For the love of Max

standard November 3, 2011 24 responses

“It’s a boy.”

The news came through on Facebook – telegraph of our generation – and my heart plummeted.

As gloom settled over me I honestly thought that it was sadness for her that brought me down. My friend had so desperately hoped for a girl, I was heartbroken for her. A boy. Her third.

And then, later, after receiving a gushing text, overflowing with love for her new baby boy, and noticing that my gloom only deepened, I realized that my sadness was for me, not her.

A boy. A third baby boy. And here I was filled with just empty longing for my own third child, for the boy I carry in my heart.

It’s a complicated issue my longing. I’ve wanted a third child from the moment they placed my second daughter in my arms. I couldn’t fathom that this could be the last time I would ever experience that first meeting with a baby who had grown in my womb. When she latched on for the first time, again I was struck with the agonizing dueling emotion of the rush of love for this little one and the heartbreaking agony of knowing there might never be another baby with which to share this bond.

I lived my baby’s first months in that weird painful space. I savored all her milestones and the little moments in between all while bracing myself against the sharp jabbing reminders that this was it, the last time I’d see these firsts. Celebrating her and mourning her brother all at the same time.

Because yes, it is a brother for my girls that I covet and dream of. A little boy who would look just like his dad.

And why does this make me so sad, you ask?

Well, simply because as each day goes by, that dream becomes more and more nebulous, more and more unattainable.

My husband never wanted the second child. It’s harsh, but really he was content with just the one. A second would just rock the boat, make our lives more complicated. Life was already overwhelming enough. I was undaunted. I wielded my charms and my persuasive arguments until he caved. And so the second was born. And he was right. She did rock the boat. She did make life more complicated. She did overwhelm us.

She never slept. She cried whenever I left her line of sight. She needed us – me – in a way her sister never demanded.

But she also filled our hearts in ways I never expected. She completed our family in a way we hadn’t anticipated.

And so you’d think I’d be able to once again wield my charms and display my persuasive arguments and win the fight for the third. But you’d be wrong. Because two months before that little second one was born the game changed. One of my husband’s cervical discs ruptured and our life was altered. Chronic pain and all it entails came to live with us and overwhelmed us more than even the squalling infant could when she really put her heart into it.

I never gave up hope. Not then at least. Discs heal, and if they don’t they can be removed. Necks can be fixed. Lives can be reclaimed. So our garage overflows with bouncy chairs and bins of baby clothes. I hoarded every outgrown item… just. in. case. I loaned out baby things, but I never gave anything away. just. in. case.

This past April, while undergoing pre-operative procedures for the surgery that would give us our lives back, my husband was diagnosed with a lifelong, chronic illness, one that postponed the surgery indefinitely. One that stripped me of my hope for that third child.

Oh, hope didn’t die right away. It lingered. It stayed. It was there the day I bought a micro-van with 6 seats… just. in. case. It was there the day we started looking for a bigger house and I would only entertain one with three bedrooms just. in. case.

Hope lingered until this weekend when it finally died. Ironically it only died after being bolstered to its highest point by weeks of relative good health and the rescheduled appointment to discuss finally scheduling that disc surgery.

A new symptom arose, seemingly overnight, and took with it my dream.

It’s not a bad symptom as symptoms go. In fact, it might not even be related to my husband’s illness. It could be something run-of-the-mill that a short course of antibiotics will clear up. But I saw him react to this new development and I knew in my heart, that while I might, one day, get to that place where the challenges of a newborn don’t phase me, he’ll never again get there – no matter how convincingly I plead.

Last night I accused my husband of being in denial about the nature of his illness. I told him that he needed to face the fact that he’d never been promised a particular life, he’d just been promised a life and that this was the one he got. A life filled with uncertainty and unpredictable challenges. I told him that accepting the nature of this life of his would be the key to getting through life relatively unscathed. It’s like being on a roller-coaster; if you fight the movement of the train you get hurt, if you let go and relax into the experience you can enjoy the ride.

I may have been right, but I wasn’t fair with him. I’ve been in denial too. Heck, I’ve been in denial and fighting reality for four years now.

I agreed to marry the man come hell or high water. I was not promised a perfect life with three children in a cute little white picket fenced house. I might have wanted that and hoped for it, but I was not promised any of it.

I am angry and I am sad. I have been robbed of my dream, but it was just that, a dream, a vision, a hope. The sooner I can let go of that ideal the faster I can get on with living and loving the life I did get. The life I do have. The one with a husband who loves me so much he’d face his fears to have the second child I coveted. The one with two beautiful, amazing daughters, who fill my heart with laughter and joy. The one where the only thing missing is a little boy named Max who only has ever, and will ever, live in my heart.

It’s time to clean out the garage. It’s time to move on.

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24 responses

  • I can only imagine how hard it was to write this; I’m so glad you did and so glad I read it. Your bravery and honesty are inspiring—and your words resonate for anyone who has ever dreamed or lost anything, no matter what it is; a reminder for all of us to be grateful for whatever we have, whatever we get.

  • Amazing and powerful. Heart wrenching. All my best to you as you clean out that garage.

  • Oh Jessica. I can relate in more ways than you know. I have one child. Only one. I was always supposed to have two. I had brothers and a sister. My husband was one of four. I was never supposed to have an only child. And yet, he’s almost five and I shamefully never reached the place where I could decide to have another. It’s all MY fault and sometimes the guilt is unbearable.

