I was going through the motions of life the past few weeks, tending to the things that needed tending to. My in-laws were visiting from overseas so our routine was particularly chaotic. At some point, it dawned on me that I hadn’t gotten my period. Was I late? No, wait, I don’t think I should have gotten it yet. Ever since my husband’s vasectomy (which I was present for because I’m nosey like that) and my subsequent pill departure, I hadn’t been very good at keeping track. In fact, at least one night a month for the past two years, I have awakened in the middle of the night because I get my period in our bed. What am I, 12 years old? I’ll pause a moment for you to dry heave and feel superior (as you should).
A few days later I start to become concerned. I’m definitely late. I think I had cramps about a week ago but those had come and gone. Instead of just driving to Target and getting a pregnancy test, I decide its makes more sense to Google “pregnancy after vasectomy.” Holy shit. Did you know in some cases years after a vasectomy, a man’s tubes can actually grow back together and he can become fertile again? I suddenly remembered my mom telling me about the chickens that used to run around her grandmother’s farm even after their heads had been cut off. But my husband’s head was cut off two years ago (figuratively speaking of course). This cannot be happening.
Turns out, it wasn’t.
I actually got my period on the way to Target to buy a test. Seriously. In the car.
Fast forward one week. I was traveling for work and saw an adorable new mom, baby fastened firmly to her belly with a sling, rocking back and forth, kissing his head. I managed to make it on the plane before collapsing in tears. Get a grip, I told myself. You didn’t even want another child. Besides, you already have three perfectly healthy, lovely children. How selfish can one person be? Think about all of the women who want just one child and can’t.
But the idea of another child had crept back into my life. Though fleeting, the door I’d most certainly closed had opened just a sliver.
The thing is, the second a woman gets married, she’s asked almost immediately, “So, are you planning on having kids?” And when you’ve been married a while, it becomes, “So, when exactly are you going to start a family?” Then you have a child. No sooner than when you are done pushing your bundle of joy out into the world, do you hear “When are you going to give that kid a sibling?” And so on.
The question of what, when and how many children a person desires seems like fair game for casual conversation. Women are, in turn, judged harshly on their answer. Admit you don’t want kids and you are selfish. Have the acceptable number of kids, two or three, and a unicorn jumps over a rainbow. Have too many kids (somewhere between four and 20), brows furrow everywhere. I actually heard a person say to a friend with five kids, “Why on earth did you have so many kids?” That was a helpful comment. I’m sure she went straight home to ponder which of the five she should put back.
Eventually there comes a day, driven by choice or circumstance, when there will be no more babies. Even though we are done expecting, perhaps we never get over the expectation of what a new child brings. All of the hope, anxiety, love and anticipation a new life brings—I think that’s what my tears were for. It took me two years and a pregnancy scare to finally mourn the end of an era. I am so lucky it was a choice I was able to make, and I would make the same decision again. But the idea of another child, as fleeting as it was, made me more thankful for what I’ve been given. And maybe with three kids, two working parents, and a million everyday distractions, that’s exactly what I needed.
That and a calendar to track my periods because, really, how disgusting can one person be?