As a new mom, I’ve learned plans don’t mean much of anything.
For #MotherlyStories | My husband and I are planners by profession.
He’s an electrical engineer who sometimes spends months on complex projects. He reviews tiny notations over and over again. He’s the quintessential “measure twice, cut once” guy.
I’m a former journalist, if there is such a thing. I now teach mass communication at a community college, where I advise a student newspaper. My course outlines are meticulous. When I went on maternity leave for six weeks during the spring 2014 semester, I left my substitute a detailed “how to” guide complete with custom dividers.
We have a pseudo script for even the most innocuous of events.
So the fact we’re diverging from one of the biggest plans of our life is something of note these days to those who know us well. We’ve put our plans to have another baby on hold because, simply put, I’m just not ready yet. Maybe I will be in another year. But this wasn’t the family situation I thought I had planned.
When we married in 2008, I was 24 and he was 27. We were young. The average age American women say “I do” for the first time today is 27, according to the Pew Research studies. For men, it’s 29. Across the Internet, there’s fun graphics proclaiming the “decline in marriage among the young.”
That’s not us. We met when I was a high school senior. He was a second-year college student. I took him to prom. He asked me to be his designated driver when he turned 21. We spent years shuffling reliable and not-so-reliable cars between universities in Northern California and internships in other states during a three-year long distance relationship.
By 2008, we had degrees and jobs. We were finally sending out “save the dates.”
Immediately after walking down the aisle, we got the questions:
When was the baby coming? How long would we wait?
We had other plans. We saved to buy a house. I took an editing job with longer hours that kept me away from home because I was trying to “lean in” before it was a thing. We went on daylong hikes with views of the Golden Gate Bridge from the Marin Headlands. We ate expensive dinners in Carmel. We took a dream vacation to New York City.
We told each other five years would be a good goal of marriage to get to sans child, especially in a time we were seeing so many friends’ marriages end only after a few years.
In 2013, over an Italian anniversary dinner of gnocchi at one of our favorite restaurants, we decided it was time to try. We’d wait for the beginning of the school year and plan for the baby to be born near the end of the spring semester or after finals. Because that was a good plan.
We got pregnant the second month we tried.
The first 26 weeks were magical. Sure, I was tired. But I kept running the first trimester. I was still able to knock out a 10 miler with friends at 18 weeks. I did yoga twice a week.
Reality hit hard in the third trimester when my legs swelled like balloons and my blood pressure began inching up. I felt like throwing up all the time. I could barely move when I got home from work.
At 32 weeks my doctors ordered regular fetal non-stress tests. At 34 weeks, those tests increased to twice a week. At 36 weeks I was leaning over my swollen belly searching for my feet as I was being discharged from the hospital with a gigantic jug to capture my urine for two days for a lab test. The results sent me back to my doctor where I waited 45 minutes, uncharacteristic of her office, until she finally came in and said: “We are delivering you at 37 weeks because of pre-eclampsia.”
Stunned, I could only eek out a response.
“That’s Sunday,” I said.
“Yes. It is,” she responded as she typed the orders.
Things didn’t go well at the hospital. After 36-hours of induction and nothing going as planned, I had an emergency C-section where I was put under general anesthesia because I could feel the initial scalpel cut into my body.
I don’t have a beautiful birth story. I don’t even really have a birth story at all. I was handed my daughter before I was given pain medication for the incision that had just been cut below my belly button. The first moments I had with her were excruciating. She was bundled snugly in my arms, so peaceful and content. I felt like I was going to pass out from the discomfort. I asked my husband to take her away.
It’s hard for me to think about it, let alone write about it. The hole the doctor cut that day may have physically healed, but not emotionally.
The problem with all this is that we had a plan for how our family would come together. We wanted our daughter to have a brother or sister in spring or summer of next year. We told ourselves that two years was a good amount of time between children.
But I’m petrified of being pregnant again.
So many women talk about loving pregnancy and how it truly encompasses the best moments of their lives. I have Facebook friends who look amazing after giving birth to their second, third or fourth children. They banter about their all-natural births and how they did it without medical intervention.
Modern medicine saved me from a likely seizure before I could even meet my child. At some point in those blurry days after my daughter was born, I remember someone telling me I could have died.
And yet, my husband wanted to stick to the original plan for parenthood in those initial months. He told me the next time would be better.
Seventeen months later, I’m not convinced. Conversations about it paralyze me. He reminded me earlier this year, after our daughter’s first birthday, that we had a timeline for a second baby. We were, in many ways, at an impasse.
He wants another child, sooner rather than later. I can see it in his face. Having our daughter made him a different person, one that understands time passes fast and we only have so many moments. He’s sentimental now in a way he’s never been.
But we were both looking for an “out” from the plan – me for cowardly reasons, him because after 13 years together he knows pushing his stubborn wife only makes her dig in her heels more.
Four months ago we got it. After working as an adjunct professor for five years I accepted a tenure-track full-time position this fall. Six weeks ago, I started my new job. I made a declaration before I ever walked into my first lecture section: I didn’t want to be pregnant my first year teaching full time.
Suddenly there’s a new plan. It’s one that includes me showering my toddler with as much love as possible while running a program and building curriculum. It’s one that gives me another year to recover from the invisible scars of difficult pregnancy and childbirth. It’s one I wouldn’t have been comfortable with two years ago.
As a new mom, I’ve learned plans don’t mean much of anything. That doesn’t make them irrelevant, but, rather, moveable. So I’m accepting this non-bump in the road for the next year – especially if the end goal puts me in a better place to embrace the original plan.