Aingeal and I “planned” on getting pregnant after our October wedding last year, and it happened. I’m due with our first baby in mid-August, and we’re both thrilled about it. But that’s really only the simplest part of the picture. For one, we resisted using the word “plan” when we talked about having kids. Second, several things changed with our lives during the course of November that made us decide that maybe we should wait. Again, the decision to wait never used the rhetoric of planning, but there was a very strong “not now, sadly”. Which meant that when I had a positive pregnancy test at the end of December, I was both excited and scared, and felt like I was staring down both an expected and an unexpected pregnancy ahead. It was a bit shocking, but not unlike curve balls that life (or Fortuna) likes to play.
Aingeal and I are both in our early 30s, and as of this summer we’ve been together for six years. There’s a lot of certainty in our bond, and we were both very clear on the fact that we wanted children. He had a good job, and I was moving along well in my graduate studies, bringing in a minimal supplemental income. We’d just about learned how to be healthy financial partners (something both of us struggle/d with), and we had built a home together. Even though we weren’t wildly established in our careers or settled or huge financial successes, we still felt ready.
So what changed? Aingeal lost his job.
Eight months out now, our initial reaction seems both practical and a bit silly. Aingeal’s job was the bulk of our income, plus it offered solid benefits. After the wedding, he added me to his benefit plan, which meant I would have health insurance 12 months out of the year and vision and dental. It would also mean that any kids would have the same. As Americans, with no socialized medicine*, this was a huge part of my plan. I’m not sure I realized it until we got the news, and I think Aingeal may have picked up on it. But there you have it.
One of our first thoughts, individually, was “What if Cres is pregnant?”
Well, the practical answer was, “If I’m already pregnant, then I’m already pregnant.” But we both, for some reason, thought I wasn’t yet. I took a pregnancy test in mid-December to be sure, and it was negative. So, we threw a Solstice party, at which I imbibed my fair share of libations, and we traveled to be with my family for the Christmas holiday, where I drank more. My mother asked me about our plans for kids, and I told her that I didn’t think we’d had luck in our one month without birth control, which I chalked up to busy-ness and exhaustion interfering with any private time, and that we were going to wait to try again until Aingeal had a job again. Then, my stomach started to hurt, which I thought surely was from poor holiday eating. Once we got home, I told myself, it would be better. But once we got home, it got worse. And a pregnancy test confirmed that I was, in fact, pregnant.
After we had both come to some sort of peace about waiting.
We both had to do a very quick turn around. I think Aingeal dealt with it a little better than me. He was pretty emotionally tied up in knots over the job loss, but his reaction to the news was anything but stressful. I woke him up to tell him, and he smiled sleepily at me. Through the entire eight months of my pregnancy, he’s shown nothing but determination to be ready for our new family member. He’s shown me not the slightest trace of doubt. That doesn’t mean he hasn’t experienced it, but he hasn’t shared it with me if he has.
And I admit, looking back, I’m a bit surprised at how long it took for any doubt to creep into my mind, and then it seemed to be just new parent anxiety. I had many, many moments of anger at Aingeal’s former employer. As we made plans for the baby’s birth, early on, there was this echo in the back of my head that kept saying “If only . . . things would be much easier.” There was a period in April, as we were coming into the summer, and I realized we’d be living on our very modest savings and Aingeal’s unemployment, that that voice was the loudest. I experienced a lot of anger at this faceless corporation that had ruined my plans to bring my first child into a safe, secure home. Then, I had an epiphany.
I knew very few parents who had given birth to their first child in the type of financial security I was imagining.
My parents didn’t have a real room for me when I was born. They were renting a tiny one bedroom house. The house they raised my sister and I in was actually about the size of the house that Aingeal and I are renting right now (smaller, actually, because we have a basement whereas they had a garage). My sister had her oldest when she was still living with my parents. When she was pregnant with her youngest, her husband was in a very serious, head-on car accident (thank the Lord and Lady he’s still with us) just two months before my niece was born. My seven-month pregnant sister had a husband who couldn’t walk, a four-year old, and a second story, two bedroom apartment in an old house. Our landlady’s grandmother raised five kids in the house we’re in now.**
I think it was talking to my sister, and her excitement at my news, who made me realize that babies are not impossibly expensive. Later, a friend from school said to me “When I think about how poor my parents were when they had us.” We do have a safe secure home for our first baby. We love each other very deeply, and we have both, in our own way, looked forward to the day this new person would be added to our life. We approached the decision to have children very intentionally, and a child is coming to us at the right time, even if it’s not what I thought the right time would look like. This doesn’t alleviate some of the normal parenting concerns (How will I teach my child to be a responsible, independent human being? How will I talk to my kid about sex? Heck, will my kid like me?), but it does alleviate the irrational concern that somehow, because our financial situation isn’t perfect, we shouldn’t be bringing a child into our home.
When I get frustrated because life doesn’t cooperate, as life is wont to do, and I say to my Aingeal, “Maybe I ask for too much out of life.” He very calmly tells me, “No, we do not ask for that much out of life.” I realize that he’s right. I often battle with the usual American consumer impulses and the need to be seen as competent, capable, and upper middle class. But what we actually ask for is very simple, and that knowledge brings a certain peace with it. We have built a safe home for our child, and we’re ready. And I am filled with gratitude for one of the most important lessons of my life.
*Well, that’s not completely true. Medicaid is available to low-income families. Medicare is available to the elderly. Supposed, there’s some sort of health care reform happening.
**I’ve been thinking that my anxiety over this has something to do with my bizarre need “to keep up with the Joneses” that I developed when I attended an expensive, private University. I’m grateful for my family, and most of all for my lifemate, for helping realize how far from my authentic self that (unnecessary) desire has taken me.