Now that my husband and I are parents, we can't imagine life without our little girl. It seems like this -- her being our daughter; us being her parents -- was always meant to be. And we simply adjusted our lives to fit this expansion of our family.
But this scenario didn't always seem so natural to us.
When my husband and I were pretty new in our relationship, I got pregnant. While on birth control pills. Yep, I was one of the 0.1 percent who got pregnant on the pill. And I freaked OUT.
I was 41 years old and had given up on the idea of having children. And I felt totally okay about this. I was in a new relationship that felt pretty promising. But I was -- we were -- deliberately taking it slow. We had both recently gotten out of long-term relationships, and neither of us planned to jump into another one right away.
I had a history of taking relationships too quickly in the past, and I wanted to break that pattern. I wanted this one to be different. So, six months in, neither of us had told the other how we felt. No "I love you" had been exchanged. We lived apart, although we saw each other frequently. We had consciously maintained separate lives.
When I realized I was pregnant, I feared that all of this would slip away. Our relationship would immediately be put on the fast track. The fun of dating in a new relationship would be overtaken by the realities of pregnancy, and this both scared and pissed me off. WTF? I had been doing everything right, and here I was pregnant?
Once the shock wore off for both of us, our Type A personalities kicked in. We started making pro and con lists about parenthood. We engaged a life coach to talk about what it would look like for the two of us to start a family. How would we share expenses; where would we live? We approached it analytically at first, as this was our comfort zone.
What we realized in this process was that we had even more in common than we ever thought. Our goals were strikingly similar, as were our values. And neither of us was opposed to having a child. In fact, we both kind of liked the idea. And each other. More than liked as a matter of fact. We loved each other. Plus, it seemed that the universe must reeaallly want us to have a child for me to get pregnant on birth control pills.
So we decided to move forward. And we started getting excited about it. Like, really excited. We made plans to move in together, and talked with a contractor about how to make my husband's house accommodating for a child. We talked about baby names and schools. We talked about sharing responsibility for care-taking of the child, and reducing our respective workloads. We were really happy about it.
Then, 11 weeks into the pregnancy, just as we were making plans to tell people outside of our immediate circle, I miscarried. And I actually didn't fully miscarry, it was just a partial miscarriage. I had to get an ultrasound to discover that our baby was not alive, and then I had to carry around this dead child and this knowledge for another couple of weeks while waiting for my body to "take care of it" on its own. And when that didn't happen, I had to undergo a surgical procedure to remove the dead child.
WTF again. I mean, seriously. Why would we beat all odds to conceive a child only to lose it? Why would this happen after we made the decision to embrace this unexpected pregnancy, after we had gotten so excited about it? Why?
I was so sad and confused. And angry. The 16 or so days between the bad ultrasound and the D&C procedure were agony. My body still thought it was pregnant; my hormone levels were tripling each week just like before. I had sore boobs and food cravings and a bloated tummy. But I knew that there was no baby growing inside me. Our plans were all for naught.
I was crying when I went under anesthesia before the procedure, and crying when I came out of it. My doctor talked to me about depression, and asked if I was feeling despair. I wasn't feeling despair, but I was definitely confused. I am someone who has always felt that everything happens for a reason, but I couldn't wrap my mind around this one.
Time gave me perspective, however. I started to feel less sad. I acknowledged that the pregnancy had not been viable. That we would not have had a healthy child. And then I started thinking, if this had not happened, I never would have realized that I wanted to be a mother, at least not before it was too late.
My husband had come to the same realization on his own. He wanted to be a father. The two of us self-described DINKs wanted to be parents. And we wanted to be together. And while we weren't spring chickens, it wasn't too late for us.
We still waited another couple of years before trying again. We did not want a child to drive the relationship. We wanted to make sure that the relationship was going to stick. And it did. And now we have this amazing daughter, the timing of the birth of whom enabled the doctors to find cancer in me that had not existed at the time of the first pregnancy. Don't think I haven't thought about that quite a bit.
I still think about the child we lost, and know that I always will. A couple of friends of mine were pregnant at the same time, and when I look at their daughters, I can't help but think that our first child would be that same age and doing the same things. Our child would be walking and talking and going to school and making art projects and laughing with friends. But it wasn't to be.
I don't think either of us will ever truly "get over" the miscarriage. And I can't imagine how one deals with a still birth or the loss of a live child. I can't even comprehend it.
All I know is that our first pregnancy happened, and clearly was meant to happen. And it brought us to a conclusion that led us to our Magnolia Grace.
By the way, Grace was to have been the name of our child if our first pregnancy had brought us a girl. Now the little girl we ultimately had carries that name. And one day we'll tell her the story of how her name came about.
For now, though, we just look at her and marvel that she's really here. And she's all ours. I thank my lucky stars for her every day.
Image via Erica Montgomery