If Egg and Sperm had come together . . .

The night I lost my virginity to the man who would become my first husband was probably the only time we had unprotected sex. If my math is correct, I was ripe for conception, my young eggs eager to hook up with his sperm. If I had conceived that night, almost two years before we got married .  . .

We were near Los Angeles, visiting friends of his whom I barely knew. We had spent the day at Disneyland, where he kept bugging me to have sex. We were drunk. Our friends had gone to bed, and he invited me to join him on the floor in the two sleeping bags he had zipped together. One thing led to another . . .

Before we did it, I said, “We’re going to get married, right?” He said yeah, but don’t tell anybody. It was Fourth of July. We announced our engagement in September, four months later, but there was never a real proposal.

My ex hustled me off to get birth control as soon as we got home from that trip. I remember I had told my mother, “We’re not going to do anything down there that we wouldn’t do here.” Ha. What if I had come home pregnant? My parents would have lost their minds. It was 1972. Out-of-wedlock babies were still a scandal. My reputation would have been trashed forever—or not, if we got married quickly enough to make it look like it happened on the honeymoon. But there is no quick marriage for Catholics, not with the six-month prep.

However it worked out, I would have had a child.

We probably would have gotten married sooner. I don’t think he would have left me. His parents wouldn’t let him, and he did everything they said. As it was, we got married two weeks after I graduated from college. If I had had a baby, would I have graduated at all?

Would we still have lived in that two-bedroom apartment by the freeway? We would have had to use my “office” for the baby. Where would I have done my writing? The sound of the typewriter annoyed my husband. Maybe we would have lived elsewhere. Or moved in with his parents, God forbid.

We would have missed some fabulous trips. Or maybe not. Maybe I would have been out in the desert or the mountains with my baby bump. Maybe we’d still be making love on the tailgate of the Jeep or on a rock by a river. Maybe our child would be a backpack baby.

I have a feeling he would have started cheating sooner. Maybe he would have been drunk even more often. The marriage would have ended anyway. We were just not compatible. But I would have that child, and maybe I’d be a grandmother now.

It would have been hard to do my newspaper work, very difficult, with all those late meetings and deadlines and all that running around doing interviews and taking pictures–not that I could get a newspaper job without a degree.

My parents weren’t the kind who would step up and babysit. My in-laws were still working. My ex clearly wasn’t up for childcare. He didn’t even take care of our dog and cat.

But I would have this child. When I met Fred, I would be a single parent. My child, around 11 years old, would be older than his youngest, who turned 7 shortly after we met. Fred would have welcomed him or her. He liked older kids, just didn’t want to deal with a baby. Maybe this child would have helped me through Fred’s illness and my widowhood. I might have had a daughter-in-law, too. I could live near them and do holidays with “the kids” like my friends do.

Maybe I would write about kids and motherhood instead of dogs and dying husbands. Maybe I’d write children’s books. . . .

At church Sunday, a young couple with a baby a few months old sat in the pew right beside the piano. I watched that baby the whole time. So cute. So magical with that perfectly clear skin, those tiny fingers, and those blue eyes observing everything. His parents clearly adored him. Mid-Mass, the mom nursed him under a blanket, and then he fell asleep. Oh, I melted. I started to think about how I never got to care for a baby like that. The pain started. I chased it away. Not here, not now. I had music to play. But . . . shit. You know.

I mourn the child I might have had, but at the same time, I know I was lucky. If I had had a baby with husband number one, I would have been tied to him and his family forever, even after I married Fred. That would have been complicated, to put it mildly. My career would have been trashed. I guess I should be grateful.

So that one time, I did not get pregnant. God knows, lots of people do get pregnant after one passionate night. In the movies, it happens all the time. One night together, and bam, the pregnancy test comes out positive. In the novel I finished reading recently, the couple didn’t have sex very often, but every time they did, the woman conceived. For a lot of people, it’s not that easy. Not even close.

Have there been times when you might have had an oops baby? What if you had? Does it kill you to remember what might have been? Feel free to share in the comments.


One of our readers recommended “5 Flights Up” as a movie where the couple does not have children. I watched it last weekend and really enjoyed it. Morgan Freeman and Diane Keaton are the couple, and it’s a sweet feel-good movie. Put it on your list.



8 thoughts on “If Egg and Sperm had come together . . .

  1. Oh, I loved that movie! I totally forgot about it until now.

    What if’s.

    There was the time the condom broke. I was newly divorced, enjoying some “freedom” and “fun”. Behaving NOT like myself. Had we gotten pregnant then – it would have been incredibly awful and embarrassing in our highly religious families. We were just starting to see each other and so soon after the divorce? – No! That would not do.

    I wasn’t pregnant and sometimes I do wonder. Would my husband have grown up a lot quicker and stopped his drinking? Maybe. But probably not. Likely our marriage would have imploded in other ways (rather than the way it actually did). And probably sooner. With a child in the mix, I don’t think we’d have been able to fix anything. I think it would have gotten worse – way worse. I’d probably have become one of those women who end up staying married, raising the child with little help from him, finding pieces of happiness and hoping he died first so I could have a little shot at joy before I died.

    So no baby for us. But a different drama. And a great deal of time to fix the broken parts of us. I’m very happy with my husband now and my life. Things happened the way they were supposed to happen.

