Wednesday, May 25, 2005

What I Would Have Missed!

Whether you are a parent or parent-to-be for the first time in your life, or you are simply adding a wonderful addition to your already blessed family, your life will change in magnificent and sometimes subtle ways. Hang on for the ride of your life, and try to enjoy every minute (or almost every minute) of it. Your life will truly never be the same.

As I think back to a couple of years ago when my husband and I were wondering whether to try to have a baby, I shudder to think of what we would have missed if we had chosen to shut that door forever. Although I have three children from a prior marriage, my husband had never experience true fatherhood. Of course, he is a wonderful step-father, and my children love him dearly. However, there isn't any substitute for their real father, and while their affection towards my husband is very real, no one can take the place of their dad in their hearts.

We had a dilemma, though. The children were already way past the baby stage when we began to throw the idea back and forth about having a baby. My daughters were already teenagers, and my son was fast approaching the teen years. Did we really want to start over with a baby? After all, in a few, very short years, we would be free to travel all that we wanted. Since we are both teachers, we have plenty of time in the summer for leisurely activities. My husband is an avid golfer. I love to read for hours at a time. We both love to fish and look forward to discovering that new creek just waiting for us to wade through its crystal clear waters. Sleeping late is still a luxury to me, and I treasure my Sunday afternoon naps.

Every other weekend when the children were at their dad's house, my husband and I had wonderful one-on-one time to spend with each other. We might play a game, take a walk, go to the movies, go out to eat, or fish till dark. Our free weekends were always full of promising possibilities, and there was plenty of time for uninterrupted intimacy to boot! What more could we ask for? Why would we want to mess that up?!

Still, as I spent my days going to work, doing some shopping, or driving down the road, I found my eyes drawn towards that woman pushing a stroller down the street, the baby in the high chair sitting next to us at the restaurant, the child peeking shyly out the window of a car sitting next to me at a red light.

I found myself searching through message boards and forums in the Internet that were filled with older women wanting to get pregnant or older mothers expressing their joy at the birth of their late-life child. I tried to guess the ages of the women I saw with babies in the grocery store. Was that child their son or grandson? Were they older than me. At forty-one, I knew that I was running out of time. My biological clock was ticking, and my eggs were aging!

Once my husband and I decided that we did, indeed, want to add to our family, I thought the most difficult part was over. I'd always conceived my children easily and quickly, so why would this be any different? Mother Nature had a different plan, though. Maybe God was really testing us to see if this was what we really wanted. Through the next year, I eagerly awaited the time of my next period, only to be disgusted and disgruntled when it actually occurred. There were several times when I imagined that I truly was pregnant, only to have two or three pregnancy tests prove me wrong. It just wasn't happening. My eggs were too old. I was too old. There wouldn't be any baby for us, or so I thought.

My emotions were on a rollercoaster. When my period would begin, I would comfort myself by saying that this was the way it was suppose to be. My husband and I would have more time for each other. I could lavish all my extra time and attention on my children before they flew from the nest I'd created. I could take more time to do the things that I love to do. I was already a mother, so I shouldn't be upset that I couldn't have another child.

As far as my husband went, he took it much better than I did. Of course, he would be disappointed each month, but he'd quickly recover, look me in the eyes and tell me that he was perfectly content with me and his step-children. I believed him, most of the time. I guess I was the person who was hardest on me.

After a year, I all but gave up. It just wasn't going to happen. I was a year older, which meant my chances of getting pregnant were becoming slimmer and slimmer. I told myself I didn't care, and I told everyone else that, too. I decided I didn't want a child after all, and I did a good job of convincing myself that this was for the best. I let it go, and I didn't think about it. Then, I received the surpise of my life!

My period was late, but I really wasn't sure because I wasn't keeping track anymore. My breasts were sore, but that happened sometimes when it was time for my period, so I didn't pay attention to them. After a few days of this, though, I decided I'd use the last pregnancy test left over from the endless stash I had kept during my trying to conceive period. Guess what? It was positive!

I showed it to my husband, and we stared at each other in disbelief! We were pregnant! Of course, common sense told me to wait at least till the first three months were past before I told anyone, but common sense wasn't the strongest emotion that I had at this point in time. I told everyone! My children were shocked and excited, and my husband was ecstatic. What about me?

I have to admit that I was scared and apprehensive. Could I still work full-time and take care of an infant? Would my other children feel neglected and left out? Would I still be able to attend all of their activities? How would my older body recover? Would the baby be healthy? Would he or she have birth defects or chromosomal disorders because of my age? Had I made a terrible mistake? I was terrified!

But, as the months quickly passed, and my stomach grew, I looked towards the birth of my child with more and more anticipation. We discovered he was a boy, and we struggled with a name that we all could love. We decorated the nursery and bought clothes and supplies. We watched in awe as my tummy rippled with the movement of our unborn son. We smiled, laughed, and whispered to him in the night. As the time of the delivery drew near, I remembered what labor was like, and I became nervous and apprehensive.

Then came the day of my induction. My parents, in-laws, and children all came to the hospital. My husband was wonderful as usual, and when we first saw our precious baby, we both cried. As I watched his older sisters and brother hold him, I finally realized what a miracle he truly was.

Now, a year has passed, and our baby is one. He is truly a gift to our family. If any of us is down, all we have to do is look at his smiling face. I call him my little sidekick, and I take him almost everywhere with me. I miss him when I'm away from him, and I adore everything that he does. His laugh is infectious, and his smile is a constant joy. As I press his sweet head to my shoulder and breathe in his baby scent, I wonder I could have ever questioned whether I should bring him into this world. I shudder to think at what we all would have missed. He is truly a blessing to so many people, and he has brought our family closer together. After all, you can never have too many people to love, can you? So if you are struggling with the decision of whether to conceive or not, just picture in your mind for a moment a new little face gazing up at you with complete and total adoration. That should do it!

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