the b-word

It’s been more than two years since I last wrote about babies, so I thought I’d cruise back around the topic slowly while leaning out the window and making lewd gestures.

I should just end this post here, because I don’t think I’m going to write any better than that line.

Where we left off, I was kind of flapping my hands about babies and going “Ennghhh?!” And now I’m kinda dragging my feet about babies and going “Ennghhh.”

Seriously, best writing IN THE WORLD, available on this here blog for the bargain price of FREE NINETY NINE.

Two years ago, I had so many misgivings about having kids. I’m here to tell you that today… I still have them. All. Of them. They haven’t gone anywhere! I’d like to be able to say that with time I’d had an epiphany; that I’d finally woken up one morning and heard the DJ on my biological clock radio smoothly intone that it was time to make zee babies. Nope! I’m still just as fearful and resentful about procreation as I ever was, with the added bonus of being older and more withered.

I guess I’m not completely the same. I do feel slightly better about the general idea of having kids. Over the last few years, in my feverish quest to collect intel on the topic, I’ve read enough about parenthood and talked to enough parents about parenthood to glean some themes — themes outside of even the classic “It’s the best, it’s the worst, you can’t possibly understand.”

(Parents, please stop telling me I can’t possibly understand.)

I’ve gathered that even though parenthood knocks you down like a rush-hour train and drags you over a physical and emotional third rail, you can still make what you want out of the thing. That having a kid doesn’t necessarily send some sort of signal for your psyche to self-destruct in 5, 4, 3, 2 …. As someone who deeply fears losing myself to some murky underworld of mommy tropes, this has been reassuring beyond measure.

I also feel more enthusiastic about the idea of becoming a parent. This crazy science experiment where you throw a bunch of DNA together, shake it around, and watch to see what comes out is unnerving yet fascinating. I do want to see what kind of a person we could end up with, if he or she would be funny or serious, driven or content, studious or sporty, or any of the variables in between. I do want to see what it would be like to try to raise someone to be a good person. Very sporadically I’ve experienced what resembles mildly positive feelings about this process; borderline maybe-I-can-actually-do-this feelings, even — but don’t tell anyone or it could ruin my street cred.

So two years down the road, I feel like I’ve got some things about parenthood mentally handled, or at least sort of hemmed in with pitchforks and blazing torches. What I haven’t gotten a handle on is, well, pretty much everything else.

Like, you know, just doing the damn thing.

We were supposed to start trying in 2012. Definitely in early 2013, we were supposed to go for it then. But stuff kept happening. Stuff for which I did not want to be 100% sober, if I can be honest. Packing! Saying goodbye to friends! Moving! Unpacking! House-buying! House-remodeling! Birthdays! Holidays! Tuesdays!

I know how that makes me sound, but there it is.

Why the hesitation? Oh, I don’t know. Pregnancy only terrifies the living shit out of me. I know it’s the logical next step to becoming a biological parent, but taking that one step has tormented me. It’s a dark specter that constantly haunts the edges of my consciousness. I may have mostly reconciled the concept of being myself as a parent, but being myself while pregnant does not compute. I just don’t… know how to be a host and a person at the same time.

So I’ve stayed in this holding pattern — needing to move forward but not really wanting to go.

I’m too scared to do it and too scared not to.

People have told me: don’t do it if you’re not ready. I say: what if I never actually feel ready? What is ready, anyway? Is it a joyful desire? If it is, that’s a problem, because my current emotional approach to having a baby is one of resigned anxiety. So I could wait more, I could put this all on hold until I am ready in the proper manner. But what if I never am? What if I wait so long I lose out on my chance?

They say: don’t do it if you’re not 100% sure you want to. I say: what if I’m never 100% sure? What if I simply max out at only 80% sure, or 70%, or 52% sure? What then?

The only thing I am certain of is that I would like to be a parent slightly more than I would like to not be a parent. What exactly am I supposed to do with that information? Neither option feels quite comfortable, quite right. It feels a lot like politics, in that you’re forced to choose the lesser of the two evils, which is kind of not how I’d imagined key life decisions are supposed to go.

Maybe the problem is that we are conditioned to see any decision as a yes or no answer instead of a spectrum of answers. When it comes to babies, I am blessed (cursed) to fall somewhere just off-center on that spectrum. My personal solution reads more like a conditional statement than a raw emotion. If x > y, then z. It’s a series of careful calculations over gut feeling.

And that makes me wonder if I’m TOTALLY FUCKING NUTS. What kind of person goes about having a kid like this? What kind of woman am I that I’m forcing myself off the ledge when everyone else seems so willing to jump? What’s wrong with me that it’s taken so long to even get to this point?

