First and foremost, I’d like to apologize for the ridiculous length of this post. I would not be able to say what I need to say and have it read any shorter. So on that note, thank you if you take the time to read it through. It hasn’t been easy for me to figure out how to talk about this, and I know that some who read it might not understand or agree. But what no one can deny are my own very personal, valid feelings. This has been my reality the last few months and for a while life was grim. I know there are other women out there like me, because when I first found out I was pregnant I googled it (pregnant and don’t want kids). I admit it didn’t make me feel any better. If anything it induced a sense of panic and made me feel a million times worse.
I found out I was pregnant in mid-February, a few days after Valentine’s Day. It was unplanned and very unexpected. For personal (mostly medical) reasons, my husband and I believed it was unlikely we’d ever conceive. And I was fine with that, more than fine in fact, because I never wanted kids. I was 19 when I first met my husband, and told him casually over coffee one day that I had no interest in children. At the time we weren’t technically dating, and I was also very young, so I doubt he thought much of it. (For the record, he was incredibly vocal that he did want them.) Fast forward 11 years, we are happily married and I still don’t want kids. So that day in February when one pregnancy test after another read positive, my first response was shock. I lived that first day in a fog, texting my husband at work to let him know. He was overjoyed, but I had barely processed the news. The next day, reality settled in, and I cried a lot – like a lot. My husband didn’t get it at all…he thought, wait a minute, aren’t you supposed to be happy right now? In all those years of telling him that I thought pregnancy was disgusting and that raising a child was my worst nightmare, I don’t think he ever really believed me, because he had always felt so differently. Thus began my hysteric downward spiral into despair. I was appalled at the idea of my pregnancy, and my beloved husband felt completely the opposite. Trust me, this is not an easy space to occupy.
First of all, for those of you who don’t know, the first trimester of pregnancy is really hard. Your body is going through monumental changes and most women struggle along. It’s hard enough for those who want their babies, but for me, I suffered through everyday and saw absolutely no point. Though I wasn’t hit with dreaded morning sickness, I was struck with a debilitating sense of fatigue. I could barely drag myself out of bed in the mornings, and once I nibbled on a small breakfast, I would rest on the couch most of the day. This Huffpost author describes first trimester fatigue perfectly: “The exhaustion isn’t simply feeling tired. No, it is all-consuming. It is the kind of exhaustion you might expect if you were on the verge of getting the flu, were hung over and hadn’t slept in five days, all at once. It is debilitating.” Couple that with rapidly changing hormones and an already fragile emotional state. I was a fucking mess. I spent most days alone, with my husband off to work before I even woke up. I would curl up on the couch and sulk. I didn’t even have the energy to work. My mind was numb. I was legitimately depressed. And to make matters worse, the one person I spend my life with day in and day out, the one person I’ve confided in for the last decade, was on a different plane. He’d come home to find me crying and he’d get frustrated. He couldn’t understand why I was so upset. He couldn’t understand that I truly never wanted this. I didn’t know what do. I was pretty sure that if I trusted my instinct I might loose my marriage, and that was a heavy thing to contemplate. For those of you who know anything about my relationship with my husband, it has been very hard fought and well solidified. So this possibility was earth shattering. At the same time, so was the alternative. I wavered between two choices, both of which decimated me to the point where I would freeze up inside and shake and cry and panic. To be clear, I’m pro-choice, and I believe there are situations and circumstances that warrant such a choice. However, it’s not at all a frivolous decision, and certainly not one I ever imagined myself making. In my circumstance especially (fairly stable and happily married with a husband who desperately wanted a child) how could I possibly destroy that life? And yet, as the mother carrying this child, I wanted nothing to do with it, and woke up every morning wishing I could flash back in time to my un-pregnant state. I detested the idea of going through with an abortion, and pathetically (fruitlessly) wished I’d never gotten pregnant in the first place.
I don’t want to go into all the details of why I’ve never wanted kids, because the list is very long, and this post is already long enough. Suffice it to say that I’ve felt that way for as long as I can remember, and at the age of 30 nothing had changed. I did not feel my clock ticking. I was very comfortable with my husband, our dog, and our little life. Not to mention a demanding, self-propelled career. In truth, I’m a quintessential (borderline OCD) Virgo. I like things a certain way, as in my way. I’m very organized and methodical, I have limited patience, and I value my freedom and personal space. Although some may think this sounds selfish, I would wholeheartedly disagree. I know myself very well – what I like, what I don’t like, what’s important to me, and I know my limitations. As an individual I have every right to live my (law abiding) life in a way that maximizes my functionality and contentment. Hence, this decision has been tremendously challenging, in a way that you absolutely wouldn’t understand if the idea of having kids seems normal and natural to you. It never has for me. Having children defies my inclinations and tendencies, not to mention many of my fundamental beliefs. So yes, for me this was earth shattering, and devastating. It was very, very hard to swallow, and very hard to overcome the instinct to run. I believe I ultimately knew that my inaction would lead to a decision by default. For those of you who wonder why I’m going through with it, I have two answers…
1. I am completely, madly in love with and dedicated to my husband. We’ve known each other over ten years, but I knew within months of meeting him that I could love him the rest of my life. In all this time that hasn’t changed, and it never will. The thought of aborting his child and walking away from our life together was heartbreaking, hence I felt incredibly trapped. That expression, “caught between a rock and a hard place”- it didn’t leave my mind for months. I had never been so immobilized in my life.
2. A long time ago (in fact the year before I met my husband) I got a large tattoo on my back, which between a pair of wings reads, “God give me strength”. Many years later, after struggling through a lot of bs, I realized that God grants us strength by teaching us to be strong. You’re not simply born that way. You learn strength by overcoming difficulties, and most importantly, challenging yourself. On the one hand it’s very comfortable to say I’m going to live my life exactly how I want, and avoid making sacrifices whenever possible. On the other, you can buck the path of least resistance and task yourself with tackling the unforeseen. I’ve tried this before and without a doubt learned from it. Perhaps this is my way of justifying the current outcome. And I do very much hope I’m right. I hope that I will learn from this and grow in a way I never previously imagined. I hope as my husband and my family assure me, that when the baby comes I’ll be happy.
That being said, there is a third reason that’s creeping up on me more slowly. It was only very recent, when I felt her kick for the first time, that it started to sink in. There’s a life growing inside me, for which it will be my job to nurture and protect. Initially, everything about the last thought would’ve disgusted me. To be blatantly honest, when I heard her heartbeat for the first time I felt nothing. When I saw her via ultrasound for the first time, I thought wow that’s weird looking. When I learned her gender, I thought okay fine, because I had no preference or preconceived notion. But soon after, I started thinking about a little girl that would be mine to name and dress up and impress upon, and I felt a tiny bit excited. Still terrified mind you, but definitely not as sad. And then when I felt her kick a few weeks ago, that was really an aha moment for me. Something about that little thump from inside suddenly made it much more real. I’m now 20 weeks along – exactly halfway through this unexpected journey, and I feel a hell of a lot better than I did at 10 weeks. Still not ecstatic, still with reservations, but also with a bit of optimism and a desire to protect this life growing inside me. Maybe pregnancy does that to you? Maybe the hormones have rewired my brain. I really don’t know, but I do know that although I never wanted kids, I do have a heart and a tremendous capacity for love. This was definitely not what I envisioned. It isn’t my ideal child-free adulthood. But now I can say I’m doing something I never thought I’d do. And without a doubt, I’m only having one.