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.

Images: 1 / 2

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.



BY Kate Kearns - September 19, 2018

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September 19, 2018 11:41 am

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… Read more »

September 19, 2018 10:51 pm
Reply to  whit

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… Read more »

Ashley Paguyo
September 19, 2018 11:49 am

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.

September 19, 2018 12:43 pm

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

September 19, 2018 1:46 pm

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… Read more »

September 19, 2018 1:56 pm

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… Read more »

September 20, 2018 1:41 am

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… Read more »

Lori E
September 20, 2018 9:58 am

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. 🙂

September 22, 2018 12:57 am

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… Read more »

September 24, 2018 4:58 pm

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,… Read more »

February 28, 2020 3:30 pm

I just came upon this thread and it is striking such a chord with me right now. I just turned 33 and my partner and I have always been so sure we didn’t want kids. However now that time is running out, we’ve decided to not not trying… it’s such an odd idea. But we feel.like if it’s supposed to happen it will and we’re prepared for that and if it doesn’t ok… but us it okay? I mean I feel as though I’ll be disappointed if it doesn’t happen, but also I don’t want to get my Hope’s up… Read more »

Denice Blair
October 6, 2020 3:27 pm

I’m late to this discussion, but just want to say that I have never read anything more relatable in my life…it was like my thoughts were stolen from my mind and thrown on the web.
This pregnancy limbo that I am in has given me so much anxiety. Already an anxious person as is, I’m having trouble handling the extra pressure from what I want vs what is expected vs what is best for my 3 yr old daughter.
At least I know I am not alone.
Thank you, I appreciate this post…truly.

January 24, 2021 7:43 am

Hi, I was googling this subject because I dont know what to make of my mixed feelings when I get yet another, negative on a preg test. Ive been married for over a decade now, no kids…were high up in our 30s. I love my/our life. I feel content and complete as a person already. If a kid did come along, I see it as a wonderful addition to our lovely lives and I know we’d be happy. But im older, im in a routine Im comfortable with for so many years that the thought of a kid coming into… Read more »

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