    You’re right. We weren’t promised anything. Our real life may never match up with what we thought we’d have but I guarantee it’s a lot more than many people have.

  • I have one child because after my pregnancy I was diagnosed with a chronic life long condition that means I can’t have any more children. And sometimes it sucks. And sometime it is what it is. Allow your self to grieve and feel what you feel. You are entitled to that.

  • I am mentally hugging you, Fadra and Jodifur.

  • I wrote about almost the exact same thing not too long ago. I know exactly how you feel and it sucks. I am still holding on to my youngest daughters things. I just can’t let it go just yet. I have hope and I am clinging ever so tight to that hope.

  • I’m sending you so much love. While I haven’t gone through the same heartache you’re experiencing, I have had to come to terms with how my life is different in ways I never expected. Let’s face it sometimes being a grown-up sucks majorly.

    I’m glad you wrote this-you need to get it out, let it go, and grieve. Then you can make more room for the life you do have.

  • Awwww, Jess. Hugs. I think we’re all reaching the point where we’re identifying things aren’t the dreams we dreamed, that we need to accept our lives, the fate, the way things are *going* to be and embrace that.

    But it sure ain’t easy.

    More hugs. Because you need them. You need lots of tight hugs.

  • Beautifully written and honestly shared. I hope by putting it out there it helps you. I’m sure it will help others. We do play the hand that is dealt. I’m sorry for the pain you’ve experienced but now you can begin to let it go. Oh, and one word to help you hold on to hope: grandchildren. Perhaps you’ll get your Max in that way one day.

  • Oh hun *HUGS* I can relate to how you feel. I also do not feel my family is complete. I cry knowing I will never again feel a baby kick while inside of me or feel it hiccup. And like you my husband never wanted more then one child.
    If you ever want to talk about it my phone, email & im are always open.

  • Sending you lots of virtual hugs from afar for this beautiful yet honest post.

  • There are no words for me to express my sadness for you. Letting go of having another child is probably the most difficult thing I have ever had to do, and I wasn’t even completely sure I wanted another.

    For now I try to focus on the the blessings I do have in my life, and that includes wonderful women like you.

  • As someone who had that same hope for another child, and had it stripped from my grasp, I understand the denial and pain. I also have gone through the process of “letting go”, but there is still a lot of pain.

    But I try to focus on the amazing and beautiful things I have in my life, rather than dwell on what was lost, or will never be. It’s not easy, I won’t lie. But I am lucky to be live, let alone the mother of these 2 beautiful gifts.

    I wish your husband all the best in his surgery, and hope that his physical pain can be lessened.

    Be strong, and know you are not alone.

  • Oh, Jessica, what a beautifully written post. That must have been painful to write. I hope it was cathartic at the same time. I hope that somehow you will be able to channel that love and longing for Max into something which eases the pain at least just a little. Hugs.

  • Jess,
    I cried and felt so guilty as I read this post, knowing how tough all of our Sophie joy must be for you to hear as you go through all of this. But garages are there to file our dreams away for a while, in a teetering pile out of sight, while we sort out the current hurdles in life. You are young, life is long, and winds in ways we never expect. Keep giving voice to your frustrations, fears, and hopes, and keep on celebrating what you do have. You may meet Max one day, but I guarantee that it will be when you least expect it, and most likely, right after you’ve finally gotten rid of the baby clothes.
    love,
    me.

  • Thank you so much for having the courage to write such a beautiful post! Our family is at a similar crossroads, and I have not yet been able to write/say that my husband really doesn’t want another child, and I’m on a campaign of convincing. We have a little guy (Max!) who is such a blessing, but I can’t help but feel that our family isn’t complete. I’m steeling myself for a time when I may have to come to terms with not having another baby…and not having a little girl. Your raw, honest writing helps me to remember that this may not be the life I dreamed, but it’s perfect for me. What I wrote here http://afamilyway.blogspot.com/2011/10/my-best.html a few days ago mentions some similar feelings. Thanks again for letting me know I’m not alone 🙂

  • Jessica – I haven’t seen you in awhile…but I’m thinking of you and your family. Hope your husband feels better!

  • Thank you so much for your honesty – I get this post. We only have one son, we were supposed to have to have 2 children. Just hasn’t worked out that way.

  • Anonymous

    You are not alone. I have two wonderful boys, and long for a daughter. I would love to adopt as I am already 43. Yet one of my friends just gave birth to her very healthy, happy child at 43. I am surrounded by friends who have either just had children, or have adopted children. My husband isn’t interested.

    It hurts.

    You are not alone.

  • Very powerful post- how brave you were to write this!

  • Jess, as always your honesty is astonishing and makes for such powerful writing. I too longed for a third kid and my husband was dead set against it. Years passed. After my dad died, it occurred to me that I didn’t want to have another baby because my dad would’ve had a grandchild that he didn’t know about. And that was it. I was at peace with my two. I hope you can find your peace with your reality, although I hope it comes in less dramatic fashion.

  • So much love to you. I’ve had my one miracle child and yet the desire for another does not go away. I get it, so very much. Thank you for sharing this piece of you with us!

  • Thank you for being so brave in writing this. For those who think that you should be thankful for your 2 children, I can say that feelings of loss can’t be quantified.

    I’m there with you. I’ve longed for a 3rd child too. Too many miscarriages though. Then I was diagnosed with a chronic illness, then another, and another.

    I’ve learned that what we want may not always be what we should have. But that doesn’t make it hurt any less.

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