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Lately my world revolves around the relentless military schedule of a fiesty six-week-old. Finding time to write is a challenge (duh), but this phase is so fleeting I wouldn’t have it any other way. Taking care of a newborn has been exactly as hard as I expected it would be, only much harder, but also, paradoxically, not as bad as you might think. For the number of things in my life that would appear to have gotten worse overnight (quality of sleep, free time, etc.), I wouldn’t expect to be floating around the apartment grinning like a fool every day, but I do. Because I have a daughter now. We are a family. It’s amazing.

August is the month when everyone up here starts referring to “sweater weather” being right around the corner. This annoys me because 1) I dislike cold weather, “cold” here meaning anything that requires me to wear pants, and 2) because I loooove summer, and August is the height of summer! It’s the month of my birthday and family vacations and spiral notebooks on sale for less than a dollar! How dare they taint my beloved, sunscreen-scented August with talk of long sleeves.

I really don’t have much else to say for now, but the long break was getting awkward, so I figured I’d break the ice before things got too weird. So. How ya been?

Expecting Joy is a series about my journey to motherhood.
Part I / Part II / Part III / Part IV

It had been about ten months since the PCOS diagnosis. Ten months of tracking and charting, ten months of “not trying” yet knowing exactly which days were conducive to baby-making. Ten months of slowly realizing that letting nature take its course, for us, meant no babies.

My mind went again to the magic pill the doctor had offered. What would it mean to take medicine to conceive? I would feel like I cheated by not getting pregnant naturally. But I also knew that conceiving spontaneously, with my hormones, was more likely to end in miscarriage, even if it were possible. Maybe it was better to take the medicine and give the baby the healthiest start than to insist on a “natural” approach that could cause unnecessary heartache.

More than anything, it still felt impossible to pull the trigger on the decision to have kids. After all this time, I realized there was no more assurance to be had on the issue. It was a gamble. But what if I went out of my way to make this happen and then regretted it forever?

(Funny how I never considered the opposite. As in, what if this is the best thing to ever happen to me?)

And then something shoved me violently over one side of the fence.

As with most things in life, it wasn’t just one thing. There were a few little moments that prepared me for the big one.

There was a conversation with my dad, never the sentimental type, in which he compared having kids to the feeling of opening Christmas presents. “You know how when you’re a kid, you’re always a little bit disappointed in what you got? Even if you got your favorite toy — because somehow, in the back of your mind, you wanted all the toys? Well having kids is like getting the best gift you could ever imagine that you didn’t even know you wanted.”

There was a conversation with a sister in which I rattled off the usual reasons for not wanting kids — the late-night wakeups, etc. — and she replied, completely naturally, that it would make her so happy to wake up and hear a little baby crying for her. I had never actually considered that someone could relish the chance to take care of a baby.

There was a dream I had that I don’t remember most of now: just the impression of a chunky infant on my hip and knowing I was the one in charge of feeding and changing and raising it, and feeling so utterly content — a huge, warm, glowing, grateful contentment — with this fate. A feeling I’d never had in real life.

And then came the hard shove.

A girl I knew announced one day, completely out of the blue, that she was pregnant. It was a spur-of-the-moment decision. They had gotten it on the first try.

My reaction completely shocked me. As soon as I heard the news, I started sobbing. I felt absolutely, irrationally infuriated with her. For being so happy, for having things come so easily, for deciding to get pregnant on a whim and completing the entire first trimester in in the time it took my messed-up hormones to stumble through one cycle. Mostly I just felt very, very sad. It took me all day to process the news.

In that moment, I realized a couple things. Most importantly, I realized that I did want kids. Maybe not in the obvious, googly-eyed way other people did, but in my own hesitant, subconscious way. I also realized that what had been holding me back this whole time was my own fear — fear that having a baby would threaten our simple, happy life together.

And there it was: I assumed everything in our world was fragile. Easy to break, easy to lose, easy to tip over and sink into unhappiness.

Before I married Tom, I thought relationships were volatile things. My goal growing up as a little girl had always been to not get divorced. Not to have a happy marriage, but specifically to not get divorced. I grew up thinking the forces that split parents up and made them fight over custody were always nipping at your heels and that avoiding them was a constant battle.

It took me a really long time to realize that love could be gentle, that some people really are soft-hearted enough to forgive you at your worst, and that a fight didn’t have to mean the end of everything. Being with my husband taught me that you didn’t have to expect the worst from marriage. You could expect things like encouraging notes left by the coffee machine and a love that grows deeper over time. You could expect things like peace and acceptance and goofy dance parties in the living room. You could expect joy.

All this time, I’d been assuming the worst of a life with kids, never imagining that it could be good. But my doubts had been proven wrong before. Why should this be any different?

The realization crashed over me like a wave, cleansing and painful and healing all at once.

Maybe becoming a parent would bring out the best in me. Maybe it would strengthen our relationship, not threaten it. Maybe it was one of those situations in life when you just have to step forward in faith — real faith, the faith of genuinely having no idea what’s next and trusting God anyway.

Maybe it was time to finally admit that this was what I wanted and ditch the timid pessimism I’d been dragging around for so long.

So we talked about it, the same way we’d talked for years. Him, ever-steady, optimistic, accepting. Me, skeptical, terrified, but coming around. And we both agreed that maybe… maybe it was time.

It was a hot afternoon in early September when I made the call to the doctor. Three weeks later, I was pregnant. And the rest is history.

Expecting Joy is a series about my journey to motherhood.
Part I / Part II / Part III / Part IV

So we kept “not trying, not preventing.”

Despite my hormone issues, I was determined not to become uptight about things like one of those crazy ladies in the movies, shoving her husband into the bedroom on ovulation day like it was a business deal. We were happy together, just the two of us, and still ambivalent on the whole kids thing. We felt like we could go either way.

That’s why I didn’t want to call it trying. That seemed too official. We were just seeing how things went, after all. I wasn’t going to go out of my way to make things happen. If we happened to have an argument on the wrong day that month, well then, I guess no baby that month.

(Somehow I always made sure we never had arguments on the wrong days.)

Even at the time, I realized that this approach didn’t make a whole lot of sense. On the one hand, I was tracking my hormones “for health purposes” and just in case we wanted to have a baby, which I was still very hesitant about and certainly not going to go out of my way to make happen. On the other hand, I felt inexplicably sad every time it didn’t.

Deep down, I knew there was no such thing as seeing how things go with PCOS, especially in today’s modern age. Either you’re trying to have a kid or you’re not.

As the months wore on, this only became more apparent.

In fact, the diagnosis that had initially seemed like such a convenient way to relieve ourselves of the impossible “Should we? Shouldn’t we?” question and just let things go, in reality, only made it more of a formal, black-and-white decision.

See, in all my months of tracking my hormones, I had realized that my natural cycles were never going to make a baby. It didn’t matter how many supplements and green smoothies I added to my diet: My body ovulated too late for me to conceive naturally. It was science. To ignore it and pretend that anything could happen was the same as choosing not to have kids at all.

There was a pill that solved this exact problem, a medicine my doctor had offered me quite matter-of-factly the day I had my hormone levels tested. But I wasn’t ready to take that step yet, to officially enter the realm of Trying to Have Kids. Also, I didn’t want to take anything unnatural. I was kind of hoping I could somehow heal my hormones naturally, then just become pregnant by surprise and be ready to accept it joyfully when it happened.

This plan, as I said, didn’t make much sense. It also did not appear to be working.

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