Deciding to Get Pregnant
Today was going to be the day John and I tried to conceive.
For as far back as I can remember, I had always been eager to become a mom. More specifically, I always wanted to get pregnant. I remember being five years old and shoving shirts underneath my pajamas so I could pretend I was older, in labor, and then finally holding my small Thumbelina doll with wideset eyes and pouty lips that my grandmother bought me from Bradlee’s. The older I got, the more I thought I was ready for kids. When I was nineteen, a year into being married to my now ex-husband, dear friends of ours, (who were our age) had just brought home their baby boy. Ten tiny toes, restless, tiny fingertips and wavy, wispy hair naturally left me starry-eyed and confused, thinking that perhaps a baby would be what would save our dying marriage.
Should I Get Pregnant to Save My Marriage?
On the first night we tried, I actually felt ill when it was over. I knew that what we were doing was wrong, yet, I felt desperate to capture what little love we held between us; I craved something that would bring us together. I took several pregnancy tests over the course of our time together, each negative and full of relief. I remember having a conversation with my mother who one day, casually told me over the phone that it took my father and her eight years to finally get pregnant. I didn’t feel like I was 19-years old. I lived on my own, overseas, in a home I’d decorated and a wedding band securely bound to my left ring finger. When you’re in the military, having children is a natural part of the process so if all my friends, also 18, 19 and 20 years old were doing it – why couldn’t I? What seemed full of stigma on the outside world seemed inherently acceptable on a military base.
I remember this one conversation I had with my mother that actually stokes anxiety every time I think about it – let alone jot it down in bright, obnoxious letters. She said, her voice blaring on the other end of the telephone, “I don’t know, Courtney. I’ve never wanted to have a baby at 19 years old!”
It’s a decade later and that line still stings me like a stinger caught in my lip. I felt like I was disappointing her; like I was a failure who was doing the wrong thing when at the time – at the moment – it felt right, it felt acceptable.
As I got older, and my marriage fizzled out at 21, I felt embarrassed whenever someone asked me about my time being married. I felt absolutely petrified if a friend – or my parents – brought up “that one time” I coveted a baby as a quest to obtain a happy marriage. I’d later come to understand that it’s my own shame that permeates those memories and it’s an emotion I struggle with, even today.
It wasn’t until my mom died and surprisingly, it became the year of my wedding that I began to find acceptance in taking these next steps in my life. I no longer feel the shame or the stigma attached to acting like a married, almost 30-year old woman because now, I finally feel like I’m at the right stage of my life to be able to feel excited about those things. I’m no longer “playing house” as my late mother so lovingly used to put it.
Announcement on Social Media
And that’s good because it brings me to the kind of post I made today on social media.
A little more than a year ago, John and I were discussing the prospect of having kids. The conversations we’ve had, in the beginning, so early on in our relationship started out pretty tense. Like I did when I was 19, I’d confuse the warm feelings of comfort and love I held for a new baby in our circle of friends, to thinking it was something I was ready for. I always wasn’t. For as much as I desired to be pregnant, the actual responsibility of a baby stifled me. What happened to moving to New York or writing a book? What happened to my life – my needs? I’d routinely complain about work, receive overdraft statements from my bank and yet, like a child in her early to mid-twenties, I felt like a baby would be a way to complete a part of myself because as it turns out, that’s what I’d somehow been searching for.
Fast forward several years and John and I were lying on the couch, discussing our future. The notion of children became more desirable. We had decided that since our wedding date was October 5, 2018, that we’d try and conceive in mid-August, that way if I did become pregnant, I would barely be showing on our big day. When trying to figure out a day we wanted to do it, I kept hearing August 16th pop into my head like It’s a Small World on repeat. The date came out of nowhere and I typed it into Google only to find out it was the day that the King of Rock and Roll, Elvis Presley had died.
