My middle son was sort of an accident. Well, not really. Well, sort of. Let’s just say that when we got into bed, we knew exactly what we were getting into, but we hadn’t quite planned it all out beforehand. I knew I was pregnant as soon as it happened; I felt what I assumed were implantation cramps while I was teaching and thought, quite calmly, "Oh, that must be the baby."
The only problem? Our eldest son was fifteen months old. We were having the two boys pretty close together — they’d end up being 22 months apart — and I didn’t know how everyone would react. I figured they would think we were hippie Catholics who couldn't keep it in our pants. Or I figured people would assume our birth control failed.
I'll be honest — I was a little nervous. After all, my family had just told me, in no uncertain terms, that I didn’t want another baby right now because my sister and I had been born close together, and apparently it was hellish raising us at the same time. I didn’t know what my in-laws would say, but I wasn’t anticipating there'd be a lot of joy over this little one. Mostly, however, I was anxious because I assumed I’d constantly be hearing the dreaded question: Was my pregnancy planned?
People are nosy and want to make conversation, so they'll say anything that pops into their heads. One of their favorite things to say to pregnant women is "Was it planned?," as if I were eager to discuss my family planning methods with total strangers. During my first pregnancy, someone had asked if it was planned, and I had stumbled, tongue-tied and appalled, through my answer: yes, of course it was. When I was expecting my second baby, I skimmed a lot of pregnancy boards where women griped about being rudely interrogated as to whether or not their pregnancy was planned. It seemed to occur more often the younger the older sibling: people assume no one wants kids too close together, so any pregnancy must have been an accident.
I’d draw myself up and put my hands on my hips. “My sex life and my family planning are none of your business,” I would proudly proclaim.
So I immediately steeled myself for the question. I already felt protective of this baby, and I wasn’t going to deal with strangers insinuating that I didn’t want him, as "unplanned" carries a whiff of the unwanted. I decided that, if anyone asked me, I would be very polite. I would say, “Why do you ask?” (After all, that's what Dear Abby recommends in these cases.) Then I’d break out the big guns. I’d draw myself up and put my hands on my (at this point, formidable) pregnant hips.
“My sex life and my family planning are none of your business,” I would proudly proclaim. And I’d turn and walk off, leaving their mouths agape.
But that's not how it happened at all.
When I was eight weeks pregnant, I went to a playdate at my friend Christi’s house. We had regular playdates there every Monday, but for some reason I’d skipped a few since I knew I was going to have the baby. Playdates at Christi’s were the closest thing I’d ever had to a mom tribe. We helped each other breastfeed. If someone showed up sleepy, they were banished upstairs to nap while the rest of us watched her kid. We talked about everything from co-sleeping to cooking to husbands to tantrums. It was a perfect space for two new moms like us.
When I arrived at Christi's, I told her I was pregnant.
“Was it planned?” she asked.
I realized I shouldn’t have been so quick to get frustrated with people who ask if my pregnancy was planned. People will say such things.
I opened my mouth, fully prepared to launch my pre-planned diatribe at her. Then I stopped. I realized she wasn’t asking because she was being nosy. She was asking because she truly cared. Christi wanted to know if we were facing a crisis pregnancy or if we were over the moon. She was trying to gauge how we were doing with the news, and the baby being planned was one important part of the puzzle.
“Yes. I mean, no. I mean, sort of …” I said, and spooled out the tale. She laughed right along with me. I realized I shouldn’t have been so quick to get frustrated with people who ask if my pregnancy was planned. People will say such things, and as much as we might not like what they say, there’s no need to plan out a response for them.
Throughout the whole pregnancy, no one else ever asked outright if my baby was planned — only Christi, and I didn't think she was being nosy or asking out of rudeness. I knew her, and I knew she genuinely cared about me and my pregnancy.
I realized that it was ridiculous for me to obsess over the question the way I did. Even if strangers had asked me repeatedly if my pregnancy was planned, they didn’t deserve so much of the brainspace I had wasted planning the perfect pithy response. I was pregnant. I had better things to think about.
In the end, it didn’t matter that I had spent so much time obsessing over the question anyway. It was a waste of time and a waste of energy. I saw strangers in such an adversarial manner that I almost mistook my friend for one. I’m glad I caught myself. And I’m glad that, after our talk, I stopped obsessing.