“Well, 2020 was pretty weird”, I thought to myself as I began 2021. Little did I know what 2021 had in store for me.
In August of 2020, I headed BACK into the workforce full-time in — of all fields during an infectious disease pandemic — healthcare. After a couple of years off, I went back into the genetics lab. Soon thereafter, I decided I was going to apply to a competitive master’s program in genetic counseling.
Our family was lucky that our daycare remained open even through the roughest spikes of the pandemic as I worked and crafted my application, gathering references and cringing at having to talk about how perfect I was for the program. Did I mention I was only applying to one? Yes, there was a single program, a hybrid model through Boise State, that would allow me to gain a degree while remaining in the Portland area. The general acceptance rate into GC programs is typically under 8%. Needless to say, I worked on that application for ages and submitted it before Christmas.
Then came the waiting. In March, I was offered an interview and, about a month later, received a final response. I got in. I was one of 12 applicants accepted into the program.
I. was. pumped. And very eager to start the program in the fall.
Then, in May, I realized my period was late.
“No big deal”, I thought. As one of the estimated 1 in 8 women with PCOS, I’m awfully familiar with this game. An expert, perhaps. Long, irregular cycles have been the bane of my existence for as long as I can remember. I’ve spent so much money on “let’s just rule it out” pregnancy tests that I should have bought stock years ago.
I casually took a “so when the doctor asks me I can say no” pregnancy test and went about my way, doing some laundry while waiting the requisite five minutes. Right before I was going to throw it away, I did a double-take.
What. the. what.
Two lines. Two distinct lines on an HCG test strip. Surely, this was a faulty test. So, I took another one. And, another. All positive. I was pregnant?
The Universe Has a Sense of Humor
It was honestly kind of hard to wrap my mind around. Not only because I had just found out I got into a competitive graduate program less than a month earlier, but because, irony of ironies, it took A LOT of time and intentionality to conceive both my daughter and son. This was surely a sign that the universe has a dark sense of humor.
Now, I know how pregnancy occurs. Years ago, I taught an entire class about reproduction and contraceptive options to teenagers at the health department. Trust me when I say that I know, I KNOW! But, I also spent years trying to ovulate on my own with no success. I knew it was theoretically possible for me to get pregnant without help, but the odds were not likely.
After a day of keeping this newfound information to myself and investing in a more expensive urine pregnancy test that I took in secret at work, I decided I needed to let someone know. I was freaking out.
I told my closest mom friends. They were excited for me. But they also understood my freakout. They were intimately familiar with:
A. My struggles after the birth of my son
B. Just how hard I had worked on getting into graduate school
“Whatever you decide to do, we are here for you.”
I told my husband later that night. Well, I didn’t so much as tell him as I had our 4.5 and 2.5 year old bring the test to him. He seemed shocked as well.
So Many Emotions
I’m not going to lie. There has been a greater range of feelings this time around. It’s not excitement, per se. At first, it was a lot of fear. Fear of not being in control. Fear of missing out on an opportunity to challenge myself and advance my career. Fear at the idea of impending exhaustion, and breastfeeding, and trying to make sure the older kids don’t feel less important. And then there was so much guilt about not being 100% happy about it. But now that I’m starting the third trimester, things have “settled” a little more.
When friends or co-workers (or complete strangers at the limited number of places that I go to) ask me how I’m feeling, I don’t know quite how to respond. It’s like nervous anticipation mixed with knowing it’s going to be kinda great once the baby is here. Surely there is a German word for such a thing.
I’m lucky to have the support system – personally, professionally, and academically. Everyone has been on board and ready to “make it work”. This is a particular rarity in academia, so I count my lucky stars (and observe that the program was built and is run almost exclusively by women). I’m privileged to even be able to consider staying in grad school while having a baby.
I just keep reminding myself, I’m having a surprise baby, and (no matter what) I will be okay. Unplanned does not mean unwanted, and the more we grow together, the more I look forward to meeting this new little human.