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And every time I look at my 18-month-old—as I watch her baby fat melt off before my eyes and her rolls, chubby arms and little cheeks transform—my heart breaks and shatters all over the floor, and I fight it.
There is something, in my mind, about the presence of a baby in our lives that makes life so much better. Granted, a lot of the day-to-day tasks like, you know, getting dressed, showering or sleeping can be a bit more challenging with a baby in our midst. But despite all of that, there is nothing that brings a family together like the sweetness of a baby.
Could I really base our family size on what pregnancy does physically to me?
Some of the happiest times in my life have been simply seeing the joy that our babies have brought to our family members, both in our own home among siblings and among extended family. My heart soars every time my youngest reaches her arms up for her big sister and I watch as my oldest daughter leans down to envelop the baby in a hug that brings the biggest smiles to both of their faces. I think that in so many ways, a baby in a home brings everyone down to a more relaxed, playful and plain old happier level. If you can come home at the end of the day and know there will be a baby to cuddle in your arms, then all will be right with the world no matter what.
But that being said ...
I also don't know if I can make that happiness happen in our homes ever again because frankly, I just don't know if this body can handle it anymore.
I know some mothers seem to be born for having babies, but I'm more like the Kim Kardashian of pregnancy, minus the nudity and billions. I just get huge and miserable and hate the world. One of my feet is permanently disfigured due to the extreme swelling I had with my last pregnancy. Plus, I had mastitis so bad that it damaged all of my milk ducts, which means I could probably never breastfeed again and that would stress me out to no end (the mommy guilt for nursing some kids and then not another? could I deal?!). Also how on earth could I handle nighttime feedings without the ease of popping a boob in the baby's mouth? And let's not even get started on the mess that is my stomach after four giant pregnancies. I'm essentially Kate Gosselin before she had her surgery and had to tuck her stomach skin into her pants every morning.
The point is, I feel depressed, really sad and kind of ragey to think that something so profound and sacred as adding to our family (and really, that's the ultimate goal, not just the baby stage, I know this), could come down to rest on something that feels so, well, shallow.
Could I really base our family size on what pregnancy does physically to me? Does the fact that I seem to not be able to gain any less than 50 pounds every freaking time qualify me for a medical exemption? Is not wanting to be physically in pain for months a good enough reason not to have another baby? I know there's adoption, but I feel strongly that adoption is a calling and not something anyone can enter into on a whim, so that would need some serious deep-thinking from me.
Right now, the truth is, I feel a bit like a failure, because it seems like my desire to always have a baby in our lives is at odds with what my body feels capable of handling right now.