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Why do I feel like I want a baby right now?

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Emily asks:

I'm 18 years old, going on 19 and have been with my boyfriend for 2 years who is the same age. I lost my virginity to him and have never wanted any other person besides him. When we first started having sex, I was completely afraid of getting pregnant. I once thought I was pregnant and contemplated throwing myself down the stairs, though now I would never do such a thing. Now that we've been together for so long, and plan on being together for a long time to come, I've been having very strange thoughts.

I'll be in a store, and look at baby clothes or a book store and see baby books and think "Oh, it's baby stuff. I wish I had a little one of my own." Right now, my boyfriend and I live together, he goes to college and works part time and I just work. I have no clue what I want to do yet, so we decided to move and let him go to school since he had it all planned out.

Sarah replies:

(Emily's question continued) Anyway, I keep thinking about being pregnant, wanting a baby and hoping and hoping I get pregnant. I hate thinking this way, because we aren't really ready for that yet, but I can't stop. Is there really any reason I would have this motherly urge? We always have unprotected sex, though he pulls out. However, while I'm on my period, I do let him climax inside of me. I thought there would be no chance of pregnancy, but is this in fact untrue? Though I want to be pregnant, I would NEVER try to get myself pregnant on purpose when he clearly isn't ready for it.

I don't know what to do about this. I just want to feel a baby in me, and see a little face, knowing it's part of me. It's driving me crazy! I can't have sex with him any more without wishing he would just climax in me. Once before, recently, I thought I could have been pregnant. When I saw the negative on the little store bought test, I cried. What's wrong with me? I want to give my child a GOOD life, so why am I feeling this way right now? Is it normal for someone my age to want this so much? My boyfriend is the responsible one, always using condoms even when I don't want to, making sure he doesn't come in me, before we had sex he even got tests to make sure he didn't get anything from his exes. I was a virgin and didn't need to.

It's not ruining my relationship per se, but it is beginning to occupy my thoughts way too much. Is there anything I can do? Thank you so much.

First off, Emily, let yourself off the hook for how you're feeling right now. It's not at all unusual to find that during a point (or points) in your life you feel a strong desire to have a child. This happens to many people of all genders and ages. (Though that's not to say that there are not people who never feel the urge to reproduce. There certainly are lots of folks like that and there's nothing wrong with feeling that way either!) It's also not unusual to sometimes feel like you're not ready/don't want a child and then at other times to feel strongly the opposite. Some people will say this is related to one's "biological clock" (which I think is likely a big bunch of bullocks since it can happen at any time). Or maybe it's related to what we see going on around us or what we learn from our own culture. It's hard to say where these urges come from, but it is okay to have them and to feel however you happen to be feeling at the time. It's also okay that you felt disappointed when you thought you might be pregnant but then found that you weren't. Pregnancy worries can put a person through a lot of different emotions.

However, feeling the urge to have a child and actually having a child are very different things. You note that your partner clearly isn't ready for a child and that you are not either, but you are engaging in activities that have a pregnancy risk. Withdrawal is not a very good method of birth control. It has a pretty darn high failure rate. Pre-ejaculate can contain sperm. Additionally, it's not always possible to pull out completely before any ejaculation occurs. So it is certainly possible that you could become pregnant using withdrawal. Also, while ejaculation during menstruation may have a slightly lower risk than during other parts of your cycle, the risk is indeed still there. Sperm can hang around in your reproductive track for several days waiting for ovulation to happen (and if you happen to ovulate early, you can see how this could be quite risky). If your partner is truly not ready, then it's time to sit down and re-evaluate your birth control methods and choose something that truly will be good at preventing pregnancy. (Even if your partner was tested previously and you were not sexually active prior, it is still wise to get regular STI screenings and gynecological care. Some STIs can remain dormant or not show symptoms for a time and others can crop up on their own.)

So, is it normal to have these thoughts? Yes. If you find that they are occupying you too much and are causing you problems, then it may be time to do something about that. As you've said, you're not ready for a child right now. It may help to consider logically what being pregnant and having a child really entail. We tend to focus on all the good parts of pregnancy and parenting, but really both can be pretty scary prospects. While I obviously can't speak for all pregnant women, I will say that it's not all puppies and rainbows, so to speak. Yes, it is neat to feel a baby kick, but there are certainly some not so neat parts as well. You can't eat or drink what you want all the time. You may not be able to do activities that you previously had done or want to do. You can't take most medications, no matter how sick you may be. Side effects of pregnancy can be unpleasant (to say the least). Not sleeping is not cool at all. Bodies change and emotions run wild. That's not even speaking to the expense of being pregnant, delivering, and taking care of another person for the next 18-20 years or so. If you honestly ask a pregnant woman, most will tell you that it's also pretty frightening at times. There can be (and often is) a tremendous amount of anxiety involved because nearly everything is out of your hands. You can't control how your body is changing. If something goes wrong, there is likely very little or nothing that you can do as an individual to stop it or make things better. You can't control whether there might be some problem or disorder with the child. There are a million external factors that can influence your pregnancy as well that you often can't control and may feel poorly equipped to deal with, no matter how much you've planned (such as the possibility of the loss of a partner, loss of a job or insurance, long-term bed rest, delivery issues, etc.). Most people often find that they worry at some point or another whether they will actually be able to be good parents. So it's wise to consider both the good and the not-so-good when you're thinking about pregnancy and parenting. You can certainly spend time around children without having one of your own. You might be able to volunteer to work with children through a local charity, church, or other organization. Plenty of places need people to help out with children. You also might try spending time with the children of relatives or friends. Perhaps you could volunteer to babysit for a day or an evening or simply go play with them for a while. If you find yourself thinking about this all the time and you're unable to cope with it, then it may be time to consider speaking with a counselor or therapist. Again, this doesn't mean that you're "crazy" or that there's anything wrong with you. A professional may just be able to help you work through your feelings more effectively.

You may want to check out the following for more information:

written 07 May 2008 . updated 26 May 2008

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