By: Aimee Tafreshi
It’s the question that simmers under the surface among friends with kids. Are you done having kids? Will you have one more child? Part benchmark, part sheer curiosity, both close friends and passing acquaintances have murmured this seemingly casual but loaded question at a game night, at a park, in a bar.
My and my husband’s answers were usually similar in response. We already have three children. I didn’t want to go through a pregnancy again for health reasons. When I hold a baby, I don’t feel any strong desire to hold another one of my own. I’m almost 40! I remember meeting a Pilates instructor at a local watering hole on a rowdy night out with friends who seemed especially dialed into other’s feelings. If you don’t know, she said with her wise gaze boring through my soul, then I think you will have another one. I shrugged her words off. Maybe . . . but highly doubtful.
The encounter with the empathetic Pilates instructor was several years ago. During that time, I merengued into some of the best shape of my life as a Zumba instructor. I was dancing so much that I couldn’t eat enough food to stay full. I was dancing so much that the annoying pain in my right foot turned into a broken sesamoid bone, which took away my ability to walk for the good part of a year and required surgery to remove the crumbled bone. I hung up my dancing shoes and suddenly had to make an effort to eat healthfully and relearn how to walk so I wouldn’t pack on the pounds.
Post-foot surgery, I discovered two blood clots in my arms, which led to testing to determine the cause. I found out I had a genetic blood clotting disorder and immediately had to end my twenty-year relationship with birth control pills. My husband and I discussed vasectomies, an option I couldn’t quite commit to in the past, because I wasn’t one hundred percent sure. We decided he would undergo the procedure following the holidays, as his work schedule was conducive.
We were in a good place in our lives. Our children were 4, 6 and 8, and all of them slept through the night (mostly), toileted independently and could attend school or daycare while I worked at my new remote desk job. They had activities that required early Saturday mornings and weekday practices, a schedule that is not conducive to a needy newborn. How could I bring a baby to a five-hour swim meet in the Florida heat? There was something liberating about being “hands-free.” I could fly on a plane with three children or take them to the movies or restaurant solo. Why would I want to disrupt this careful balance we had finally achieved?
It was the height of election season, so crazy was in the air. I got tired of watching CNN as I wanted to hear about anything other than Hillary and Donald. I’m a news junkie, but this was twenty-four seven saturation. My husband and I threw caution to the wind and figured we’d leave the last few months of his virility to fate, God, whomever. This wasn’t a major effort, as we both strongly felt the pros and cons of adding another child to our family. I was settled into my new job, and we weren’t certain if he would continue on his current career path or make the leap into the private sector. Economics would dictate that we were finished, but our hearts were still open to one more.
In late November, after queasiness from the election began to subside, I started to feel a new sort of queasiness. Other than with my daughter, I was pretty lucky during my pregnancies in the morning sickness department. But this time I felt different, and I knew that night I should forgo that cherished glass of red and buy a pregnancy test the next day.
I was actually shocked when the positive test result appeared in a millisecond. Wow, there was no doubt, no faint line to scrutinize, no need for a re-test (though I think I did.) At around four weeks pregnant, there was nothing to do but wait. I didn’t know if this pregnancy would progress or fade away as several had. I didn’t even call the OB until six weeks; I didn’t want to waste my time.
My husband accompanied me to see the doctor at around seven weeks, and he congratulated us but recommended we might want to consider banking sperm in case this pregnancy didn’t work out. We assured the good doctor that we were at peace with our family if this one was not to be; we weren’t looking for a medical intervention.
At this stage, the doctor didn’t try to hear a heartbeat or get a visual image. Instead, I was told I would be giving myself a shot every night to deliver a blood thinner that wouldn’t affect the developing embryo. And as the delivery date got closer, one shot would turn into two daily, and then there would be more needles postpartum, to avoid post-cesarean section blood clots.
It took me until 9:00 that evening to give myself the first shot, after religiously studying the package insert, scouring message boards about injection techniques and telling myself it was a matter of life and death. Many months later I am a confident shot administrator (with the help of my nurse/husband who delivers the burning substance) and would feel comfortable injecting anyone in my family, if needed. The only battle wounds are bruises occasionally left by a needle. Once the shots are a distant memory someday, I will notice that witching hour every night, tucked between a shower and snack, and wonder what I am forgetting and then remember the days of the shot.
At ten weeks pregnant, feeling more confident but not out of the woods, my husband accompanied me to my next doctor’s appointment. The doctor hooked me up to his old ultrasound machine (this was his scaled down “island” office), and the unmistakable image of a small bean of a baby in a sac appeared on the right. My eyes scanned to the left (backwards, I know), and I saw a second sac with another blob inside. “Is that two babies in there???!!!” I exclaimed before the doctor had a chance to get a word in. He confirmed my impression and proceeded to talk as we filled out forms while our heads swam. We were now floating in an alternate, undefined universe. I honestly wasn’t convinced there was a viable baby inside of me until its image flashed up on the screen; never in my wildest dreams did I imagine two life forms sharing space in my womb.
Twins could certainly explain the extreme feelings of nausea and fatigue and the sense that my belly was beginning to show before the second trimester. I was immediately referred to the high-risk obstetrics group on account of the twins, blood clotting disorder and that lovely designation, being of advanced maternal age.
Since that time, my husband and I have made progress. We now accept that we are having twins. We were ecstatic to learn that one is a boy and the other is a girl, and my daughter will finally get the sister she has always wanted. My middle child is psyched that he will be elevated to “oldest son” status. And we have embraced the idea of having two newborns. Every time I see them on an ultrasound, bigger and more baby-like than the previous month, these two blobs become more real to me, taking up residence in my heart, each future version with his or her own dreams, talents and hopes. Still, I won’t completely believe this news until they hand me two crying infants at the hospital.
And while on the topic of twins, here are a few myths I’d like to dispel, in case you are considering adding “just one more” child to your family and think multiples could never happen to you.
First, not every twin birth is a result of a medical intervention like IVF or Clomid. In fact, back in the old days, women had twins well before these medical advances. Secondly, you do not need to have twins in your family to become pregnant with them. And finally, if you are an older mother and have already had multiple pregnancies, you are at a higher risk to have multiples. And if I were a mom who had undergone grueling rounds of IVF, I probably wouldn’t want strangers inquiring about whether my twins were “natural” or not. They’re all human babies, people. Growing and nurturing a life in the womb is pretty miraculous, whether one baby or more, regardless of how they got there.
And finally, if you do find yourself blessed (or cursed, depending on your outlook) with twins someday, many people will react as if you’ve been diagnosed with some incurable form of disease. Some of the reactions we have received are as follows: “Umm, congratulations?”; “I’m so glad it’s you and not me!”; and “Wow, we were going to have one more child, but not anymore!” I don’t take these comments too personally, because this is simply others’ reaction to how they would handle the news of twins. Yes, we are scared. And yes, we will be vastly outnumbered. But am I beyond excited to join the sorority of twin moms? My answer is “Yes” times two.
Aimee Tafreshi is a freelance writer and attorney who also contributes to Nameberry.com and her own blog once in a blue moon, aimeetafreshi.com. She is also a mother and professional chauffeur to three spirited, young children.