Light disclaimer: Before diving into this essay, I’d like to preface by writing that motherhood is a fluid experience. My confusion about having children is completely different from the experiences of those who are struggling to have children, those who have lost children, and those who raise them. No matter the journey of motherhood, our stories are all valuable and different. This is my complicated story.
This year, I finished a bottle of my prenatal pills. I take them sparingly. Sixty pills last six months. I bought another bottle at Target the day before, mocked the brand, and opted for the generic version instead. Predicting pregnancy will be very expensive if I keep buying the $35 potion.
I deleted my pregnancy app. It was checked too often. As if it would open a secret, an easter egg. When its little blue bubbles told me I was ovulating, I asked my body a million questions it couldn’t answer with words. I flinched: Is it a pinch of implants? Does this app know I’m ovulating?
Despite the scientific proof, drinking alcohol or eating junk food suddenly becomes a Fascinating Festival. I got everything wrong at the expense of a little calendar in the palm of my hand, a place to record sex and symptoms. Get an ovulation test strip! People tell me this. But I don’t want them. Strips was too addictive. Too real, everyday. We didn’t try but we didn’t Not try. And I needed the casual tone of the idea itself to keep it simple.
My husband and I are not trying to have children. But we don’t try. Is that possible? I don’t have an answer, but it feels good to write down the emotion — the whole feeling of a roller coaster on rocks.
It’s easy to feel lonely inside your body, to wonder what’s inside. It’s easy and completely alien, all at the same time.
I don’t want this to be a sob story. And I wonder about writing this. But, I want to be honest. F. Scott Fitzgerald wrote, “What people are embarrassed about often makes a good story.” I think that’s what I’m doing here, pouring my shame and embarrassment all over the figurative floor. It’s easy to feel lonely inside your body, to wonder what’s inside. It’s easy and completely alien, all at the same time. In the beginning, building a family was an uncharted territory.
When self-determination turns outward
When my husband and I agreed to “try but not try” to have a baby, I imagined the pregnancy would happen like a light match. I’ve been on birth control for almost fifteen years. Ovulation cramps are ghosts. My period is a perfect period. I have lived most of my life in shame about sex and sexual desire, fearing the possibility that my children might “ruin my life”. I took responsibility for all my sexual desires. Pregnancy, the hidden burden of mistakes, seems… too easy.
So when we put our worries aside and said, “Okay, if it happens, whatever,” I expected the change to seem normal. I want pregnancy to be a planned accident. I don’t want to pee on my ovulation bands or knock on my wrist and say, “Get to bed this minute!” I don’t want to try to have a baby or feel rushed. My fantasy is an opportunity, a cute mistake, a tasteful glitch in the timeline.
But, I have to learn more about who I am and what I want.
In January, I go to the doctor for my annual check-up. I told her not to use birth control and we started talking about planning. Because that’s what we do, we plan. Do you smoke? No. You can start taking the pill before giving birth. Okay. And if you want to do some blood tests, I can tell the nurse. Okay. Sound good. And I often tell all my patients, I always recommend losing 5-10 pounds. That can help you get pregnant faster. You know, be healthy. Please fasten your seat belt. Right.
I thought about losing 10 pounds for weeks and started channeling my losses inwards. I want to be angry, but I still haven’t handled the pandemic. So I was tired. And sin. Doubt sat there, fat in the hips and guilt. I thought, If I don’t get pregnant right away, it’s my fault.
Somehow, my body was no longer mine. It could also be someone else’s. And that suggestion, that process, made me so aware of each seizure and sensation that I began to feel spontaneously private. I look at myself, imagine, predict, panic.
It took a while for my periods to settle down after I stopped using birth control. After taking the first month off, I convinced myself that I was cyclically pregnant. I began to identify cramps and ovulation again and my mind reeled as I imagined a budding life in the womb. Somehow, my body was no longer mine. It could also be someone else’s. And that suggestion, that process, made me so aware of each seizure and sensation that I began to feel spontaneously private. I look at myself, imagine, predict, panic.
