- I’m a mom to five children through birth and adoption.
- I got pregnant with my fifth child while I was going through a rough patch in my marriage.
- My unplanned baby gave me the strength I needed to get out of bed every day after my husband left.
When a marriage is teetering on the edge of collapse, it’s probably not the best idea to get pregnant. And yet I did — unintentionally. But then, most of my pregnancies were unintentional. Of my four biological sons, three were unplanned. And that planned child took an extra year to arrive because of two miscarriages. The fifth, my daughter, is adopted.
When my daughter was in kindergarten, she started begging for a baby sister. She was feeling outnumbered by the boys and desperately wanted an ally. I laughed her off and said it wasn’t going to happen. First, I was over 40, and second, her father had just abandoned the family and was dissolving our marriage.
In a fit of guilt, he returned. He’d decided he didn’t want his children to grow up fatherless as he had. I reluctantly took him back. When the test confirmed I was pregnant, I was stunned. It wasn’t that I didn’t realize such a thing could happen — it’s just that in the midst of so much turmoil, the last thing we needed was a baby.
Upon his return home I’d encouraged my husband to have a vasectomy. I’d done all the tough stuff: pregnancy and birth. The least he could do was endure a little minor surgery. He never said no, but he didn’t say yes. So the inevitable happened, and my response was complicated.
I was 42, reeling from the knowledge that he had been chronically unfaithful. I was not convinced my husband had a renewed commitment to me or the children. On top of that, years earlier I’d gone through the hard work of accepting that I was done with babies.
I was done with having babies
I remember the afternoon I spent sorting through the baby clothes stored in the attic. There were too many memories wrapped up in all the paraphernalia. I had to process the fact that this season of life was over.
The emotional work was difficult. I loved being pregnant and flaunting a big tummy. But there comes a time in a woman’s life when she reaches the conclusion that she’s done. You’d think that would have been easy for me considering how many kids I’d had, but it was so final.
Only two cartons of baby stuff remained after my purge. They held the items I just couldn’t part with: the white gown, cap, and blanket all my children wore on the days they first arrived home, the special stuffed animals that will always be part of the family, the tiny green corduroy overalls with the matching red-and-green-striped shirt that were just too cute not to keep.
Thinking that my greatest concern was our lack of supplies, my husband said we’d just buy whatever we needed. That was his simple solution to a more complex issue. He didn’t understand how I was feeling.
It wasn’t a pretty pregnancy. Though I was healthy, I wasn’t happy. I felt huge and extremely unattractive, even though those second-trimester fingernails were fabulous. I was grateful for the full nine months. They gave me time to adjust and to get excited about this new child joining our family.
It was a quick and easy delivery. The kids instantly fell in love with their brother, who, ironically, arrived on his oldest sibling’s 16th birthday. My daughter was initially disappointed that I had not delivered the sister she’d requested, but she allowed us to bring the baby home.
While I never would have planned a fifth child, I’m so glad he’s here. His father left our household permanently when the baby was 8 months old. But each of his siblings stepped in and supplied the nurture and care he needed, from strong guidance to roughhousing to coddling and cuddling. And he gave me purpose and a reason to get up every morning as I endured the darkest period of my life.
Susan Solomon Yem is a mother of five and grandmother of one. She writes about parenting, education, and women’s issues for an international audience and is especially focused on supporting parents who are raising children on their own through the content she creates for Singleminded Parenting.