When I was younger, I imagined having at least three children. In the sometimes dissociative fantasy world that lived in my head, each child had a name, a unique personality, and a distinct piece of my heart. I hadn’t even met my husband yet, but I had my life all planned out.
Until the plan unraveled. And until I became OK with life not turning out how I anticipated.
My first-even pregnancy ended in miscarriage at approximately five weeks gestation on June 4, 2019. I didn’t know how to process the grief, and I often spiraled out of control. I did all of the things we do when we have unprocessed grief or any mental health issue: I ate my feelings, shriveled into a smaller version of myself, and remained numb to the point of nearly no return.
I kept telling myself, “I thought getting pregnant would be easier.” It took me months to find a sliver of grace with myself and to realize that a pregnancy loss is not my fault. Despite the overwhelming feeling of loss, my husband and I kept trying.
Fast forward to August 2020. As I lay on the operating table, numb from the waist down and being cut open during a C-section, I witnessed the single most awe-inspiring moment of my life: the birth of our son. All of the heartaches centered on the first loss, the arrival of periods, and the incessant waiting were all worth it. The high-risk pregnancy riddled with gestational diabetes, hypertension, and a breech baby was worth it.
Every road that led to this magical moment was filled with fate, unconditional love, and a mess of nerves. I realized at that moment, as I was being wheeled out of the operating room, that life was complete. This notion reintroduced itself as we settled into being a family of three within the first 24 hours after Luke was born.
In April 2021, the unthinkable happened. Although I used birth control, it failed. I saw a positive pregnancy test staring back at me as I sat in disbelief on the toilet seat. I couldn’t believe that it happened when I wasn’t trying. Then, I suffered a second miscarriage on April 20, 2021, when I was between five and six weeks along. Each time, I miscarried 24 hours or so after the initial pregnancy test.
Between the birth of our son and after the second miscarriage, I realized that I didn’t want to go through this process again. While I gained an immense amount of resilience and strength I never knew I possessed, my health — and the health of any future children — would be at stake. I have a bicornuate uterus and a propensity for serious health complications during pregnancy.
Somehow, I feel at peace with the knowledge that Luke will be our only child. I feel confident in that decision. Although I know others may (and probably have) passed judgment, it’s OK to not be the “nuclear family” everyone expects you to be. Do what resonates with you. Have just one child. Have two or three. Have seven. Or have none at all. The beauty is the promise and realization of choice. You are the author of your own story. If you have experienced any type of pregnancy or infant loss (or have struggled to get pregnant at all), this notion is even more important. You may hear, “But your child needs a sibling” and “When are you going to try for another one?” There is also beauty in honesty, even if it makes people uncomfortable. You don’t have to be rude (even if they are). You can take the high road and still be honest with them and yourself. You know what is best for you, your partner, and any children you have.
It’s OK when your dreams change — even those you have harbored in your mind since you were a little girl. Life gives us what we need in ways we don’t expect. I see this every day. There’s a little boy who looks at me with true love in his eyes when he wakes up. Who I declare as “smelly” and “handsome” and all of the wonderful boy-isms I can muster. Who grows and learns more every single day. Who I love more than life itself.
Most of all, he and his siblings helped me further realize what unconditional love means — and how to feel confident and secure, no matter what life throws your way.