We are beyond grateful that our community trusts us to share their personal stories. Collectively, we learn through shared experiences and it is an honour to provide a platform for your experiences to be affirmed and amplified. Thank you to this month’s community member for their honesty around being on the fence about wanting kids.
Tell us a little about yourself.
I am a woman in my early 30s, and I am engaged to a wonderful partner who I have been with for a little over 3 years. I work from home as a creative freelancer and spend my days connecting with clients and working on various projects. This grants me a lot of freedom in how I live my life, which is what I love most about what I do.
Where are you on your fertility journey?
Well, currently I’m surprise-pregnant. And honestly, it’s been really challenging to navigate as I’m not sure how I feel about it.
You hear of people who get married and then find out that one person doesn’t want to have kids, at which point you tend to ask, “How did they not talk about that beforehand?” That’s not us. Having kids was something we discussed early on in our relationship and something we both agreed we saw in our future together.
Amidst some other big milestones–planning a wedding, purchasing a house–we recently decided to “pull the goalie.” If we get pregnant, we get pregnant. Sounds a bit flippant given the consequences, but we’d been watching friends really struggle with fertility and had come to the understanding that conceiving takes time, effort and it’s not as easy as your high school sex ed teacher tells you it is. So we didn’t really think anything would happen right away, but lo and behold, the first time we had sex around when I would have been ovulating, we became pregnant. A total shock to both of us.
What expectations did you previously have about what your fertility journey would look like and how has that changed?
Based on what we’d seen and heard, we honestly did not think we’d get pregnant immediately. I hadn’t even started taking prenatal vitamins and we were both living a sort of fast and loose lifestyle that included drinking and smoking weed.
Most surprisingly, we were both caught off guard by the emotional response we had to finding out we were pregnant. My initial thought was FUCK. What followed was a lack of excitement, in its place instead an overwhelming sense of dread with oscillating feelings of depression and anxiety.
It then became real, this decision we had to make: did we even want to be parents? Before becoming pregnant I think we thought we did, but at the same time you’re not really set up by society to sit with what that truly means. Particularly as a woman, as to what the implications are to your bodily autonomy, your free time, your identity, your personhood–not to mention the physiological changes both permanent and temporary that come with childbirth.
Based on the joy and excitement showcased in pregnancy test commercials, coupled with watching some of my friends struggle with fertility and knowing how much weight that carries, I had expected to feel some level of excitement or connection to what was happening–but I didn’t feel any of that. Since talking to counsellors and doing some research myself, I don’t think that it’s entirely uncommon to feel that way, but the complex emotions that come with finding out you're pregnant definitely aren’t openly talked about. It really forced a reckoning within me that I’m still grappling with.
What have you learned about yourself and your body as a result of trying to conceive?
The biggest lesson for me in all of this is how much I value my bodily autonomy, which you kind of (necessarily) have to give up to a degree when you’re pregnant. Your body is not yours and yours alone anymore; it belongs to a potential baby, your partner, to society. Everyone is telling you what you should and shouldn't do, what you can and cannot eat and drink, and every time you Google “is this safe to do during pregnancy?” Google will tell you no.
That part has been really difficult, and something I wish I had thought more about, specifically, the demands placed on your body as a pregnant woman and a mother.
Who or what have you leaned on for support during your journey?
Upon discovery, I immediately made an appointment with a counsellor who specializes in this area. I'm a big fan of counselling in general, and I knew this momentous and shocking occasion definitely warranted speaking to an expert who could provide support. That alone has been incredibly helpful and something I recommend to everyone and anyone who is feeling kind of thrown for a loop, lost, or struggling at all in finding out they’re pregnant.
Speaking to friends and family with an array of experiences–some who have had fertility challenges, some who have become pregnant and decided to terminate their pregnancy, and some who are also on the fence about having kids–has been insightful. I think it’s important to talk openly about these topics, as they are things I wish I had known beforehand.
As for my partner and I, we’re still unsure of how we want to proceed so it’s been really helpful to talk it through with people we trust, professionals and friends alike, who can provide a safe space in a non-judgmental way.
What piece of advice would you give to someone who is on the fence about wanting kids one day?
I think the main piece of advice that I’d give someone is that you are allowed to change your mind—but obviously, only within a specific window. It’s been very eye-opening for us in this situation, as it’s forced us to look at what we truly want versus what’s expected of a couple our age. I don't know that I would have had that perspective unless I had become pregnant and really had to think about the realities of it.
I’ve been revisiting something my mom would always say, “don't have kids unless you really, really want them. They don’t just turn your world upside down a little bit, they change everything.” That hits harder now, and has reminded me that you don’t have to do it. You don’t have to be a parent. That’s a choice. You can have an extremely fulfilling life without raising children. There’s other options than what the status quo presents.
Whatever your reasons for wanting kids, not wanting kids, there’s an overarching narrative around terminating a pregnancy that you have to “have a really good reason” to do it. And I think that a lot of that narrative is incredibly gendered and comes from a place of misogyny and patriarchy. One of my friends commented that if men were the ones having abortions, it would be a lot more accessible and a lot less stigmatized, and I wholeheartedly believe that to be true. Whatever your reasons for terminating a pregnancy are, they are valid. You don’t have to have this “really good reason” to do it. Your reasons are your own, and they are enough.