I’ve just come from a lovely and fairly adorable dinner that was planned, prepped, cooked and served by my 11-year-old and her 9-year-old neighbor friend: a Mother’s Day treat for our two families. And so I’ve had to abandon my plans to write about Barbie this evening (yes, that Barbie) in favor of a meditation on motherhood, one about that pivotal moment that turned our double-income-no-kid life into this one.
Don’t worry, this isn’t a childbirth story.
From the near beginning of our relationship, I knew three essential things about my husband: he was never getting married again, he was never moving back east, and he was never having kids. I knew these things because he told me during a camping trip in Utah’s Escalante region. It was a “buyer beware” strategy of sorts, a warning that if I couldn’t live with those boundaries, we might as well start walking different paths. I understood. He was recently divorced, still stinging from a betrayal. I was 25 at the time, heady from having moved out west and living on my own like a genuine grown up. All I really knew at that point was that I was inclined to keep being his girlfriend and the rest would take care of itself.
We moved in together a couple months later, migrated to Vermont a few years after that and got married in 2002. But in all that time and subsequent years, the third declaration—the one about not having kids—remained a given.
It was during the drive back after a week-long kayaking trip in West Virginia when that biological watch—not quite a clock—caught my mental attention. Roughly an hour away from our return home, I asked my husband “What if?”
These were not easy conversations that followed. I didn’t know if I truly wanted a child or if my ovaries had staged a temporary coup over my brain. My husband’s feelings were less ambiguous; they had not changed. Still, he said, he understood how strong the emotional imperative was for many women to become mothers, and it seemed unreasonable to withhold that if it’s what I wanted. And so we decided to leave the decision to biology—neither pursuing parenthood, nor preventing it.
Fast forward to my annual physical with my doctor. I told her about our non-plan of a plan. Is there a chance that I was pregnant, she’d asked. “No,” I said. “Or rather, I doubt it.” She suggested we do a test just to be sure. Returning a few minutes later, she said, “Good news.” I said, “I’m not pregnant.” And she said “The other good news.”
It was the mental equivalent of being struck by lightning. An electrifying jolt of instant terror and awe. What had we done?
This was the Friday before July 4, 2006. My sister and her husband were arriving that afternoon for a long weekend visit. I wouldn’t have the opportunity to tell my husband in private for another three days. And so this new life and I were a secret pact. We were at the very beginning of this most profound journey.
The photo accompanying this story is a time capsule of that weekend. My sister, her husband, my husband and me spending the day in Montreal, only one of us aware of a stowaway embryo that would become the beautiful being that, tonight, was all embarrassed giggles, hiding her face from me after singing a song she had written on the occasion of Mother’s Day.