Is having a positive pregnancy test automatically good news?
The portrayal of pregnancy tests is quite one-sided in popular culture and advertising today. More often than not, we see a hetero couple who want to get pregnant and get pregnant quickly. But the reality looks different. 95% of pregnancy tests taken show a negative result. Far from everyone who pees on a stick wants to get pregnant - and those who do often need to test many times before they see the long-awaited positive sign.
To reflect more of the reality, we brought together midwife and new mother Asabea Britton who educates people through her Instagram stories, the body activist Cassandra Klatzkow who longs for children, the newly married Veckorevyn editor-in-chief Irena Pozar and mother of two Andrea Ruiz who went to Denmark and had a child through IVF. It turned into a conversation about longing for children, happiness, unwanted pregnancies, endometriosis, biological clocks, power and the emotional effect around taking a pregnancy test.
Does everybody want to have children?
Does everyone want children? We live in one of the world’s most progressive countries when it comes to gender equality. Despite that, the norm that all women of childbearing age should want children seems to live on. What do you feel when you hear “everyone wants to have children”?
Cassandra: That it’s not true.
Andrea: Yes, it’s something everyone takes for granted. When you get to a certain age, the questions start coming. Questions if you don’t want to, questions if you can’t, etc..
Cassandra: I find that I have a hard time understanding. I have not always longed for children but I have always thought I would have children. When I’ve talked to friends who are younger than me who said they don’t want children, I’ve thought “wait it will come”. But it sucks, it might be that they know 100% that they don’t want children. With older friends who say they don’t want children, it’s easier for me to understand.
Asabea: I can feel time pressure for those who wait too long. It’s okay to say you don’t want children, but to wait too long and then it might not work out – some people don’t know that it can take a while to get pregnant.
Cassandra: Asabea, you really got me thinking, because you asked me once if I thought about freezing my eggs. And I know you’re talking from your profession, but it really set something off in me. I’m turning 32, I haven’t been in a relationship for 8 years and I want kids, but people around me say I don’t need to stress. For me it would be a great sadness if I could not have children.
Andrea: I can be provoked by the whole “children are the meaning of life” thing, even though I have children myself. I do not agree. I avoid saying such things.
Irena: Do you get more provoked when it comes from parents?
Andrea: If you don’t have children, I respect the longing you may have. But when you have children and say that, it’s wrong, because then it can seem like you mean that those without children don’t have meaningful lives. It is individual what is meaningful in life. If my wife hadn’t had such a longing for children, I could have lived my life with her without children just as happily.
Irena: That feels so wonderful to hear. Because it’s quite rare to hear that from people who have children.
Asabea: Aside from everyone thinking you want children, everyone assumes you want more than one child. People already ask me “when will you have your second child?” I also find that very strange. Partly because you don’t know if people can, or if people even want to.
Irena: I’m happy when people have children. I love children! Therefore, I have to restrain myself from asking. It comes from love. I understand that I shouldn’t get involved, but I think it’s so much fun. For me it comes from a good place because I get so excited. I know I shouldn’t ask and I usually don’t.
Turning 30, getting engaged or moving to a bigger house – there are many big steps in life that can make people around you take it for granted that you are about to start a family. Have you been asked “When are you going to have children?”
Irena: I am 27 and married. I moved from a first to a third this spring. I love all children – that is, on the level that I can imagine being a babysitter at work and think it’s nice to wipe up vomit.
I’ve always been able to say “soon”. I want to have children and I’m open about it because I always knew I wanted to. But on the other hand, if I had difficulty having children, this would be hard work. People take it for granted that I will have children at any time just because I have the right conditions for it: I’m young, I’m in a stable relationship and I want children.
Cassandra: Everyone’s waiting for me too.
Irena: I’ve never been pregnant, so I don’t even know if I can get pregnant. I think I’m the only person I know who hasn’t had an abortion, so who knows? I don’t think this question is so difficult now, but the day I start talking to people about having children, it will be difficult if it doesn’t work out. This whole picture around me and children has been built up for so long.
A pregnancy test – a rollercoaster of emotions
There are lots of reasons why you take a pregnancy test depending on where you are in life and how you feel about children. The very moment when you start showing is incredibly big and can evoke many different emotions and thoughts. For example, it is not always a given that you feel happiness immediately even though you want to get pregnant. What is your experience of pregnancy tests?
