Have you ever had a moment that you’ve dreamed of happening, but then when it happens, it just seems so surreal?
As a woman who’s now in her 30’s and had been dreaming of starting a family since her early 20’s, it should come as no surprise that I’m familiar with the art of pregnancy testing. In college, I of course was careful and never had to deal with the stress of being “late”. In fact, I had made the decision during my freshman year that I would start on “the pill” in order to alleviate the unnecessary pain I went through every month.
I graduated college and was in a serious relationship. It was my second serious relationship (I’m what you could call a serial monogamist) and I was convinced this guy was “the one”. All I wanted was to get married and get pregnant so I could finally start the family I’d always dreamed of having. Forget the fact that this guy had left his high school sweetheart because all she wanted was to start a family. This was now, we were both older, and I wasn’t her.
You can guess how that went.
Fast forward 3-4 years. I had since moved onto a new serious relationship, this time with someone older than me that I had felt was more stable. Over the course of our two years together, however, I learned that he had no intentions of growing up. Yes, I had found the real-life Peter Pan that had a drinking appetite of a pirate on Captain Hook’s ship. I was still only 26 years old, but to me this felt terribly old. My dreams of starting a family and having a house by the age of 25 had since passed and the likelihood of having these things by 30 we’re looking gloomier by the day.
So, I left my third serious relationship since graduating high school and spiraled downward. I’d felt this way before after leaving my last relationship – the questioning thoughts of “do I really want kids” swirling through my head. Feeling lost and alone, I threw myself once again onto the dating scene in hopes of finding someone who was of high-caliber than the last two knuckleheads I’d wasted half a decade on.
Within a month of meeting Justin, we were already talking of kids. I’d decided that this time around, I wasn’t going to waste time playing the girl I thought he wanted me to be, only to flip the tables 6-9 months & share how badly I wanted to settle down and have kids. Considering his carefree lifestyle and that he’d just left a three-year relationship with an older woman who had three daughters because he didn’t want to build a family with her, I was taking a huge risk. But I didn’t care – I knew what I wanted and I was tired of pretending for the sake of winning a guy’s affection for a few months.
To my great surprise (and utter delight), he was extremely open to the idea. We even went so far as to pick out the names of our future children and began discussing where we’d want to move before starting a family, since we both agreed Jacksonville was not our idea of home. While we weren’t actively trying to have children, we certainly weren’t preventing it. About six months into our relationship, we had an experience where I was certain that I was pregnant, but the stress of my new teaching job had caused it to end very early. After I quite that job a week or so later, we both realized that now wasn’t the right time for this as we weren’t married (something we really wanted to happen first), so back on the pill I went.
Life went on and our lives seemed to be going perfectly. We spent the first two years of our relationship working and traveling. While I loved the trips and freedom, i did feel like a clock was ticking in the background. When he proposed early in 2014, after less than 2 years of dating, I was thrilled. Our lives were finally going to begin. I picked the earliest date he would agree to (a year from the engagement date), and set about planning the most romantically perfect wedding. I was certain that come out wedding night, we would be ready to start seriously trying for a baby.
As so often happens in life, things didn’t go according to my plans. While the wedding was extremely romantic and the honeymoon surreal, we wound up back in our one-bedroom apartment the spring of 2015 and no closer to starting a family. I had moved up to my dream position in the company I was working for and he was pursuing a track in finance. I soon learned that the wedding had marked the green light for him to begin studying for one of its most grueling licensure exams.
We spent the first year of our marriage buried in our jobs. He worked well over 40 hour weeks, followed by 4-6 hour study sessions morning and/or nights. He rented out an office and would retreat there most nights and every weekend to focus. We’d since moved to a larger condo with three bedrooms in anticipation that the third bedroom would be a baby room. I was convinced that we would begin trying after the move, but he was too focused on his studies. I finally gave him the news that upon my international business trip, I wasn’t renewing my birth control prescription which only meant one thing – we were going to stop preventing pregnancy.
I was overjoyed to finally be starting this new chapter. I had everything planned out so that I would not be pregnant during the horrible Florida heat and was certain that it would only take us a month or so to welcome joyous news. I even began putting aside money each paycheck into two savings accounts: one for baby and one for a house. It was November 2016 when we embarked on this new journey and I was 100% on board. Next stop: baby town.
Unfortunately, I seemed to be the only one excited about the venture. To be fair, he was deep in the throws of studying and growing obsession with finding the best time of the month to try really interfered with his focus. He obligingly went along with my plan to stop birth control after he realized I was going to do it with or without his permission, but it was apparent that he wasn’t ready. Things became tense between us and the desire to spend time together outside of “trying” lessened.