This information is paramount because as a little girl, my mother didn’t just talk about her love for Elvis, she showed it. Donning black on the anniversary of his death, blasting “Can’t Help Falling in Love” every Sunday morning on the oldies station, grabbing my hand and twirling me as I tried to drink my morning OJ, my mother’s love for Elvis almost outweighed her love for me. One particular afternoon, I remember being in the car with her driving to nowhere special and her getting annoyed that someone in our family shared a birthday with the anniversary of Elvis’ death; “Someone good deserves to be born on August 16th” is what she insisted to me, and when I uttered the importance of the date out loud, John and I both took it as a sign that it was my mother’s Heavenly-bound approval.
But, the months came and went and I continued to grow anxious. I would push the date back, citing I no longer wanted to be pregnant for our wedding because that would mean I was pregnant for our honeymoon, eliminating how much enjoyment we’d get out of something that’s cost us an arm and a leg. I pushed the date back to November, then December, then January, then indefinitely because let’s face it, I was still a loser with nothing going for her life, a woman consumed with grief, who figured that her insatiable need to bring a child into this world was met only with the longing for a mother-daughter relationship that seemed familiar to her.
Over the course of a year, I began to grow panicked with the idea of sacrifice, a notion you shouldn’t carry when it comes to being a parent. I had to take a step back to analyze what my fears were, and when it came down to it, my biggest fear was never being able to achieve the kind of life I’d always wanted. I wanted to be selfish just long enough for me to grasp it.
More than anything, I’m quite glad I felt that way because we’re all entitled to be selfish for a little while longer. I’d dreamt of a life where I could go to a family dinner and introduce myself to the newest member sitting across from me and boldly say, “I’m a writer” when asked what I do for a living. I wasn’t comfortable walking into a room, identifying myself as a receptionist. I craved more from my life, and it wasn’t until I set out to actually do something about it, would the fears and anxiety about bringing a child into this world start to dissolve.
Today, I shared a post on Instagram and here’s what is said:
I had gotten an MRI because I had this incredible pain in my lower back. I was born with a tethered spinal cord that went undiagnosed and untreated for a decade, causing me to experience lifelong pain and suffering in my back and legs every minute of everyday. When I couldn’t take the pain anymore, I feared something was wrong. And something was. And it was larger than I had ever imagined.
My MRI report showed that I had an uterine abnormality and when I asked the neurosurgeon what it meant, she blew me off telling me that it wasn’t her speciality. For the next month and a half I called primaries, specialists to try and figure out what was wrong with me. I cried everyday thinking I couldn’t have children. I dove head first into Google and WebMd which only made it worse.
After almost two months I was told that I have an extremely high risk of miscarriage in the second and third trimesters. The time when you’ve already begun to show. The time when you can feel your baby kick. The time when you’ve shared the happy news with friends and family. The time when you begin to decorate and spend too much money at Target. The time when you already love that child to a point it’s almost inexplicable. That’s the time when I could lose it.
That was the day I realized you could lose something you never had.
With the wedding in a countdown of just a few short weeks, we were eager to start a family soon after. But we needed to make lifestyle changes. I wasn’t healthy. And I wasn’t about to complicate my pregnancy journey any more than it already is.
I began to take care of everything. I went and assessed my cancer risk since my mother passed away from the disease. Learning I have a higher risk was daunting but necessary so I can make informed decisions. I went and had my teeth taken care of, removing my impacted molars and getting Invisalign. My severe back and leg pain is finally starting to melt away thanks to the miraculous hands of my doctor (who I see 4 times a week). I’ve made en effort to start seeing my primary, something I’ve avoided because I’m terrified of bad news. I’ve had cysts removed. I’ve seen a therapist to work on my grief because the last thing I want is to add any unnecessary stress during that time.
I’ve made personal changes. I no longer wanted to sit around and wait for life to happen. I was tired of going to a job everyday that wasn’t in my field. And so for a year a half I sent out resume after resume, being insulted by big bosses and big named magazines who scoffed at my experience until I finally landed something in my field. I’ve worked hard to secure a life for myself because I will be able to give my child the kind of life they deserve, that’s not integrated with my bouts of selfishness. I’ve taken on non-stop college classes to speed up my graduation time, securing a 4.0 for the last two years that way on weekends, I’m not burying my head inside a book.
