Late last night, I got to thinking about something that I usually accept with equanimity, but right now it's making me sad. It's the unfairness of my quasi-infertility. (Is there a term for when you might or might not be able to get pregnant, but it would be a really bad idea to try?)
I had a rough time of it when I was pregnant with Ben and after he was born—I was in the hospital twice at the end of the first trimester with scary-high blood pressure. After that, there were weekly visits to the high-risk specialists. Frequent migraines and a worrisome, unidentified problem with my kidneys. Then preeclampsia, an emergency C-section, a spinal headache after the epidural (it made the migraines seem like the height of physical pleasure by comparison), difficulty getting my blood pressure to come down so I could leave the hospital. Not to mention a preemie in the NICU (fortunately, his NICU course was fairly standard, but 5 1/2 weeks is a long time to be in the hospital). The whole lactation thing was a nightmare. The La Leche League book, The Womanly Art of Breastfeeding, had chapters on various breastfeeding challenges. I had four separate chapters' worth of problems, and there was no final chapter addressing what to do if you're screwed four ways.
A few weeks after we brought Ben home from the hospital, it was time for a kidney biopsy to figure out what the deal was. This involved an overnight stay in the hospital and large needles extracting tissue samples from my kidneys. Lying flat on my back to keep pressure on the puncture wounds made it almost impossible to pump milk, so I didn't; that pretty much took care of my lactation problems by rendering all efforts moot. It was actually a huge relief to stop pumping. I think my body needed every calorie to heal itself, and couldn't spare the energy to manufacture baby food.
The various doctors I talked to afterwards—my internist, the nephrologist, the OB—mostly didn't talk about the idea of a subsequent pregnancy. If they raised the subject, I quickly shut them down with a "no," and they didn't offer a rebuttal. Last year, my nephrologist finally mentioned pregnancy as a possibility—but warned that it would drastically speed the demise of my kidneys. The idea of kidney failure is scary enough as it is—but to develop it when I had a new baby? Not good. I'd also be starting that pregnancy with impaired kidneys, so I suspect I wouldn't make it all the way to seven months next time. And the baby wouldn't be likely to have such an uncomplicated course in the NICU. So no, I don't think so.
I would dearly love to have another baby—if I could conceive effortlessly. If I could have a normal, healthy pregnancy lasting at least 36 weeks. If I could have a full-sized, healthy baby. If it wouldn't mean I'd start asking strangers if they could spare a kidney. But it's not to be.
I recognize, of course, that in the grand scheme of sadnesses—death, cancer, intractable infertility, terror attacks—this one's not huge. But it's mine.