Seven pregnancies. That number still boggles my own mind, I can only imagine what others think as I walk the grocery aisles still looking like a teenager myself as I stand 4 foot 11in short with many kids in tow. Granted, I don’t have seven babies at home. My journey into pregnancy didn’t begin when I was married and settled in a cute little apartment or starter home. No, it began at the young age of sixteen years old and a junior in high school. Being so young I chose a different path than most– I chose open adoption for her. She’s now twelve years old and we have a wonderful relationship, though I am her birth mom and have a different role. Motherhood found me at 19 years old after I found the love on my life in college. At 21 years old, I experienced a miscarriage of twins. After we both finished our degrees, we finally did things in the expected order. We graduated, found a home to purchase ourselves, and then came another positive test to fill our empty third bedroom. Long story short, I’ve been pregnant or nursing the last thirteen years. Pregnancy isn’t new to me, yet there are always new aspects as each one literally stretches me physically as well as emotionally. This seventh pregnancy the ever evolving lesson has been to embrace what life has given me.
Having had two unplanned teen pregnancies, the feelings of shame and guilt have been all too familiar at times. Understandably as a teen I was weighted with shame in my choices, to the point some days I couldn’t even look at my reflection without crying. Experiencing a second teen pregnancy, “when I should of known better?” It was even worse moments of bitterness and family tension, leading eventually to forgiveness and joy wrapped in a pink blanket.
Fast forward thirteen years later and now my shame isn’t because of my age or situation, but simply because I’ve had so many pregnancies. I’m the one who is always pregnant or has a baby strapped to my chest in a carrier. My family will ask me each time, “is this the last one?” to which I can only reply, “That’s the plan, but you never know!” And before you even think it– yes, I know how this happens. I never thought I would be a mom of five (to the kids in my home) but with each one it just feels right. It is a step closer to feeling our family is complete. The truth is, it wasn’t our plan to keep having more kids after two but life doesn’t always follow a plan. Sometimes it has surprises. Good surprises. I’ll never regret having more kids than we planned.
However, with announcing this fifth child of ours, I was so filled with self-imposed embarrassment that I didn’t want to call up our family and tell them. It wasn’t because I didn’t want this baby, but I simply didn’t want to hear their reaction. After all, the lines we heard after number four weren’t so great. I imagined five to be worse. My husband thought they might notice something different seeing how I start expanding within hours of a positive line, so he took my phone and called for us while I hid and busied myself with chores.
Once that weight was lifted, so was my embarrassment. Now I could move forward with the fact that I was pregnant for the seventh time and I eventually found pride in my track record. Why? Because it seems other moms and friends respect that growing number. I’m the mom who has been doing this baby baking gig for thirteen years despite us often being the same age. I was keeping morning sickness at bay long before they were even considering what college to go to, let alone starting a family! I’ve had five live births to draw strength from, each with different birth stories and locations unique to the baby. I can tell a mom my hospital epidural experience or how empowering my home water birth with a midwife was. Moms ask my advice on baby lead weaning or breastfeeding questions. Friends send me pictures to study the faint lines on their tests, share their happy news first with me, or cry together when the heartbreak of miscarriage happens.
I’m honored to take my various experiences of these seven pregnancies– of the nine little lives that have been in my belly for however long– to help others find their own way in motherhood. Certainly my experiences and path I’ve chosen as a pregnant woman or as a mom isn’t for everyone, but that’s the beauty of gaining insight from other moms– you learn from each other to mark your own way. I take pride in being part of that.