I’ve always had a complicated relationship with parenting. I knew that I wanted children, but I didn’t NEED to be a parent. Parts of it sounded nice. Sharing knowledge, a sense of pride as they grow older, someone to keep me connected to the world when I’m old and don’t feel needed. I liked those ideas, but I wasn’t compelled by them.
When Taylor was born, I felt a crushing weight that I hadn’t expected. This child’s life or death is very much contingent on my behavior and my decisions. The logistical aspects of raising a newborn didn’t bother me much, but the greater implications of being a parent felt like too much to bear. Sometimes they still do.
Pregnancy was a nightmare. Sarah had a rare condition called hyperemisis gravidarum, which is a fancy way of saying she had crippling nausea and vomiting for the entire duration of the pregnancy. We spent many nights in the hospital so she could receive fluids. We learned all about the chemotherapy drug Zofran, which was the only thing that made the nausea livable. It helped, but it was forty dollars per pill. We hit our annual deductible in two weeks. While the pregnancy was dreadful, the delivery was beautiful. My superhero wife went through a 9 hour, drug-free, natural labor. And she didn’t make a sound during any of it.
We weren’t sure if we wanted more than one child. We’d always said 1 or 2, but life kept moving, and we were doing pretty well. We both had good jobs, and were renting a really nice house in Vancouver. Eventually we decided to go off birth control for a year, and see what happened. What happened was Sarah got pregnant almost immediately. I stocked up on carpet cleaner, looked into how much Zofran was costing now that some time had passed, and hoped for the best.
Taylor was easily the most excited about the upcoming baby. She’d been begging for a sibling for a few years, and had all sorts of ideas about how to implement the role of big sister. Her excitement rubbed off on Sarah and me. The kids would be 5 years apart, which seemed like a good distance. Whatever distance I felt between myself as a person and myself as a parent, I was glad we could give her this gift. The OBGYN appointment was on the calendar. We were ready.
I got the call around lunchtime on a workday. Sarah was in a bathroom at Walgreens, crying. The baby was gone. She came home, and we spent the afternoon on the couch, staring at the wall, trying to process what had just happened. I didn’t feel much. Miscarriages are statistically common, I said. You couldn’t have done anything differently, I said. It’s not your fault.
Eventually I had to pick up Taylor from daycare. The ride home was fairly normal, but she kept talking about the baby, and my composure was leaving me. Once home, we sat together on that same couch. I wanted to be the one to tell her. I don’t know why, but it mattered that it was me. I had my speech planned, but I never got to most of it. “Taylor, something bad has happened. The baby died. I’m so sorry, but you aren’t going to be a big sister right now…” I sobbed into a pillow for what felt like 10 minutes. It’s the only time in my life I’ve been able to cry uncontrollably. We spent the evening huddled as a family of three, trying to find the ground that used to be there.
I didn’t know if I could go through that again. Sarah wanted to. Taylor wanted to. But the miscarriage sapped my emotional reserves, and I was hesitant. In the end, I said yes for Taylor. I felt like she had been robbed of something she wanted more than she’d ever wanted anything. Together, we all said yes.
A year later, after another dreadful pregnancy, and another beautiful, silent delivery, Morgan had flesh we could hold. That boy gives me life I hadn’t felt before. I see myself in him. I will always be proud of myself for saying yes.