Predicting the “best part”
In Meg Mason’s book Sadness and Happiness, She writes, “The time between finding out you’re pregnant and telling anyone, including your husband, is even a week or a minute in my case. No one talked about that part [the best part]. The moment Mason described was the feeling I had profoundly anticipated during the first six months I stopped using birth control. The idea of that particular privacy was strange and stunned me.
And then, there is fear. It’s hard to put a timeline on children. So, why do I feel this way? We may want both. But when we actively seek both, the world becomes dark. I want to be a mother but I don’t. Something so great, so life-changing, is a want big. There is no way around it. Despite the paradox, how are we allowed to “want big” when we don’t want to think about any ideas?
I want to be a mother but I don’t. Something so great, so life-changing, is a want big. There is no way around it. Despite the paradox, how are we allowed to “want big” when we don’t want to think about any ideas?
Obsessive thoughts about childbirth cannot be ignored. Imagine being pregnant with a hangover; most of the time i can almost feel the lust in my groin. Sometimes, before going to bed, I let the light of my phone shine over my entire face when I Google “How does the implant feel?” Or, “Pregnancy tricks.” Or, “How do you know you’re pregnant?” My history is a virtual card of worries, questions and doubts.
Every cycle, I do a gentle calculation: the zodiac sign of a ghost baby. Predict what it feels like to be really pregnant during a season or holiday. A whole life flashed before my eyes. And every month it is there: blood and anxiety. Seasoned women to blame. And I immediately imagined emptiness as my problem. I’m empty because I’m too fat, too irresponsible, too impossible.
I’m so aware of my body that it feels like I’m outside of it — seeing it as a theater, reaching the top floor when the velvet curtain pulls up. When I was riding a horse and felt off balance (pregnant). When I was bloated, soggy and tired (pregnant). When ovulating my inside ping (getting pregnant). I am my own humble reminder that I am capable of profound perception of life.
I’m so aware of my body that it feels like I’m outside of it — seeing it as a theater, reaching the top floor when the velvet curtain pulls up.
On online post forums, a lot of couples say that “We got pregnant a few months after giving up on having children.” Like somehow, magically, the idea of not wanting to have children gets you there; Lack of knowledge about family planning will hit you in the head with a magic wand. Bippity, boppity, BABY!
See and want light
When my friends get pregnant, I feel happy and embarrassed How can I survive this? When they show up at happy hours, looking like a soft light, I order a cocktail; imagine I’m destroying my body from the inside out. I looked at the angelic mother holding her pregnant belly. I felt so far away from her privacy, what was going on inside her womb, swirling in sensual closeness. I’m so far away from myself in these moments, wondering what it would be like to hold something like that.
Trying but not trying is also an intermediate space; an easy thing to overlook. In between is not a “big announcement.” It’s not “disclosure.” It is not anything new or old. Average time is just there. No answer. Find out everything and wait. What do we do in this space? How do we overcome it? Can we feel at peace?
Trying but not trying is also an intermediate space; an easy thing to overlook. . . . What do we do in this space? How do we overcome it? Can we feel at peace?
The rates change themselves
Peace can mean many things; displayed in different situations. I don’t know what to do in this midland land. In my imaginary version, I would go on with my life. I am so lucky and healthy. Itineraries need not be stamped or identified.
“Everything was broken and messed up and perfectly fine. That’s what life is like. Only proportions change,” Mason wrote. “Usually their own. Just when you think that, it will be like this forever, they change again”.
That’s what my life is for me, imagine having children. It’s broken, totally fine, a long weekend, old underwear, new underwear, happy anniversary, I love you, I’m tired, do you want to buy a pair of sunglasses on BOGO deal, stuff redundancy, wine, deadline, PTO. Mason writes about life: “Proportions change themselves.” And they do. We cannot expect time to move in a straight or linear manner with other life.
My life, creating a life, cannot be compared with any other life. Which for now, is a good enough rate for me.
Brittany Chaffee is a passionate storyteller, professional author, and author. Every day, she gets paid to strategize and create content for brands. Outside of business hours, it’s all about a well-lit place, warm bread, and good company. She lives in St.Paul with her cat brother, Rami and Monkey. Follow her on Instagram, read more about her latest book, Borderline, and (most importantly) give your mom a hug.