The first month, I wasn’t very surprised when my period showed up. I was delighted, especially because it had been at least two years since I’d dealt with the symptoms and my body seemed to have stored up all the pain to remind me why I’d loved birth control in the first place. Month 2 rolled around and like clockwork (I’m telling you, it was pretty much down to the hour), my monthly visitor arrived. It was right after Christmas and I had already been upset at how much larger I had felt than last year. Add to it that my husband’s Christmas presents that year consisted of larger clothing for me to wear “when the baby is growing”, and you can see why I was in tears when my husband came home that Monday afternoon. He tried to cheer me up by making plans to go out dancing for New Years, to which I grinned and agreed that this would be our last New Years that it would just be us.
After the new year, I began investing in ovulation tests and even picked up a nasal thermometer to track my temperature. I installed an app on my phone and religiously recorded my temperature every morning. Even though I never received a smiley face on the tests, I felt confident as the end of January rolled around and my period didn’t start. But Mother Nature was playing cruel tricks on me. I took two tests, both negative, before she decided to show up 3 Days late. Oh, I was a wreck. We were now 3 months isn’t trying and less than 1 month away from my husband’s big exam. He had no time for my blubbering tears of how terrible this was for us. I was on my own in the depressing spiral and I didn’t know how to get out. I hated looking at myself in the mirror (I’d stopped watching what I ate and wasn’t working out because I didn’t want to stress my body out), and after learning at my annual appointment that I’d gained 15 lbs in a year, I’d had enough.
With Justin studying late into the night and all weekend, I had nothing better to do with my time than crafts, baking, movies, and eating. But I wasn’t getting pregnant and I was rapidly gaining weight, so I thought I needed to make a change to help cheer me up. I decided I was making myself stressed and depressed by trying to get pregnant. I signed up for a local 5k that was in the beginning of March and began running laps around my neighborhood. It was fought at first because I hadn’t run in over a year and I didn’t have my running partner there to help push me. It took me nearly a month to reach the three miles in practice, right before I ran in the 5k I’d signed myself up for.
My husband was still studying and sitting for his exam. But instead of sulking about him never being home or the fact that sure enough, Aunt Flo arrived later that month, I threw myself into running. I was determined that by getting healthy and eating better, I would prime my body for pregnancy. While I wasn’t so obsessed about tracking vitals, I was still concerned that something may be wrong. And so in April, I requested testing to be sure that I was physically healthy enough to have a baby.
Looking back, I’m sure the doctor thought I was nuts. I’d been on and off birth control for the last 5-6 years and only been off the pill for 5 months when I begged to have blood work done because it was taking us so long to fall pregnant. The results were that I had low progesterone and that I would need supplementation when I became pregnant. They started me on cycled of Clomid in an effort to boost my hormones so I would have a better chance to testing positive on an ovulation test, this increasing our odds of conceiving.
I was delighted. I felt sure that this was the month. I remember the joy of seeing that smiley face on the ovulation test one morning and dancing with excitement that we’d “baby-danced” during the prime hours. The anxious two-week wait began and I felt positive that we’d done it – we were finally going to be pregnant. We celebrated my 30th birthday that month and much like New Years, we toasted to this being the last birthday without kids.
But luck wasn’t on our side. I don’t even remember if I tested that month or if I just started my period around the 28-30 day cycled my body had settled into since coming off of birth control. While I was upset, I decided to shake it off and figured I had two month left to get it right. I was focused more on my running now and told myself I was doing what was best for my body in preparing for motherhood. When the second month came and went without a positive test, I began to fret and insisted my husband get tested. That of course brought a lot of arguments, but one sunny summer morning we drove the specimen downtown to have it analyzed.
The results: everything was normal and good. Which meant only one thing in my mind – the reason for our hold-up was me. Things had already reached the peak of stress between us, and this only added to my growing anger towards him. Sure, he wasn’t at fault, but I was sincerely trying to have a baby here and he just wasn’t that into it. While I was working out and eating clean and tracking my ovulation, he ate and drank whatever he wanted.
I don’t honestly even remember that last cycle month. We were fighting almost every day and I’d reached a point of wondering if we were even meant to be together, let alone have kids. I wound up never having my period that last month and after about a week (and no positive test), I requested a blood test to see if I was pregnant. Much to my dismay (or perhaps relief), the results were negative. They gave me medication to basically reset my body so I would have a period and assured me that once I was back in my normal cycles, we could try Clomid again.
