Growing up, I always wanted to be a mom. I also wanted to be a doctor. A lawyer. A senator. Or a veterinarian or geologist. I had big dreams for both my personal and professional life and when I shared them with my parents, they made sure to remind me of the importance of doing things in order.
First I would graduate high school, then college. I would start to build my career and meet my partner and after dating for a few years we would get married, buy a house and start saving for retirement. Finally professionally and financially secure, we would be ready to welcome a baby into our lives.
As I listened to my parents talk about the importance of building a career and finding stability before bringing kids into the mix, it made sense. But it also made me wonder how long I’d have to wait for the baby I already felt a longing for as a teenager.
I graduated from college a year early to accommodate a wedding a few months before my boyfriend and I turned 22. Soon after we walked down the aisle, we moved across the county so that I could pursue my graduate degree.
As we explored our new city and got to know one another in a new way, we talked at length about when we’d have kids. Though we both longed for a baby and felt anxious to become parents, we resigned ourselves to waiting at least five years—enough time (we assumed) to check all the boxes that being “ready” implied.
Every time we passed a cute baby at the park or saw a pregnant woman walking down the street I sighed and my husband squeezed my hand in shared disappointment.
It was only a few months after I began my five year countdown that I missed my period.
It took me a week to work up the courage to take a pregnancy test. All week I thought furiously about how plans and goals could be adjusted if a baby came into our lives before we were “ready.” (I also tried to hide my excitement at the potential of motherhood.)
When I took the test and the lines I hoped would appear did, I met them with a grin instead of the shudder I, not yet “ready,” was supposed to react with. I knew my husband and I should have been more careful, but was giddy that we hadn’t been. Our joy was palatable as we laughed at our luck.
While an unplanned pregnancy can also come with some feelings of worry and concern, I felt an enormous sense of peace and purpose with my impending motherhood.
I was also pleased that the decision of when to procreate had been taken out of my hands—how lucky we were to get the joy of a baby without the prying questions of why we’d chosen to have one so young. Because we hadn’t—it had been a wonderful accident!
In the days after, we began to plan. We decided that as soon as I finished graduate school, we would move closer to family—to a city that had a lower cost of living and offered a plethora of jobs. I’d only be 20 weeks along, so we thought it should be doable.
Within a few weeks of making the decision to move, my husband had secured a teaching job in our soon-to-be-city and I’d begun to research prospective employers for myself. Making big decisions for our baby felt important and though it was still blackberry-sized, it felt as if we were already becoming parents.
Less than a month later, as I decorated ultrasound pictures to send to friends as pregnancy announcements, I began to bleed. The next few days were a limbo of good ultra sounds, okay ultrasounds and then very bad ultrasounds.
Over Mardi Gras weekend, as the parades rolled by a few blocks away from where we were, my husband and I cried at the hospital before and after my D&C. Our baby was just shy of 10 weeks gestation when its body stopped working and emptiness replaced our unplanned bliss.
While we allowed ourselves a few days of quiet numbness, it wasn’t long before my husband and I began to talk about what we’d lost. Despite the fact that we had little more to show for my pregnancy than a couple of ultrasound photos and the lone pair of maternity leggings I’d purchased, we felt as if we were parents in limbo.
I was the first to raise the topic of trying again, mere days after our first baby was removed from my body, and was relieved to hear that my husband shared my visceral need to create new life. Though we knew it was what we wanted—fears about how we would be perceived and about how we would parent crept into our discussion.
The first time around, we’d had had a happy accident. But if we chose to create life intentionally—we would have to own the decision and all its repercussions. One one hand, if we were to wait and reverted back to our original five-year-plan, our baby might have parents who were richer, more established in their careers and ready to offer them beautiful smocked outfits, stability and a high end stroller from the get-go.
On the other hand, if we chose to jump into parenthood now, we would conceive knowing that our career trajectory and eventual incomes, as well as the opportunities we would be able to offer our baby, may be limited.
In the end, the decision of whether to try again was easy to make. So easy in fact that it didn’t even feel like a decision. Eleven months and one week after my miscarriage,—I delivered a healthy, chunky baby boy.
My son is almost four now and since his birth, we’ve accomplished all the things we hoped we would in our early twenties. My husband and I have thriving careers, we own our home and our boy brings us the kind of deep joy that only a parent can know.
We also brought another baby into the world last winter and while our choice to jump into parenthood in our early 20’s sometimes surprises people—we’ve found our age to be largely a non-issue.
Pursuing careers and learning how to adult with a baby (or two) in tow has certainly come with challenges and has required a great deal of teamwork and communication between my husband and I. It has also sweetened every success and has pushed us to work smarter, have clearly defined goals and how to use our time efficiently.
My husband and I are fantastic, dedicated, involved parents. We’re also learning as we go, just as I assume all parents are. And I don’t think any degree of “readiness” can change that.