You’re allowed to be happy now and sad later.
Once, I took a pregnancy test on the 20th floor of my college library. It was late at night, but I was so distracted and anxious at the thought of being pregnant that getting any work done was impossible. So I went to the floor of the building that was the least populated, peed on the stick, and waited. No one came in. I wasn’t pregnant.
In retrospect, it was unlikely that I would have been, since I hadn’t had unprotected sex, but my period was late, and so there I was. I threw the test out and got back to studying, directing that flood of unspeakable relief into my work. Being able to return to normalcy was how I celebrated.
I remembered this incident the other day because someone told me that her friend had thrown herself a party when she found out she wasn’t pregnant, including red punch and a uterus piñata. After this conversation, I Googled “celebrating not being pregnant” and found this, as well as a clip from that Sex and the City episode where Samantha throws herself an “I Don’t Have a Baby” party, but the search mostly yielded a lot of Pinterest-y things about celebrating your pregnancy, including how to do it without booze and a list of absurd ways to mark the occasion. So then I talked to some actual people.
B assumed she was pregnant and was researching her options when she got her period at work. ” I almost cried in the bathroom,” she told me. “I had to keep myself from grinning at my desk. That night, I bought myself a bottle of wine.”
In college and right after, R had multiple pregnancy scares, both of which were likely due to the fact that she was in an emotionally abusive relationship.
“I never knew when he was going to break up with me or, if we were broken up, when he was going to call out of nowhere and ask if we could get back together,” she said. “On one occasion, I had my best friend come over to be with me when I took the pregnancy test. She’d brought over lots of treats and, I later found out, 2 cards: one congratulating me on not being pregnant and another telling me it would be OK. I was so relieved that I wasn’t pregnant that we ended up throwing ourselves a dance party right then and there.”
R wasn’t the only person who told me about a pregnancy scare in the midst of an abusive relationship. While it was actually a change in birth control that was causing A’s pregnancy symptoms, finding out she wasn’t pregnant led to many important revelations, including that she would have an abortion if she turned out to be pregnant.
“I was in a terribly toxic, co-dependent relationship with a man who would be pleased to know I was pregnant just so I would stay,” explained R. “I didn’t tell him. I kept drinking. If I had this baby, I would be forever trapped with him. When I realized it was only a switch in birth control that was causing the symptoms, I was beyond relieved. I broke up with him (perhaps it took this scare to get me there). But I never forgot the sureness of that feeling. I would have done it. And I’m so glad I didn’t have to.”
Unless you know you don’t want to have kids, how happy you are to not be pregnant might vary. It’s a matter of timing. At some point, you might be thrilled, and at another, miserable. While R was relieved when she wasn’t pregnant in her 20s, 9 years later, when she and her partner were trying to conceive and nothing was happening, her feelings were very different.
“I went to the doctor and she mistakenly determined that I had a brain tumor and couldn’t conceive. I was heartbroken and couldn’t stop thinking about that day when my friend and I celebrated my negative pregnancy test.” It turned out that she didn’t have a brain tumor, just a severely underactive thyroid. Once that was dealt with, she was able to get pregnant.
We don’t always allow ourselves to have complicated feelings, especially when it comes to things like pregnancy and fertility. It’s hard to imagine that what we were delirious with joy about years before might make us deeply unhappy at a different time in our lives. It’s okay to celebrate not being pregnant when you don’t want to be pregnant (here’s where you can buy a uterus pinata, and here’s where you can learn to make one), and it’s okay to mourn when it’s not happening. Make the best decisions you can when you have to make them, and in the midst of it all, take care of yourself, and one another.