Tonight, I’m having a drink.
It matters because after much anxiety, I know that I’m not pregnant. But for a week, I lived in a fog of uncertainty. Would my period arrive this month? Days slipped by. As Tuesday gave way to Friday, I tried to resign myself to the idea of motherhood, of me, a mother; me pregnant. I couldn’t do it.
I knew that expectant mothers avoided certain activities, like drinking wine and hard exercise. But I don’t know if I’m pregnant. Do I modify my lifestyle or proceed as normal? Most people needn’t ask this question: they are certain they’re not pregnant, or else trying for it and presumably, already living accordingly. I know of the ways that we could easily block or stop a pregnancy. Methods as clear as crystal that good people, my Protestant friends, use in good conscience. But my husband and I are Catholic and, you guessed it, using NFP.
Even as I write this, I feel a stab of guilt. Why don’t I want kids yet? Is this a reasonable wish for a married Catholic woman?
When I think about pregnancy, I tally the losses on my side. I’m afraid of losing my body, my time, my interior life and my identity. I’m afraid of thinking and looking like—becoming—the other moms I know.
I know there are issues with this type of thinking, the most obvious being my sense of entitlement to the things I’m afraid to lose. My body, for example, which could look young for another ten or fifteen years, at best. Who knows what might happen during that time? I am not entitled to my body—it’s not even under my control. My time is borrowed too. For all I know, it could run out today when I thought I was still good for at least fifty years.
But I also experience a deeper reservation about motherhood: the fear of becoming a mom, with the baggage it entails. I struggle to see myself as a mother because to me that word signifies a different identity. Someone else’s, not mine. I have always been a person inclined toward retrospection. To find meaning in my life, I am tempted to look back at where I have been rather than ahead at where I’m going. A backward glance into my past reveals my whole identity—as a daughter and sister, and more recently, as a wife. I’m still figuring out what that last one means. In my mind, motherhood is a task for my own mom, while I still need the mothering.
I can see that my avoidance of pregnancy is not really based on a need to figure out my career or the hopes of prolonging a carefree college lifestyle. Those are factors, certainly. But I’ve been avoiding pregnancy because of the identity change. Intellectually, I can grasp the shift I must make in my thinking: from being the child of my parents to being a child of God. I don’t need to look backwards in time to know that He is the source of my identity. When I know this truth—not just abstractly, but when it is present and palpable in my life—then I am certain that I will be ready to have children.
But until that time, I need to pray for the fulfillment of God’s plan for my marriage, and for the peace that comes from trusting Him, whatever the outcome. And especially for grace during those moments of uncertainty when, for all I know, I could be pregnant.