As a conservative Catholic, I'm not supposed to admit that when I was pregnant with my sixth, I wasn't very excited about having another baby on the way. After all, what kind of an awful person would admit something so selfish? I can only imagine what a woman who can't have children might think of such a declaration, but the fact of the matter is I wasn't happy. You may commence judging me.
When I found out that I was expecting, my youngest had just turned five and was getting ready to make the transition from preschool to Kindergarten. I was finally able to give my full concentration to my client work without the constant 10-minute interruption of, "Can I have a snack?" I could go out to lunch with friends without the worry of a sitter, go grocery shopping without yelling at a child to stop running down the aisles, go jogging at lunch time, enjoy my second cup of coffee in peace and quiet, and even complete a thought. I was truly enjoying freedoms I hadn't had in almost 11 years, only to realize they were to be ever so fleeting.
Up until we found out the sex of the baby, my husband and I kept the pregnancy to ourselves. He was elated at the thought of a baby in the house again, but I could not get to the same place. We waited until late September to tell the kids that the division of girls to boys was about to become equal in December. Their excitement was beautiful. They immediately started thinking of what they wanted to name their unborn sister.
Unfortunately, their excitement did not trickle down to me. In fact, it took me until I was between six and seven months to tell most people whom I had to see on a daily basis that I was expecting. Some people didn't realize until I was weeks away from delivery. And there were others who wouldn't find out until after I had brought her home from the hospital.
I wanted to avoid people, especially those who seemed overly happy for me. Friends and strangers would say, "God bless you!" To which I would think in silence as I smiled, "You know, it's okay if He spreads the wealth." When I went to a priest and confided my feelings, his words were surprisingly less than supportive or encouraging. In fact, his words made me more insecure.
To make matters worse, my vanity was kicking in. I did not want to wear maternity clothes again and I had just given the last of those from my previous pregnancies away. But as they say, be careful what you wish for. There would be no maternity clothes this pregnancy. I could barely eat a saltine or even drink water without throwing up or experiencing the fun of acid reflux. I remember going to bed wishing I could eat a whole pizza and waking up just hoping I could drink a glass of water. It was miserable.
And if not being able to eat wasn't bad enough, I was also blessed with a heightened sense of smell. The odor of people -- many of whom I like -- made me ill. My poor husband had been outdoors working on a home project for the better part of a day and it took him two showers before I would let him sit next to me.
The accumulation of everything negative continued to drive home the thought: "These are not good signs. This is not going to be easy. I don't think I can do this again."
The morning I went into labor, I had been sick with flu-like symptoms for almost three weeks. I could feel inconsistent contractions at five in the morning, but the chills made me dread the thought of getting out of bed. I didn't care if this baby was coming, I was tired and didn't feel well. I rolled to my side and tried to sleep, but an hour later I knew the contractions were the real thing. They had gained both momentum and frequency. With the help of my husband, we got the children ready for school and he dropped them off. By the time he returned I was ready to go to the hospital.
While I was in the delivery room I took a call from a client and confirmed a call for later in the week with another, but I still couldn't muster up the courage to tell them I was pregnant and oh yeah, I'm at the hospital and the baby will be here very shortly. As real as it was about to be, I still wasn't ready to admit or share it.
Thankfully, the delivery was painfully quick, and after my bundle of joy was cleaned up and handed to me, it suddenly became tangibly true: I had a baby. But what I didn't expect over the days and weeks that followed was that all the dread seemed to disappear as if it had never existed. She was so pink and alert, and so absolutely beautiful. Baby #6 instantaneously went from the baby I didn't think I wanted, to the baby I couldn't live without. Midnight feedings: couldn't wait to spend the time with her. Watching her siblings argue with each other over who would hold her next: priceless. Announcing her to the world: an absolute privilege.
I look back at all my selfishness, not with retrospective shame, but with a smile. I needed to go through that range of emotions. Had I not had the anxiety and fear, the utter and overwhelming joy that this baby has brought to my life and that of my family wouldn't be the same. It also is a quiet reminder that sometimes I don't know what I need, God knows best.