Counting Smokes and Being Accountable

I have been doing a lot of counting lately.

I am 35 years old and have been smoking since I was 12 years old (that’s 12-15 cigarettes a day for 23 years, less than that for the first 5 years I smoked). I come from a French family of mostly women, most of whom smoke. I have been smoking my entire existence really, and though my own mother never smoked a cigarette a day in her life, my father smokes 1-2 packs a day in the home I grew up in before I ever left my mother’s womb.

I have never quit before. I have never tried to quit before. Until now.

You see, my problem is I don’t really want to quit smoking. I didn’t get fed-up, I don’t feel ashamed to be a smoker (there are certainly worse character flaws than being an addict), I didn’t get disgusted or have any particular health problems related to my smoking. I quite simply just wanted to start the family I always hoped for and was blessed with the success of getting pregnant on the first try. If I could have my baby and be guaranteed it would be healthy despite my smoking I probably wouldn’t even consider quitting. I’m sure that to any non-smoker reading this that sounds positively shameful, hopefully to the smokers reading it’s refreshingly honest. We need and deserve refreshing honesty I think, as all these life changes are tough enough. I feel a little deceived by a few smoking moms I know who told me it was just easy and intuitive because when you get pregnant it will just “feel wrong” or you’ll be “grossed-out by it all of a sudden” or “you’ll be too nauseous to want to smoke”.

None of those were my experience at all.

As soon as I suspected I was pregnant (a.k.a. I was “late”), my guilt-spiral began. With every cigarette I felt horrible about myself yet unable to connect that feeling with any motivation to stop or to support the growth of a healthy baby. Of course it’s all so abstract in the beginning. Hell, it’s still abstract 20 weeks in as I am not showing much yet and the flutters confirming that I am indeed sharing my body with someone else have just begun. At 7 weeks I got online and found support forums to suit my every need. If I wanted a cigarette I found blogs of women talking about how they’d smoked and their babies were perfectly healthy; If I wanted to scare myself I googled videos and sad stories of children who suffered the side-affects of smoking; And when I needed someone to talk me through any given moment without shame I reached out to chat rooms and support services online. Finally, once I had confirmed that I was pregnant I began the countdown of 5, 4, 3, 3, 2, 3, 2, 1, 1, 1…NONE.

Then 1 cigarette a week later. Then another 1 two weeks after that. I was obsessed, thinking about smoking all the time, taking long walks and thinking about it, taking long naps and thinking about smoking, so I decided I had to push past living every moment of my first pregnancy in between smokes, and I stopped. 8 weeks ago.

Since I never really wanted to quit, my biggest burning question now is: Will I stay quit?

Somehow I lucked out in making a life with a non-smoker husband, who has been supportive either way (he’s never minded my smoking and has helped me cope with cravings while quitting). We want to have 2 babies over the next 3+ years, so my plan is to quit for now, tell myself it’s just another 5-6 months and that I can smoke again once my healthy baby is born. Then, I hope it will slowly become normal, the cravings will be more manageable and I’ll find new pride in my stay-quit story. And then I’ll extend my stay-quit hiatus until getting pregnant a second time (saving myself the stress of having to quit twice and the distraction it has been from the enjoyment of being pregnant.). Hopefully by then (about 3 or so years from now) I’ll somehow be used to being a non-smoker and will stay-quit forever.

4 years of constantly watched, thoughtful self-control to combat 23 years of stress-“coping”, lifestyle and supposed pleasure. Small steps and white-lies to replace the ones I used to have to justify my smoking.

I’ll keep you posted on how it goes, and you’ll keep me honest, so thank you for being a part of my journey.


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