It’s OK to Be Sad If the Pandemic Has Changed Your Plans to Start a Family

Alessia Santoro

If you asked me in May 2019 what my five-year family plan looked like having just booked a wedding venue for October 2020, I would have said, "Easy: 2020 wedding, 2021 house, 2022 baby number one, and by 2024, trying for baby number two." Obviously this plan had to be loose, as life happens and I won't know until my fiancé and I are trying if we'll have difficulty getting pregnant, but never did I think that a pandemic would roll in and laugh in the face of my plans for three of the largest life events an adult goes through.

Now, just a few months before the wedding date Matt and I set, we're looking out at a much different five-year family plan. Our 2020 wedding is still happening - kind of - as we plan on getting married on paper on the date that we originally set. The actual party that we'd spent the last year planning, however, won't happen until October 2021 now (though with the current state of affairs, even that feels like a reach). Plus, with travel and other fun plans completely impossible right now, spending a year basking in our newlywed bliss also feels like it needs to be pushed off. And though we've both saved some money staying at home and feel really lucky to be working, changing up 2020 to be the year we sell our apartment and buy a house feels like all too much right now. With both of those events pushed back, in my mind, so are the plans to have babies.

"I can't help but feel this somewhat selfish despair that my life as I'd planned it feels best put on hold until things in the world are a bit more secure."

Again, I know that when I get pregnant isn't fully up to me and I can't predict any struggles we may have conceiving, but let's say I were to get pregnant fairly easily - the earliest I see myself having a baby now is 2023. And while that's just a year off from my original plan, it feels huge. I turned 30 this year and have always told myself I wanted to be a young mom. That, coupled with the fact that this only child wants at least two kids (three, really, but I'm still working on Matt), makes the next 10 years of my life feel so much less turnkey than it had just a few years months ago back in March, when everything felt in reach.

I know, grand scheme, right? Trust me, I've checked myself mentally enough times when I've found I'm dwelling on all of this. But for a Type A planner who has always wanted nothing more desperately than to be a mother, everything feels up in the air and confusing. So much of life is out of our control, so to be thrown even further out of control with the arrival of a global pandemic that brings with it a slew of devastating and bleak news each day is weighing on me.

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Do I give up on planning out the timing of any of it and just dive in headfirst? We're getting married this year, after all - maybe I should worry less about waiting until my "real" wedding to go off birth control and try for a little one sooner. But then there's the issue of our 750-square-foot apartment. Can a toddler sleep in a bathtub? (JK, but really, where would I put a baby - and all of their stuff - once they're out of a bassinet?) Aside from a lack of space, we don't feel unsafe in our neighborhood, but we'd love to not start a family in a first-floor apartment that a constant flow of passersby can see into during the day.

"I guess all of this is to say that if you, too, are feeling like your life was stopped in its tracks during one of its most exciting seasons, I see you."

I know that people overcome these same challenges every day, pandemic or not. That we don't always get to experience things as we'd hoped to in our heads. And I know that things will work out for us, and the feelings of being stuck and that everything is doomed will hopefully ease away as time passes and the brilliant experts trying to figure out this virus find a way to protect us all from it. Still, I can't help but feel this somewhat selfish despair that my life as I'd planned it feels best put on hold until things in the world are a bit more secure.

I guess all of this is to say that if you, too, are feeling a little lost right now about where your family is heading, and like your life was stopped in its tracks during one of its most exciting seasons, I see you. Things may feel overwhelming and bleak, but life is filled with tiny beautiful moments, and one day, hopefully within the next five or so years, one of those moments will belong to meeting my first child.

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