I am not anywhere near to trying to conceive a third child. So why is it on my mind so much at the moment?
Three of my friends gave birth today, and with every update I’ve seen, I feel this urge inside for that to be me again. My baby, well, she is not so much of a baby anymore. She is practically a toddler, aged one and a couple of weeks. She still needs me. Clings to me. And is very tiny still. But I suppose it’s true what they say about broodiness hitting once your last one turns one.
She was also a newborn this time last year. She wasn’t home from hospital yet. We still had a wait to go. And I suppose the nudges and reminders of social media, and days gone by, serve as a little hint that I used to have a newborn once. And I long for the newborn days. But I wonder if I am longing for newborn days with my daughter, but rewritten.
I find it very hard to write about how I feel. Because there is a delicate balance in surviving NICU. I came home with a daughter. I have her with me. I was able to have her at all. And yet, I did not have the outcome every pregnant mother hopes for – just to give birth, take her home, and smell her head, in a nest of duvet, pillows and coffee. Or tea, if you prefer.
I don’t want to seem ungrateful. Or like a broken record. I try my hardest to be optimistic at even the worst of times, because I have a very fortunate life. But it’s hard, even now, when life is full of sunshine, good health and small blessings at every corner.
I know that, one day, I will start to properly track my periods because I want them to stop. Rather than tracking them absent-mindedly, because I want them to continue for now. One day, I will start taking an interest in cervical mucous again (Jesus, what a thing to write on here!) and I will wee on ovulation sticks, and then switch those out for pregnancy ones. Saving the First Response and the Clear Blue Digital for something that feels promising.
But there will always be a fear. And I feel like, while this last pregnancy (which, as I write, I am assuming I will have – but appreciating that it’s all down to luck and biology) will be treasured and embraced as the very last time I shall grow a child. It will also be the only pregnancy that I have experienced in fear too.
With my son, my Bill, I was young, naive and fearless. I did not know enough about Stickler Syndrome. I felt, once I had adjusted to the shock of a surprise pregnancy, that I was untouchable. And everything would be fine. It was. I never thought anything of it.
With my daughter, my Daisy, I felt like we’d done it once, and we’d do it again. We had extra scans and chats. But it was false hope. Comfortable bravado. It would be fine. The scans said so. Her brother proved so.
But then I forgot the maths. 50% chance. One in two. One did not. One did.
And then I found myself getting up to speed with what Stickler Syndrome, Pierre Robin Sequence and a cleft palate is really like. The memories of my past, and the photographs along with them, they came to life. Suddenly it wasn’t just about me being in hospital and “but I’m fine now.” It was real. I was living it. This time, as a parent. And my soul howled with the guilt and furious anger for not knowing, not understanding, and not being able to control my genetics.
So now what? The odds are in favour of the odds. 50% Stickler. 50% not. That’s how our family goes. Daisy and I. Mark and Bill.
So what will happen to you. Our third, future, imagined, hoped-for-but-not-yet little one?
I don’t know.
I hate that. I long to know.
Scans will be more intensive. More frequent. I don’t know if there are tests. I wouldn’t entertain the thought of anything that could harm you.
And I wouldn’t change you even if you were…just like me.
But I wish that not to be so. Both for you and what it will mean for you. But also, perhaps selfishly, but brutally honestly, for me.
For your dad. For your brother – so he doesn’t have to spend life away from his family again. And for your sister – so she doesn’t know the same feelings as he once did.
But for me, because I am hurting. I don’t know how to explain what it feels like to pass on a syndrome to your child. And I don’t know how to explain how that affects the consequences either. The NICU. The failure to thrive. The operations. The aftercare. Possibly more in the future.
Maybe, if you are like me and your sister, you will know one day. I wish, above all else, that my syndrome stops with Daisy. That she never has to experience this as a mother too.
But then I am proud of us Stickler girls. We are strong.
And it could be worse.
I already know that my heart wants a baby.
But my mind is asking me: “But what if we go back there? What if we hurt again? And the guilt comes back? And the worry? And the tears? What will we do, Charlotte?”
And my answer is.
We will do what we always do. We will not give up. Because it’s worth it.
You will be worth it.
But we won’t know what our story will be until you are placed in my arms. I will reach for you. Frantically. I will hold you close and I will search your face and I will feel gently inside your mouth for the signs. And I will know then. And regardless of that outcome, I will kiss your warm, wet skin and tell you that I love you.
And then the rest of the book will write itself.
I’ll still be your mother.
And you will still be my fourth great love.