Having a baby is a more conscious decision now than ever before.
As women, we are lucky to have a plethora of birth control options available, which has allowed us to focus on our own educations, careers and dreams in ways that weren’t open to previous generations. As such, opting to start a family is a decision that most of us do not take lightly.
For our whole lives we have been warned of the dangers of unprotected sex and how easy it is to have an accidental pregnancy. But what no one tells us is what we should expect once we do make that choice to start a family; once we say yes, we are officially “trying” for a baby, especially if that process doesn’t occur exactly how we had envisioned it.
I was never one of those women who dreams of becoming a mother. I figured it would probably happen one day, but till then I was perfectly happy going about my life, focusing on my own growth and development. It wasn’t until my husband and I moved back to our home state, closer to family and out of our cramped one-bedroom Los Angeles apartment that I started feeling ready for a child of my own.
Once the decision was made that we would actively stop preventing pregnancy, a switch flipped in my head. Though I have always detested that word “trying,” I couldn’t help but feel like we were auditioning for our new starring roles as parents. When my period came I felt like I had been passed over for the part, my performance clearly not up to snuff.
That’s the thing with “trying.” The word itself implies that having a baby is something that we must strive for—and that’s a problem.
Take sex for example: It’s an intimate and hopefully fun activity that you share with someone you love. But once you start “trying” for a baby, it becomes something else entirely. It’s suddenly less about pleasure and connection and more about tracking your ovulation cycle using some high tech app, taking your basal temperature and frantically googling early pregnancy versus PMS symptoms. When you are “trying” for a baby, sex becomes a stressful activity that isn’t deemed successful if it doesn’t result in a pregnancy.
Additionally, trying is inevitably tied to one of two possible outcomes: success or failure. Every month that you don’t get pregnant, you feel like a failure. If you suffer a miscarriage, you feel like a failure. If your friend gets pregnant before you do, you feel like a failure. It’s as if our bodies are constantly being tested and graded. Every time we feel like we don’t measure up it adds to the emotional stress and turmoil and breaks down our ability to trust our own bodies and their cycles.
Part of the issue is that in our modern lives we don’t leave a lot of room for mystery. Like most people, I had grown accustomed to things happening on my own time. I was taught to create one-year, five-year and even ten-year plans, charting out my big life goals and dreams as if I was simply deciding what I should have for dinner later that week. I didn’t realize that I was bringing this underlying expectation to the table that when I was ready for a baby it would just happen.
I had witnessed the same thing happen with friends: they would start “trying” and when they did not get pregnant on the first go-round, the stress and fear would begin to creep in. Back then, three months of trying didn’t seem like a long time to me. I would tell them to relax and trust that it would happen when it was meant to happen. Once I was on the other side of that conversation however, letting go and trusting is not as easy as it sounds.
Because the truth that we don’t like to talk about is that with most things in life, we don’t have control of the exact outcome. We can do everything in our power to achieve our goals, but then we also have to learn to let go and surrender to the knowledge that everything will turn out the way it should—even if it doesn’t look exactly how we thought it would.
Having a baby is no different.
Regardless of how much planning we do, at some point we still have to close our eyes, cross our fingers behind our backs and hope for the best.
So, for the sake of all future mamas out there, let’s omit the term “trying” for a baby from our lexicon. Let’s stop talking about having children in terms of success or failure. We can replace this win-or-lose lingo with something else that isn’t so outcome-based. Instead of trying, perhaps, let’s simply be open to having a baby.
Of course, changing the terminology won’t diminish the hopes and expectations inherent in wanting a child. Naturally, there will also remain a level of anxiety and potential disappointment in any pregnancy journey. But I think the more open dialogue that we have as women about what to expect before we are expecting, the more emotionally and mentally prepared we will be.
This doesn’t mean we need more scare tactics about our eggs dwindling down or bleak statistics about having children later in life.
We are in need of a supportive community of women who are going through the same things that we are, or who have already been there. It’s time to bring back the concept of the village, whether in your hometown or even virtually. Women are yearning for honesty and vulnerability about the messy parts of pregnancy and motherhood, the moments of unbridled ecstasy and everything in between. As more women begin to open up and share their unique stories, they give us permission to heal and accept our own.
Author: Linda Katz
Editor: Alli Sarazen
Photo: Robert Valencia/Flickr