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When Did 'When' Become 'If'?

I’ve gotten into this bad habit when talking about the future by referring to “if” I have kids, rather than saying “when” I have kids.

Way back before we ever started trying, kids were this abstract concept, something we thought we would eventually get when I messed up my birth control schedule, or by splitting a bottle of Chardonnay some night after a cabin-in-the-woods party. In other words, kids were a thing of the future—a given.

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“When we have kids, are we going to take them with us up north?” (By the way, I live in Minnesota. Anything north of where I live in the city is automatically deemed “up north.”)

“When we have kids, we are never going to allow them to have cell phones until they can pay their own bills.”

We’d make these comments throughout our dating years and early marriage. When we started actively trying to conceive, when the birth control was long gone and a bottle of wine was only opened during and right after my period, I continued to say “when” a lot more. It was always used in a hopeful tone, full of optimism, because I was 24, and my 27-year-old husband was always happily in the mood to have sex whenever I thought it was a good time to get pregnant. The only friends we knew who were pregnant or had kids were either older than us or were a result of a teen pregnancy.

How did my thinking change from “when I am a mom” to “if I ever become a mom”?

Even when we were going through IUIs and through our first IVF, there was no “if.” I had no reason to think that state-of-the-art science wouldn’t get us pregnant. It was just a matter of time.

What I don’t remember is when “when” turned to “if.” How did my thinking change from “when I am a mom” to “if I ever become a mom”? What was that first conversation like, the first time I ever uttered the word “if” when talking about our future? How did it happen that when talking about our kids, I no longer had that same hope? When did saying “Are we going to go hike this trail with our kids?” start to put a knot of fear in our stomachs? I wish I could remember that moment when “when” changed to “if.”

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In about six weeks, we will be doing our second donor egg transfer. It’s time I brought back some of that hope. Between then and now, I will make a promise to myself to think in terms of “when” and not let myself think otherwise. It’s always been easier to think more positive right before another cycle. As we get closer and closer to the transfer, I find myself getting back some of that excitement I used to have for the future, having the feelings that this could be it. My husband deserves that hopefulness, as well as the eight frozen eggs sitting in a lab in Texas.

When I get pregnant. When I have kids. I’m just going to keep repeating this mantra to myself for the next few weeks and hope it comes true.

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