The Ache

Photo Credit: Pippa Stafford Photography

I feel the curves of my new body. It differs from the other two pregnancies.

I differ.

I’m older.

I’m a little softer both on the inside and the out.

My breasts sit a little lower and my backside a little flatter.

But this bump, this bump pops like all the others did, early and unable to be ignored. I smooth my hands in circles against my bare belly and find comfort in the embodiment. Nonetheless, it is only three months ago that I was sitting at my kitchen table sipping wine, nursing an ache, the ache.

Before becoming pregnant with my third, I was constantly asking myself the question, ‘Will I always feel this ache for another baby?’

I say another because I already have two, and yes it is an ache, not a desire. I did not desire wholeheartedly to bring a third child into this world, for so many logical and selfish reasons.

But I ached. I felt it in my fingertips as I ran them along the sagging skin atop my tummy; that of which I often refer to as looking like an eighty year old mans scrotum (what a sight). I wonder now, if it was kept loose not as a reminder of what carrying two children will do to a woman, but more so to say, ‘Hey, I’m still saggy because I hold space. I’m available if you feel the need for me to carry something, a baby perhaps?’ (My mum tum was subtle in her approach, as you can tell).

I ached in the part where my sternum ends. I pushed two fingers into the ache and it pushed back. It told me it would remain there. It told me that if I don’t use it for something than it would continue to take up residence.

The ache, I felt it more with each passing year; the closer I became to having to cut the tie and say, ‘This is it. Time is up. No more babies.’ I feared that time was tapping at my heels. ‘I’ll be 34 this year’, I said to myself, and whilst that is still young, it is one of many reasons why I thought I would not have any more children.

There were so many reasons for me to decide against having more children and they differed in subject, such as logic, selfishness, and fear. I had only just figured out, with all the wisdom that comes with being in my thirties, that I only have one life to live. I wasn’t sure I could fit in all the things I want to do, see, and achieve if I were to add another person to the mix. Despite now being filled with the overwhelming assurance that getting pregnant again was the right thing to do, I still wonder. I wonder if this baby is replacing one of the things I want to add in my life, or apart of the collection of things I will continue to achieve. It’s a real Ping-Pong game in this head of mine.

Certain things take pause when you bring a new baby into the world. For women it’s often work, our bodies, our hobbies, our friendships, sometimes our marriage (basically our entire lives, how uplifting). I’m already busting my behind trying to be #allthethings and sacrifices are already made by doing this (including time with my beautiful babies). I did all of this with the constant ache in my mind, body, and soul.

I do it now, with a new ache (yep, don’t tell my heart, my achy break heart).

It was the ache that brought my Hazel, my second child, into this world. I felt it the minute I had her brother Orlando. When Orlando exited my body I was already talking about baby number two and it was distressing to both my husband and I (it was too soon). We were already feeling the interference of a child in our wonderful lives of travel and money and freedom. I recall us walking along the large open plains of a five star Balinese resort on our two year wedding anniversary, Orlando was only four months old, and I felt this weight of needing to know if we would be having another baby, and when we should have it. I couldn’t stop thinking about it. This back and forth of should we / shouldn’t we went on for two years before we finally made the decision to go for it. It is my belief that Hazel had been sitting on the doorstep of our conversation all those years, just waiting for us to open the door, because I fell pregnant immediately.

The driving force behind that final decision was weighing up whether I would rather have a second child, or live with the constant curiosity of what if, potentially ending in regret, of not having more children.

My fear throughout my second pregnancy was that when Hazel was born, I would continue to feel the ache.

And I did.

I do.

Is this to be my life’s burden? Some might say, ‘Have another baby’, which is flippant and thoughtless (I think). As my husband has asked in his non-uterus owning wisdom, ‘When will it be enough? What if you feel this way after a third, a fourth, a fifth child?’ And I ask myself; ‘Will I be substituting the burden of my ache for the burden (yes burden) of what might turn out to be one, two, or ten too many children?’ Honestly if my body can’t stop aching by twelve children, then it’s not an ache; it is an addiction (I’ll stick with wine).

There was a time when I had too much fear in my mind to continue procreating. I felt I had run the gauntlet by having a second child. I took on the risk of having a baby that might not have been as healthy as her brother. I took on the risk of damaging my body further, potentially risking my life altogether.

This is the risk we all take on with each baby. I am so grateful to have two healthy babies that with each year as they grow, allow more space for me to continue growing. Would a third baby be the one that makes me pull my hair out with worry? Would a third baby be the one that challenges all that I know? These are the types of questions I would ask myself in an effort to prevent the ache from winning. My husband would try to help by chiming in with logic, telling me that a third baby isn’t worth the risk of losing a mother (me), and with two cesarean-sections (one emergency) under my belt (pun intended), is a high risk pregnancy something I needed at the ripe young age of 34?

