A few days ago a Facebook friend of mine whose daughter has Rett posted a picture of her daughter and her daughter's twin brother playing dress up and just looking silly and adorable. That night I dreamt that I was searching for some definitive answer regarding the safe amount of weight a pregnant woman can lift. In my dream I just kept thinking, "Is it 42 pounds? Could it be?" Like that was the very most important thing that would need to be sorted out if we were to have another baby.
And then yesterday, I started feeling very sad that Lu doesn't have someone to play with all the time...someone more fun than her adult parents I mean. I think that missing out on typical play and pretend is one thing that I have never been able to reconcile with. We do our best to play and be fun, but it simply is not the same as Lu being able to use her hands and manipulate her toys. Or use her voice to make up stories and voices, and exercise her imagination out loud and physically. It's just not the same and there is no piece of equipment or adaptation to make it truly authentic. So, last night, out of nowhere, right before bed I was consumed with regret and grief that we have not created a sibling for Lu. My tears began as sadness for Lu and despair that she might be sad, or bored, or missing out. Now, before any anti-homeschoolers jump in with protests that she could play with kids at school, it just isn't that simple. When children that love her and want to play with her are here, even they don't know what to do and seldom include her. She can't follow after them as they scoot around, and she can't do what they do without me helping her, or showing THEM how to help her. In the end it all feels very awkward and forced, and maybe not a ton of fun for anyone.
But...if she had had a sibling that knew her and loved her, they would've known how to play with her and just "be" with her, like we do. However, in the almost five years since Lu was born, it has simply never felt like we were emotionally, mentally, or logistically prepared for another child. Nobody's choices are right or wrong. I'm happy for people who have been braver than us and made babies after their child with Rett was born. The obvious reason for not doing it that I think Chad and I agree on is just HOW would it work? How?! I don't know how I would even manage to be pregnant and care for Lucy let alone what would happen after a baby was born. I talk about her needs all of the time, but unless you spend a day caring for her, a person cannot truly understand how all-encompassing her care is. Nothing happens in her day without me (or Chad) doing it for her. How on earth would I also take care of a baby, who would also need me for every single thing that happens to it for at least a few years?
Awhile back I mentioned to my friend, Ann, that we were contemplating the possibility of another baby someday and she said such a sweet and kind thing. She said, "Well, I'm sure that if it's something you are thinking about then you will find a way to make it happen." Yeah, I probably would. I would figure out how to care for two children. So, like the layers of an onion, I'm peeling back the reasons why I won't ever have anymore babies and here is probably the truest, most critical reason: it terrifies me. The prospect of creating another human, growing it inside of me, giving birth to it, and thinking everything is fine just about sends me into a panic attack. However, at nearly the same time I feel the terror, I long for the opportunity to have the whole experience just one more time. Now, not to sound sexist, but I feel like only other women and mothers can understand what I mean when I say that the description of "longing for" the chance to be pregnant again is a gross understatement. It is so, so much more than a longing. It is more like a heartbreaking, gut wrenching, primal feeling that brings tears to my eyes instantly which can easily turn into sobs if I let them. I guess part of it is logically my "biological clock" and the fact that I am nearly 34, but that's not all of it.
I just want to create another human as amazingly awesome and perfect as Lu, and in turn a sibling for Lu to love, and who will love her like no other child could. But...when I think of being pregnant, one of my most vivid memories of Lu in my belly is of sitting on the couch of a family my partner Joe and I were working with when I was a Family-based therapist, and everybody in the room could see her moving around in there. As I write this I wonder if it was the day my water broke and that's why I remember it so clearly, but then what I think is how I just might not even be able to contemplate what it would be like to have another baby in there, and watch it move around, but this time be terrified that something is happening in there, unbeknownst to anyone, that will make that baby's life hard too. Chances are very slim, yes I know! I know better than anyone who might make that statement to me, but I also know of families where things did happen twice. Where a second baby also had a random condition caused by a spontaneous mutation in a chromosome. It happens. And when you are a family that thought, just like anyone else, that surely everything would be fine, and then it wasn't, it's a whole hell of a lot harder to believe that it certainly couldn't happen to you again...because it could. And honestly, it's not the prospect of having another child with special needs that terrifies me, we are pretty adept at that part. It's the sorrow, and the grief, and a second set of broken dreams for a child that is going to miss out on so many of the typical things humans get to experience in life that I fear the most. These are heavy things to carry around, and I just don't think I could carry anymore.
But, the fact of the matter is, in spite of all of this, I still get into a sadness every once in awhile about the baby I wish we had created, or the baby I wish we still were going to create. Chad and I love being parents. Lucy is our world, and the light of our life. I just assume another Baby Shaffer would only make our lives even more full of love and happiness, but the confidence in procreation that people take for granted each day has been stolen from me. Everyday, millions of women find out they are pregnant and they instantly assume everything will be fine. I have lost that faith, and I feel robbed.
I know this was long, and sad, and gloomy, and I don't even care if nobody reads it, or if anybody cares for it. It just made me feel better to try to express the agonizing conflict I have in my heart about making babies. I'll get past this sadness, like I have in the past, and I'll cram it down deep inside of me, and hold it there firmly, until something else comes along that loosens my grasp on it and let's it float back up to the surface.