Part of the problem, perhaps, is that we just don’t talk about the baby process, which I suppose is to be expected because it involves FILTHY DIRTY SEX. But not talking about it creates a false sense of what the process really involves. Not talking about it makes it look like it’s all result and no effort. Babies appear as if conjured from the ether, BOOM, greeted with welcoming arms by wholly enthusiastic parents. From the outside it seems like there is never any room, in having a baby, for reluctance and indecision. Like nobody ever had a second thought, or a third or nineteenth one, for that matter. It makes it seem like no couple ever fought about the choice, or cried over it, or boiled it all down to a pros and cons list.

When it comes to kids, there’s little room in our cultural narrative for being unsure of what you want. I struggle with whether I’m “normal” or not because I rarely hear stories that mirror mine. It doesn’t help that everyone else in my life has already chosen a side and set up camp with the Parents or the Non-Parents. But I know I can’t be the only fuzzy-logic-mumbo-jumbo holdout. Which is why I’m trying to stay transparent, here.

So to recap for those in the back1, then: I want to be a biological parent, but I don’t want to be pregnant. This is a fun duo of stipulations which, however I slice and dice them, result at some point in me having to host and then extract a human from my loins. I have been an absolute miserable little shit about this! With the feet-dragging and gnashing of teeth and rending of garments. I can count on seven hands the times I cornered my partner without warning and hollered at him about how lucky he was that he wouldn’t have to deal with any baby stuff for essentially the first year of its life and also FUCK YOU WHYYY! I am pretty good at being reasonable and respectful in long-term relationships, how is this dude still with me, etc. etc.

But despite my propensity for being an ass, it finally got to the point where it felt like we couldn’t wait any longer. And that we didn’t really have any good reason to wait any longer. So, we’ve been “trying” since September. Each cycle has been a strange mix of relief that I still get to be “me” and disappointment that we’re still no closer to accomplishing anything. 

Working my way through this the past few years has been a long, strange mental trip, and I question what exactly I think I’m doing daily. But I don’t know what else to do. No matter how afraid I may be, it seems like trying to have kids is my best answer, even if only by a hair.

Let’s hope it’s not a wrong answer.

 

1 This is every day tit for tat / you owe your dealer and can’t pay back fee / suddenly he’s the bully

57 Responses to “the b-word”

  1. This is beautifully written. I’m in much the same camp as you. We just started trying, I’m incredibly type A so every cycle we don’t succeed feels like a failure, but then the next two weeks I’m like: wooo I get to drink and eat all the cheeses and not feel guilty about any bad stuff I might be doing to my body because it’s just me here.

    • Anne, my nurse-practitioner told me I could drink/live normally up until I get a positive pregnancy test! You may want to check with your doc to get their take. Goooooood luck with everything.

  2. I’ve just gone back and read all your posts on babies. I had such a fear of losing the life I have now, but it’s ended up changing a lot anyway because everyone else I know (in the whole world!) is having babies just now, seriously 8 pregnant friends and counting…. I feel like everyone got a memo to have kids that I was missed off.
    Now we’ve started trying and it hasn’t happened so far, but I think the small disappointment every month I don’t get pregnant makes me realize that it’s the right thing to be trying to do.

    • That’s a good point. The further I’ve gone the more disappointed I’ve gotten — perhaps that’s a tip-off.

  3. I figure the nicest thing that biological babies do is give you 10 months to get used to the idea of definitely probably raising somebody up to not be a psychopath (hopefully). If you’re of our ilk, where you’re sort of ambivalent about the whole thing, not sure you want to be a part of a club that would have you as a member, it’s probably best you don’t take a baby home the day after you decide you might want to conceive.

    It’s funny to me that people have said to you “don’t do it til you’re ready”! Everyone has always told me that I’ll never feel ready, and that if I waited until I was ready I would never do it.

    • Evie, people have said that ALL THE TIME! They’re like, if you’re not sure, you’re probably not going to be happy with your choice. There is no single universal approach here, is what I’m gathering.

      Fingers crossed for no psychopath FOR SURE.

  4. Sign me up for the “I want biological kids but do not really want to be pregnant” club. C’mon science, where the hell are our uterine replicators already?!

    S and I have done the “should we start trying” dance for a while now, but actually taking the leap is really terrifying for all of the reasons you said, plus a few I’ve inflicted on myself. What if I’m fertility-challenged? What if the pregnancy is complicated? What if I barf during the middle of a morning lecture on Cold War diplomacy? What if my baby is born and it turns out I’m not a good parent and we made a terrible, terrible mistake?

    None of that was helpful. But I loved your take on the nagging uncertainty that comes with contemplating parenthood.

    • So I’m 3 months pregnant. Zofran is my best friend. After I threw up twice, I got a prescription so I didn’t have to be excused from court to go vomit. Anytime I’m facing a stressful situation, I just make sure to take a zofran and it works right away.

