The week of November 8th was a big one for America. And an (unexpectedly) big one for Mike and me.
I woke up that Saturday morning and thought, “I wonder if I should take a pregnancy test.” Was I trying to get pregnant? Sort of. We were in the “not preventing” stage, which my husband will tell you is trying. To me, it was the slightest loosening of my tight grasp of control, and being “open to the possibility.” The thing with pregnancy though, is that it’s binary: you either are or you aren’t. There’s nothing wishy-washy about that positive test.
I didn’t cry. I didn’t scream or cheer or crumple on my bathroom floor. I didn’t feel a strong rush of any emotion. I looked at the test (stick I peed on) and thought, “huh.” It’s probably the most boring pregnancy reaction you’ve ever heard. But to me, the sense of calm and lack of panic was monumental. I didn’t judge myself for how I felt in that quiet bathroom moment, or how nonchalantly I delivered the news to Mike. Anticipation for what might happen has always been harder for me to process than reality. A positive test gave me a concrete data point, something real to process, and the “what if’s” that had been swirling for years faded. Who knew pregnancy would be the salve to assuage my pregnancy fears?
I won’t be writing advice posts to hesitant would-be mothers, though, or telling friends that face similar fears and uncertainty they need to “just do it, already.” This has been one of the most personal decisions I’ve ever made, and someone else with a similar makeup and circumstances might come to the decision not to have children. I don’t believe there’s a right answer, or that motherhood is for everyone.
My tendency to overthink and drive myself to despair means that often, some decision is less tortuous than contemplation, especially when that contemplation is circular and there is no obvious right answer. My logic held for years that because parenthood is such a permanent decision, with wide ranging implications not only for my life but for my marriage, the child itself, and my work – I should feel pretty sure about it before diving in. I’m thirteen weeks pregnant, and I still don’t feel sure. If anything, the reality of pregnancy only prompts more questions. But I know that ready or not, surefooted or stumbling, it’s happening, and that God will equip me, change me, and be with me in every phase.
I can’t tell you where that confidence comes from, or how to tap into the accompanying peace it brings. “God will equip you and be with you,” sounds a lot like platitudes Christians say when they’re trying to say the right thing, the kind of thing that’s really frustrating to hear when you already know the right answers but no amount of repetition persuades you to actually believe them, to put your weight on them as if your life depended on it. This level of trust doesn’t come naturally, and I don’t think it’s something we can drum up by trying hard. (At least, I’ve never been able to, and I’ve tried really hard.) It’s by grace alone that we are even capable of faith, and it’s a miracle.
The peace I have is so uncharacteristic for me, it’s as miraculous as that tiny heart fluttering in black and white. (I didn’t cry or feel elated when I saw that, either. What can I say? I was really distracted about the jelly the ultrasound tech got on my shirt, and how badly I had to pee, in the moment.) But I did feel amazed that while I was sleeping and sitting in meetings and watching Gilmore Girls: Year in the Life and eating too much pie, my body was forming this tiny heart, with no conscious participation on my part. That is amazing, if not tear-inducing.
While I vacillated for all those years, Mike remained steady in his desire to have a family, which did help. I wish I could tell you I trusted my husband absolutely and decided his vision for our family alone convinced me to plunge into the depths with him, hand in hand. But I didn’t. I knew (and he agreed) that because of the nature of newborns, our career paths, (or I should say, his career path and my lack of a concrete one), that the primary caregiving responsibility would fall to me. Both of our lives would be changed forever (“hopefully for the better?” I always added, with a question mark), but my day-to-day and prospects for the future would be dramatically transformed, while his wouldn’t. There’s an ache in my heart even as I write this. While the concrete reality of a baby coming in July is easier for me to process than the “what if’s,” there’s a sadness that accompanies the limitations and sacrifices to also come in July, and beyond. This baby is a gift that will change us forever, for which I’m grateful and grieved, both.
“Decision” seems an audacious word to use in the context of getting pregnant. Creating life happens to be a miracle, one mere humans can’t will or force. Had I been unflinchingly sure in my convictions that I wanted to have a baby, I couldn’t have made it so. In reality, I didn’t decide to have a child so much as decide to give up my search for the right answer. I decided to stop trying to plan an ultimately miraculous event around what I could see. I decided to trade my cloudy view of the future for day-by-day faithfulness. I decided to trust God’s sovereignty more than my limited, frail vision and desires. These “decisions” are easy to put on paper but difficult to work out emotionally, and God worked in my heart for years to give me the capacity to make them.
I could fill volumes with all of the conversations, still moments, prayers, and experiences that changed my heart. But they all culminated in applying a simple scripture in a basic way: God gives good gifts, and if He gives us a baby, I can trust Him that it’s a good gift. Two years ago I would have scoffed at this oversimplification, but today it’s the bottom line, the simple truth that gave me peace in the unknown.
The beautiful thing? I was hoping for clarity about if and when to have children. I was hoping my heart would change to either desire them, or for us to come to peace with not having them. But while I was looking for those answers, my heart changed in a different way. God taught me to trust Him more, to relinquish some control, to trade the dreams rooted in proving my identity for the identity He’s already given me. If that’s not preparation for parenthood, I don’t know what is.