This time of year is a slightly difficult one, for me. As we get closer to the actual day, I find myself short of breath, anxious, wringing my hands. I feel ill. I think about all the ways my life would be different, if I had refused the hand that life had dealt me, if I had taken matters on myself.
You see, my second biological child’s birthday is coming up, and he was the one I didn’t think I wanted.
My second pregnancy was a shock. We had not planned to have a second, and all I could imagine was how difficult life was going to become. I struggled with ambivalence throughout the pregnancy, and felt like I was betraying my firstborn. I saw friends who were actually trying to get pregnant and dealing with miscarriages instead, and all I could think about was, “why me? I didn’t even want this baby inside of me.” I felt guilty and angry and scared and sad. I was consumed with depression and anxiety, and on top of all of that, my mother-in-law was undergoing cancer treatment.
At one point, near the end of my pregnancy, a customer at the retail job I was still working in somehow got part of my story out of me. I divulged the turmoil I had been going through, my fears about having this baby. She looked at me for a moment, and then told me her own story. It was eerily similar: a second child coming at a time when she didn’t feel she could handle it, a time of much sadness for her and her family. She told me that baby had turned out to be exactly everything her family needed. The chill baby. The joyful baby. The baby that fit right in and didn’t cause added stress. I listened raptly and said a quick prayer to anything listening that this baby growing in me would be like that.
Then, he was born. And he was.
This baby of mine was solid. He loved to eat, and he smiled and giggled easily, and loved music and cuddling and life. He was everything we didn’t know our family needed, when I first found out I was pregnant.
And this week, he turns three. He is still all of those things, despite hitting the more challenging preschooler years. I’m not saying The Perfect Child, but he is certainly the perfect child for my family. And I still shudder to think of all the times I wondered why I was pregnant with him. It hurts my heart to think that for even a moment, I questioned whether I wanted him. Maybe that’s why I cuddle him so close and kiss him so much. That motherhood guilt – this, the worst kind of all – threatens to consume me, so I try to balance it out, I think.
Those feelings you sometimes have when you are pregnant: the trepidation, the regret, the questions? Forgive yourself those tiny moments of uncertainty. There is a child inside of you that is waiting to teach you all kinds of things you didn’t know you needed to learn. A child you may not even realize you needed.