If you haven't been following this blog for long enough to know about our Hyperemesis Gravidarum (HG) journey, then you can catch up here.
I've been wanting to write this post for a few days now but really wasn't sure how to start. So let's go straight in at the crux of the matter: TJ and I made a promise to ourselves last week that we will never put ourselves (and Little Man and our families) through another pregnancy.
We've been going backwards and forwards between "never again" and "but we might want another child". Okay, who am I kidding? I've always imagined having 2 or 3 children and the thought of stopping at one is a very hard one to get my head (and heart) around. But HG made our life such hell that even I began to believe the "never again" option...
And so when that jealousy and anguish started to kick in when Little Man was just a few months old, when I realised I'd never get to experience the newborn stage again, never get to give birth again and cherish those first few hours with my baby, I lost my resolve. I began to believe that if we planned everything meticulously it might be possible. It certainly seemed preferable to that awful feeling in the pit of my stomach every time I heard of another friend having a baby or saw a random pregnant lady walking about town with a smile on her face.
But the more we talked about it and the more I researched it the scarier the whole thing became. We realised that we would have to wait until Little Man was in full-time education (so almost 5 thanks to him being a September baby) and that we'd have to spend a good year prior to trying to conceive preparing ourselves and Little Man physically, mentally and emotionally.
It would mean potentially getting my health to a certain level only to risk it dropping to one of its lowest points again. And it's not as if my health is great at the best of times! I've had difficulties with my periods since they began in my early teens, but in the past 5-10 years they have really taken a toll on me. And not surprising when I realised that the pain I felt with my Endometriosis was akin to the pain experienced in labour! I had been going to school, university and work for years in the same level of pain as early labour, only thinking to take the day off when it got to the level of transitional labour. And doing that month in and month out, especially when I'd sometimes only go 2 or 3 weeks between periods, has taken it's toll.
So my recovery from pregnancy has been a slow one, what with the reappearance of my periods at 3 months post-partum, complete with nausea.
And then there are the other factors playing against us. Things like my increased risk of an ectopic pregnancy (thanks to damage from the Endo to one of my fallopian tubes) and the risk of possibly developing Obstetric Cholestasis again. And I was considered at risk of developing Pre-eclampsia throughout my last pregnancy so may well have that as a factor again. And all of this made me begin to think that there were just far too many reasons not to have another pregnancy than to do it all again.
We were lucky that I fell pregnant quickly last time and that Little Man came out healthy and strong. There is no guarantee we'd have the same luck a second time. And the emotional trauma that both TJ and I experienced is ongoing. The guilt I feel at having put us both through it once is bad enough. And that was with going into it having no idea how bad it would be. To do it a second time knowing just how bad it could be, well that would just be too much.
So logically the decision makes perfect sense.
And yet it is one of the hardest, if not the hardest things I have ever had to do.
My head and my heart have been at war. And it was tearing me apart. So it felt like a relief to make a final decision, rather than going back and forth between one choice and the other. But it still hurts.
One of the things I had to do in my CBT sessions recently was write a list of "I deserve..." and it was hard. What I wanted to write was, "I deserve to be healthy. I deserve to have another baby. I deserve to enjoy pregnancy". But I couldn't, because I know that it really isn't likely. Endo continues to affect my health and even if I had another baby of my own it is highly likely it would be a battle rather than a joy.
According to my therapist, this is the point. These are things that I should be able to write, even if they aren't likely. That I should feel justified in the pain and sadness it brings knowing that these are things I should be able to experience. But it doesn't change the reality...
But even though it is hard, I know it is the right decision for my family. The pain at not having the chance to do all those things connected to carrying and giving birth to your own baby is far less than the pain we could feel by trying to do it all again in spite of all the things against us.
It hurts to know I'll never get to breastfeed another baby, especially as we had such troubles when Little Man was young. It hurts to know we'll never get to go to another scan, to see our baby for the first time, to choose a name and prepare our hearts and lives for a new baby. It hurts in a way that I know some people will know in their own hearts, but so many others will never understand. Not fully.
We feel blessed that Endometriosis didn't rob us of my fertility, but at the same time it is a leading contributor to the decision to never do it again. The time it takes for me to recover from pregnancy and the risk of Ectopic pregnancies that it has caused combined with the risk of complications during pregnancy makes me feel like, in some way, we have more in common with those who physically cannot have a baby than those who can. Because we feel it is an option we just cannot take, however much we'd like to.
But where does that leave us for support? We could try for another baby, so don't really have infertility issues. We're not actively trying and unable to. But choosing not to is not our first choice.
This is why it is so important for me to dedicate as much of my time and energy to raising awareness of HG and that it is so much more than "severe Nausea and Vomiting in Pregnancy". There needs to be much more understanding of just how bad it can be. There needs to be much more research into potential causes of it and possible medications to help with the severity of the symptoms. There needs to be far more support. All of this is needed to help prevent other women having to face these exact same decisions and to support them if they do.
TJ and I are heading off to the annual conference held by Pregnancy Sickness Support this month, and I am working hard on reading through as much research as I can and bringing together as many "personal experiences" as possible from other HG sufferers and survivors to ensure the book I am writing is as accurate, informative, supportive and representative as possible. It is a big task but it is one close to my heart.
And having this project helps, in a small way, to give meaning to all of this. As a writer, this is an ideal project for me. It gives a purpose to my work. And gives me something positive to focus on rather than only the negative.
TJ and I still have a lot of healing to do. And we still have some big decisions to make. The biggest of all being do we remain as a one child family, or do we look into fostering and/or adoption. And I'm sure I'll be writing about this a lot over the next few years. But for now, we've made the hardest decision of all. Little Man is to be our only biological child. Our journey of creating a family in the natural way is over. And that is taking some getting used to...
NB: I must add here that since writing this I have done much more research and we have discovered just how badly managed my pregnancy was and how we could potentially have a better experience a second time round, is still difficult. So we have opened it up to a "maybe" again, however not for several more years yet!!