Thursday, May 9, 2013

on becoming a mother.


at the end of this month, i'm headed to nashville to visit a close friend who recently became a mother. i've had acquaintances, or people i've stayed friendly with over the years have children. but this is my first close friend to become a parent - as in i'll probably know this child 20 years from now. and another close friend is a few months away from becoming a father (hurricane sandy baby, making it's debut in july!) and then another close friend called me this week to tell me that she and her husband are going to start trying to get pregnant.
which, as a sidenote:
i love the phrase "trying". 
it's basically a socially acceptable way to say you're 
doin' it and doin' it and doin' it well. 
it makes the 15-year-old in me giggle really nervously.
quite mature.



but i digress.
it was this last piece of information that really set me off. made me a little nervous. made me break out into a little sweat. for as long as i've been alive, i've had zero desire to become a mother. nada. zilch. so many women around me (and on the internets) say they can't wait to become mothers. they've known since they were little girls. it's always what they wanted to do. and, naturally, this often led to people telling me that i would change. that once i met the right man, i would see, i would feel it. that once i got older, one day i would just wake up and want to become a mother. and, i'll tell you what. there was one day when i woke up and wanted to become a mother. it was another 100-hour work week, i sobbed whenever i got ready in the morning and, with no end in sight, i thought that maybe i should get knocked up so i could get three months off due to maternity leave. and that's when i knew it was time to quit my job. and promptly went back to having no interest in becoming a mother.
yet as i've gotten older i have distinctly noticed a yearning to have a family. having a family appeals to me because i like my family. i have fun with my parents. i have fun with my aunts, uncles, and cousins. i like the support they give me, i like hanging out with them, i like the guidance they try to provide me. i think i'd enjoy that. i think i'd enjoy watching my child grow up and become an adult. i KNOW i'd enjoy celebrating christmas with a child because finally someone would be able to match my unbridled joy.
so...how do i reconcile these things? what does it mean? i wonder if it's because i'm afraid to be pregnant. i'm afraid of having a sick baby. i'm afraid of "ruining" my body (because it's just oh so hot). i'm afriad of pooping after childbirth (it seriously sounds horrifying). but all those are fleeting. except, well, except for that sick baby. i genuinely think having a child is the biggest risk someone can take in life (and applies to anyway you may have a child - naturally, adoption, etc.) bungee jumping, skydiving, climbing a mountain - to me they all pale in comparison to having a child. and like any risk, the rewards are just as great as the dangers. we can do all the "right" things, but sometimes cells mutate, DNA gets screwed up. or later they may be in the wrong place at the wrong time. it scares the bejesus out of me when i think of it, and it also gives me the greatest rush. so it may be that that holds me back, more than the other fears.
all in all, when push comes to shove, i think i'll try to have a child one day. but still, i just wonder how to equate my feelings. when people ask me if i want to be a mother i still say...not really. but i do want a family, i tell them. take it how you will, i tell them. those two things are one in the same, yet they feel so different to me. 
and how about you - have you always wanted to be a mother? if you're a parent already - how did you arrive at that decision? do you have no interest in becoming a mother? let's hear your take on all of this.

16 comments:

  1. Well. That was refreshing. No one ever talks about this in the blogosphere!!
    I feel the exact.same.way.
    Lately, I have felt this little, itty bitty, maybe?, tiny nudge of....something. I think you put words to it when you said, "have a family". And I do think that is somewhat different than being a mother.
    I'm scared for a lot of the same reasons you are. I would add also that the state of this country is just too overwhelming many times for me to want to bring a kid into it (did she just get political?).
    But also - maybe I'm scared that because I don't have that desire/fantasy/need to be a mom, that I wouldn't be a good one if I became one?

    Ack.

    Thanks for writing this. Made me feel SO much less alone.

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    1. your comment makes me feel the same way! i know many of my friends, and it seems on the internet, are so sure of wanting to become a mother, and it's made me feel a little different. not in a bad way, just different. but like i said, i still do want a family, and who knows what to really make of that (i don't yet, which is a big reason i wrote the post, to just get it out there). i also know what you mean about the world - i think it ties in with just the fears of having a child in general. like my parents, i would want my children to be happy and lead full, wonderful lives as they define it. and it can seem like that would be really hard in this world. yet, deep down, i still think i want to give them that chance, as i'm grateful my parents gave me that chance. life is one of the greatest gifts i think. thanks for sharing your thoughts with me!

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  2. You have put words to my exact feelings on this subject. When the time comes for my honey and me to have this discussion, I will probably have to reference this to get across my views on the matter. THANK YOU for talking about this. Seriously, Thank you.

