We decide we are ready to try having a baby, and it wasn’t a decision taken lightly by either of us. We have conversations off and on over the course of a few months, with phrases passing between us such as “should we?”, “are we ready to be parents?”, and “what are we thinking??” Five years have passed since our wedding, and we are settled into our suburban lifestyle, complete with our own home and our squishy-faced pug, Sadie. Even though Jason is full-time in graduate school, with my income, we are financially comfortable. Considering our stable circumstances, having a baby seems natural in our progression as a couple. We married young, I had barely turned 23, which allowed us plenty of years to travel, try new places to live, and to have fun with our friends. We have been carefree (mostly), and in this time let our relationship mature into an enduring partnership. Sounds idealic, like a Normal Rockwell painting. Despite telling myself all these things, I have some deep reservations about bringing a baby into the mix. I keep hearing voices run through my head saying, “Having a baby is so difficult. It will change your lives forever.” It’s these words that have me spooked.
I remember specifically one man I had worked with, in the midst of a baby shower for a co-worker, saying “I felt I went into a deep depression after my sons were born. I mourned the man I was, and the freedom my wife and I once had.” Everyone within earshot of him looked down awkwardly at our empty plates, trying not to make eye-contact with anyone else. Our table grew uncomfortably quiet after that, the baby shower taking on a new, dark, tone. Thinking back on his comments, I couldn’t help but wonder why I would ever want that kind of doom bestowed upon our lives. I think, it can’t possibly be that bad. So many people have children, often multiple! I try to push his comments to the back of my mind, hoping they will fade away to where they came, and focus on what I know to be true: I am 29, not getting any younger, and need to focus my attention on my own marriage and life, not this depressed co-worker’s.
The stars seem to be aligned for us to give in to this pull toward parenthood. I realize my fear and trepidation is one-sided in our relationship; seeing how excited Jason is by the prospect of being a father helps boost my confidence in our decision. He talks about naming our baby, teaching math to our baby (patterned after his own deep-rooted interest in learning, breathing, living math), and reading books to our baby everyday. He wants to teach our baby everything he loves to do. Knowing how enriched and intelligent and interesting a person Jason is, it can only be beneficial to this world for us to create a being to grow up like him. Fighting against the negative voices in my head, we plunge into the mode of “trying”. This is a tricky place to be. Our situation takes me back to an episode of the show, Mad About You. The characters of Paul and Jamie Buchman mirror Jason and me, finding themselves in this very predicament. Although for comedic sake, they opt to not only tell people, but they throw a party in the announcement’s honor. It ends in the same way I picture it would for us, in embarrassment and panic as they commiserate in the kitchen. I have little faith that we’d be laughing as much as our TV counterparts if this becomes our reality. Shuddering at the thought of being embarrassed by others’ lack of enthusiasm, we decide to keep it to ourselves.
At first it is kind of exciting, in a way that creates a lot of anxious waiting, pregnancy test-taking, and cultivation in a belief this will happen soon. I figure, once we start trying, we’ll have a baby in a month, maybe a couple months, tops. I confess, after watching a decent amount of TV shows depicting teenage mothers, and having many friends and co-workers who have babies, I truly thought it would be a breeze. If people are out there having babies who don’t even intend to have babies, we can surely do this.
I’ve always been ambitious, an overachiever. My report cards from elementary school always described my younger version as a “conscientious student”. When I want to get something done, I put my mind to it and do it. After the first couple months of failure, however, disappointment looms, and life slowly slips back into our usual daily routine. As much as I want to achieve this, I also want things to happen as naturally as possible. We try to not stress over it much. We don’t check basal temperatures, or use ovulation tests, or even really chart anything. As we easily go through the stress-free motions, however, I find it more challenging to get my thoughts on board. I have a mantra, that hopefully if repeated enough times, I will believe: we just have to assume nature will take its course, and if it is meant to be, it will happen. As we wait, seconds turn into minutes, turning into hours, turning into days, turning into months. Ten months, to be exact.