I never got that chance. Within the month, my husband and I had a huge falling out. We separated and after 2 months of living with a coworker, I moved back home to stay with my parents. To say I was devastated would be putting it lightly. I plugged along through work those first few months before I moved back home, but upon arriving home reality set in. This is not where I’d expected to be in my life at that point – 30, possibly on the verge of divorce after less than 2 years of marriage, and living in my old bedroom. I couldn’t handle it anymore and on one Wednesday morning early in December, I completely broke down.
That was another significant turning point in my life – the point when I came to grips with the idea that I might not reach my dream of a family and a house. I thought I’d married my Prince Charming and I felt confident that together we would build our dreams together. Instead, we’d pretty much tore each other down to the point where we acted as if we hated one another. No wonder we couldn’t get pregnant. Deep down, our souls were wrestling against one another, each pulling the other in a direction that it didn’t want to really go. Mine was ready for kids and to settle down; his was content where we were and wanted more time so he could focus on work.
The next few months are what I like to refer as my self-discovery period. In my new-found solitude, I only had to worry about myself – something I hadn’t done since probably college. Ever since I was in serious relationships, I’d always focused on my partner and making sure they were happy; that their needs were met. Looking out for me was something I only focused on when I was leaving a relationship (which was always much later than I should have because I’d convince myself I was in the wrong), and it would fly out the window the moment I fell into a new relationship. But for once, I was actually learning about myself and what I needed in order to be fulfilled and happy.
The relationship between my husband and I continued to be a rollercoaster, as it had been for upwards of a year. Only now, I didn’t have a front row seat where I was strapped in and couldn’t leave for fear of falling. Instead, I was in the waiting line, weighing the pros and cons of whether or not I really wanted to go for another ride. There were days where I longed for his touch and to be in his arms, and then there were days that my anger took over and I reminded myself why I had left. Throughout anger, the tearful cries to come home, and the begging pleas to be please fix what was wrong, I told myself I was doing the right thing. That somehow, this would end as it should and I would be happy again.
Flash forward to Friday June 16th, 2017. It was about 4:30 in the morning and my body couldn’t take it anymore. It was the second day in a row that I’d been awakened well before dawn with what felt like period cramping. I’d convinced myself back to sleep the morning before, only later to drag myself out of bed and out for a run because that would always get things going. But strangely it hadn’t and by Thursday night, the cramps were back.
One of my best friends, who was about one month pregnant again told me that I needed to take a pregnancy test, even though the test I’d taken at her house the week prior had been negative. But, as my husband had reminded me, I’d felt sick the weekend prior on both of my long training runs while visiting him. Not to mention the fact that I was about two weeks late.
“Ok,” I’d agreed that Thursday night. “I promise I’ll actually take the test in the morning if I haven’t started. I’ll call you if it’s positive.”
“No, call me regardless of what it says,” my husband replied.
I agreed and went to bed, thinking nothing more of it.
But around 4 am, I was awakened by cramps again. I tried to fall back asleep as I had the morning before because it was Friday, one of the two rest days I had a week. I was 6 weeks out from my first marathon and rest days were vital at this point. I told myself I was starting my period and this would be perfect to have the dreadful first twenty-four hours of pain out of the way before my two long training runs that weekend.
But about a half hour later, the pain was winning and my chances of falling back asleep weren’t looking bright. I begrudgingly crawled out of bed and stumbled to the bathroom. As I would always do, I checked for signs that my cycle was paying a visit and saw nothing. So, as promised, I pulled out a pregnancy test (one I had packed up with me when I moved), and proceeded to take it. I set it down next to the bathtub so the shower curtain was covering the screen and proceeded to wait, knowing full well what the screen would show.
I’d been through this before. Every time I took the test, I tried my best to angle it just so and count the most ridiculously long 5 seconds to ensure there was enough evidence for the test to do its thing properly. Over the months over trying without luck, I’d learned to just put the test aside, finish up and wash my hands, and go about my business before returning 5 minutes later to check the result.
Maybe it was the fact that it was before 5am and I was exhausted. I really don’t know what possessed me to not move that morning and to break my own rule of not waiting the full 5 minutes before checking the results window. Whatever the reason may be, I sleepily checked the test within a few minutes and stared incredulously at the screen.
There were two lines.
Two dark, solid lines.
I’m pretty sure I rubbed my eyes and shook my head as if to wake myself from what was most certainly must have been a dream.
Nope – still there. Even without my glasses on, there was no mistaking it.
The test was saying I was pregnant.