      We started early because I watched some of my cousins go through a lot of painful miscarriages and infertility treatment, and the thought of doing that scared me even more than the thought of having a baby omgrightnow. So we started trying and I got pregnant on the first cycle, which truthfully came with it’s own giant bucket of anxiety, which I do not admit in person because the previously mentioned friends with issues will hate me. (I wish we had “not tried not prevented” for a little while beforehand, I think I would have had way less anxiety. I put a lot of pressure on myself as soon as we were officially trying.)

  5. I’ve been meaning to write a long blog post about exactly this but I guess I’ll just put it all here in your comments because you said most of exactly what I feel. I’m totally on the wanting kids (sometimes, I think, mostly) train, but REALLY not wanting to go through the whole pregnancy bit. It’s convenient that circumstances mean that we haven’t been able to start trying really. But there’s that incessant nagging of “what if we wait too long?” and pressure from all around when everyone seems to be pregnant or with small children. It’s a weird thing how indecision can be a choice in its own way. I always thought I would have kids but now presented with the reality it seems utterly terrifying.

  6. I love that you wrote this. I love how honest you are, and how. much. you. have. thought. about. this.

    Being a superior procrastinator, rather than thinking it all through logically, I just dragged my heels on making any decision and ended up doing that kind of trying-but-not-trying thing that I used to think was total bullshit until I found myself doing it. Then when I – shocker! – got knocked up, I was horrified. I wept, profusely. Then I had a miscarriage, and wept, profusely. In the eight-ish weeks between those two events, I had adjusted to the idea enough that we figured, sure, why not start trying properly next time. The 11 months of actual “trying” were pretty weird times, and being pregnant is pretty weird too, but I’m getting used to it, and hopefully I’ll get used to having a kid around, too. (How’s that for motherly love? “Happy 4th birthday darling, I’m really getting used to you!”)

    Um, so, yeah. Waiting til you’re ready, or 100% sure, or whatever, didn’t really work for me because I’m never ready or 100% sure and I like to drag out decisions as long as humanly possible. Like Evie says, at least the whole conception and gestation process gives you some decent preparation time. Good luck, lady. I’m here if you ever want to email.

    • I have probably thought about it a. little. too. much.

      Also, hahahaha! “You have grown on me a bit! Slight improvement over last week, when I was seriously considering setting you out on the curb for the rubbish men to take.”

      Thank you for this comment, and I’m sorry I’m sorry I’m sorry you’ve had to fight through such a hard go of it.

  7. Or I could just have said what the really awkward young female GP told me when I went in after I got pregnant the first time and was plainly in shock: “Well, I mean, most people don’t seem to regret it, so…”

    REALLY, lady? MOST people?? Thank you for that warm and soothing reassurance.

  8. Ooh me, oooh meeee. I never completely came around to the “DEFINITELY WANT THIS, YES,” decision until whoops, and then about 9-ish months later I figured, “Welp, here goes!”

    I think too that initial indecision about the whole thing is why now I trumpet from the heavens (or at least my blog/Twitter), “It’s not that bad!”

    Still not convinced about the pregnancy end. But Josh said he won’t take a turn, so.

  9. Darlin’ there is no right or wrong answer. It’s just a “what the hell, let’s do it” kind of thing – COMPLETELY void of logic. We tried for year, miscarried, and then tried again for another whole year before a successful pregnancy. Which, p.s. the best part about being pregnant is that you forget all of the bad stuff. I’m not kidding. Your body completely rewires and forgets all of the discomfort and two months later you’re thinking about having another one, so just plow through as best you can. I was completely terrified about labor, and then my effing epidural didn’t work, but I’ve almost completely forgotten what that was like too. There’s no way millions of women are tougher than you. You’ll be fine.

    Oh and you seriously cannot understand what it’s like to have a kid – people are not lying to you or taking the lazy way out – it’s a truly bizarre experience. One that is worth all of the frustrations, ten times over. My daughter is eight months old, and already I can look at her and think “yeah, I totally get you.” It’s amazing.

    Good luck!

    • Just want to wholeheartedly agree with “There’s no way millions of women are tougher than you. You’ll be fine.” And also annoyingly, the it’s truly a bizarre experience part.

  10. Oh my gosh, this post resonates with me. I’m pretty much on board the “I think I want kids more than I don’t want them” train right now, but the thought of actually *trying* to conceive and being pregnant? Huge mental roadblock for me right now. Huge. Particularly since I am of the panic-attacks-during-routine-doctor-visits type — the thought of willingly subjecting myself to being poked and prodded for 10 months is awful.

    • Oh Sharon, I’m right there with you — I think I remember commiserating with you over PAPs? I’m so squeamish about the medical bit. Gulp!

