I had left the pill behind in early October.
We were still preventing, but my husband was close to finishing his Ph.D., the one I had made him promise to try to finish within two years after we were married. Miraculously, it looked as if he would actually be done when he'd hoped to be done, right down to the day.
I was teaching at the first full time job that I truly loved: I worked hard, but my students worked equally hard if not more so. We had fun as I introduced them to the Spanish language and Spanish-speaking cultures I'd come to love over years of classes and study abroad. My colleagues were hilarious, friendly, and smart, the perfect group of educators to work with as we built a brand new high school program. I don't know if I could have loved the life I was living more.
Except that I was neck deep in baby fever. Not enough to dive fully into trying mode, but enough to start tracking, dreaming, thinking, and watching far too many YouTube videos of people announcing their pregnancies to shocked friends and family members who would then shout with joy and cry happy tears.
December approached, and with it the due date for the baby girl of our close friends. She would be the first baby born within our close circle of 20-something mostly graduate students. I'm sure that my level of eagerness in anticipation of her birth is second only to the level I have now felt for the births of my own children and niece. A baby. A baby!
I came home one night after a late school event, to find my husband laying on the couch with his laptop in front of him.
"Guess what?" he said.
I knew in an instant.
"She's here!?!" I practically shouted, dropping all of my bags at the door and rushing over to the laptop screen to see the pictures her parents had sent to their friends and family. She was tiny and sweet and perfect. Given my level of excitement, I could only imagine what our friends must be feeling.
We took dinner to them the following week, and they invited us to eat with them. I didn't dare to ask if I could hold the sleeping baby, so I was grateful when her mom offered to let me. I'd held babies before, but I'm not sure if I'd ever held a fresh, days-old baby.
As she was placed into my arms, I stiffened my shoulders. I stayed seated, absolutely sure that if I moved a muscle I would drop her. My arms grew tired holding all six-and-a-half pounds of her in such a frozen position. I cooed and smiled in the most dignified way I could muster, unable to throw myself fully into embarrassing baby-coo voice while other adults were present.
I caught glimpses of my husband's face as he looked on, awed and a little afraid. He knew I was taking the first few steps past the point of no return into the deepest waters of baby fever. I was about to be a goner.
We talked about trying more in the coming days and weeks. We celebrated the completion of his dissertation and our anniversary.
"When do you really want to start trying?" I asked.
"I'd like to find a job first," he said, no doubt influenced by the subtle hints I'd dropped over the years that I might want to stay home longer than the 12 weeks of unpaid leave my employer offered. He wasn't one to be pressured by stereotypical male breadwinner roles, but of course he wanted to use the terminal degree he now had, and he wanted to allow me the flexibility to choose to stay home if we could work it out.
I did want to stay home, but I wasn't so sure I wanted to stay at home badly enough to wait until he found a full time professorship before trying to get pregnant. I'd still have summers and spring break off, and my parents lived in the same town and would likely be more than thrilled to help care for their first grandchild.
"I could keep working," I gulped as the words left my mouth. I'd plunged under. I wanted a baby. I really wanted to start trying.
"And I would stay home? You sure you would want that?" he said.
"Well, I think I'd prefer to be the parent staying at home, but I don't have to be. I'd have some leave and you could keep looking for jobs and have my parents watch the baby sometimes."
"Okay. Well, I'd still like to keep talking about it more. It's a big decision."
It was a big decision, but at the same time, it wasn't. We both knew we wanted kids. One of the early conversations in our dating relationship had been about kids – we both knew it was a deal breaker if the other person outright did not want children someday. What if we weren't able to get pregnant? We'd probably adopt. The desire was strong.
One night, after Christmas, I finally dropped the line that my husband and I now joke about:
"Ok, I'm driving this boat."
We had thought about, reasoned, talked, analyzed, and painted out all the scenarios. We had gone around and around on the ready/not ready circuit, not fully realizing that there's no couple on earth who has ever claimed 100 percent readiness. I was done with all of that - it was time to just finally take the leap.
He laughed with me after the words left my mouth. Nervously, maybe more giddily on my part, we stopped trying to make it not happen. I told myself I'd stop consciously tracking anything and just let it happen. Yeah, right.
One day I decided to look at ovulation calendars online. You know, just for fun. In went the first day of my last period, click went the mouse on the "Calculate" button, and, voila, out came the calculation for my most fertile days.
I sat there, dumbfounded. I hadn't expected those dates, and if the calculation was right, I might be pregnant, at this moment. I might actually have a baby growing inside of me, at this moment. I knew we'd unintentionally made that window. I smiled, my heart did this funny little flippy-floppy jump, and I squealed at the canine friend sitting next to me. He wagged his tail.
I called my husband and told him. I could hear him smiling nervously over the phone.
A few impossibly long weeks later, I woke up early specifically to take a pregnancy test. And there it was: those two blue lines, clear as day. I made my husband come into the bathroom just to double check that someone else saw what I was seeing. He did. We laughed, he sighed, I started thinking about it all.
I offered to watch our friend's new baby a week later while my friend went back to the lab where she worked. With no other adults present, I cooed in full undignified mode, sang, smiled, and changed her diaper about five more times than was necessary over the course of the four hours that I was there.
"Did you know you're our inspiration baby?" I asked as I changed that fifth unnecessary diaper. "It's true. There's a new friend for you, growing inside me, and I'm pretty sure your arrival helped jumpstart this whole thing."
I put the new diaper on with much trepidation about whether or not it was fitting snugly enough around her not-yet-chunky legs.
As I snapped the buttons on her onesie, I paused, looking down at her.
"Just, uh, don't tell your parents quite yet," I said, winking. "We need a little time to tell our families first."