On Planning Parenthood (During a Pandemic)

By Louisa Farrar

planning-parenthood-during-pandemic

I miscarried just as the pandemic hit Australia, where I live with my family. Playing hide and seek with my three-year-old son in our apartment during lockdown, I am more tired than usual. I am also relieved. 

At 34 years old, I am officially mid-30s (or early mid-30s thank you very much). It’s a funny decade at the best of times — not ha ha, necessarily (but who has the pelvic floor strength to laugh that much anyway?) But, definitely not boring. Some women truly *find themselves* in their 30s, or indeed peak; they know their bodies better, also their minds, their wants, and their needs. Some women lose themselves; pregnancy and postpartum can make them feel like their bodies (and minds) are no longer theirs, while child-rearing and parenting can force their wants and needs onto the back burner. 

I went off birth control five years ago, in anticipation of starting a family. I was lucky. I got pregnant on the first shot. Like clockwork, morning sickness overcame me as my hormones surged. I took it in my nauseated stride. When the heartbeat couldn’t be found at the 12 week scan, I was devastated. I felt let down by my own body, which refused to bleed. On my 30th birthday, I had a dilation and curretage, a physically painless procedure that clears the uterine lining. It was over, but my desire to birth a child only grew. I became pregnant again and took injections this time, bruising my growing belly, thinning my clotting blood. It worked. I birthed a healthy son. 

If you had asked me, in my energized and anxious pregnant state, my plans for my family I would have shown you the adapter to the double stroller I had just purchased. I was going to have two children, in quick succession. I would pause work, but not stop. My marriage would strengthen as my children grew. And now? Well, that adapter is collecting dust. My son scoots, not strolls. 

My period started up again when my son was nine months old. I was still breastfeeding, but slowing down. My body was ramping up, priming itself to go all over again. I had refused to go on hormonal birth control postpartum, assuming I’d be going off it again in quick succession anyway.  

But now, I wasn’t so sure. My body was bleeding again, but I wasn’t ready. I had not returned to work. I barely slept through the night. My husband’s work took him out of state for days on end. Months passed, then years. As my friends around me advanced professionally and personally, I seemed to stand still —- ticking off my son's milestones but making no plans for myself. 

We decided to try again, to grow our family, in the new year of the new decade. It had been our plan at one stage — I wasn’t ready to give it up. When I found out I was pregnant my husband was on a plane, my son at preschool. When I started bleeding, we were quarantined at home and my doctor offered counsel via tele-health.   

To choose how and when (and if) you carry a child is a privilege afforded to few, which is especially evident now. As hospitals across New York City inform their pregnant patients that they must prepare for birthing without their partners, and women across the globe Google home-birthing DOs and DON’Ts, others may consider stockpiling condoms as well as toilet paper.     

There’s nothing like the perspective a pandemic brings. When what so many of us take for granted as the bare minimum—health, paychecks, a roof over one’s head—suddenly becomes all that matters. To want more seems greedy almost. And so human.

This week, restrictions are lifting in my country. Next week, I can send my son back to preschool. I am halfway through my period, my second in lockdown. I am still so tired, but I feel at peace. And lucky. The blood will let up in a few days. I know so little beyond that, but I’ll hold onto that certainty. 

Has the pandemic changed the way that you are approaching family planning? Share your experience with us in the comments.

Louisa Farrar is a writer living in Sydney, Australia. She misses New York everyday. Except during this current pandemic. Wash your hands!