      • Yes! I’m so undecided about whether doing more research on the medical stuff that goes along w/ pregnancy will make me feel empowered or more scared. Bodies, man. *holds your hands*

  11. I’m 28, and my mom is 61 and has dementia. She was diagnosed nearly 4 years ago with MCI, which means she had a 50% chance of developing Alzheimer’s within 10 years. As we have watched her progress steeply off a cliff into short and long term memory loss, it’s pretty clear that she’s not in the 50% that improves or stays steady. Right after she was diagnosed, I was struck with an intense desire to reproduce, not out of some bizarre obligation to give my mother grandchildren, but out of an intense desire to give my children a grandmother. (I did at least have the advantage that I knew I wanted kids quite a bit more than I didn’t want them.) I also have to accept the fact that I may only have another 30 years with which to enjoy my life, and I don’t want to send my kids off to college and then stop remembering their names. So we made the decision to start trying in fall of 2012, then pushed it to June of 2013, then pushed it to January 2014 and actually started in February. I got pregnant on the first cycle, which is very lucky but also made me completely lose my shit and cry hysterically in a “omg what have I done” and “ahhhhhhundoitundoit” kind of way. (I was also diagnosed with an anxiety disorder which may have something to do with my mass hysteria, but I think it’s more normal than people let on.)

    Are we ready for kids? I don’t know. My career isn’t where I want it to be, and I’m currently interviewing for new jobs and trying to just be optimistic that things will work out while inwardly still panicking. My husband was even more on the fence, when he is the one with the steady income, stable job, limited social life, and WHO DOESN’T HAVE TO DO THE EFFING WORK.

    And the work. OMG. I’m sorry, I’m not trying to talk you out of it, but the work of it sucks, the not drinking kind of sucks, and feeling like you are the one doing the work and your partner is not even bringing you All The Food In The House kind of sucks. But there are cool things too, I try to remind myself of this. Like maternity pants are actually really just yoga pants that look dressy.

    • Oh man that is ROUGH. I’m sorry you’ve had to go through this. It makes me realize how lucky I am to have family in relatively good health.

      It seems kind of dumb that at the start, when you’re most freaked out, is the time you have to be most quiet about it. I’ve found it helps to spread my freakout around, personally, but you’ve had to keep it to yourself! Ugh, such a heavy burden to carry. I’ll be thinking of you and I’m glad to hear some good news about the clothing options, at least.

  12. I think maybe the reason it seems like everyone who has kids was never ambivalent about wanting them is because, once you’re at that point, there is no return, so you might as well just proceed as if “OF COURSE this is what I always wanted and I regret nothing!” Because nothing gets you side-eye (and threats to be carted off to the loony bin) like having a beautiful baby and expressing even a little bit of regret. Out loud.

    And in the hardest moments, it’s much easier to say “We always wanted this! We fought so hard for this!” Sleep deprivation plus recalling ambivalence is a recipe for trouble.

    We totally had a pros/cons list. The pros outweighed the cons slightly, we did some backwards math and figured if we wanted this to happen we needed to get the show on the road, and then (6+ months later) it happened. The choice was deliberate, but it was never… exuberant.

    I’m sorry the stories aren’t out there for you to hear, but you are not alone.

    For what it’s worth, one year in the Pros VASTLY outweigh the Cons. Which is a relief.

    • Nicole, this is a great point. When you’re in it you may as well embrace the reality.

      “The choice was deliberate, but it was never… exuberant.” Yes. Thanks for your real-life take. It probably won’t be as bad as my mind has made it up to be.

    • “I think maybe the reason it seems like everyone who has kids was never ambivalent about wanting them is because, once you’re at that point, there is no return”

      Good point. I think there’s a percentage of people who “always knew,” and then there’s another huge swath who feels ambivalent and eventually comes down on one side or the other, whether from choice or circumstances.

      I would say my certainty ranged from 50-70% on a good day. But now that we’ve made a choice? It feels more and more right for us. I think that says more about human nature than it does about having picked “correctly.” They were both good choices; that’s why I was so ambivalent.

    • “I think maybe the reason it seems like everyone who has kids was never ambivalent about wanting them is because, once you’re at that point, there is no return”

      Good point. I think there’s a percentage of people who “always knew,” and then there’s another huge swath who feels ambivalent and eventually comes down on one side or the other, whether from choice or circumstances.

      I would say my certainty ranged from 50-70% on a good day. But now that we’ve made a choice? It feels more and more right for us. I think that says more about human nature than it does about having picked “correctly,” though. They were both good choices; that’s why I was so ambivalent.

  13. I was ambivalent for a long time, which is why we waited and then, well you know the rest. Raising a tiny human is a huge deal, but I was also more afraid of the incubating part, and yet, that ended up being pretty easy. I know everyone’s experience is different, but, so you know, pregnancy doesn’t have to suck. I still felt like me, just more sober. I still did all the stuff I normally would do, just slower and with less alcohol. And! No sucking in your gut after meals! People exclaiming over the cuteness of a round mid section! Maxi dresses for days! Also, you automatically win all the arguments in the relationship by throwing down the INCUBATING A TINY PERSON card.

    • Kayce, I’m glad to hear this! I feel like I’ve heard a lot of pregnancy horror stories in terms of bad symptoms, and it’s heartening to see you had a relatively easy go of it.

