I remember the first time I believed I was pregnant.
At a time when the term 'family planning' was associated with sitting next to this week's best friend in a grotty waiting room and trying to act nonchalant whilst simultaneously being judged by other equally clueless teenage girls, I weighed up my options. Repeat prescriptions of the pill, emergency contraception and free condoms without the prospect of coming face to face with your family doctor appeared to have become a sad rite of passage in a world where the ever increasing sexualisation of young women was highlighted by Britney in her school uniform and ensured that sex seemed something you just had to do. Or maybe that was just me. I shouldn't be pregnant. I pictured that waiting room from the isolation of my bedroom, too terrified to talk to any one of the girls I had previously accompanied there. Too terrified to talk. I felt sick - a symptom. I worked my way through the rest I could remember and convinced myself I had every one. I projected
myself from my bedroom out into a world where I was a mother. And in to a world where I wasn't, but could have been. Waiting and waiting and waiting but too scared to act to see what would be. I told myself I shouldn't be pregnant.
And I wasn't.
But becoming a mother is something every woman must imagine at some time. Like it or not our bodies are designed to give us that monthly reminder of what might be and, as a result, we each must face our own personal perspective on what we might bring to the role.
For me, these feelings of fear became something that was replicated at different times throughout my twenties. At times of accidents or stupidity or simply when Mother Nature was a bit slow off the mark. But as I got older, or when I was lying alongside someone special (or even someone I thought might be), that imagined world where I was a mother began to become somewhere quite inviting.
And I know that not every woman wants to have children but for many, like me, there comes a point where things shift. The fears slowly change shape as your attitude evolves and becoming a mother becomes all you can think about.
At this point that nagging monthly reminder becomes something else. A solid date fixed and marked on the calendar or, in this digital age, something plotted on an app. After initial promises to leave it to fate and let nature take its course, it dawned on me that 'falling' pregnant might actually take some planning.
This was the point where I began counting days; my month divided in to two. Twelve days waiting for the time to be right. Days spent wishing and wasting time away. Days spend researching old wives tales and the latest medical research and placing as much faith in each. Four magical days in the middle where you believe that this month will be the month, this month you have done everything you can and this month things will work out. Then twelve more days of waiting. Twelve days of wishing and hoping and praying. Please be pregnant. Days filled with glowing new mothers and fresh faced babies at every turn. New fears replaced the old as I imagined a world where that would never be me. Because once you have even whispered to yourself that motherhood is what you want, there is simply no turning back.
Then again, those symptoms. Daily Google searches for early signs allowed me to be lured into a place where a positive outcome seemed more than just probable. The world already seemed changed. But it wasn't. Because hope often has a way of conspiring against you to offer the hardest blow.
I was one of the lucky ones. I only had to face a few months of that dark disappointment before I was granted my wish. I know those who have faced that disappointment for so long it now lives with them daily. I know others who have had to face darker disappointments still. But I was one of the lucky ones.
This week my daughter turned two. And, apparently, two marks the turning point in the eyes of the rest of the world when you really should be thinking about another one. Friends ask the question openly, family hint with sly glances and offers of soft drinks and strangers stun you by posing the question in the queue whilst you do your shopping. But when is the right time? My daughter sleeps through the night and it is bliss. She is just embarking upon potty training - imagine, no more nappies! These are the selfish reasons for waiting but there are plenty more besides. I question whether my daughter is yet secure in the knowledge that we love her, whether another child would evoke feelings of jealousy or rejection and, sadly, simply whether I have enough love to be shared. I know that these problems are all hypothetical. I know that if and when we decide to have another baby and if and when we are lucky enough to fall pregnant, the time will be right for
us. But it appears to me that the prospect of planning your family becomes more problematic once you are already a parent.
Maybe I just didn't realise before now the responsibility that a child brings. Or maybe I did, but I just needed all those moments of fear and disappointment to remind me what a wonderful thing a pregnancy should be.