We found out this week that our precious, prayed for baby is a girl. I think I had been secretly hoping it would be, even though I was pretty sure all signs pointed to boy for Baby Griggs 2.0: I’d never been this sick with Ella, never had so many physical symptoms, my food cravings have been all over the map compared to my consistent desire for Cinnamon Toast Crunch and green Tabasco hot sauce (not together, thankfully) with my last pregnancy.
But Ella June is a force of nature, and she’d decided this baby would be a girl. The universe, it seems, agreed – or agreed not to argue with her – and so, this January, Ella June should be getting a sister.
About a year and a half ago, I took a video of Ella playing with one of her baby dolls just before bedtime. She cradled the baby in her chubby arms and carefully fed it a bottle.
“Bubba for dis sista baby,” she cooed.
We’d already been trying for a second baby for going on eight months, and I was desperately trying not to panic about the total lack of results. If I watch this video, I can still feel the needle in my heart when I hear Ella’s tiny voice saying, “Sista baby.” It was a physical pain, truly, and even now remembering it can take my breath away.
This video was on my mind when I took to Facebook to share the good news that we’ll be adding another girl to the Griggs clan. I can’t believe how far we’ve come, how much we went through to get here, and how incredibly relieved I am to be where we are.
And yet the pain of how we got to this place is still with me.
I was talking to someone the other day who I know had a rough fertility journey. She mentioned she’s thinking of starting to try for a second. The first words out of my mouth were, “Aren’t you scared?”
Scared it will be difficult again. Scared there will be loss, and disappointment, and failed expectations. Scared there will be pain.
I feel it already. I’m so cautious about complaining this time, even when I’ve been dehydrated from bad morning sickness, or massively uncomfortable, or even just plain cranky. Complaining, even when I have something legitimate to complain about, seems ungrateful.
It’s partly because I asked, and hoped, and prayed for this. Sometimes the side effects suck, but the alternative is unthinkable.
It’s partly because I know this could be my last chance. I’ll turn 35 just after this baby is born. We were lucky to get pregnant this time – after a long delay, yes, but also immediately before we were due to start any serious intervention. I always wanted three children, but I don’t know if I can put myself through this again. I already feel the anxiety of trying for a third baby on our own, the dread of the procedures we might need if we don’t get pregnant independently. I am hopeful that anxiety will lessen as I put some distance and some joy between myself and the last two years of difficulty, that this pregnancy will help me forgive my body for what felt like a failure, that I’ll gain some measure of trust in myself again. But I also know that, for many reasons, this baby could be the last one I carry.
And it’s also partly because, even while I am sharing the good news, I am thinking about all of the women who have shared their fertility struggles with me in the months since we opened up about what we were going through.
I know what it’s like now, to be sitting on the other end of someone’s gender reveal Facebook post. To read yet another pregnancy announcement. To be invited to yet another baby shower. To click through yet another newborn/sibling photo collection.
Do I need to tell anyone how much that sucked? How hard it was, for so long? How guilty I felt about being overwhelmed by my own sadness and envy when all I wanted was to feel joy for these other families? I never quite resented hearing about others’ pregnancy pains and discomforts, but I do know I heard them differently than I used to.
When I was pregnant with Ella, I shared a lot about my symptoms, about the joys and frustrations of commuting by train in the summer with a belly OUT-TO-HERE, about my various stresses and cravings. One night, after I’d posted a particularly snarky message about someone having stolen my cab in a downpour, a woman I was only somewhat acquainted with posted a long message about how pregnancy is not a license to complain nonstop. That it’s a choice, and it’s a blessing, and it’s one a lot of people would like to be able to experience and can’t. This person didn’t tag me, but I realized she’d blocked me that evening, so it felt safe to assume I was at least a contributing factor in her outrage.
At the time, I was fairly outraged myself. I’d thought I was sharing what some people might find comical – the good, the bad, the ugly.
But I’ve walked in different shoes since we got so easily pregnant with Ella and had a like-clockwork pregnancy and delivery. I still do not feel as though I’m responsible for filtering out everything I am going through in case a distant connection on social media is having a difficult time. I do, however, feel like I have a responsibility to keep my perspective.
I’ve listened to so many other women’s stories – seriously, I cannot tell you how many people reached out, whether publicly or privately. There is a veritable army of women out there navigating varied, often heartbreaking, fertility journeys, quietly and frequently alone. Women who went through much worse than I did, women who stuck it out much longer than I had to, women who had the strength to rewrite their dreams to build their families. Women who still do not have, and some who will never have, the baby they were hoping for. Women for whom the next test result may be a finality, a dead end.
What I want these women to know is that, even as I share my own current experience, you are not forgotten in my happiness.
I am still with you. My heart still aches for what I went through, what you’re going through, what we have been through together. I still see you, waiting, and trying, and trying again. I am still thinking of you, and hoping and praying for you, that you get the outcome you want, that you somehow make peace with the outcome you get, that you know how humbled I am by your courage and your hope. And I am still so grateful for your honesty and vulnerability in sharing your own highs and lows.
I am still with you, and I really do love you all.