Irena: I have probably taken 100 pregnancy tests since I was 15 if my period was a day late. I’ve taken pregnancy tests everywhere – in malls, at school, at work. I have been both very scared and knew if it happens, it happens. Buying pregnancy tests is a little more de-dramatized for me now, but I still usually hide the packages at home because I think people will speculate otherwise.
Cassandra: I’ve taken two pregnancy tests. The first test was at the youth clinic and it proved to be positive. Do you say that – positive? It didn’t feel so positive at the time, but it was positive. I was probably 15 years old then.
The second time I was 100% sure I was pregnant, and I was. I recognized the feelings in my body somehow, even though it was 7 years later. I had abortions both times.
Irena: So you’ve never had a negative result?
Cassandra: Well, I did have one and it was negative. But I have also always used protection. I had a condom when I was in a long relationship and a hormonal IUD when I was single.
Andrea: Calling it positive and negative sounds like evaluating the whole thing.
I am married to a woman and we have been together for 12 years. When we decided to have children, it was not spontaneous. We went to Denmark and did the whole routine. Since we decided to do IVF, there were mixed feelings when it failed from time to time. And it did so many times.
But what was so nice was that we took the tests together. I wasn’t told to go home and do it myself in the toilet, but we would do it together. And now we have two children. We have shared the great sadness – but also the happiness when the test was positive.
Asabea: Was it extreme happiness then?
Andrea: I have never dreamed of children, but I have dreamed of falling in love and being with a person. Children are just an added spice in life. But my wife has dreamed of it since she was born herself. So it was incredibly big.
Asabea: My relationship with pregnancy tests – I’ve taken loads of them. But I have often worked in places where tests are available. I have given many pregnancy tests at the women’s clinic and the gynaecology center, for anyone who had a stomach ache. Most of the time they are surprised and not super happy. They didn’t know they were pregnant.
Taking a pregnancy test is emotionally charged. Doing it in an IVF process must make it even bigger emotionally. How was the difference from when you found out you were pregnant compared to when you found out your wife was?
Andrea: Standing by while she waited for an answer felt even nicer. When I was the one holding the stick, I felt so proud of myself.
A little egotistical almost. During my wife’s pregnancy I was able to enjoy myself more because she felt so good and was so beautiful.
I myself was like a solar eclipse. I was pregnant.
The biological clock
Some things can’t be avoided when it comes to the body and fertility. Nevertheless, many people wait a long time today to have children. The average age in Sweden for first-time mothers is 29 years and in Stockholm’s inner city 38 years. How do you feel about the expression the biological clock?
Asabea: It does exist. In my workplaces where I worked as a midwife and assistant nurse, we talked a lot about age and that people might not understand that it is an important factor. It’s not something you say to scare people. I’ve brought this up on my Instagram – about age and declining fertility. Some people get provoked and say that I am scary. But it’s not intimidation, it actually is.
Irena: It’s important to know that, so you can make a well-informed decision. It’s like you think it’s really easy to get pregnant, because that’s what you learn in school. And then you get really sad when it takes time, because you feel cheated. Same thing if I was to wait until I was 35 I would be sad if I missed my chance because no one told me.
Cassandra: From what age does fertility start to reduce?
Asabea: The best time is in your early 20s. Then it drops and after 40 it becomes considerably more difficult. That’s how it is with the biological clock, the most important thing is that you want to have a child and feel that you are ready. There is so much else that needs to be in place too though. It won’t be good if you’re not there mentally, even if your biological clock is at its best right then.
Cassandra: If I got pregnant, I wouldn’t care who got me pregnant. I would keep the baby. It’s about my longing, and it’s about not knowing if I’ll even have sex with a man again. I’d rather date girls, which makes it harder to get pregnant.
For men, it’s possible to wait much longer to have children. There are also those men who had children when they were 70 years old. A heteronormative question – has this affected you in your relationships and when dating guys?
Asabea: The whole reason my boyfriend and I have kids now is because I felt like I didn’t want to get much older before I had kids. Had it been entirely up to him, he would have waited maybe five years. He is 32 years old and has time on his hands.
Cassandra: That’s unfair. I feel like I need to talk about my biological clock in my dating life. And I do that even when I meet girls. The last person I dated is much younger than me. It was very important for me when I noticed that I started to have feelings for her to bring up the children issue. I cannot enter into a serious relationship with a person if that person does not want to have children in 10 years time. It would have been terrible to fall in love with someone and lose your whole dream.