Each journey is different and it started July 2015, when I thought for a month and a half that I would never be able to get pregnant and carry a child full term. I still don’t know what the road ahead of me entails and I pray each day that it isn’t something I can’t handle. A year ago we decided where we wanted to be in our preconception journey. And it’s the best decision we’ve ever made.”
Facebook friends messaged me telling me about their miscarriages, their fears…
Suddenly, I was overcome by this enormous wave of emotion. My words – they did that? It never ceases to amaze me how powerful a single thought is until you share it with the world.
I Was Diagnosed with a Bicornuate Uterus
In 2015, I was diagnosed with an extremely high rate of second and third-trimester miscarriages. I remember going to my mother-in-law’s birthday party the weekend after I found out I had a uterine abnormality and had to excuse myself to the bathroom where I broke down in tears because there was a baby shower in the room next to us. It was the same weekend my best friend sent me the pregnancy announcement of my ex-husband and his new wife. I threw a stuffed animal across my bedroom when I heard the news.
I’ve taken a lot of pride in making a stand against the lies of social media, the landscape where everything is always greener and a filter can eliminate the blemishes the world urges us we hide. We share our perfect moments, but not our struggles. On social media, we don’t live truthfully, but I’m on a mission to share my stories with the world, because as was proof today, what I have to say counts; it’s reciprocated by thousands.
Excited for Motherhood
While I’m still eager and excited to experience pregnancy, my true desire is to bring that child home, to love and nurture it, to take a seat along the bumpy, burpy ride where I know the job will suit me. There are not only biological changes that happen when you become ready to conceive a child, there are also signs you start to notice. I think about kids a lot more than I used to. I integrate them into conversations I hadn’t before. On casual outings, John finds himself picking up toys and stuffed animals for our friends’ daughter – an act neither of us had ever seemed too particularly keen on has somehow transformed into our favorite hobby. When Babies R’ Us was going out of business, we raced to three different stores, buying a carseat base and teething rings, onesies, and soft, canary yellow blankets, stuffing them into our car because “we’re going to be parents soon anyway!” Our mentality has changed, and I’d attribute it to my experiences beforehand, allowing me to see the differences and even more so, to develop these emotions over time.
I needed time to come to terms with who I was as a person, to find comfort and closure in who I used to be and who I am now, a woman persevering in the daily strive toward greatness – or just, okayest. I’ve worked hard to keep tabs on my health, make informed decisions about my body, my mental state, and its corrosion after grappling with the loss of my mother. I needed to fall into my deepest, darkest depression, to tackle my discontent for my job, my title, my ambitions before I would be even capable of loving myself the way I (and my future children) deserve to be loved.
I’ve found happiness with where I am in life, and I’m thankful to have had the opportunity to work my way toward where I wanted to be before starting a family. The reverse isn’t impossible – and I understand that now. While my dreams will never go on the back burner, I’ve developed a deeper sense for what it means to actually be mentally, financially and physically ready for a child. That whole saying of, “you’ll never be ready” I find is just a fallacy, an excuse to make us feel better when we have anxieties about something society tells us we should have by a certain time, a certain age limit.
If you have anxiety, even in the slightest about bringing a child into this world, then it’s okay to trust those instincts. We’re allowed to make up our minds, then change them, to pursue our dreams and to live life according to our own timeline, rather than those around us. If I had gotten pregnant – 10 years ago, or five, or even a year ago, I would have missed out on having experiences and pursuing opportunities that perhaps, would have been swept under the rug for another time, another lifetime. I wanted to be the best version of myself when I bring children into this world, because I want them to have someone to look up to, someone to be proud of, and likewise, I want to be able to provide to them the kind of life my parents never could, the kind of life that makes them feel safe, happy and healthy all year round until it’s almost nauseating.
Always trust your instincts, because they will guide you to do the things you ordinarily deemed impossible, drive you to understand and maximize your full potential in the best way possible. A year can change a lot, and I’m full of hope and wonder and bewilderment over the fact that this time a year from now, could be a time when I can’t sit down to write this so easily because someone in a darkened room, with tiny toes and restless fingertips and wavy, wispy hair, needs me.