'It would be so different': should we still try to conceive right now?

Photo: Getty Images
Photo: Getty Images 

Lately I have been meditating on moments of unabashed joy. They're like pockets to tuck into, to be engulfed by, as if a memory could give me a hug. Most involve moments with my children - a neck nuzzle, a shared giggle, or cheeks full of chocolate-chip pancakes.

But in the memory I've spent the most time in lately, it's just my husband, Tim, and me.

I let my memory linger on that moment when we were still expectant parents, about to see our baby for the first time on a fuzzy screen and listen to its beating heart. But I freeze the memory before it gets to the ultrasound technician, when she went silent as soon as the image appeared on the screen, even after I blurted out, "Are there two?!" and then, almost in a whisper, "Are they viable?"

After the miscarriage, I nearly drowned in the grief. I emerged with new purpose. We would try again. For the last two months, we have been without alcohol. I cut almost everything but meat and vegetables out of my diet and added exercise. My husband takes multivitamins with Horny Goat Weed in them. We were, as much as we were able, completely ready.

Tim and I had only been dating for a couple of months when I told my therapist we were talking about having a baby together. She nodded like it made complete sense. As some kind of rebuttal, I listed off reasons we shouldn't: We were 40 and, up until recently, were prepared to single-parent each of our two kids alone for good.

Now we were in love and wanting - planning - to make a human with a person who loved you so much they really wanted to have a baby with you, too. Neither of us had experienced anything close to that, and I wanted it for him just as much as I wanted it for myself.

"He'd be excited," I started rambling in my own defence. "He'd bring me tea and tell me I was beautiful when I wasn't and be excited about the baby instead of . . . what I went through before."

"The corrective emotional experience," my therapist said. The term sounded like a possible band name, and I told her so. She laughed and said it was a psychotherapy term, which describes when a subject is exposed to a previously traumatic situation in a favourable way, to repair the past. I found myself nodding along.

Up until last month, we had a date marked on the calendar, which, according to my app, would result in a due date of December 27, the first anniversary of the miscarriage. "The corrective emotional experience," I muttered when I saw it. I still went to my doctor's appointment the day before we went into isolation. She nodded enthusiastically through our conversation about the planned conception, and she ordered a blood test to check hormone levels. Then, the world around us began to shut down.


A week into isolation, I posted a question in a group on Facebook whose members are trying to get pregnant or already are, asking if anyone else might be having second thoughts about trying to conceive. A few said they had no choice because their IVF treatments had stalled. Some, due in the next few weeks, advised me to wait. One said she most definitely was.

Thinking back to my meditative moment, how we were both so filled with hope, sitting in that dark room, holding hands and nervously laughing, I see how different it would be now. My husband wouldn't be there for the ultrasound. In-person appointments with my doctor might not even be possible. The stakes for an easy, healthy pregnancy would be much higher. All the testing we had wanted because of our ages would possibly be deemed unnecessary. I would probably try to find a midwife who could facilitate a home birth.

Several viral tweets have joked that the only kids who are born from this isolation will be firstborn. I shared both a chuckle and a sigh over the truth of these with my husband, as our children orbit us constantly until we fall asleep, 10 minutes after we start our show at night. We're exhausted from keeping their world together, as if everything is fine.

There's nothing happening in the news that would make a reasonable case for creating a whole other human. My rational brain fights my own biological drive while I say in a sort of proclamation to Tim that we will wait. It's too risky, I say. He nods and agrees that we should see how things go. But everything gets worse by the hour, and it's hard to imagine it getting better, let alone back to normal. I'm not certain this would end before the baby was born, but our window of time to try is closing.

Our chance to conceive is sneaking up on us quickly. I want to hope through all of this horrible news. Through rising death tolls and videos of medical staff crying as they plead for help. My instincts are to nest, to create a safe space for my family, as if I could put a force field over us all.

Then I look at the older girls making bread, the youngest reaching up for another hug, my husband by the stove, making stock for soup. That feeling of wanting to add our own, a child we make together, returns. A corrective emotional experience. A moment of hope once more.

Land is the author of Maid: Hard Work, Low Pay, and a Mother's Will to Survive.

This is an edited version of an article first published by The Washington Post.