“Jason, come here,” I’m wildly calling for him from our small bathroom. My voice is shakey, and a bit loud, considering he couldn’t possibly be more than 20 feet away from my location given the miniature size of our house. It’s late August, the windows are open, the breeze floats into the bathroom as I open the door. I hear the children in the neighborhood playing, laughing, yelling outside in the street.
“I need to show you something and ask your opinion,” I continue, hearing his footsteps padding along the carpet. He must have some idea of what is to come, even before seeing me standing there holding the small, white stick. I had told him earlier in the day my worry over getting the flu vaccine at work, which was coming up tomorrow. Normally, I don’t mind shots too much. Working in a hospital setting, I am expected to get one, and it’s free. This year, however, is the first time they are offering the nasal spray instead. I am a mostly a prime candidate for this, young enough and generally healthy enough. If I am pregnant, though, I cannot get it. This creates a conundrum as I do not know if I am pregnant. As of last week, I was not. These days, though, the possibility is always present, hanging over my head like a cloud just waiting to rain on my head.
“What’s up, Babe?” Jason tries to act casual, but I know better.
“I think I may see two lines on this test, but I don’t know for sure. Can you look? Please? I need a second opinion. Is there a second line? Am I wishfully seeing things?” My questions quickly turn into a manic description of what I am doing, “I’m squinting at the tiny window where the lines show up, my eyes are straining as I tilt the plastic stick back and forth, trying to shine different lighting on it. I think if it’s pointed one way I see something, but then I’m- ”
Before I have much chance to anxiously ramble on any more, Jason has looked and confirmed my suspicions. “I see both lines. That means you are pregnant?” His voice rises, his excitement being restrained just a bit.
“Yeah.” My voice notably sinks. Shock has set in.
Jason grabs me by the shoulders, wraps his arms around me, and nuzzles his head in my neck, his stubble scratching my cheek. Slightly whimpering, he sheds a couple tears on my shoulder, leaving a wet spot on my t-shirt. I hold onto him, grabbing handfuls of his shirt in my tightly fisted hands. Is this how excitement feels? Or is this worry? Or panic? My heart flutters as I try to wrap my brain around what is going on here. There is a living being growing in me. That just doesn’t even seem possible.
After having taken so many tests, and gotten so many negative results, I can’t believe my eyes looking down at this test. I do trust Jason’s eyes though. He always seems to have an answer for everything. After having him look at several negative tests in the past, I can tell he has a more objective viewpoint. I think I will there to be another line when there is not. It feels as if I have taken hundreds of pregnancy test over the past 10 months (although this cannot possibly be true, or at least I hope it’s not), and most times I was convinced I wasn’t seeing the result right. I tried all different brands, hoping some would be easier to read than others. I tried ones with pink lines, ones with blue lines, ones with parallel lines, and ones with crossing lines. Some were cheap store-brand, others were expensive and had a digital read-out with actual words to break the good or bad news of the test results. I look hard at the lines on the stick in my hand, and convince myself it was yet another test playing tricks on me.
Breaking the silence and hug all at once I say, “Now what do we do?”
“I don’t know; you should probably call the doctor tomorrow to make an appointment.” Always practical, always logical. That’s exactly what I crave at this moment.
“But what about work? When do I tell them? When do we tell family?” My words reveal my tendency to get ahead of myself, which opens the path for my panicky state of mind. Jason takes my hand, calmly says “Come here, Babe,” guides me to the couch, and sits with me.
I say the only thing I am thinking at this moment, “I think we should tell our families as soon as possible.” Jason agrees. I just couldn’t hold something like that in, especially from my family. That’s the most I want to spread the news though. Work can wait. Part of me thinks, the fewer people we tell, the less likely this is to be true, right? Is that what I want to be true? Do these tests ever lie? Other thoughts are difficult to keep in my mind long enough to hang onto, or verbalize. I have no idea what to do from here. I look at Jason’s face, we make eye contact. Through my panicked eyes, I can see the excitement in his own baby blues. I don’t know what to make of my scared emotions, and his excitement. Am I an awful person, an awful mother, for feeling this way? I feel like crying. Tears are probably falling, I just am so shaken by this news, I cannot feel them. The previously cloudy sky hanging over our heads have broken loose, into a drenching rain, and now we don’t have umbrellas to hide under.