For a few weeks, I thought I might be pregnant.
I already have four children, ranging in age from 12 all the way down to two. I change diapers in the middle school parking lot and listen to trumpet practice while supervising bath time.
Actually, everything but the checking account is pretty full around here. Schedules are jam-packed, closets are filled to the brim, the minivan sits a little lower than it should and long-legged preteens argue daily over that coveted front seat. In just a few years, we will be making college visits and awaiting ACT scores. We have had four babies and who could ask for more?
When I found out that I am for sure not pregnant, I should have been relieved. Certainly, the first feelings that flooded when I glanced at the calendar and realized something wasn’t exactly as it should have been were fear and anxiety. I immediately started crunching numbers in my head, trying to find some way to squeeze another medical bill and another unpaid maternity leave out of our tight ship monthly budget. I spent a week or so flip-flopping between disbelief and dread.
And then around the two-week mark, just like I have a half a dozen or so times before, I started imagining tiny pink fingernails. That’s always where it starts.
Then I started thinking about the white onesies I finally put away a few months ago, the warm weight of a fresh baby on my chest, and the holy hush that follows the final moments of labor.
It didn’t take long for my dread and panic to fade into a familiar longing. And then when all of a sudden it was clear that I am not pregnant, I cried for a day.
I wasn’t planning to have another baby. I don’t know if my body can even get in line and do the job as it has before. I am 35, I’m stressed, I’m tired, I’m busy, I’m needed for a heck of a lot by a half dozen or so people already.
Labor is no joke. Postpartum is scary. Feeding babies is a big task, no matter how you serve the meal.
I don’t even know if I want to do all that again.
A lot of my friends are taking control of the tail end of their fertility and scheduling little procedures and avoiding the “Am I?” and “Do I want?” questions altogether. So after this strange three weeks of wondering what the HECK is going on with my body and WHAT IF I’m pregnant again, of course, I consider the same appointment.
But I don’t make the call.
I will never not want another baby.
I will never get over the sacred nature of ushering life. But I don’t know if I’ll get the chance again.
And I know how lucky I am to have been able to hold living, breathing life in my shaky hands four times over. I know it might even sound selfish to say I want more.
I am tempted to slam the door closed because living in the tension of maybe but probably better not is really painful. It would be easier to adjust to the hard no than have to make the decision every month that no, I can’t do this right now. And at 35, I think I have to face the fact that every time I say not this month, I could be walking toward never again. Wouldn’t it be safer to just remove all question and end this now?
But I don’t think I can do that, at least not yet. There is a chance I will have some fertility left when all the stars align. So I hold on to maybe, hold a little funeral every month, and live with the ache of maybe someday.
And now, here, in the midst of all the unknowns and the potential for heartbreak, I am holding space today for all the women in my life who know what it is to ache for what isn’t and what might never be.
Women are a lot of things. We are the bringers and sustainers of life; we till and plant and water and tend and none of it is without its cost and none of it guarantees a harvest in this life. I can hardly think of a woman in my circle who hasn’t had her plans upended and her hopes deferred at least a time or two, and some of them have lost more than I can speak of.
I am reminded today that in some ways, to be in this world is to know suffering. No amount of money, intelligence or influence can protect any one of us from the passing of time. I know that I can set up fences to give myself the illusion of a tightly controlled future, but I think I have to ride the waves of what might still one day be.
I’d rather live with the ache of not today than close off my heart to the possibility of maybe someday. I want all of us to be able to live brave, even if it hurts sometimes.
It just might be our only path to no regret.
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