  14. You know I’m going to tell you the dirt. Pregnancy is nothing compared to the first year and I had a bit of a rough pregnancy. This first year has kicked my ass and we have had it relatively easy with a pretty chill & cool little guy. I have a lot of resentment about my list life, etc. But we’re also doing it alone with no help, no nursery, no escape. I don’t recommend that route.

    We didn’t know if we wanted to do it or when the right time might be but we did it anyway. I find there is never a right time for any of the big decisions. You just jump and figure it out.

    It’s a life adventure I guess.

  15. We put off trying for a year for the sake of a family trip to Hawaii that I didn’t want to be sober for. That new year’s eve I went to bed crying because I figured we really did have to start trying that year and I was TERRIFIED. When we did start trying I was at about 55% for having a kid. I think I’m just now getting close to 90% sure and I have a 5 month old. So yeah, I hear you on the ambivalence front.

    I hate that I’m saying this but it’s honestly true… it’s really hard to understand the mind-fuck that is having a kid until you’re in it. I feel so much the same, but also like I’ve been rebuilt on the inside using the same pieces but just a tiny bit shifted. There are shit times, there are times when I feel like I’m going to crack into a million pieces, and yes, things that used to be super easy now require lots of planning and sometimes can’t be done at all. But the thing I couldn’t anticipate, the thing that makes it so hard to explain parenthood, is how much I freaken love this kid. It didn’t happen overnight – it took months – but now, even when I have those miserable, gut wrenching days, he can cheer me up so damn fast. He can usually even crack through my previously impenetrable wall of anxiety. And I don’t mean that this erases all the bad and all the work and the sacrifice – but it’s the magic ingredient that makes it worth it and it’s the thing you can’t really explain (at least not without sounding like a total douchebag, which I do and I apologize for profusely, past-me is punching present-me in the gut right now.)

    And to re-iterate Veronica from above, there’s really no way millions of women are tougher than you. You can totally do this.

    • Okay, but honestly, what makes you think that I can’t understand that it’s crazy and unexplainable and that you can hate an experience at times so so much but also have so so much love? Like… what… about that… can’t I logically get? Just because I haven’t done it?

      I’m sensitive to it because I feel like some parents (not you) totally write non-parents off as clueless, selfish dicks. And you know what, some non-parents are. And in some individual relationships, I can see parents and non-parents moving apart. It makes sense when something that big happens, sometimes people aren’t willing to join you on a new page. But the parent v. non-parent head-patting “you can’t understand” thing only serves to widen the chasm. I don’t claim to know exactly what parenthood is about at all but I’m not an idiot, either. I’ve tried my best to support friends as they’ve become parents. And when I become one, I don’t want to leave my non-parent friends behind.

      • I don’t mean any of this in that separating-people kind of way and I certainly didn’t mean to imply you’re clueless. I’m just speaking from my own experience of spending YEARS trying analyze what this parenting thing was all about and NOT GETTING IT. I knew the pieces, I knew about the tiredness, I knew about the screaming, I knew about giving up a lot, I knew I’d love my kid a lot etc, but I didn’t really get why people did it. What I’m trying to say is that you’re totally normal for feeling all of this ambivalence exactly BECAUSE, in your own words, it’s kind of unexplainable.

        • Yes! And I’m sorry. I truly didn’t mean to take any of that out on you. No really, I feel really bad. Because I wasn’t directing it at anything you actually said so much as this hard-to-define division I’ve sensed between (some! not you!) parents and non-parents. I was responding to THAT intangible thing I’ve experienced elsewhere and again, not anything you really said.

          I do know, of course, that I can’t know for sure until I go through it. What you said about “pieces” resonated with me. I know all these bits, I’ve gleaned all this information, but it won’t really gel into my own experience until I’ve experienced it. I like to think I have a fairly decent sense of what it’ll be like but I’m fully expecting reality to prove me wrong…or at least take me down a peg.

          Maybe the thing is that you never really know why people do it… maybe the thing is that you make your own why as you go along.

        • To your credit, Nina, being a parent is a specific relationship experience, though each individual’s go of it may vary, it seems hubristic not to allow that you don’t know what you don’t know. Even if you are a “scholar” of it and an observer and an empathetic person who has many kinds of relationships.

          I didn’t grow up with divorced parents, but my husband did. I feel like I understand a lot about that fractured existence of his but there’s so much I can’t know or see because of my privilege.

          Many people try to relate to me about having a mentally ill family member, but even as I appreciate their empathetic words, they are at best supportive, wonderful observers. They “can’t understand” the relationship, but I don’t begrudge them trying, or being my lifeline.

          • I’m a hubristic idiot when it comes to kids. I don’t necessarily want to be reminded of it, though. Or have people act dismissive towards me until I’m “in the club.”