As I start making room in our house for Orlando and Hazel’s baby brother, it is almost as if there was no question as to whether this baby would present itself. Planned but untimed, my husband and I never actually said the words ‘Yes we will have a third child.’ It seemed inevitable but we dare not speak it because we knew the reality of it (the frustrating realities) would spin us around in circles and have us sure that we wouldn’t go a third time. Oh, the logistical nightmare that is the third baby: upgrading the car, changing the study into a bedroom, back to one income, and back to no sleep for a few more years. Were we really doing this on purpose? Was the ache so terrible that it was worse than all that other stuff? Could two really not be enough?

Trying to decide on this baby that wriggles around inside my tummy, all felt quite negative (we were really fighting that ache). Yet, there is always the upside; I already did all this overthinking before I got pregnant with Hazel. I sought out advice from people with two or more children. I scaled the forums. I read all the blogs titled, Should I have a second baby? I wrote lists of pros and cons. I developed a five-year timeline of what our lives would look like as a family of four (yes, I did). In hindsight that seems a bit silly. What was I planning to do after the five years? Trade the baby in? Seems unlikely. But the flipside of all the terror that could be, in Hazels case, was that she added to our family; a healthy, happy and beautiful little baby girl that put all those horror stories of the demon second child to the wayside (for now). Perhaps her presence deepened the ache further, as if the ache was pointing its finger in my face and saying, ‘Ha ha, I told you this would be a good idea’ (real know-it-all type ache).

Now I can only wonder, once this baby is born, will the ache remain? I ache now, while pregnant, fearing that the ache will still be nestling at the bottom of my sternum, saving space for yet another baby.

I see so many large families around me at the moment, and the happy snaps on Instagram and Facebook tell me that their lives are fruitful and fantastic and I eat it all up, mostly, because the ache wants me too. But I also see those parents are my age, and already have their tribe of children, I’m not sure I can start building a soccer team now.

I ask myself what it is exactly that I am aching for? Is it the pregnancy? The baby? A big family? Truthfully, it’s mainly the pregnancy. I loved being pregnant both times. Not the first trimester obviously, with all that nausea, I’m not a masochist. And not the third trimester, obviously, with the swollen feet and not being able to get up or down by myself, no, no. But the middle one, the second trimester when I feel the glow and my belly is round, everything is firm, and I feel I am in my most natural state. I like that part. And well, the motherhood part, the beginning is all cracked and bleeding nipples, and it is kind of just a groundhog day of eat, sleep, poo, then clean all food and poo off floors type scenario…but with cute baby hiccups that sound like squeaky dog chew toys, and belly laughs that make them pass wind at the same time. It’s the first crawl and walk and first day of school that send us into a big swirl of, ‘quick lets have more babies’…and we’re back.

I fear the ache will be replaced by curiosity and regret for not having had more children. I fear that having more children, will never dull the ache.

This might appear selfish to those that have struggled with fertility or have known deep loss and grief as mothers, and for that I am sensitive to your feelings. No doubt you too carry a great ache of your own. But this is my truth. This is the ache I walk around with every day.

Three months back when I sat at the family dinner table, the family I created and continue to raise and nurture, the ache demanded me to ask myself who and what I will be if I say, ‘no more babies.’ It was that question that had me staring into the in-between spaces of my day, drifting off trying to imagine, trying to see myself as a woman who would potentially never again do the one thing that filled her with a specific type of fulfillment; a feeling of purpose unlike the other boxes she has ticked. Perhaps that was the ache that remained within me? Not to necessarily become a mother once more, but the decision to never become one again.

I see now, how the ache wrapped itself in hormones. How it sounded like baby hiccups and smelled of talcum powder that could be seen floating in sunlit air.

It was testing my logic.

It was testing my will.

It was testing my heart.

I was however, not ready to say the words. I was not ready to say ‘never’, despite how many people asked me the question, ‘Are you done?’ Perhaps they were asking me because they too were battling the ache? This presumption helped me to feel less alone in my battle.

Now here I sit, rocking back and forth in the chair that will soon catch me falling in and out of consciousness when I nurse my third child, and I feel the curves of my new body.

I let my fingertips climb the mountain that is my belly.

I let it push and poke the ache lodged at the bottom of my sternum.

The ache beats with questions, thudding against my insides:

‘Is this the last time I become a mother?’

‘Will I ache with the burden of wanting more children, forevermore?’

T x

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