“I’m done,” I repeated to my husband for the millionth time that week.
Just months earlier, we saw our reproductive endocrinologist. We miscarried for the fourth time and wanted to follow up to see if there’s anything more they could do. They told me our next steps were trying IVF, or we could do an exploratory surgery where they would remove my questionable fallopian tube which was scarred from my ectopic pregnancy. We weighed our options, and even checked with our insurance about the surgery.
And then, our family endured a very different kind of loss. Our foster baby returned to his biological family after being a part of our family for a year and a half. I was pretty sure my heart had just taken as much as a heart could take while still beating.
“You know what my OB said,” I reminded him. “‘Just ask yourself if you can handle one more loss. Not five more, not two more – just one more. If you think you can handle ONE more loss, then you should keep trying. But if the answer that question ever becomes no, one more is too many . . . then that’s a pretty good indication that you are done.’
“Right now,” I looked at him solemnly, “one more is too many.”
After five years of trying and five losses, I finally came to terms that I would only have one successful pregnancy and I could learn to be content with the children I have.
Over the last five years, I was the one poking and prodding my husband to get on board with trying to conceive. I was the one tracking my cycle, doing ovulation predictor kits, and saying, “Come home – sex, now.” But he was always hesitant, terrified of loss, but more terrified of losing me. After two significant scares during my pregnancies, he couldn’t imagine facing a lifetime without me by his side to raise our daughters together. And yet he always relented because he knew how badly I wanted to have another child by birth.
His answer shocked me. I wanted to retort that my vote should count twice as much as his, as it was my body going through the pregnancies and losses. And yet, I remembered the years he tried to conceive against his will for me. As his loving partner, I knew what I needed to say. “Ok . . . one more try,” I sighed. “But after that, we’re done.”
I didn’t think it would happen.
At least, not so fast. Within weeks of this conversation, I found myself staring at a strong positive pregnancy test the day my period was supposed to arrive.
There was no celebration. I knew not to get my hopes up. When my husband saw the fear in my eyes, he softly hugged me and whispered, I’m sorry. I felt sorry too. I was consumed with fear that we would miscarry again, that my body would fail my baby and fail my husband. But it didn’t – our rainbow baby hung on.
After a very long, anxiety-prone pregnancy and a redeeming birth, our little rainbow baby arrived into our hearts and our arms. And my husband kept his word, taking permanent measures to make sure we don’t fall pregnant again.
Initially, I felt relief – which lasted all of two hours.
And then I questioned our decision. Every day we had with our daughter was precious, and reminded me of just why I had been trying for all these years. I loved, loved, loved having my baby. I already wanted to do it again.
Mentally, I understood the million reasons we needed to be done: my traumatic pregnancy history, the years spent battling grief and depression, the heavy physical toll pregnancy takes on my body, and the ridiculous postpartum anxiety. Not to mention that I’m now 35, as though I need nature to work against me any more than it already is.
And yet as my daughter’s one-year birthday creeps up on me, and the chasm of time stretches, separating me from my last pregnancy, I’m feeling all the feels. After five years of trying, and eight years of mothering, our journey really is over.
There will never be another two-week wait, for better or for worse. I’ll never have to question if my breasts are a little tender or REALLY tender, and then binge-read every pregnancy symptom known to Google. I’ll never need to think of a fun way to announce that our family is growing. I will never again feel the little flutters of tiny feet pressing against my body from the inside out, or the tickle of little fingers as my baby tries to find something to suck on. I’ll never again feel that incredible bond as I watch her suckle from my exposed, engorged breast right after she emerges whole and healthy from my womb.
There will be no more firsts in infancy. No more milky breath after cluster feeding. Or 2-week-old sleepy baby snuggles. No more photos documenting each month of growth.
And yet – there is also no more pregnancy loss.
No more waiting with bated breath every single time I wipe and look for the faintest streak of pink on my toilet paper. There’s no more waiting for my nurse to call with my hCG numbers, and have her start the results with, “I’m sorry . . .” There will be no more flushing my miscarriage down the toilet, knowing that my baby was in one of the clots accumulating in the bottom of the bowl. There will be no more ultrasounds where you see an empty womb that should have been full of life. There’s no more “un-telling” of our announcement. There is no more fear that I will have scary pregnancy complications that will end in a loss for either me or my baby. And there is no more questioning whether I will ever get to have a baby again.
Because just one more loss is one too many, we are done.
While I sometimes still grieve what could have been had recurrent loss not robbed our family of choices, I mostly find myself snuggling my quickly-growing baby. Breathing in every scent, memorizing the way her fuzzy head feels against my chest. Celebrating her presence in our lives now and not just mourning what could have been. Willing time – and her infancy – to go by just a little more slowly. And being grateful, ever so grateful, to end our journey on the best note one could ask for: With a beautiful rainbow after the storm.
A version of this piece originally appeared at pregnancyafterlosssupport.com, published with permission.