            (again, none of that was happening in Nina’s original comment)

            • Yeah, people definitely don’t need to be clannish about it. We need to all be each other’s dudes through the tough stuff. Namasteeeee

          • To be clear, I also hate the dismissive attitude that non-parents can’t understand *anything* about parenting or have completely valid opinions on it. We’re all people of the earth! Most of my expectations of parenting were valid and true, as are yours, and I’m not trying to say otherwise. But I couldn’t anticipate how I’d feel – that was the missing piece for me – and that’s the part that’s hard to explain. Just like it’s hard to explain the intricacies of any relationship to someone else.

            • I wish I could “favorite” this.

            • I just want to agree with Nina that the feelings are the hard part. I can’t say I was particularly surprised about the things I’ve had to do as a parent (although I am still surprised at just how much time I spend talking and thinking about poop). Yes, sleepless nights, physical exhaustion (c-section recovery isn’t for wimps), boredom, etc. Hell, even the PPD wasn’t a surprise and I got through it. But it’s hard to talk about the feelings. In part because it’s twee (I love her soooo much) and in part because I don’t have words to tell you about it. And not because I’m trying to be withholding. But because I can only sketch the outline of it – I can tell you that watching David and Jess chase each other around the basement tonight made me laugh, but I struggle to tell you about the love it made me feel towards the shrieking with joy little girl, and the deeper love I feel for my husband, combined with the joy of watching my loved ones have fun, and a certain proprietary pride I have in her, and a a strange nostalgia I feel about a moment that is passing and will never come again, and more. Does that make any sense at all?

              It’s a hell of a lot easier to talk about sleepless nights or vague “you don’t know until you have a kid yourself” statements.

              • “a strange nostalgia I feel about a moment that is passing and will never come again”

                I know I’m straying from the topic at hand, but I know exactly what you mean about nostalgia for the present. I also think of it as the “Our Town”-monologue-feeling. (“Oh, earth, you’re too wonderful for anybody to realize you. […] Do human beings ever realize life while they live it? — Every, every minute?”)

          • Agree with that – while I don’t want to constantly be condescended to, I will happily allow that I *don’t* know how *I* would feel, were I to have a child.

            Can I imagine it pretty vividly at times? Yes. I have felt strong, unexpected love before (granted, not for a being I grew inside me). I helped raise my 5 younger siblings (and when I say “helped” I don’t mean occasional babysitting; we were all homeschooled, so we were all there all the time). I’m not clueless.

            At the same time, when people try to relate to me about losing a parent so early and compare it to how they felt about their grandma passing… it feels sweet and supportive… and I can recognize that loss does bring many of the same emotions, no matter the circumstances or relationship… but it feels different when I talk to someone who’s actually experienced this particular loss. They get it, and I can tell. But I truly, deeply appreciate anyone who tries to understand.

            And I can acknowledge that still, I don’t know what it’s like to lose a mother, or a sibling, or a child. Additionally, while I may feel more of a connection on this topic to someone else whose father died young, it doesn’t mean they feel *exactly* the same way I do. It’s a different experience to lose someone to a terminal illness vs. heart attack. To lose someone with whom you had a strained relationship vs someone with whom you were very close, etc. Grief is at once a very widely-experienced emotion, but also extremely specific. Love, I think, too.

            (man, such a downer. whoops.)

            all that to say… “you don’t know what you don’t know” feels pretty true to me. I swear I remember discussing that exact line in grad school, something about Foucault and stepping in a river?? I might be out of my mind… but yeah, some deep shit there. 😉

            • “Grief is at once a very widely-experienced emotion, but also extremely specific. Love, I think, too.” This is great. And that’s the challenging part of asking anyone what a shared human experience is like, because of that nuance. Birth and death are often spoken of as universal truths, but individual experience modifies it in sometimes unexpected ways.

              You always bring the deep shit, Maggie.

            • Yes, yes, yes to grief being so specific.

              I have discovered that in some ways loss has brought be closer to other people (my friendships have strengthened)…but in other ways it has created a separation that is sometimes apparent when I am talking with someone and they don’t get it.

              Which is fine if they don’t get it…I don’t expect people to get it because it is pretty incomprehensible. But the other day someone kept saying, “But don’t you think…?” ‘But even if…”, trying to convince me how I feel. And I was just like, “No. No, I don’t feel that way and I would definitely not agree.”

              And he just didn’t get it and completely did not understand but kept insisting his point of view. It was about to make me angry because his perspective wasn’t allowing much space for multiple viewpoints to co-exist. And he was trying to say what he felt he would feel like in my situation….with never having been through it. He was just so sure. It was really frustrating.

              THANKFULLY, I know people who have been through *exactly* my situation and get it. And I know others who have not been through it…but they empathize and get it anyways somehow. Mostly. Not completely. And that’s okay.

              I never would have been able to accurately imagine what it felt like to go through what I’ve been through this past 10 months. And I guess before falling in love, I never would have been able to imagine that accurately either.

