Warning, boys. This one’s for the ladies. Unless you’re the supportive husband of an NFP-using wife and talk of lady business doesn’t make you uncomfortable.
Yesterday, I grimly marched out to my parent’s garage, ripped open a white box marked “toiletries,” yanked out a black bag, unzipped it, and pulled out the pink stick of doom laying right on top.
Now before you go accusing me of not being open to life, let me assure you that I am. I love my children fiercely. One of the reasons I’m so anxious for the Ogre to finish his dissertation and get a steady job is so we can have another baby. But we are beyond poor. Full disclosure? We are Medicaid-and-food-stamp poor. One of our hopes for this jewelry business is that it will allow us to pull ourselves off state assistance. But at the moment, we are well below the poverty level, and having another child would be beyond imprudent. It would be foolish. This makes us both sad, but it is our reality for now.
NFP has never worked for me while breastfeeding, so the Ogre and I generally spend those long months completely abstaining unless I am positive that I am not fertile. It was during one of these “positive that I am not fertile” periods that Liam was conceived, though, so after his birth we’ve been even more careful than before. As in, I can count the number of times we’ve enjoyed the marital embrace in the last ten months on one hand.
One of those times was about three weeks ago. I haven’t started my period yet, and as I understand it, there is a very slim chance that a woman will ovulate before she starts her period, so we decided to risk it. Two weeks later, right about the time we began the road trip of doom, I began noticing a vague nausea accompanying me throughout the day. Food began to taste a little off. I would begin a meal ravenously hungry, and then end it both nauseous and unsatisfied.
I chalked it up to the stress of moving, the strain of bronchitis, the excessive medications I was on to treat my asthma, and anything else I could think of. I tried my hardest not to think about that pregnancy test I had packed in my box of toiletries, the one I was fervently hoping to use in a year or two when the timing was right. See, my record with pregnancy tests is not great. I’ve taken four in my entire life, and three have been positive. Usually when I think I’m pregnant, I am. I know my body well enough to know what it’s telling me.
Then, the night before last, I was finishing up a pair of earrings when I was seized with a sudden, intense pain in my lower abdomen. It felt like a contraction. Over the next two hours there was a steady ebb and flow of these pains. They were painful enough that I was having to sit completely still and breath hard through them. The Ogre was really worried, as was I. He suggested that perhaps I was having a miscarriage. Not knowing what a miscarriage feels like, I began visiting the bathroom regularly to check for signs of blood, but there was nothing. I was certain that there would be blood if I was having a miscarriage.
Finally I went to bed. I slept poorly, but felt much better in the morning. I wondered if it hadn’t been some sort of strange stomach bug, but I also thought that at this point it was time to take the pregnancy test.
So I did. I went through the familiar routine of peeing on the stick, placing it flat on some toilet paper, and walking out of the bathroom to occupy myself with mindless tasks while mentally counting the seconds as they passed.
Three minutes later, with my throat beginning to constrict a bit, I walked back to the bathroom and looked at the results window. One pale pink line. Not pregnant. No baby.
I walked out and gave the Ogre a big high five. He smiled a little, and then we went about our business. We didn’t really talk about it, but there was a silence that fell over the rest of the morning.
We’ve only had one other negative pregnancy test. That time, I really was elated. Sienna was just a year old, and I was not ready to be a mother again. This time, my emotions were more confused.
I’m relieved that I’m not pregnant, because we can’t afford it. I’m relieved because our families have both told us in no uncertain terms that we need to get on our feet financially before we have more children. I’m relieved because Liam’s impending arrival was not greeted with joy or enthusiasm, but with consternation and concern. And even though I understood the concern over our financial situation, it broke my heart.
It broke my heart because this was my son. My child. A new life, a new being. A new gift of God to us, and to the world. And very few people saw him that way.
I keep hearing the phrase, “you have so many burdens already.” I hate that phrase. It’s true that my life is not easy. It’s hard. I don’t have time to sunbathe or go to movies. I don’t have money to shop for clothes or get manicures or even get my hair cut. And sometimes I wish I had those things.
What I do have is peanut butter in my hair, piles of laundry to do, a million diapers to change, and three children to feed, bathe, teach and love. I have a husband who makes me crazy and who I sometimes scream at but who I always love more than anything else in the world. But these four people are not burdens. They are everything. They are my life, my light, my joy. And when I saw that single line, a part of me was very sad that I wasn’t going to have another beautiful, precious life to add to our family.
I know it isn’t practical. I know it isn’t sensible or prudent. And I know, for now, that we will continue to wait to add to our family. But if the day comes when I take another pregnancy test and I see two pink lines instead of one, I will be overjoyed. Whatever our circumstances, whatever the reactions I get from family and friends, I will welcome that new and wonderful life into the world with all the joy that should accompany the creation of a new human being. Because a child is never a burden. A child is never something to be suffered, a child is never a trial to be endured. A child is a brand-new, miraculous soul, and being a parent is the greatest honor and responsibility that God can give.