My second pregnancy was somewhat unplanned and certainly unexpected. I don’t remember why I took the test, aside from how deeply I felt the lethargy. This isn’t one of my “normal” PMS symptoms, I thought.
My one-year-old son grabbed the test out of my hand and toddled out of the bathroom with it. I chased him down the hall, hollering at him to give it back as he waved it around and stumbled, catching himself just before falling each time. He giggled maniacally.
“That’s not a toy,” I called after him, swallowing down rising nausea. “Please don’t put it in your mouth!”
He crashed onto the couch, the test in a vice-like grip in his pudgy, sweaty fist. I reached over the sofa’s backside, meeting his eye. He grinned. His eyes sparkled. I couldn’t help but smile, too.
“Give it to momma,” I coaxed as I wedged my pointer finger into his clenched hand to uncurl all five of his sweaty fingers. When the test slid out, I lunged to grab it, my feet off the ground.
He laughed, his eyes wide, watching to see if I’d smash my face on a couch cushion. I’m confident he hoped I would.
Two pink lines.
My business was in such a good place. I was in a groove. Even though I felt deeply isolated at home with a toddler, I also felt like I was managing the proverbial early motherhood juggle as much as I wanted to. I was banking five-figure months while changing diapers and working around nap times. I was walking to Target with my son in his stroller, tapping myself off of mute to add value to meetings while I chucked organic baby food pouches in the stroller’s undercarriage. I had clients I loved and was producing work that made me proud. It all felt beautiful, exhausting, and pretty delicate.
One new variable would throw everything off of its axis.
Especially another baby.
When my husband got home, I gave the test back to our son to greet his father. I stood in the dining room with my arms crossed, waiting for him to extricate the test from our son’s grip.
When my husband picked our son up, looked at the test, and then looked at me, our eyes met and I said something along the lines of “Yep. Congratulations.”
Then I walked away.
Now, I want to be clear that I know how blessed I am to have two beautiful, brilliant children. I understand many people hope and try and never get what came so easily for me, at least the second time (our first child took over a year to conceive). But these big life things are hardly ever just one thing: completely joyous, unendingly sad. They are layered, and my second baby was no exception.
As I progressed through my first trimester, sicker in different ways than anyone had ever told me I might be (I was constantly nauseated, and when I did eat, my stomach tightened into a little ball that slowly and painfully re-inflated over a span of several hours, bringing with it gas top and bottom—every meal, every day), I had to mourn the business I thought I was building. I was forced to create a new vision.
And my life outside of my business had to meet me there, too. In order to reconcile my two babies and my equally infant business, I gave myself opportunities to feel excited, to plan: I found out the baby’s gender early so I could start thinking of her as a person and not just a fetus that drained all of my energy, I told my clients months earlier about my pregnancy than I ever would have considered doing in my corporate jobs (and they didn’t bat an eye), I found part-time childcare for our son so I had more time to focus.
None of it was easy, but that wrench in my plans set me up to weather other storms that would hit later: a global pandemic, for example.
I had about seven months to mourn what I thought I was building—turns out, I was further along in my pregnancy than I originally calculated–surrender to the new, and attempt to be open to whatever was meant for me next.
I remained unwavering in my vision of weaving together a business and a life that I loved, at home, around town, and sometimes at a local coffee shop or coworking space to keep things interesting.
(For what it’s worth, I also asked for more help — from my family, my community, paid caregivers, and my own intuition.)
That unwavering commitment, though. It makes all the difference. It makes everything clearer. I told this story to show you that you can have the work and the life you want, as long as you keep your chin turned toward the sky, as long as you remain open, check in with yourself, and stay dedicated. Permanent birth control helps, too, surely, but there will always be a next big pivot.
And in the world we live in now, we’re blessed with endless choices to build beautiful things—at home and beyond.
— By Whitney Popa
Whitney Popa is a writer and communications consultant in Edmonds and Emilie Given is a virtual assistant agency owner in Lynnwood. They write this column together to share work-from-home ideas. They love where they live and are grateful the virtual world allows them to achieve more work/life harmony. They also co-host a weekly podcast where they share their entrepreneurship journeys while learning about those of others. You can learn more about Emilie here and more about Whitney here.