              And one deep loss doesn’t make me able to magically understand all deep losses. But I do think I have an INFINITELY better idea how to relate to people who are grieving or going through some sort of trauma.

      • I feel like a lot of the sting would be removed if people would re-arrange what they say into “Here’s a thing *I* never saw coming/even thought about/misjudged/didn’t realize before I had *my* baby…” because really there’s no way to argue with that, and it’s inclusive of the fact that other people come at life changes with all of their own unique experiences.

        • I really like this. I found that people weren’t willing to share their real experiences (beyond the generics) with me until after I became a parent. And it did feel infuriatingly clannish, especially as all of my closest friends became parents and I was left as the one on the outside. That bit really sucked.

          In that vein, here are the two biggest things I experienced that I wasn’t prepared for:

          Baby blues. I was a weird combination of intensely happy and so, so sad. The best word I can find to describe it is despair. I cried a lot. I dreaded the long lonely nights. Everything felt very huge and very bleak and I was so tired on top of all of it. I was lucky in that it didn’t devolve into full blown post partum depression. One morning, maybe 2 weeks in, I woke up and it was like a fog had lifted. When I was going through it, I asked around and it seemed like some form of depression is common in the early days. I didn’t know that. The hormone are no joke.

          Breastfeeding. The first few weeks I think I spent more time breastfeeding than not. There were weeks when I was sure that I couldn’t go on with it. I expected it to be challenging, though I’ve had an easy time compared to many, but I wasn’t prepared for the complete lack of autonomy. Your body is not your own for a little bit, and that kind of really sucks.

          The first couple of months were trying. It’s incredibly boring (babies are boring, yo) and tiring. My life had to stretch to encompass this new person and that wasn’t exactly comfortable. But! 4.5 months in we are starting to find a groove. Every day I feel more like myself. Different, but the same too.

          • See, this is the kind of day-to-day hard stuff and unexpected challenges I love hearing about. I’m glad you’re now able to carve out a groove, and reclaim parts of yourself.

  16. Well, I’m late to this party but just wanted to chime in and say that

    1) You will never be 100% sure
    2) You will never be 100% ready

    When J and I decided to “not NOT try” I was so blasé about the process, and didn’t trust my body to actually get on board. Whoops! That was a shock. And then at about 4 months pregnant I decided that I was enjoying myself and that it would be OK. And now, with a 2 month old lady, I can assure you that it is indeed OK. And I say that coming from a VERY similar place to where you find yourself. What annoyed me most was the people who told me (and J! He copped the worst of it) that our lives were over, that the change was so all-encompassing that we should say goodbye to everything we knew and loved (I may exaggerate slightly, but you know). And do you know? Our lives are still here! Surprise! Yes they involve less alcohol, which is a sad thing. The other day I had a sip of rum and coke and heard angels singing. But other than that, we still go out for meals, we still travel, this weekend we are taking her to the mountains and I bought her a parka to match our travelling parkas. That’s how much your life changes. You shop for outfits for another person.

    I have had regrets and I have felt trapped; but I have also found that I feel happy, contented, and I like my life. It is normal to feel both sides of the story. I also want to add to this epic essay that I am still myself. So many women seem to become “Mum” and lose “Emma” – and I am so happy to report that I am still Emma, who is a Mum as well as other things. I just bought myself new sneakers and I went by myself to the movies (it can be done).

    /epic

  17. i tooootally understand.

    i was pushing off baby-having because i wasn’t ready for it! how could i be? i still wanted to keep cooking professionally! kids aren’t supposed to have kids!
    then i got pregnant, and then husband and i were like “well, shit, i guess we have to do this now.”

    as my belly got bigger and bigger that ambiguous feeling went from a “i GUESS i’ll have a baby…” to a “LETS DO THIS” kind of feeling.

    having the baby was a blur… because reasons. first month was awesome because i think i was on a second wind from lack of sleep.
    but then grief struck when i was trying to go back to work. i realized that no restaurant would hire me because i couldn’t do nights, i had to take a lot of breaks to pump, and then i got carpal tunnel from BREASTFEEDING.
    life as i knew it was in shambles! i thought my professional life was over because i went through with my baby. PLUS, baby was teething super early and was chomping on my nipples, so that didn’t help. i was miserable, i was pissed, i hated everything.

    then i realized that my life just didn’t belong to me, but it also belong to her, so i better quit bitching and move on.
    in a few weeks, i found a sales job where i sell stuff to restaurants so that i’m remotely in the field. it paid twice of what i used to make as a pastry cook, with much easier hours (what! i have money left over AFTER i pay my bills!? what the…)
    life has revolved around the baby. i’m still adjusting, but so far, all is well.
    because you know, we’re humans, we’ve got to this point because we know how to adjust and evolve, right?

