I never dreamed of being a mother. That is to say that I didn’t grow up feeding baby dolls and changing fake diapers. I didn’t play at being a mom and as I got older it wasn’t something that I thought about very often. It wasn’t until I met my now husband that I began to entertain the idea of having a child someday. In the honeymoon phase of our relationship we picked out names for our future children when we talked about the years to come. And then we moved in together, got married, and started living a life. While we still talked about having a kid in that big imaginary world encompassed by the word someday we never really moved seriously toward it. It was expensive enough trying to take care of ourselves after all. So we moseyed along through our life for nearly ten years together until the time came to get real about having a child.
As our friends started having children we definitely started discussing the subject more for ourselves. Though I was often the one to start the conversation I was also often the one leaning more towards the no side. I have always liked kids, always wanted to hold babies, play with little ones, and love my friends’ kids; but because I didn’t have that dream of being a mother, that strong maternal pull, I was scared. I was terrified that it meant something; that I wasn’t meant to be a mom. And yet here I was, broaching the topic again and again with my husband like a crazy person. It turned out that really we were in the same boat. As planners and over-thinkers we were both scared. We couldn’t see what our future with a child would be the same way that we could see it if we continued our life as it was. What would the outcome be? Who wants a teenager? All these big questions scared us into paralysis. We were both firmly 50/50 on the subject of having children and didn’t know what to do. So finally, knowing it was a thing that we weren’t against doing we decided to leave it up to the universe and stopped trying to prevent pregnancy…and the universe answered big time. Within 2 weeks I was pregnant.
Our initial reaction was not unhappy. We were really more shocked than anything. Being 33 I know I’m not over the hill by any stretch but you always hear about a woman’s waning fertility and the biological clock. I thought it would take months for anything to happen. We were dazed but happy that first day and then we freaked out – HARD. For about a week and a half afterwards we started to have the most intense and honest discussions of our near decade together. Did we really want this? Could we handle it? What if our child gets a life threatening disease? Should anyone bring a child into this world on fire? We questioned EVERYTHING. We thought about every scenario possible. We thought about what it would be like when our child was an adult. It was the most vulnerable and scared I’d ever felt in my life. I started to doubt my own thoughts, feelings, and instincts. One minute we would decide that we were ready; that we wanted this. An hour later I would come bursting into the room scared to death all over again. It was rough. Where was the glow? The warm, fuzzy feeling? The JOY of discovering you’re pregnant? I felt ashamed that I was reacting this way. I wondered if it was a sign. I wondered if I was too selfish and cowardly to take a leap like this in my life.
And then everything changed almost on a dime. I was searching the internet for the millionth time, looking for some sort of answer in the void. I was praying for anything, even a Buzzfeed quiz that would demonstrably say YES you should have a child or NO you should never, ever procreate. And then I stumbled upon an incredible advice article. A 41 year old man who I now found myself identifying with more than anyone in my life had written to Cheryl Strayed aka Sugar for advice about having a child. He said he was afraid to give up his old life; that he thought he could be just as happy with kids as without. Cheryl’s response was “The Ghost Ship That Didn’t Carry Us.” She talked about the loss involved in either decision. No matter what you decide to do you lose a life you will never live; that is no longer yours. She posited that his lack of a strong desire to have a child, something to push him into that yes column, was not what he should consider, but instead his future self.
“Because you are content in your current childless life, attempting to determine what you might regret later strikes me as the best way for you to meaningfully explore if having a child is important to you. So much so, that I suspect that whether you’ll regret it later is the only question you must answer. It is the very one that will tell you what to do.”
And there was my magic Buzzfeed quiz. For the first time Chuck and I had a logical conversation that went somewhere and didn’t loop back on itself in a doubt spiral a million times over. We talked about what we wanted from life. We talked about where a child fit in to that. We talked about where we thought we would be 20 years from now. A few days later we went to the beach with our friends. We spent time with their incredible children. We remembered why we kept having those conversations about someday. We were able to acknowledge that we’ve built a wonderful life over the last decade and that its natural to want to protect that, hold onto it, and fear what it will be like to change it dramatically. We’re still scared. We both don’t enjoy not knowing what the next day, month, or year will bring. But that’s life. And the best things in it often come from love, sacrifice, and hard work – from taking a leap into the unknown.
Despite the fear, we’re calm now. We’re excited now. I haven’t thrown up once yet. It feels right and it’s a good feeling. But I was struck by that shame I felt second guessing myself and our pregnancy. I was struck by the way that society forces a narrative on women in particular; the idea that pregnancy is always a joyous thing full of blessings, happy tears, and smiles. For some people it is. For those people it’s something they’ve been waiting their whole life for. I’ve always been unsure where my life would take me. I never thought I would end up with a partner like Chuck. I never thought I would build a career out of doughnuts. I never thought I would be a mom. And I suspect that this parenthood thing will turn out as well for me as Chuck and doughnuts have. But that still doesn’t mean it has to be magical.
Some women struggling to conceive may be hurt by my admission that we got pregnant so quickly or that I wasn’t over the moon when I found out. Others may be appalled at my decision to go through with it after experiencing so much doubt. I don’t know what to say except that this is my experience and no one else’s. I’m sharing it because we hear so few differing pregnancy perspectives. Pregnancy is SO personal how could we possibly expect it to be the same, the emotions to be identical, for every woman? So this is my story with its rocky start. I have agonized over most major decisions in my life wishing someone would just make it for me before I finally took the leap either way. My boss can tell you about all the phone calls she had with me before I quit my safe office job to make doughnuts for a living. It felt like I was jumping without a safety net. It was damn scary. It turned out to be one of the two best decisions of my life. Will having a child be the third? I think it will. I’m already learning so much from this new adventure and I will continue to embrace the reality of my story. I will continue to be honest about it, fighting against the fairy tale conventions that make us feel ashamed of our own real lives because I don’t want any woman to feel ashamed or weird because she doesn’t fit the narrative.