When You’re Trying but Not Trying to Get Pregnant
It’s 1:30 in the morning and the breathing next to me is steady and deep, unusual for my recovering insomniac of a husband. It means I’m not waking him up, even though I’m in a full panic about whether or not I’m pregnant. My uterus has been feeling weird lately. Sort of pressurized? And glorpy? I guess it’s okay if I’m pregnant. Oh no. No, it isn’t. I got x-rays at the chiropractor today. He asked if there was any chance I was pregnant, and I immediately and definitively said no. Oh my god, I’m pregnant and I x-rayed my baby.
When my husband and I decided we were going to have kids, I always figured we’d have two. It seemed like the right fit for us – any more than that and we would have been outnumbered, but not entirely sure about the only child thing. Skip ahead, and we’re chugging along with our spirited toddler Lucy. She’s reached the age where, as parents, we can start reclaiming our lives. Lucy no longer requires my body for survival. She doesn’t sleep in our room anymore. We can put her in front of Little Einsteins and have a few minutes to ourselves.
With our family having finally found a happy place, we made the most obvious decision possible and immediately began lighting a fire underneath our increasingly pleasant existence. Despite the fact that neither of us was totally convinced we should have another kid (having experienced the challenges of parenting Lucy and seeing what it did to our physical and mental health, as well as our relationship), we started trying to have another kid.
Each month is approximately the same routine. First, the ovulation tests. I pee on a stick. The next day, pee on another stick. The day after that, I do it again. I continue peeing on sticks until they tell me that my sweet egg has entered the game. (Pro tip: Get the ones with the smiley faces.) Then I follow up with a highly romantic text to my hubs. “I’m ovulating. Sex tonight.” If I’m really feeling saucy, it’s more along the lines of “Babymaking after Lucy goes to bed.” Rawr.
This is followed by the waiting period. I try not to drink in case it worked and I’m pregnant, but sometimes life is really hard and I’m going to a four-year-old’s birthday party down the street and none of the parents will survive unless I bring a pitcher of margaritas. You know how it goes. Theoretically, this part of the routine should be pretty straightforward. If I know when I had my last period, then I know when I ovulated, and I know when we had sex, so I should be able to look at the calendar and know when I’ll be able to pee on (another different kind of) a stick and find out if I’m pregnant.
But that’s giving me way too much credit. Despite the myriad of apps available on my phone, and despite the numerous calendars littering my professional and personal life, I couldn’t tell you if my life depended on it the first day of my last period. Or when it was we had sex. Or how old I am, or what day of the week it is. So I plod along, checking calendars every few days and wracking my brain for contextual clues of my uterus’s comings and goings. I pee on a pregnancy test, and it’s negative. But for all I know, I’m still four days too early for it to tell me anything. So I wait a day or two and pee on another. And another. Eventually, my period arrives, and I’m immediately filled with a complex rush of disappointment (no little friend for Lucy just yet) and relief (thank you, universe, having another kid is an absolutely awful idea we should NOT do this). Then I start the whole thing over again.
At this point, I feel I should add a disclaimer. I understand that my waffling, cavalier attitude toward having a second child is inherently privileged. There are so many hopeful and loving people out there struggling with their journey to parenthood, for so many different reasons. With Lucy, I was incredibly fortunate to get pregnant pretty easily, have a largely pleasant and uncomplicated pregnancy, and experience the birth I wanted for my daughter and for myself. I know that this makes me the outlier, and I’m grateful every day for my parenting journey thus far.
Having said that, I really don’t know whether or not I want a second kid. It’s not that I don’t like being a parent. I love it. I’m raising a small human who is one half the best person in the world (my husband) and one half me (yikes). She’s inquisitive beyond belief, full of unbridled creativity, and carries terrifying potential. When she says “bye bye” at bedtime or when she unexpectedly pats me on the back, I wouldn’t trade this job for anything.
So maybe I’m being selfish.
It’s hard to give yourself up for a kid. When I got pregnant with Lucy, I put a lot on hold. I gave away my body for nine months of incubating a tiny human, and then for another year and a half while Lucy nursed. I shelved my relationship because being a new mom was all-consuming, and then spent the better part of a year trying to get it back into working order. Honestly, I’ve put myself aside for the rest of my life because never again will I be my own top priority. Never again will I make a decision that doesn’t take someone else into account.
It definitely sounds selfish.
More importantly than my own self-interest, Lucy is enough for us. We don’t need more. She’s whip-smart and sneaky as hell. She fills our home and our hearts with vibrancy and enthusiasm and all the love in the world. She’s taught me to be a better version of myself – kinder to those I love and endlessly more patient than I used to be. There is no hope, wish, or desire I have for my family that Lucy doesn’t fulfill. So when I try to think of actual reasons we should have a second child, I often come up blank.
And yet we keep trying, month after month, box after box of pregnancy tests, looking for whatever’s next on our path to a full human experience.
How are you feeling about your conception, pregnancy, or parenting journey? I would love to hear in the comments below.
Kate Kearns is a Golden Girl masquerading as a millennial mom, chugging along with the best choice she ever made (her husband), volatile toddler, embarrassing dog, and diplomatic cat in Southwest Minneapolis. She works in marketing and her hobbies are food.