Family Planning

Family Planning Very highbrow
Mary Cassatt The Boating Party  1893/1894 Oil on Canvas

On May 12, 2015, I wrote this blog about why I wasn’t ready to have kids. The reasons were pretty sound: I was unemployed, unpublished, and – oh right – unmarried.

Four years later, two of those reasons are still intact. I’m married now, but I’ve learned long ago from various parties that the act of getting married is less an achievement than the art of staying married. But sure, call it an achievement. I’ll take it.

Anyway, I’m once again unemployed and still unpublished. Both of these, to a degree, by choice and hopefully only for the time being.

I’m also 21 weeks pregnant. So ready or not, in another 19 weeks or so, we’ll say hello to a baby boy, as yet unnamed.*

For the first few doctor appointments, I was always asked, “Was this pregnancy planned?” And I would hesitate for a half second before saying, “Yes.” Sort of lowering my voice with a pointed stare at the “-es” part because that’s what I do when I’m not sure what the “right” answer is.

We “planned” it in the sense that we were like, “It’s probably ok to get pregnant now.”

On the day I took the test, Tom received a call for a job we both wanted him to get. I could hear him laugh and say, “Oh great,” as the second line appeared. Oh wow.

When he hung up I came out of the bathroom and told him.

“Oh wow,” he said.

We’d been in Sydney for exactly one month. A few days earlier, our application for an apartment we liked was accepted and we would sign the lease a few days later. We had a job, a house, and a baby on the way. Everything seemed to be going even more smoothly than we’d planned.

Just two weeks later, I miscarried. Or, I assumed I miscarried, a dangerous and stupid assumption. Instead of head to the doctor like normal people, we went to Paris. What was the point of sitting around the house sulking when I could now enjoy wine, cheese and rare steak with friends? So for two weeks, I did, sort of. I wrote off the lingering fatigue and nausea as residual pregnancy hormones. We had read all about miscarriage aftereffects on the Internet, so we clearly knew what was going on.

Except of course, we didn’t. We made our way from Paris to Biarritz via train, and then to La Rioja, where we rented a car for the express enjoyment of driving through Spanish wine country. But the nausea and fatigue worsened and rather than enjoy the rolling hills and excellent food, I spent much of our time in La Rioja trying to stay awake and not barf after each delectable meal.

By the time we arrived in Bilbao for a friend’s wedding – the raison d’être for our trip – I was seriously worried. Rather than assume that I was quite possibly still pregnant, I began to suspect that the miscarriage hadn’t been complete and there was some residual…stuff festering in my uterus.

Upon our return to Sydney, my suspicions were confirmed: there was definitely still “stuff” in my uterus.

“I’m sorry to tell you,” the ultrasound technician said, not sure what I wanted to hear. “But you’re still pregnant.”

At 8-weeks, he was quite robust considering two-thirds of the blood surrounding him had been lost in what I learned was a threatened miscarriage.

“Maybe sitting down for 24 hours on the plane after was not such a bad idea,” the technician said. “But in any case, it looks like you have a little samurai.”

By week thirteen, the nausea and fatigue began to subside and whatever anxieties we had about the health of the baby and our various irresponsibilities** had abated as well.

The scans and blood tests showed that the baby was healthy; the lost blood had “reabsorbed” and he was now safely ensconced in a nice sanguine ring. We saw his bones on the ultrasound, the round glow of the skull and even the delicate curve of his wrist fanning out into rather knobby knuckles, which I likened to Tom’s. We heard his heart – an urgent watery sound – and then saw it beating like a ghostly jellyfish.

“Oh wow.”

We’d do ourselves and the baby a favor, the doctor advised, by just being healthy and happy and not worrying about anything else.

Sure, yeah, of course. Ok.

The initial anxiety and guilt I felt about throwing caution to the wind and flying across the world was just a precursor of the trillions of inevitable things to come. I always knew this, but now I know this: pregnancy and parenthood – on top of all the other things life hurls at you – seem to be herculean exercises in accepting things you can’t control.*** Sure the pregnancy was “planned” but so much that came after couldn’t be planned (a threatened miscarriage), or could have been planned better (like going to see the doctor instead of going to Paris. Ha.)

There’s obviously a lot more to worry about down the line, but for now I keep it short-sighted (at least for appearances’ sake): “What should I have for lunch? What should we have for dinner? Should I have a snack? Do I look like a little house yet?”

Far in the distance, our kid could be either the next Sherlock Holmes or Elizabeth Holmes. For now, I just hope he has more hair than Tom.

So no, I’m still not “ready” to have a kid, but he’s coming. For now, I’m going to enjoy my alone time, my sleep, and the freedom to walk around the house in pajamas until 5PM (right before Tom comes home) without feeling like I am not a good example of a productive human being. I have the rest of my life to mess my kid up in other ways and, I guess, teach him some stuff too. At the very least I hope he grows up to appreciate a fine Rioja.

*Tom has vetoed “Harrison” because “Harrison Ward” sounds too much like Harrison Ford.
**”I don’t understand,” my dad said, when we finally told my parents. “You just moved to Sydney. Why were you in Europe?”
***Your belly gets so round because you gotta just roll with it. Teehee. (Mom joke).
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