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    1. thank you for taking the time to respond! I thought a lot of comments would be centered around how people know they want to become a mother, or how they arrived at it. I honestly didn't realize how many other people out there think the same way, struggle the same way, etc. at the end of the day, no matter what you want, we're all trying to figure this out. and it helps to hear differing viewpoints, but sometimes it also really helps to hear those who feel just like you. so thanks for sharing your thoughts, I seriously appreciate it.

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  3. It's like you took the thoughts out of my head. I never really felt that overwhelming desire to have children. Even when I see my adorable nephews, I think, I love being their aunt. As for me having my own? What a huge life change that would be (the thought makes me a little uncomfortable). What worries me about it is the expenses (will I always have enough money to support my child? What if I become broke?), the responsibility, the lack of freedom to just get up and go as I please and the constant worrying about what may/may not happen to your child. With what's going on in the news today, with the Ohio kidnappings, it digusts me to know that there are people out there who take pleasure in hurting other people. And you have no control over that.

    On the other hand, I'd love to expand my family and the thought of having a child with someone I love and someone I know that will be the best dad ever really warms my heart. When people talk about the love they have for their children, I think I don't know that feeling, but I think I'd like to. My thoughts are conflicting, always going back and forth on how I feel about children of my own. I guess it's just not my time.

    Seriously, I always love how honest you are and you truly inspire me to do the same. I feel like I could write a whole post about this topic (which I probably did here). Thank you for bringing this up.

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    1. wow - and now I feel you wrote this post better then I did, haha! you absolutely should explore this topic in your blog, based on how well articulated and thoughtful this comment is. you put into words so many if y struggles - it's like sometimes I feel like damned if I do, damne if I don't. which is honestly why I think i will try to have a child one day - when I feel that way I usually fall on the damned if I do side (based in my past decisions).

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  4. This is a topic that always leaves me feeling a little frazzled. Like you, I have had no desire to be a mother at all. Zero. People often say that I am the least maternal person they know and you know what, that never used to hurt until I got married. Unlike me, Jordan is great with kids. He has infinite patience, he can make them laugh, he doesn’t care when they cry or vomit or poop and I have no doubt that fatherhood would fit him like a glove. Me? Not so much. And I want to give him children so desperately but I fret about passing on my idiosyncrasies or bad genes. I fret about money and housing and all the bad in the world but most of all I fret about becoming my parents. I am so lucky that I have an understanding husband who listens to my endless worries and doubts about parenthood, it hasn’t made me feel any more maternal or ‘ready’ but we are working through these issues and the older I get, the more I warm to the idea of it. Of course, don’t ask me this after a long tube journey stuck with a screaming child.

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    1. hah - that last part made me laugh. I used to not enjoy children as much, but as I got older I found their curiously and wonder with the world, paired with watching them grow and become their own person, really appealed to me. like you, I warned to it more gradually. and true, it does help to have a partner who can help make you see it as more of a reality. I think it's great that you and Jordan can talk about this and he listens to you - when it's not that way it can lead to some big problems. and on your part, knowing your fears and being aware of them often leads to someone who is more conscious of their mistakes and will take steps to fix them. that's one of the best qualities anyone, but particularly a parent can have. so don't listen to the chorus of people who think they know you. listen to yourself and your partner - you'll figure it out together.

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  5. Great post. I have never, in my life, had the urge to be a mother. But, I want to be a mother figure to my niece and I want to help kids in the community. But, I've never felt the desire to have one of my own. Sometimes I think it is selfish, because I have so much in life I want to accomplish before I even think about children. But, it's not like I hate children.

    I watched my sister give birth (the whole thing) and it was actually really beautiful, and I appreciate all mothers for doing their thing. I guess it's just not for me (right now).

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    1. yes - watching birth absolutely makes you appreciate them! I often don't think there will come a right time for me to have a baby where my age and career sync up. but I know I have to feel a little more - like you it's just not for me right now I suppose.

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  6. I'm one of those 'always wanted a baby types'-- I was the oldest of 4 kids, babysat constantly, and spent the first couple years of my professional life teaching elementary school. But I also knew I wanted to wait until the right time. Joe and I got married pretty young (I was 23), and we both wanted to enjoy our 20s the way we imagined them... With nights out, traveling, concerts, and not too much real responsibility. Now, as you know, it's been a struggle for us, and part of me wishes we'd done the baby thing earlier! But really, I wouldn't take back the young married years, when we just had fun together.

