“I want to get pregnant, but there’s no way I could do it this year.”
“Why would I bring a baby into this messed up world?”
“I’ll wait to try until things calm down.”
I’ve heard sentiments like these all year from women in real life and on social media. And who could blame them? Not me.
In the midst of a global pandemic, politics tearing families apart, civil rights atrocities, a technological takeover of human jobs, crippling climate change, heightened housing costs without heightened income, sexism, racism, homophobia, a loss of human connection, rising healthcare costs, algorithms messing with our brains, and the increasing prevalence of mental health issues, who would want to get pregnant?
Well, the answer would be, quite obviously, nobody. Except the real answer was: me. I wanted to get pregnant.
My husband and I spent 2019 preparing to conceive the following year. We paid off our debt, started an emergency fund, adopted a puppy, had checkups, bought vitamins and leafy greens, and became experts at tracking ovulation.
We were primed and ready for Babymaking 2020. No spoiler here: We weren’t prepared. March, the month we planned on starting to try, came and went. Then April and May and June and July.
We watched with horror as our country’s leadership looked more like a circus by the day. We felt the financial impacts of COVID restrictions as two self-employed people. We wondered if we would get sick or die or what it would mean for a pregnant woman to get COVID. What would a pregnancy look like with less interaction and support? No baby shower? Could parents fly in? We heard about partners not allowed to attend the ultrasounds or be in the delivery rooms.
So, we waited.
And life kept moving in a crazy, terrifying, unjust, and heartbreaking way.
We were fortunate enough to be able to strictly quarantine and then drive with our pup from Charleston, South Carolina, to my in-laws in New Hampshire. We spent days floating on the lake and hiking trails and picking blueberries and kayaking. We played cards, ate meals, drank wine, and talked. We got caught in the rain and bitten by mosquitoes and warmed by evening fires.
I realized life kept moving in a grounded, joyful, and hopeful way, too.
Both happened at the same time.
Yes, we were blindsided, but we were inventive.
Yes, we were thrown out of our routines, but we reevaluated priorities.
Yes, we were alone, but we saw communities come out for each other.
Yes, we were angry, but in our anger, we demanded change—hopefully, first in ourselves.
The truth is, 2020 has been an unequal tormentor. Some used stimulus checks on home decor and others to feed their hungry kids. Some protested racism because they felt convicted and others because their lives literally depend upon it. Some used time off to learn silly dances and lounge by the pool, others prayed for work because they didn’t know how to pay for their medications. Others didn’t have time off—they showed up each day despite health risks.
This. This mixture of good and bad, joyful and tragic, unfair and undeserved, pain and pleasure, fear and calm—this is life. Life every year. 2020 put a magnifying glass on it, which means we felt it closer to our skin and it burned, but we could also inspect it.
A failing and unfair healthcare system isn’t new. Racism never went away. The beauty of the simple things, like a shared meal, has always been the foundation of fulfillment. Community care always needed improvement, self-care always needed priority, and systems always needed complete restructuring to make this world more just. It has always been my job to educate myself on the history and current status of underrepresented groups, to vote with empathy, to seek out beauty even when life is hard, to stay home if I get sick, to apologize when I get it wrong and do better, to rest and play, and to connect with and serve my community.
This was true before 2020. Oftentimes, we were busy or privileged or ignorant, and we didn’t notice.
But for many of us, this year caught our attention and shouted, “HERE IS THE WORLD—what are you going to do about it?”
“Here is the world,” said writer and theologian Frederick Buechner. “Here is the world. Beautiful and terrible things will happen. Don’t be afraid.”
It is with that idea, I believe, that women before me birthed babies in war and famine, during civil rights and suffrage movements, through plagues and regimes. Shhh, they’d soothe their little ones. Do not be afraid. They did this while their hands shook, while they laughed and cried, as they danced with joy, when they wanted to hide in fear. Maybe they should have been afraid, but this is maybe why not: out of women, bundles of hope are born.
Perhaps somebody could argue I should have waited, that it made more sense. But love and hope never make a lot of sense, do they? And love and hope are what the world needs more of. And me too.
So, in August of 2020, I climbed into bed with my marvelous husband and made love and didn’t use a condom. Much to our surprise, it worked. In May 2021, we will have brought a life into this mad, gorgeous, scary, wonderful world like all parents have done since the dawn of time.
With the ferocity of a pregnant woman in 2020, I will make it my mission not to raise the most successful human or the richest human, but one who looks out into the world and chooses to help. Who is kind and inclusive. Who speaks up when it’s time to speak and shuts up when it’s time to listen. Who takes action and does the hard, right thing.
And I will sing to him or her or them and my words will be this: Welcome, child, to this world. Beautiful and terrible things will happen. Do not be afraid. Be soft and strong. It will also be a song to myself.
This is not a plea to make babies or a condemnation if you don’t want to. What you will birth and nurture may be an idea, a solution, art or science or literature. This is your legacy, and we need that bundle of hope so desperately.
But if you, like me, want to make a baby and bring a new life into this strange world, it will be beautiful. And terrible. Let’s not be afraid.