I’m NOT having any yet, but this is a really, really prominent theme in my life lately…
I never expected to be the ‘grow up and settle down with a family’ type. Even when I had serious boyfriends, if the topic of our future ever came up, I never really knew what to think. I never really felt like that time would actually arrive. The future and adulthood were things that were very abstract concepts to me until just about now. I somehow woke up one day amidst bills, a job, responsibilities, debt, and people questioning me about my plans. Where did I take this turn? Is it too late to go back to having my largest concern be how I’m going to get a project done for art class when I have to work tonight? Things were much easier then…but of course, that didn’t last. Fresh out of college, I still didn’t truly want marriage or children. I wanted a relationship, and on some level, there was an urge to settle down, but I didn’t know what that would look like.
After moving hundreds of miles away from home, there was a new start. Eventually, I met Michael. We became friends quickly, and it evolved into a serious relationship without hesitation. Suddenly, I found myself engulfed in wonder about our future, about marriage, babies, houses, diapers, feedings, honeymoons and our happiness. How did this happen?! I felt this uncontrollable urge to start popping out babies left and right, and it came out of nowhere (you’re welcome for the visual). I knew on some level that it was my biology, telling me it’s time to get to reproducing, before it’s not an option. We’re built to make more of us, it’s evolution at it’s finest. I know this. Yet, every single time I see a baby, my heart swells to ten times it’s size, and I start to tear up, wondering when my turn will be. When will I hold a tiny precious form of life made in my image, looking innocently up to me as it’s guide in this world? Is it only evolution, or do I actually want to settle down now that I’m all grown up?
I never really pictured myself with kids. Maybe it was because I didn’t think I’d be good at it, or because I wanted to be selfish and just enjoy my own life, without taking care of anyone else. Maybe I never even loved myself enough to imagine that someone else would love me and want a family with me. I’m not sure. But now, I’m with Michael. We’re engaged, we’re getting married, and I’m 30. In theory, there could be 20 years left of baby making ability in my body; there could also only be 5 or none at all. Who’s to know? I don’t think it’s something I want to put off figuring out though. Even if we adopt, I don’t want to wait forever. How is this decision made? I think that being surrounded by friends who are all seemingly having babies, that they always knew they wanted, right now is influencing me greatly. Tiny little hands and feet, and stories of how wonderful and glowing motherhood is. Along with stories of insomnia, non-stop crying, and general stress. When I’m around children who are sweet and lovely and polite, I’m so quick to want that. When we are around strangers and their kids are a tornado of chaos and screaming, I retract my quick decision, and wonder what I actually want. I know plenty of people who have opted out of having kids, and are happy with this choice. I also know plenty of people who did not have kids and are not happy with this, but have learned to deal with it. Similarly, lots of people I know with kids are not happy, and seem like it’s a constant unwanted burden. However, most of them are delighted, and kids have completely changed their lives for the better.
My mother had me when she was 20. TWENTY! I cannot grasp that at all, but I certainly wasn’t a planned event on my mother’s map. I always felt like my mom had me too early, and wasn’t ready. I spent a seriously large chunk of my childhood with my grandparents. They were wonderful, and I’m so thankful I had them all around and that they were willing to take care of me. My mom married my step-father when I was 10. When I was 12 and then 16, I finally got some brothers. Being an only child wasn’t awful…but it was lonely. When the older of my 2 brothers came along, it completely changed my life. Being 12, I was old enough to handle some of the responsibility that comes with a baby (lucky for my mom). I watched him sleep, I held him close, and I looked after him as if he was my own child. I remember being completely enamored with every single thing he did. I am sure that if I had my own children, it would be the same way. I also remember clearly the stress of a toddler, ruining things, crying, throwing tantrums, not listening, and being a kid. While this is to be expected, it is a lot. I was there as he got older, went to school, made friends, became way too cool and is now graduating high school. It’s really been hard for me to watch him grow up, and I wonder if I can handle the sadness of my own children doing the same thing. I remember my parents not spending any time together alone for years after this…that’s a long time, and a huge sacrifice. There are separate issues there, but really, it seems like most people give up a huge chunk of their lives in order to have kids. The last few years I thought that I was really ready and willing to do that, but as the time comes closer, I can’t say that with certainty.
Then I start to worry about practical things. Would I be able to have a home birth? What if something goes wrong? What if I can’t breastfeed, or if I have PPD? What if I accidentally pass on some lingering bits of self-hate, or body obsession? What if I pass on some of my crazy to my baby? What if something goes wrong and I have a child that is not healthy? What if we have a child, and it’s just so stressful that it breaks me, or breaks us apart? What if it’s amazing, and so heart-achingly beautiful that it changes my life in such a profound way that I truly find bliss? What if having a family completes me in a way I never thought possible? What if I fail at being a mother?
These are really hard questions, and I honestly don’t know how to answer them. Michael thinks that we’ll be okay either way. If we have kids, great. If we don’t, that’s great too. No matter what, we had decided early on, kids weren’t in the cards until 2013…but that is becoming much more real now, even though I’m still reminded ‘it’s not time’ when I bring it up. I am notoriously bad at decisions. If I have to choose between dinners at a restaurant, it’s a 20 minute ordeal of stress. How in the world can I make a decision like this one? It seems like either choice I make has great chance for happiness, with some regret. I guess I have to follow my heart, and figure out which one comes with more of chance of happiness, and less regret; also I should learn how to tell my heart from my uterus. Perhaps a basic body diagram could help me here.I always thought I’d ‘just know’. But I don’t. I don’t know, and when I think about it, I feel anxious, and nervous, and weepy. Maybe I’m just destined to have lots of cats.
How do you know? Really, how does anyone figure this stuff out, I really want to hear from people about why they chose to/not to have kids.