I can’t sleep. I’ve been doing all of the things that I know to calm my mind, but it refuses to be at rest.
I know what is keeping me awake. In a few hours, I’m heading to visit to the doctor to take steps to ensure that I don’t get pregnant again. And the conflicting emotions about this have me here on my couch at four in the morning.
My pregnancy took me completely by surprise. I was in a brand new relationship, the old, barely behind me. I was pushing forty. I already had four children of my own and two other boys I was getting to know. It was the absolute worst time to bring a new baby into our lives. I worried that I was supposed to feel guilt, so I did.
But he grew in me, and I grew in my excitement about him. Every week we would check to see what size fruit he was then. We would place our hands on my stomach and feel the kicks and turns and hiccups. We would talk about how how crazy it was going be to have a child nearing college graduation at the same time we had a child entering kindergarten and we would laugh at the absurdity of it all. I felt excited. But I worried that I was supposed to still feel guilt, so I did.
Then, in a moment, it was all gone. The countdown was over. The movements stilled. The calculations of age differences momentarily behind until milestone moments hit and they are remembered. I was supposed to feel grief, so I did. But I worried that I was still supposed to feel guilt, so I did.
Now we’re taking steps to avoid pregnancy again. Rich has lost two infant sons. My health was in peril. All of the things that were true when I got pregnant with Elliott are still largely true – we are newly married, we are still in the process of becoming a blended family, we are still healing from the wounds of the past year. I am confident that this is the right decision for us in every way.
But I worry that I should feel guilt over this decision as well.
Does my lack of interest in trying to conceive again mean that I’m less of a woman? Does wanting to have time to ourselves to build a healthy marriage and family indicate selfishness? Does excitement about being able to pursue goals that would be hard to do with a newborn mean that I never really loved our son?
I don’t think the answer to any of these questions is yes, but when a thin layer of guilt has covered every part of this process, it can be hard to see that clearly.
What I can see clearly is that the guilt that has plagued me has kept me from fully enjoying some beautiful moments. It didn’t destroy them, but it has stolen some of the happiness that I could have experience. The more I’m consumed with what I’m supposed to feel, the less I actually feel.
So today I will focus on the things that I know. That I have a husband who loves me and a marriage that I am working on every day. I have children who need me in their lives. I have the memories of a son who I treasured.
What I am supposed to feel today is loved.
Photo by: Hartwig HKD