The Pregnancy I (Thought I) Didn't Want

2/26/18


I cried the day I took the pregnancy test.

I had ignored my suspicions for weeks because I didn’t want it to be true. My husband finally made me pee on the damn stick and I collapsed into tears as the positive line burst on the scene like it had been behind a velvet curtain just waiting for it’s time to shine.

We were short on money and even shorter on energy. The youngest of our three boys was not even a year old and had only just begun sleeping through the night- could the universe not throw me a bone here? My work had started to pick up and I’d finally gotten back down to my pre-baby size. It wasn’t that I wanted to be done having babies; I just wanted a break from it for a while. This was not the plan.

When I was younger I fancied the idea of having loads of kids. The mental picture of a dozen half dressed love-children climbing trees and having pillow fights wooed my hippie heart. It wasn’t until I actually started having my own kids that I realized how exhausting they are. Turns out, children spend less time scaling foliage and more time begging for snacks than I originally estimated. And the half dressed thing is only cute until we actually have to go somewhere and all defiant hell breaks loose.

It can be monotonously excruciating, but I do adore motherhood. It doesn’t define, validate, or complete me, but I love my kids passionately and spending my life with them is a gift I am both receiving and giving to the world. Yet my initial reaction was that I did not want this pregnancy. Not now. The guilt of that truth weighed on me, and I alternated between imagining myself the victim and the villain of the story I was living out.

You have nine months to get excited about this child, a wise friend who’d been around the block told me. You don’t have to feel it right now. This was news to me, and it gave me no small degree of relief. As the days and weeks went by, I found myself involuntarily daydreaming about this unplanned baby: it would be a boy, of course (it was), maybe the first to sleep through the night right from the get-go (it wasn’t). I started remembering that new baby smell and the lightest of heaviness against my chest. There’s nothing so cozy as watching Netflix on the couch at night with the man you love while a newborn baby dozes dreamily against you.

We continued to worry about how it would work- how we could possibly do it all- but gratitude was sneaking in too, along with that inexplicable phenomenon called hope. There was no overnight transition from negative feelings to positive ones, and in fact right up until the last weeks I continued to feel the tension of holding wildly contradictory emotions at once. But what I had learned by then was that this is normal.

Our culture is wound so tightly around planning and control that we’re duped into thinking the only way to be a good parent is to make a five-year plan before conception. But statistics say that half of all pregnancies are unplanned, and while many are surely joyful surprises, I have to believe that the majority of those women feel as conflicted as I. After all, neither our freedom nor our love of control go down without a fight. This is a road that women walk- a very normal road. It can be scary, it can be emotional, but it is certainly not odd or even rare. And maybe if more women talked about it we could all better find the support we need.

The day this son was born was every bit as joyful as the days the other three joined our family; all trace of uncertainty disappeared as I beheld and held this incredible gift. Since we’ve been home life is more hectic than before, yes, but oh how love has expanded too. I have four boys- four!- to raise and delight in, and the way they dote on one another moves me to my core. Imagining them in twenty years all home for the holidays, giving each other noogies and getting coffee together, is almost more than my heart can take. I am luckier than I deserve.

For every part of my freedom that I’ve surrendered for this baby, I’ve received equal parts wonder in return. What I feared has now begun. And it turns out, the beginning of it was the only thing that could drive out the fear. Only love remains.

Someday, the light will shine like a sun through my skin & they will say, 'what have you done with your life?' & though there are many moments I think I'll remember, in the end, I will be proud to say, I was one of us.

(Brian Andreas, Storypeople)

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