By Terri Lively
Two lines. And for anyone biting their nails perched on the edge of a toilet looking down at a recently peed-on pregnancy test, they know that those two lines can make an enormous difference in the course of your life.
Now let me preface this by saying that this isn’t the beginning of a dramatic, knocked-up-with-no-one-to-turn-to type story. I’m married. I have two wonderful kids, a mortgage, a burgeoning freelance writing business, and a really old and lovable cat named Smokey. My life is unbelievably stable and contented. My two lines represent an unplanned pregnancy. My story starts a few years ago.
I met my husband on a blind date, the only one I ever had. I was so late he almost gave up on me. He spilled a 40 oz glass of diet soda in his lap within the first five minutes of our acquaintance. Despite the rocky start to our date, by the end of the night I noticed that my cheeks were cramped from smiling and laughing so much. It wasn’t long before we were madly in love making plans for our future. We were married two years later.
In the early days, we would fantasize about our lives together. We talked about where we would live. What kind of wedding we would have. What kind of house we wanted to buy. Eventually, we discussed how many kids we would have. Incidentally, that number was always two.
“Even if we have two of the same sex children? You wouldn’t want to go for a third?” he would ask.
“Absolutely” was my unwavering reply. Two was my number.
Two is the number for most every one I know. My brothers both have two kids. My sister has two kids. His sister has two kids. Most of my friends have two kids. “Two and through!” was a phrase I often used as a witty quip to anyone daring to inquire as to whether we were planning on more children. My plan was two. Always.
While my plan was always for two kids, I didn’t always plan my pregnancies. Our first pregnancy was unplanned. We were shocked when we found out. I took a test on a whim expecting to get only one line. We were ecstatic and told everyone we knew, despite the warnings that it’s bad luck to do so. The pregnancy ended in miscarriage a few weeks later. I was devastated.
Our second pregnancy was planned. We had waited about three years after our first pregnancy before we tried again. After a month or two, we were pregnant with our son.
Our third pregnancy was unplanned. About a year after my son was born, I took a pregnancy test with a girlfriend to bolster her courage and discovered that I was expecting again this time with my daughter. We had two children just like we planned…a little closer together than we were planning, but a perfect set nonetheless. Our family was complete.
After my daughter had her first birthday, we shook the dirt of Babytown off our boots headed on the express to Toddlerville. Right about then, my husband started joking about wanting another baby. He fantasized about naming him after a football coach he loved. I could tell that deep down he wouldn’t mind having a third child. But I ignored him.
I, on the other hand, was adamantly opposed to the idea. I had two kids 21 months apart in my mid-thirties that were under the age of four at the time. At frantic times, I wondered if I already had two too many kids. Besides, I had just lost all the baby weight (well, almost all) and wasn’t excited about packing on the 40 or so pounds my body seemed to require to gestate a human child. When the jokes kept coming, I leveled with him that I wasn’t going to have any more children. It was his turn to ignore me.
Finally, I told him that I didn’t want to have another c-section. Period. He understood that one. He remembered the time he accidentally peeked over the curtain during my first emergency c-section. He told me that he saw all my innards strewn about the operating table and started making plans for raising our first-born all by himself. Apparently, that argument convinced him because he scheduled his vasectomy.
After the surgery, life went back to normal. Content with a family of four, we strategized for our future. As the weeks went by, my husband tried to schedule his follow-up appointment with the surgeon to ensure that the tubes were in fact cut and he was no longer sending little swimmers to mingle in the gene pool. But it was never convenient in his or the doctor’s busy schedules so he gave up over time.
So, now here I am, 38, with two kids under the age of 5 and two lines on my pee-stick. Correction, here I am with two lines on my second pee-stick, convinced beyond a reasonable doubt that I am in fact going to have another little baby. Despite our plans and a surgical procedure to remain a family of four, we were in fact going to be a family of five.
So many questions whiz through my mind. Will it be healthy? Can we afford it? Do I really want to stay up all night again? Geez! We just gave away both cribs…where will the kid sleep? Do we need to move? What’s going to happen to our marriage? Will it be healthy?
It’s not easy to explain how I feel when I see the two lines. The mom in me who knows that little babies are unbelievably tiny and sweet and is delighted to have another chance at that special time with a newborn. The perfectionist in me is already planning how to juggle, manage, and nurture the little soul better, faster, and stronger than I did with the first two. The wife in me is frustrated that I stopped using birth control after his surgery because “what are the chances that it didn’t work, anyway…” (it's one in about 700, by the way). Tears of joy mingle with tears of disbelief and maternal feelings butt up against waves of frustration at the lack of control I have over my plans for the perfect family.
The worrier in me is preoccupied with my age, the age of my eggs, and the insomnia-inducing statistics regarding incidence of birth defects, mental retardation, Down’s syndrome for my age group. Plus, two of my close friends have had terrible infections following their c-sections that required additional surgery and prolonged bed rest.
The accountant in me calculates that the financial consequences of this pregnancy are huge. There are the regular expenses of having another mouth to feed, coupled with the loss of income from me while I care for another baby, and that figure is compounded by the cost of financing another college education. Never mind that we might have to move to a bigger house to accommodate our growing brood and all the costs associated with that process.
And what about us? The woman in me wonders whether having another child is a relationship risk. As our kids have just grown out of the intensive baby and toddler stages, we had just had time to catch our breath, look at each other, and remember why we had a family together in the first place. I realize, of course, that that’s how we ended up with these two lines.
But the optimist in me knows that chances are very good that it will all be okay. I know that we will adjust to our new addition and never look back. Unplanned is not the same as unwanted. We will welcome our new addition into our family and adjust our parenting style, switching from a man-to-man to a zone defense. And though four had seemed like our number, we will find our stride with five and wonder why we ever worried at all.
These two lines represent the curve balls that life can throw you. Two lines remind me that despite our best efforts to control our circumstances, we can only control our reaction to them. Two lines now represent my letting go of my past perceptions of perfection to allow for new ones to form. Two lines have taught me that taking risks makes me stronger as a mother, a woman, and a wife. Two lines make us equal five, the perfect number for us planned or not.