Wednesday, March 06, 2002

don't wait too long

My husband and I were married 11 years before we even really thought seriously about having a child. One of the great gifts and burdens to women of our generation is the birth control pill. As a gift, it has many medical pluses and keeps the "should we or shouldn't we" issue of having children a distant but lingering thought as long as we want. Therein lies the pickle and the burden. Unlike with our grandmothers, many of us have to make that quantum leap not to take that little pill anymore in order to entertain the possibility of having a baby.

For me, the making a conscious decision to "see what happens" was a bit easier because at 36, with my uterus full of fibroids, my doc said it's now or never. Get pregnant now or foreget it. Fibroids only increase in size and number as we race toward menopause, since estrogen (which feeds them) is on the rise until we pass over to the other (post-menopausal) side. Fibroids of my number and size also make a rather unhospitable environment for a growing fetus. Usually, the babies make it. However, my doctor warned me, I might not even be able to conceive because of the placement and types of my fibroids. And if I did, miscarriage was a greater risk, not to mention pain. A lot of it.

So, I stopped taking the pill that day, figuring, if it's meant to be, it's meant to be. I'll wait to freak out until it happens, which it did, in just 16 weeks after stopping the pill. Holy cow. I still remember being in our new house, totally unprepared for the result of that little stick I peed on, which showed two pink lines. "What?! WHAT?!" If you think you're ever prepared, you're not. Not unless you're actively trying (ovulation prediction kits and the like). If you're like me and you leave it up to God and some good swimmers, you stare at that little stick and say, "What??!!! No. No way. What??!?!?!"

The first thing I did, before I even pulled up my pants, was to turn to the bathroom mirror and pray that I would be a good mother. I remember it so clearly, I can see myself standing there, little pee-soaked stick in hand, staring at my mother-to-be self in the mirror like it was yesterday. I ran with the stick to my husband, who was still sleeping, and said, "Wake up--Look at this--Is this a LINE?!" He was bleary eyed. "Yeh, I think so. Why?" he asked. "Don't you know what that MEANS?!" He didn't have a clue. But once he got it, all he could say was, "Oh my goodness."

Four years (and a really close call with my own death) later, I am so glad I took the chance. The transformation of women through motherhood is an amazing, stunning thing. I have matured more in the last four years than I did in all the 36 years before them. [Parts of my journey through a harrowing pregnancy and the post-partum hemorrage that almost killed me are depicted--along with many other women's--in this book. For any women who has fibroids, it's a pretty good book because it gives the perspective from women who know, as well as the author's.]

Although I turned down all of those tests that tell you what's supposed to be wrong with your baby, I am glad for modern-day ultrasounds, which I had every four weeks to track the baby's growth in relation to the fibroids. My ultrasound technician became my lifeline to sanity. She was and is still one of the most integral figures in my life. How bizzare. To that end, women going through tough pregnancies today--which is happening more because we wait longer--medical advances are heaven sent.

But I've wondered, like Anita, if we aren't designed to have kids in our late teens and early twenties because we should. Yes, more immature. But, done and livin' large by the time we're 50. Healthier uteruses. Less wisdom to darken our parade--all those things. If the OB/GYN I had when I was married and 25 had told me what having firbroids meant to my future childbearing prospects instead of saying, "Oh, you have some fibroids, but they don't usually cause problems," I would have let nature take its course sooner. Then maybe my daughter would be a sibling rather than an only child.

Regrets are useless though--especially when we've been blessed with our perfect sweet daughter who puts the world in perspective for us every minute of every day. Anyone wondering if you should take the plunge, I say yes. You wouldn't be wondering it if you didn't want to do it. Realize that you'll make due financially. It won't be perfect, but it will be as close to perfection as life gets. Especially when they're asleep, lying next to you, and you smell their hair, and you rub their hands, and nothing--nothing else--in the world matters.


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