    Another time in our marriage, I really did think I was pregnant. At that time we were married a couple of years and it would have been “okay” to have been pregnant. Sure, we still had our issues, but it seemed hopeful then. At that time I believe a baby could have helped our marriage. We had a cute little house, he was doing a good job at staying sober. I think at that point he would have thrown himself into fatherhood and it would have been “okay”.

    Lately I’ve been daydreaming about adoption. Adopting a kid (not a baby). One whom we could rescue and change his or her life. And I know without a doubt that my husband would shine and we’d work well together. We’ve put a lot of garbage behind us and we’d appreciate a child. I know I’d be doing the heavy lifting and he’d be the “fun one,” but I wouldn’t care. If we adopted an older child we (I assume) could continue on with the careers we’ve built. We wouldn’t be building a life. We’ve already done that. We would simply be sharing our life with a child and make a difference.

    I’m on the threshold of a handful of exciting things right now. I’m a bundle of nerves, but it’s exciting good stuff. Fingers crossed that it will all work out. Just give it time. Life is good in a way I never dreamed possible. Even without a child, that counts for something. It’s been more than “okay” and I’ll take it. 🙂

    Anon S


    • Anon S, thank you for this wonderful comment. I’m so glad good things seem to be happening for you. Like you, I had some “fun” between marriages and a couple of pregnancy scares, and it would have been awful if I were pregnant. Then again, it’s hard not to think about all the “what ifs.”


  2. What if. My high school sweetheart had not passed away at 31. We broke up six months before but probably would have gotten back together and had that baby and marriage. We purposely did not want to be the young Latino couple having babies all over the place. The day he died was the worst my heart could have ever broken. I’m 36 now, still hurting but found someone. He is not Latino and doesn’t care for babies or marriage. This breaks my heart again.
    My grandma passed in hospice and nearing the end told me not to be like my some of my aunts and to make sure I have babies. My only sibling had cancer and although is healthy again there is only a small chance that fertility was unaffected.
    All of these things plus feeling responsible for not giving my parents grandchildren (since they are sweet and cuddly) and being a Latina with these cultural standards to live up to is putting a lot of pressure on my mind and heart.
    I’m still young enough to have them but not willing to give up this great guy I found. He is not perfect but is willing to work on himself for me. He is not as loving as I am. He is more rigid and less emotional than some other men. He is still a good man from a good family and with minimal vices. I have made him mine and don’t want to give him up. We were going to break up tonight because we saw a different future. We decided to stay. Part of this decision means me giving up the idea of kids and marriage.
    It seems silly to give him up for a little shit that does not even exist yet. And for what? To find a man who wants kids and marriage but is a cheater or addict.
    I’m hurting during this transition. It breaks my heart to make this choice. It hurts to cut the bloodline here for my family. It hurts to tell my grandma that I didn’t do as she asked. It hurts to tell God that I reject the gift he gave me as a woman. It hurts to want it because I know I would be good at it but chose not to.
    This is a hard transition for me, and my heart will be broken for a little while. I will talk to my aunt about how she dealt with it. In all honesty, she is doing very well, even retired early because she could. My mind tells me it’s okay, I can take my career to the next level. Just that my feeliest of feels doesn’t like it. I’m in the middle of my what if. What if I don’t have a baby? Then I can travel. Then I can have a great career. Then I can really take care of my parents as they get older. Then I can be a good role model for someone who doesn’t have a mom. Then I can make sure my pup is happy in her old age. What if I don’t have a baby and I am still happy with my choice? What if?

    Thank you for the blog, I needed to put this out there.


    • Drans – my heart is with you. You’ve been through a lot. However, like Sue, I wonder if you are settling too soon. If you truly want a family someday you owe it to yourself to step back from the relationship and consider that another man could better suit you. You seem like a really caring person. You deserve someone who is equally as caring.


  3. Hey Drans,
    I am a father and I love it. I have had many friends over the years express the desire not to have children, ever. They all have one thing in common. Each of them is extremely selfish and self-absorbed. Now, I love these friends, don’t get me wrong, but I am glad I don’t spend every day with them. It would be a waste of my time.
    That said, if you are in a relationship with a guy that will only stay with you if you agree not to have children, you are just playing into his extreme selfishness. What will happen if you do something else that cramps his style? If you think that his selfishness will not affect your relationship in the future, you are out of your mind. Get rid of him before he takes the best years of your life and later discards you.
    God has someone better for you. Don’t let yourself robbed just so someone else can be selfish.


  4. I would have liked to have had an oops baby. But, since I was totally responsible, it would never be.

    After many years of being childless by marriage, I figured out my own body. Since I was open to having kids in my twenties while I was married, I never took birth control. He used condoms. I used an app on my iPad for tracking my periods and fertility days. It is very obvious to me when I would be able to conceive and when I cannot. It’s a hormonal thing. I’m not going to say more than that.


  5. This was very heartfelt and relatable. I think women are far more likely to rake over past memories and angst over what could have been, I know I do it a lot of the time. To an extent it is totally natural and I don’t think you can switch off that part of yourself, but it is important to acknowledge you did the best you could with the knowledge you had at the time. It is so easy to look back and chastise things we did, but our mindset is so different when we are young (and often naively hopeful). You did the best you could and it sounds like you are living a good, interesting life which helps others. Not to be underestimated. No one can truly have it all (people who say they do are either delusional or have shed loads of help). Sorry for your pain, what-ifs are very hard.


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