Right now I feel that children are something that I really long for in life. So I need to talk about it. And when I meet men, I feel that there is an injustice in it. Generally, men are intimidated by that discussion. As a guy, you can only choose to start dating younger girls instead. The path to children is not always straightforward.
The road to having children is not always straightforward
In a same-sex relationship, a completely different plan is required when it comes to having children. If you cannot get pregnant naturally, you have to resort to other methods such as IVF. What was it like going through that Andrea?
Andrea: We knew we had conditions on our side. I was young and fit. Same thing with the donor. We bought a donor. We did it via a website. It sounds so sick but it was like a Dressmann catalog online with hundreds of men with pictures from when they were kids. It was like a dream. But it’s just a shame that it has to become a class issue. Everyone should be allowed to do what they want.
To have an abortion or not
Finding out you’re pregnant can be the happiest moment of your life, but it can also be a source of anxiety. You are suddenly faced with a big choice. Some of those who choose to go ahead with an abortion keep it to themselves, do you think there is shame attached to abortion today?
Irena: I think that it might not only be about a sense of shame. It might have something to do with what you think is private. I’m not ashamed of my sex life, but I still might not want to talk about it in detail with my friends. There doesn’t have to be shame when you don’t talk about things, but it can also just feel too private. In a relationship, there are also two of you involved if you have an abortion.
Asabea: If I were to have an abortion now, I would have no problem telling people at all. It’s the same as telling everyone as soon as I got pregnant. I thought if I miscarried I would tell everyone anyway. Even when I was younger, I know many friends who had abortions. I still thought we talked about it even then – I went with several of them when they were going to have their abortions
Cassandra: When I had my first abortion, I was very young. I got pregnant before the summer holidays and had to wait all summer for an abortion, so I had time to become very hormonal. I felt a lot of emotions and doubted until the day of my abortion if it was the right decision. But I still had an abortion because I was just a child.
Asabea: I always wanted my pregnancy tests to be negative until now. My pregnancy when I had my son was planned for a very long time. I was very happy when the test was positive. But after a day – there were so many hormones – I panicked. I thought now I really have to do this. I had longed so much for a positive result and then I panicked. Everything went so quickly, on the first try. I still thought it would take some time. I remember thinking that I was the worst person in the world because I wasn’t quite sure that this was what I wanted. I felt guilty. In front of my partner too. It was my idea, and he agreed that we should do it this way. I had made a plan and really planned it, so when I then got pregnant I panicked and wondered if it was right.
Irena: Did you panic because you felt that there is a difference between accidentally getting pregnant and having an abortion, and wanting to get pregnant and have an abortion?
Asabea: Yes, very much so. I really want to point out that I never wanted to have an abortion. But “what if I don’t want this?” did go through my head. It was my idea and I had been so pushy. I felt bad in front of my partner because it was my plan. But then it worked out.
Even though you ended up having an abortion Cassandra, did knowing you could get pregnant give you any reassurance?
Cassandra: When I had my second abortion, I was 23 and in a relationship. And then I felt: damn, now I’ve done this twice. But now I still feel that it was good to know that it worked, at the same time it has been a while since I was 23. I also have endometriosis, which can affect fertility. What I learned when I was diagnosed was that almost everyone who has endometriosis gets pregnant with or without help. But they were very clear in saying: you shouldn’t try to conceive naturally for too long, there is help on hand.
How do you deal with your longing for children?
It’s not a given that you are instinctively 100% happy for someone when they tell you that they are going to have a child. Maybe you’ve been trying yourself without success, or maybe you’re single and haven’t met the right person to have a baby with. How is it to long for children when so many of the people around you do?
Cassandra: I have a lot of friends who have children. I love all my friends’ children, almost a little more than my friends. I call them my children. They are the same age and will grow up next to each other. I can find myself thinking about having a baby in five years and if my kid won’t have any friends. That also increases my stress. That community seems so incredibly nice and I have seen how friends of mine have become closer to each other because they have children of the same age. There’s a kind of sadness in me about this which is kind of ridiculous because it’s not too late for me yet.
Asabea: I put out a question to my followers on Instagram about how to deal with longing for children a while ago. Some said they coped by looking after other people’s children even more. Then there were also a lot of people who said that you don’t need to spend time with children. That you don’t need to have babies around you or go to 10 children’s parties a year. That it’s okay if it feels too hard at the time.