When you are an unmarried student with hundreds of thousands of dollars of grad school debt and five roommates, people tend to ask you if your recently announced pregnancy was 'planned'.
Which is fair, I suppose. And the answer is complicated. Faced with an unsure completion date, a precarious and unknowable job market, and an equally precarious biological clock, I thought I would hedge my bets and go for broke! I have a partner I love and trust, and want to start a family with, and a handful of friends who either already have school-aged children or are struggling with infertility, so I figure I would just go for it. We started trying with the assumption that it would take a while, and the belief that there is no 'right' time to have a baby.
And then instantly got pregnant.
So planned might be strong language, but this wasn't unexpected, just slightly ahead of schedule. Now I find myself feverishly mapping out time tables in my mind, reading the blog posts of other women in similar positions (who all, somehow, manage to be further along than I am...), and breaking into a cold sweat while imagining the sleep deprivation of academia coupled with the sleep deprivation of motherhood. It's been a fun time to experience hormone fluctuations.
The thing I notice, when I read about the experience of others, is the same problem I have with most of the available narratives academia offers up; they all come from a position of unacknowledged privilege. None of these women are worried about how they are going to pay rent while finishing their dis and caring for their pregnancy or baby. The biggest secret I should have known about academia rears it's ugly head again; this game works best if money isn't an issue for you. Poor folks need not apply.
But. I use that calm rational voice I hope will someday work on my kid, and repeat my mantra in my head, "There's no such thing as a perfect time; Everything happens for a reason; Everything will work out in the end; You are a survivor, and have done more with less". It works, about 45% of the time. The rest of the time I try to push that anxious energy into productivity, writing disjointed sections of an almost due lit review or a new revision of my modest c.v. Sometimes I take the time to do what some women write they wish they'd done, and enjoy my pregnancy. I read articles about prenatal care and early childhood development (almost as much fun as poverty trap formulation!), and try to take it easy, let my body just be pregnant. And wonder in the back of my head if the women I read about only became successful because they sacrificed these tiny luxuries.
I constantly assure myself there are no right answers, and that I am making the best choices I can in the moment, the same choices that led me to be a successful adjunct with a fantastic relationship and research areas I actually care about, and have presented at several conferences on. So the next part can't be all bad.
I tell myself that there is no rule or firm definition for what constitutes a good life, and I have to trust I will find it, now with a tiny hand held in mine. I remind myself all the times I worried that this would never happen, and marvel at how quickly I moved from fearing I'd never be pregnant to resenting the inconvenient timing. So I try to shut up, get back to work, and be grateful.
Timing is just chance most of the time, and we can't control the things that appear on the path before us. So I keep walking forward.
And I miss coffee.