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.

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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.

 

 

  • A few months ago I was in the “trying but not trying” camp. I had a very nonchalant “if it happens, it happens” attitude, but the day the pee stick showed an undeniable positive was still a shock. After wrapping our heads around the thought of having a baby (not theoretically, but actually truly really), we found out that it was an ectopic pregnancy and I had to have emergency surgery. Now all resemblance of a nonchalant attitude around pregnancy has been replaced with worry about future conception and/or ectopic pregnancies. I waffle between wanting to get pregnant as soon as possible and not even wanting to try because I’m scared of a repeat. I always thought when we were ready to have kids, we just would. Now it’s become heart-wrenchingly complicated.

    • I’m so sorry for your struggles on the journey to parenthood. Experiences like miscarriages and ectopic pregnancies are incredibly challenging – physically, emotionally, everything. We don’t always realize how much something matters to us until it’s put in jeopardy.

      Thank you so much for sharing, and I wish you the absolute best of luck on this path – wherever it takes you.

    • I’m so sorry for your loss. I also miscarried (a “missed” miscarriage at 9 weeks) three months ago. I totally agree that all semblance of non-chalance is gone for me now. The first time I breezily got pregnant on the second try and had just enough time to get excited about the idea before it was torn away. I’m now simultaneously desperate to get pregnant again and terrified I’ll have another miscarriage. Add to that the fact that I turn 35 next month and I am basically a total mess every month. Good luck with everything – it’s a hard spot to be in but I hope we all persevere.

  • Thanks for the candor, Kate! Trying to get pregnant adds so many layers to our already complicated relationships with our “cycles.” I find it…exhausting. I appreciate your honesty and can’t wait to see how your family unfolds.

  • I haven’t even begun to unpack where I stand with pregnancy. I’m not sure if I want to have kids, I’m certainly not ready, and it seems like there are so many, all-consuming, situations out there. I don’t know what will happen, but I hope you spend the time finding what’s right for you, and what you really want – because that’s who it’ll come down to, you! Good luck 🙂

    Eva | http://www.shessobright.com

    • Thank you for your thoughts! Whether or not to try for kids is a huge decision for any person or couple to make – and in spite of a lot of judgment against people who decide to skip parenthood, it’s a perfectly reasonable choice if it’s the right choice for you!

  • This entire post describes me so well right now! Thank you for sharing! We are trying for our second (I also realize how lucky I was to easily get pregnant with our first) and it’s taking a few months. But I’m not entirely sure I’m ready to do this again. I know what to expect this time around haha. I am certain I want another baby, and sooner rather than later, and yet am relieved every month that I am not yet pregnant. And the depressed and anxious about it days later. I think it is such a test of having to let go of control, and that’s not something I am good at. I am all of the emotions basically. Also, the two week wait is CONSUMING and exhausting and I just wish there was a way to not think about it.

    • I’m always happy to hear when other people are in the same boat as me! The struggle – of that wild swing between absolute relief and total disappointment – is REAL. And it’s a totally normal thing to experience!

  • Thanks for sharing! At my job, I am surrounded by people getting pregnant, having babies, or trying to get pregnant. We’ve had three births within the last month on my team of 40 people. It’s nuts.
    At any rate, many of the women I work with who are trying to get pregnant have expressed this same sentiment. They have mixed feelings. They want a kid…but then they kind of don’t just yet. They want to focus on themselves…but their hearts melt each time a new mom stops by with their babe.
    I do not have kids nor am I trying to get pregnant, so I can’t relate much during our brief water-cooler chats. But this article may prove a comfort to a few of my closer female friends who are also trying-but-not-trying. Can’t wait to send them to this article

    – Grace | The Keen Kind

    • Thanks for sharing your thoughts! It sounds like baby central at your work right now – holy cow!! I hope this helps some of your friends feel like they’re not alone in this step of their journey : )

  • I fear there is another variable, the planet.as we know, it is in trouble and our children will be faced with a different world w/ serious water shortages,animal viruses will continue to creep into human populations as land masses crowd, and many more places will experience over population and refugees as water rising, deserts growing all lessen land available . Can you leave enough wealth to help your children surrvive ? Do you want your children to live in this world… and add to the numbers?
    Sorry to be glum, I do it in the name of the children who will have to deal with it.

    • What you’ve expressed is certainly a valid perspective when deciding whether or not to have kids! There’s no way we can plan for the global future, only our own. So I figure as long as I’m making decisions (for my family, for the planet) that I’ll still be proud of 25 or 30 or 50 years from now, I figure I’m doing my part.

  • This is the most accurate description of myself I have ever read. Thank you, Kate, for writing the words that I will use to describe my –our– current state from now until…it’s no longer the state I find myself in. One way or another, it won’t last forever. Just like our sweet and volatile toddlers, it won’t last forever. (Not sure if that’s a good thing or not…)

    Also, 100% yes to food being hobby. 🙂

  • Oh my goodness. This is exactly what I needed to read today. My husband and I have decided to try for a second, the gyno has given the green light, I’ve got the sticks, but…. but …. what’s wrong with me? I also have a toddler who’s nursed 18 months and I also JUST got my body back. But that body is aging and all of those Google searches about fertility are scary. It’s so nice to hear that someone else is feeling these feelings that I’ve labeled as “selfish,” but I think I’m going to be more kind to myself in the future and call is “self-preservation.” Pregnancy and motherhood is so incredibly draining, it’s ok to ask myself why I’m willing to start the process again. Thank you for this post!

    • I’m so glad this spoke to you. And self preservation is the perfect way to frame things!! Both paths – more kids and no more kids – have great value. It just takes a while to figure out the right fit.

  • I can’t believe your timing! my husband and i just decided to start “trying but not trying” (we got married two months ago and currently have no children) and it’s terrifying and wild to think about. but with every exciting thought comes a negative nancy one–CAN we even get pregnant? i don’t WANT to stop drinking! i’m effing SCARED! is it too soon? too late (i’m 32)? what if something goes terribly wrong? thanks for sharing your journey and indecision. i’ve been trolling the internet all day looking for a sign and it’s just good to know we’re all there, together.

    • We’re definitely in this together! When I was in college, I had convinced myself I would never be able to have kids. Obviously that wasn’t the case! It’s just about where you’re at in relationships with yourself and your partner. And it’s okay to have every single doubt and concern and indecision you’re experiencing!!