’s it? It’s all just…over now?
I walked back to my car without a picture of a growing baby in my belly. Instead I had a referral for a D&C appointment.
I went home, and again, cried for hours in the dark of our small apartment. But this time it was because my pregnancy was over. I was overwhelmed with tremendous guilt. Was it my fault? Did I will it to happen? Did the baby know that at first I didn’t want it, so it left? Was it because I couldn’t find a doctor right away?
I guess, ultimately, I felt relieved, because it really was not a good time to have a baby. I tried to move on and not think about my upcoming procedure too much.
The day before my D & C, I was at work and I started bleeding. Like gangbusters bleeding, and cramping worse than any pain I had ever felt. Somehow I managed to drive to my mom’s house. I passed it naturally in her bathroom while she held my hand.
And that was it.
A few weeks later, I was at a stoplight. Crossing the street in front of me was a young mom about my age pushing a stroller with a tiny baby. I just kept staring at that perfectly beautiful little baby. She had all this fuzzy hair and was bundled in pink. I felt a lump in my throat and I started to cry.
There it was, that feeling deep in your insides, an ache.
I wanted a baby.
It was as if a maternal desire awoke inside me with my pregnancy’s end. I wanted one. I wanted one so badly.
I immediately wanted to start that process. I scraped together enough money to buy some prenatal vitamins and started taking them. I was ready to try right away.
My husband was, rightfully so, against it. He reminded me that with both of us only employed part time, in a heap of credit card debt, and without health insurance, it wasn’t smart to try. We can be poor with a baby I told my husband, babies bring their own bread!
But I knew he was right, so I tearfully agreed, because solid employment and health insurance are important for a baby. So we waited. But the ache never went away.
Time moved along. We got out of debt, got full time jobs, and great insurance.
So again, in the month of May, four years after the first time, I became pregnant for the second time. This time I was ecstatic. We both were. We hugged and celebrated. We sat in the light of our tiny apartment for hours and talked about names and Godparents and what kind of stroller we should register for. I practically called the AP and shouted it from the rooftops. Finally. A baby.
I was seven weeks along when the day finally came for my first appointment. I was so excited. I couldn’t wait to see the monitor with a baby on it and not a blank screen. I used the bathroom before I left and there, like a punch to the gut, was blood. My heart sank. I tried to stay calm. I went to my appointment and told the nurse about what was happening. She said not to worry. I still did. The appointment started like the previous one. Cold table. Warm goo. Blank monitor. Sighing doctor. And a bunch of words I didn’t understand. “Not viable.” “Only a sac.” “Body starting the natural process.” “Should all be over in a few days.” all words that added up to…
My heart was broken in more pieces than the first time. I kept thinking of how, after my first miscarriage, everyone was always telling me not to worry, that we would have our baby “when it’s the right time.” Well, what about now? This time WAS the right time and it still didn’t happen. What was the universe trying to teach me? Is there a universe manager I can speak to? This is bullshit. I just didn’t understand, how could this be happening again? It didn’t seem fair. We wanted this baby. We tried for this baby. What was I going to tell everyone? Maybe I never understood that whole “born to be a mother” thing because I’m just not supposed to have children?
I got in the elevator to the parking lot. I walked back to my car without a picture of a baby, but instead with information on a miscarriage support group.
A month later a coworker announced her pregnancy. It almost killed me.
My husband was so encouraging and kind and positive. He wanted to try once my doctor gave us the okay. I was hesitant. I didn’t think I had it in me to go through all that for a third time. The hurt of it ending, physically and emotionally, planned pregnancy or not planned, was too much to feel again.
After a few months, a bigger apartment, and a trip to Hawaii, we decided to try one more time. I got pregnant almost instantly.
It was February of 2011. I was very cautious and said nothing to anyone. I got to my first appointment early in the morning. I lay on the cold table and pessimistically watched the monitor as the sonogram began. Warm goo. A deep sigh from my doctor. Just like the two times before. And then, not at all like the two times before; there it was—a little butter bean shape with a small flicker. My doctor pointed with excitement. “We have a heartbeat!” he shouted.
I smiled. So big, my face hurt.
I was given an official due date and a reminder card for my next appointment. I was in disbelief. Was this real? This is really happening?
I got in the elevator to the parking lot and had the walk I had been wanting for almost five years: a walk to my car with a picture of the growing baby in my belly. I sat there in my car and I cried. I put my hand on my belly and said, “Please stay with me this time, baby.”
And it did. She did.
After many weeks of dreadful morning sickness and honestly, far too many midnight burgers to mention, that baby, my Iris Fiorella, arrived earth side on October 11, 2011.
When she came out, my doctor put her on my chest. She was so warm. I felt the weight of her small body on me. She was perfect. I held her close and it was as if we were the only two people in the room, as if the whole world had disappeared. I was holding my whole heart, living and breathing outside of me. Looking in my newborn daughter’s eyes, I finally understood what it all meant, the ache, the knowing, all of it.
This is what all the others before me were talking about.
And I knew, in that moment, I was born to be mother.
I was born to be her mother.