The scariest thing about being a parent, so far, is making choices that will have a permanent and lasting impact on our kid. We’ve never even met him… how are we supposed to make these decisions for him? One of the downsides of our current world is an over abundance of information. There are strong supporters of completely opposite views for almost any choice we have to make in life. Parenting is no different. Already, my husband and I have had to make some significant choices for our son’s future. Some were easy to make. Some took us months to decide.
For the next five weeks, I will be publishing an extra post each Friday. This series of “bonus” posts will focus on our first five important parenting decisions. Each of these will reflect the personal choices that Kenny and I have made for our son and our family. They’re not all popular choices. In fact, one or both of our mothers disagrees with each one of these decisions. Many of you will have made the opposite decision. Whether you and I have made the same decision or not, we can agree that we love our children and only want what’s best for them based on our beliefs, research, and perspective. This is a five-part story, not about why our choices are “right,” but about the journey my husband and I have taken over the past six months or so to learn to make decisions as part of a parental unit.
Part 4 of 5- Decision: Have a Baby
The most common question I got in the first half of my pregnancy was whether Kenny and I had been trying to get pregnant. Actually, this wasn’t posed as a question. Usually somebody just blurted “I didn’t even know you guys were trying!” I’m not entirely sure I feel people are entitled to know when others are “trying” to have a baby, but that’s a topic for another time. I didn’t exactly know how to answer the question. I resorted to saying “Well, we weren’t NOT trying.” One of my best friends said that this was “such a Laura response.” It’s the truth! I don’t know exactly what the term “trying” means to other people, but to me when people say they’re trying to have a baby I usually imagine they are charting ovulation and timing sex at the very least. Often they’re tracking body temperature and taking supplements and limiting alcohol or caffeine. I was not in that category. Then there’s people trying NOT to have a baby. They generally use birth control in some form or abstain from sex or use some other method of questionable effectiveness. I was not in that category either. I guess you could say we were open to the idea.
As for the question of whether we were “trying,” let me back up a little bit here. I have always had irregular periods. And I don’t mean like sometimes 30 days, sometimes 28. I mean that I regularly go six months without a period. I have seen doctor after doctor. None can tell me what’s wrong. I’ve been on more than a few different forms of birth control, I’ve done hormone therapies, I’ve tracked and charted everything about my body that I can. There’s no consistent diagnosis and no solution. Since I was a teenager, I have been told that I am at a high risk for various kinds of cancer and that I will likely have tremendous difficulty conceiving, if I’m able to at all. I had sort of accepted this fate. I wasn’t happy about it, but I knew it wouldn’t be the end of the world. It helps that I had years to take this all in before I got to the age where babies sound realistically possible. I had always wanted to adopt anyway, so I would just take that path.
Kenny and I had several long conversations about this before we got married. He maintained that he would always want a biological child, but that wasn’t a deal breaker for him in his decision to marry me. He, too, liked the idea of adopting. I didn’t love his reaction. He had known it was unlikely I could have children for years so I thought he would say something about how thrilled he was to marry me and adopt babies with me and never look back. He said he was thrilled to marry me and adopt babies with me and also possibly have a son of his own. Not exactly the same. He made the idea of a little baby that was literally a piece of him and a piece of me sound so magical and beautiful and wonderful that for the first time, I began to feel that I was really missing something. And I was afraid that I was letting him down. This was something he had always wanted and he was possibly giving it up by marrying me. I think he was 20 or 21 when we had this conversation and I was worried he would learn to resent his choice as he got older and the desire to have a biological child grew stronger.
Fairly early in our marriage, I made the decision to stop taking the hormone therapy I had been on. I didn’t like the way the medicine made me feel and I was sick of taking medicine anyway. It didn’t solve the issue, so what was the point? My doctor rushed to put me on birth control and Kenny and I had to make a decision. I didn’t want to take medicine. He wasn’t confident that other forms of contraceptive alone were effective enough. Then he pointed out that we were married adults… we didn’t have to be terrified of getting pregnant. Sure, I was in law school and a baby was probably not a good idea, but the fear of babies that is instilled in all teenagers wasn’t actually relevant to us.
We talked a lot about what would happen if I did get pregnant- how our lives would change and if we could really handle it. We also talked about how unlikely it was that I would get pregnant anyway. I saw a doctor who ran some tests (always with the tests) and said I wasn’t ovulating. My ovaries just don’t work. We decided that if we ever did want to have kids, it would take us years and years to get the timing right since the doctor estimated I ovulate about once every two years and not on a set schedule. We decided to forgo contraceptives. First, if we did want to really “try” to get pregnant in the future and had trouble, we could explain to our doctor that we hadn’t conceived even though we had stopped used contraceptives for X amount of time. Second, we probably weren’t going to get pregnant before we were ready anyway.
This was a couple of years ago.
A little less than a year ago, I was scrolling through Facebook and I saw that several friends were posting pregnancy announcements. I cried. I was so annoyed that God or Fate or the Universe or whatever decided that those people got to be moms and I couldn’t. I knew adoption was years and years down the road for us- we had no money, no real jobs, we lived with my parents. For the first time, I felt really bad for myself that I probably couldn’t have kids. And isn’t it always the way, that just at that point, I started seeing babies everywhere. I even rolled my eyes at the Christmas story that year. Really? Mary can get pregnant without even having sex? That’s fair. Not my proudest moment.
A few months before this I had started a new diet. I was drinking protein shakes with loads of vitamins in them. Apparently, my body liked the nutrition. I had my period five months in a row. I have NEVER had my period five times in a row. In fact, it was super annoying. I don’t know how people go through life with that many cramps. And since when are tampons so expensive?? It didn’t even occur to me that my body was working properly for once. I just figured it was a fluke or a phase. I was so convinced that my reproductive system didn’t work correctly that even when I was feeling bad for myself for not being able to have kids, it never even occurred to me to hope; I never thought, well, I’m getting my period now so maybe that will change things!
One night I had a dream that I was holding a baby, our little baby. When I woke up, for the first time, I dared to hope that I was pregnant. I knew that pregnancy tests weren’t accurate early on and I didn’t want to torture myself so I decided to wait 3 weeks. I took a pregnancy test and it was positive. I found out later from the doctor that they estimate I conceived on the same night I had that dream. I still felt like it was too good to be true. We had our first ultrasound and they showed us a big black hole, inside of which there was supposed to be a tiny white fetus, but there was nothing there. I almost cried, cursing my body for not working and for tricking me into hoping. I held it together, though, because we were supposed to be filmed for this promotional video. They said they could still use some footage if we were still willing. In an attempt to get better angles for the video, the ultrasound tech moved the device around a bunch. She accidentally picked up just a little glimmer of white. So for their promotional video, the pregnancy resource center I was at got actual footage of the two of us as we saw our tiny little speck of a fetus for the first time after having just been told that I could have had an early miscarriage. It was an emotional moment, for sure.
So, no, we weren’t trying to get pregnant. But, no, it wasn’t an accident. It wasn’t even really a surprise. It was the perfect time for me personally and for Kenny personally and the perfect time in our marriage. We were ready and we wanted a little baby perhaps more than we even cared to admit to ourselves. Ok, Kenny admitted it ALL the time, but I hadn’t… yet.
Other Posts in this Series