    • Oooof, yeah. That’s a huge point — your life doesn’t just belong to you, it belongs to the kid. Scary! Intimidating! Super real! But you also just do it because it needs to be done. Hmm. I’m pretty sure I could rise to the challenges if called to, so, that’s reassuring.

      I’m glad you found a job! With moar monies and better hours to boot! Woot!

  18. As someone who was not even in the middle on this spectrum originally, I loved reading this as well as all of the comments. I was vehemently (militantly!) anti-baby, anti-kid, anti-anything that would keep me from being able to go on long international trips, afford my hobbies, etc. And then I randomly swung to the middle. Which, given my original position, was basically like my version of “oh my god, give me the baby now.” So, so weird. But even with that dramatic swing, it was definitely more of a feeling of not being scared completely shitless about the idea of being pregnant, having a kid, etc. It was a feeling that *maybe* we could do it. Maybe. Did we feel ready? No. Did we know, with only minor doubts, that we wanted a kid? No. It was a leap of faith, or guts, or just some minor insanity on our parts. Which I feel is more the rule than the narrative that women will “just know” when they want kids.
    As for the “you wouldn’t understand” people – I’m of the opinion that they actually can’t encompass what’s happening either, and they’d rather pretend that they do so that they can feel superior or in some way not regret having a kid. There are absolutely times during this pregnancy that I’ve looked down at my belly and thought “oh god, what have I DONE?! Can I just rewind and pretend this never happened?” And I have no doubt that that thought will come up at 2am when the little shit wakes me up AGAIN because it’s hungry. Because babies are jerks.

    • Caitlin, I like hearing from someone who experienced a swing! Do you know what precipitated it? I feel like my gauge has stayed solid all these years and barring something unforeseen can’t imagine it changing — but you never really know? And “minor insanity” sounds about right.

      • You know, I can’t pin it down to anything specific. One major thing was needing to be okay with my body – body image has always been a major issue of mine, and I was always terrified of how pregnancy would wreck my body. If I wasn’t comfortable with my body pre-baby, I didn’t want to inflict those insecurities on the kid as they grew up. Beyond that, I’m not entirely sure, other than seeing friends raising kids and doing so in a sane way – they had balance, they treated their kids like mini adults, and they were still the same people. That was immensely reassuring.

  19. Well, when you wrote your other babiez posts 2+ years ago, I was about in the same place as you. Now, I read this post and I have made a similar shift as you, being more comfortable in some ways, but having some concerns anyways. (Especially the ones you have in response to the statements in bold.) But unfortunately, life threw me for a loop and I am now single. And I am older…like towards the end of the fertile range. And I am definitely not trying for a baby.

    So. This may have solved all my debating… Or maybe not. Who knows, maybe I will fall in love someday and poof! It will work out magically. I do know that this winter I became much more open about kids through some conversations I had with someone. I also think, in my situation, some of my concerns were related to the work-share dynamics with my now-ex. I think I would be a little less hesitant if I felt confident a partner would carry an equal load with me. Though I would still have concerns in the other areas.

    Ah, life.

    PS. I think that if you guys end up being parents someday, you will be great parents.

  20. You will never be 100% ready, because who on earth is every 100% ready for major changes to a life you like? AND THAT IS FINE. Babies change a lot of things, yes, but not everything. They change your daily routine, but they don’t change WHO you are, because you’ve (I’ve) had 30 years to become who I am, and my kid has added to this, not taken anything away.

    And kids, by the way, don’t have to take away everything that you love about your life, which was one of my *huge* fears. David and I love to travel, and by the time our kid turned 2, she had been to: Montana, Mexico, Dallas, Toronto, a 5 country Northern Europe tour, and Mexico again. And yes, parts of it were different (apartment hotels vs boutique hotels) but parts weren’t (museums, endless walking, random restaurants, adventures).

    But look: I still have a job and take long baths and travel and read books and hang out in my basement in front of the tv. But I do some of these things with the cutest little funny person I know, whose unconditional love and constant laughter literally make everything better. Which is such a cliche, but I swear it’s true, even as my per-pregnancy self would want to punch me for saying it. It’s easy to talk about the sleep deprivation of the early days, or frustrations of dealing with a self-centred maniac (aka all 2 year olds) but it’s so much harder to describe just how fucking FUN it is. Yes, babies are boring, but sweet in a way that is hard to talk about without again, sounding like an idiot. Toddlers are hilarious and willful and funny (intentionally and not) and Jess makes me laugh about, oh, a hundred times a day.

    So, to me: it’s hard to talk about not because people without kids can’t understand the basics, but because it’s hard to describe the tiny things that make it so worthwhile. I mean, it’s like the question: “what do you love about your partner?” You can answer it, but no one has the words to describe all of it. Yes, he’s tall and dark and funny and smart and a great listener and gives the best spoons, but that could describe anyone, practically. You don’t really learn anything about what makes my relationship work, do you? It’s the same with kids. You can describe the things but the feelings are so much harder. YMMV.

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