    I really respect you for talking about this, and for admitting you're not sure about being a mother. This opinion might change (I had a friend who strongly felt she did not want kids... And now she's pregnant with her second and loves being a mom). But it's ok if it doesn't! I think it's really hard for couples to say they don't want to have kids, but it's also really brave. You have to trust your gut, and go with it. Who knows how you'll feel after a couple years of marriage, when a lot of your friends are having kids.

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    1. If I had gotten married younger I would have done the same - and there's really no guarantee that because you waited a couple of years it has led to some of the issues you and joe are dealing with. from what I've read and studied fertility is a very fickle thing and dependent on so many different things. and I still have no doubt you and joe will figure out your path to parenthood.

      what you said about your friend interests me so much. while I don't have a desire to be a mom, I think my desire for a family outweighs that, i.e. I definitely think I'll give having a baby a shot. and I wonder how I will react to it and how it will change me. it really does feel, for me, damned if I do and damned if I don't. and I think I'd rather be damned if I do.

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  7. C- I read this last week over lunch one day and loved it. Coming back now to comment...

    You did such a great job addressing this subject! So good for you for doing that. And thank you. I have always wanted to be a mom-- I pictured it when I was a little girl, and as a teenager, and even now I still picture it-- for someday. I cannot imagine being one right now, however-- I'm too selfish, and also just not ready to even think about it. Also, my mom didn't have me until she was a ways into her 30s, so I think that's got some weight with me-- knowing it's okay to spend your 20s wild and free, if you will.

    I love children (Teacher, here! Obviously!) and really want to have my own someday (for the sake of loving kids, but also, YES! because how great is family?!) but right now, I'm good. Hoping some day my dreams will become a reality but right now they are still dreams and I like them that way.

    I also respect people who decide it's not right for them-- it's a personal thing and a crazy lot of responsibility. GIVING LIFE! And raising it! Scarriest thing in the world.

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  8. So wonderful of you to share this Colleen. I don't think you're alone in your fears and doubts at all. I always knew I wanted a family but the fears of like you said a sick child or even simply a difficult baby/child came into sharp focus during my pregnancy. I would also get these mild panic attacks any time I would think about the fact that papa bear and I will be SOLELY responsible for this little human for the rest of her life.
    At the same time one of the most fascinating things for me to learn now that we are parents has been the way you just seem to "figure it out." You just do it, you just take care of that teeny tiny infant and then that time is gone and next thing you know you're figuring out solids and you just kind of keep going and going and going and enjoying every minute of it.
    I wrote a little post today that kind of describes a little bit of the awesome cycle that is created when you bring a child into this world, a cycle of fear - awe - joy - accomplishment and then it cycles back to fear and awe.
    Plus, I think us introspective types tend to often over think things that most people just "do" and it turns out that when you "do it" it's really not half as scary and daunting as you thought it would be. There's definitely such a thing as a mother's instinct and it WILL kick in and you will almost be shocked by how much you KNOW about things you had no idea about and you don't even really know where the knowledge came from :)
    I have no doubt in my mind that when you make that decision it will be the right time, you will be ready and you will make a fantastic mama!
    xoxo

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  9. I love that you posted this, Colleen. Like Anna I read this last week and have thought about it (and talked to Caleb about it) since then. I appreciate your honesty on a topic that is quite personal and, at times, sensitive. For me, I've always known I wanted to be a mom. My sisters have kids who I love to pieces and I can't wait to have my own. BUT, every time we talk about it I'm not actually ready. I want to have kids but it's always "not yet". I don't know what I'm waiting for, because emotionally I think I'm ready. I think it's more practically-speaking: I know I'm still too selfish, I like relaxing vacations, I like quiet evenings at home with just Caleb, I like sleeping through the night. I can't imagine I will ever actually WANT to give all those things up and turn our lives upside for a baby, but I guess it comes a point that I know I have to do all of that if I want kids. So, for now, we are still waiting. Maybe my wanting a baby will someday outweigh all those things, or maybe I will just suck it up and do it and that will be the start of my journey to becoming more selfless. We will see :)

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  10. Thanks so much for sharing, Colleen! I'm pretty much in same boat. I've never had this yearning to have a baby and feel like I missed the care taking, selflessness gene. I would happily have a houseful of animals but something about children seems terrifying and exhausting. Parents I know always talk about how "rewarding" the experience is but all I see are temper tantrums, snot, and so many dangers to keep them safe from. I might be missing the silver lining but I can't even fathom taking on that monumental task anytime soon.

    [I almost died when you mentioned "pooping after childbirth". I also have nightmares about such things! I would never be able to look anyone in the eye ever again.]

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