“So, how many kids do you want someday?” I inquired of my then-boyfriend, David, in a moment of bravery. After a long day at work, we lingered over dinner at a neighborhood taqueria.
“Hypothetically,” I quickly added, popping a tortilla chip into my mouth.
David sat in silence for a second. “I’ve always thought a small handful would be good,” he casually replied.
“What does that even mean?” I laughed.
“Well, it depends,” he teased. “How many are you willing to give me?” His blue eyes sparkled with mischief.
By the end of the evening, we had settled on three kids, maybe four.
Hypothetically, of course.
Several years later, I gave birth to our oldest daughter, Ellie. She was beautiful and wonderful, everything we ever imagined. But she did not sleep. Ever.
Somewhere around her first birthday, when we were approaching our 12th straight month without a full night of rest, David suggested our optional fourth child should be off the table.
“Definitely no more than three,” I affirmed.
Just before Ellie’s second birthday, I was pregnant again. In the months that followed, David struggled with a clinical anxiety disorder diagnosis while I struggled with gestational diabetes.
“I am so excited to welcome this baby into our family, but I’ve reached my capacity,” David confided to me one evening. “I think we should be done having kids after this.”
Hugely pregnant and tired of pricking my finger four times a day to test my blood sugar levels, I readily agreed.
“Two sounds perfect,” I assured him.
Then I gave birth to Lauren. She was beautiful and wonderful, everything we ever imagined. And she slept!
I knew right away I wanted another child.
But I didn’t know what to do with this revelation. It marked the first time David and I stood on opposite sides of a weighty family decision. As we settled into life as a family of four, I started to test the waters. I made small comments, mostly lighthearted, and gauged David’s reaction.
“These girls are so cute, are you sure you want to deny the world another one?”
“The newborn stage with Lauren was euphoric; wouldn’t it be nice to experience it again?”
His responses were always sweet, but telling.
“Yes, they’re adorable.”
“Thankfully we got a lot more sleep when Lauren was a newborn than we did with Ellie.”
I knew he was happy with our current situation and what he could provide for us. I decided I could be happy, too. I loved the life we had created. Our children were thriving, our marriage was strong—who was I to ask for more? I knew I would feel the occasional pang of “what if?” as time went on, but surely that would be manageable.
Then a friend announced she was expecting her third baby, and my carefully crafted charade came crashing down. Her news did not bring wistful thoughts of what might have been; it exposed a gaping hole in my heart.
That night I slipped into David’s home office and sat on the guest bed across from his desk until he finished his project. “We need to talk about something,” I said softly.
He turned toward me and words started spilling out as fast as my tears.
“I know all the logical arguments side with you,” I conceded. “There will be added expenses with another kid. We’ll need a new car, we’ll have less space, there’s the possibility of being stretched too thin.”
“But someone is missing—that’s the only way I can think to describe it. I know in my heart there is another person I’m supposed to mother, and I need them to be here. Am I crazy?”
David reached out and took my hand. “You’re not crazy,” he reassured me. “If you feel this strongly about it, then it looks like we have some praying to do.”
Over the next several months, we did just that. I made sure he knew my top priority was having him healthy and settled. I told him I didn’t want to have another child unless he really wanted it too. He offered assurances that he took me seriously and wanted to do what was best for all of us.
One random Tuesday toward the end of 2020, David and I stretched out on the couch together after getting the girls in bed. I nestled my head comfortably into his chest while he played with my hair. Neither of us felt the need to talk.
David eventually broke the silence. “I want you to know, we’ve talked so much about the possibility of having another baby that I have started to assume it’s going to happen.”
I whipped my head up. “Is this your way of saying yes?” I asked, trying hard to contain my excitement.
“This is my way of saying yes,” he smiled.
Like many families, we carefully changed our behavior in an attempt to avoid the worst of the pandemic. In March 2021, COVID found me anyway.
On my worst day, the pulsing aches that raged through my head and body prevented me from so much as sitting up. Mercifully, I wasn’t pregnant yet, but I hoped to be soon.
I had been alone in the master bedroom for days, curled on my side, head propped against pillows. The room felt stuffy, despite the open windows. The TV hummed constantly in the background, but I found it too hard to focus. Instead, I stared out the window next to my bed and watched the leaves on our backyard trees rustle in the early spring breeze. Looking at something outside my four walls seemed to help a little.
I dreamed of better days ahead, and I prayed for the strength to get there. While I was isolated from my family, I thought of our hypothetical third baby. I imagined snuggling in bed with him or her on my chest, instead of my very different reality.
A few weeks into recovery, I visited my general practitioner for persistent ear pain I assumed was a lingering effect of the disease. I made small talk with him as he finished up what had been a routine appointment. He gave my chart one last glance, and his eyebrows furrowed.
I shifted uncomfortably in my chair, wondering if he was about to bring up the extra weight I had put on from four weeks of barely being able to get out of bed. What he said next surprised me.
“Everything looks great, but your pulse is a little on the high side. I’m going to have the nurse check it again before you leave.”
I gave him a confused look.
“Normally I wouldn’t give it a second thought,” he continued. “But we’re finding that one of the side effects of COVID is heart issues, even in patients who have recovered. I just want to be extra careful with you.”
He exited the exam room. I tried to steady myself with a deep breath, but the seeds of doubt about my health had already been planted.
I thought of the article I had just read highlighting the large percentage of COVID survivors being diagnosed with neurological or mental health disorders. Apparently, the prospect of heart defects now followed me around as well.
My thoughts raced to a place that felt like too much to handle. Once again, the missing member of our family came to the forefront of my mind—the baby I didn’t have yet, but wanted so desperately. I wondered if my body would be strong enough to create and carry another life when we were ready to start trying. Was having a baby still a possibility? Did the long-prayed-about plans David and I had for our family even matter now?
A light knock at the door interrupted my thoughts.
“I hear we need to re-take your pulse?” the nurse walked in with a smile. She grabbed my wrist and looked at her watch.
“All good!” she declared. “You are perfectly healthy.”
“Healthy,” I sighed. For now.
I found out on a Wednesday in July. I woke up with a sore back, and something gave me pause as I reached for the bottle of Excedrin. David and I hadn’t exactly been careful lately, but my fears of the effects of COVID still lingered. I had also been dealing with irregular cycles and a painful ovarian cyst for months. I wanted a baby, but most of my prayers consisted of asking the Lord to give me patience with a body that obviously wasn’t working right.
“I’m not pregnant,” I assured myself and opened the bottle to slide two pills into my hand. That small feeling persisted.
I put the medicine back in the container with a sigh and dug around in the basket under our sink, fishing out a single pregnancy test. I opened the package, preparing myself for the negative sting of one pink line.
“At least this will set my mind at ease and I can take my medicine in peace,” I thought. The second line appeared before I had the chance to set the test on the counter.
I was pregnant.
I moved into the hallway, just out of sight of the girls, and frantically motioned for David to join me. Safely in the privacy of our bedroom, I wordlessly held the test up.
“How is that even possible?” he laughed, drawing me into a warm hug.
“I guess my body is working better than we thought!” I marveled.
The marveling continued as I sat in the backyard later that morning, basking in the mid-summer sun and the glow of the sweet secret known only to me and David. I relaxed under the orange tree just outside our bedroom window and reflected on how much can change in a short period of time. From COVID ridden and stuck inside to feeling the warm breeze on my skin and the tingle of new life growing inside of me.
I surrendered my dream for our family, but I don’t have to give it up—our third baby is on its way to my arms. Praise God from whom all blessings flow.
Baby Kruckenberg #3 will complete our family in mid-March 2022!