Motherhood: Indecision 2015

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pregnantphoto

Three years ago, I wrote a post about having children. I was trying to decide whether I wanted one. I wish I could say that writing that post helped clear the fog of indecision, but that isn’t what happened. I continued to struggle and debate. And when that didn’t lead to a clear answer, I began to drunkenly poll people at parties. “Do you think I should have a kid?” I’d demand, taking a swig of my gin and tonic.

One moment I’d be swept up in the nostalgia of my own childhood. I’d imagine the pleasure of taking my daughter camping in the same hills where I camped as a kid. I’d show her how to roast the perfect marshmallow, how to light a fire, and how to pull off leeches. And the next moment I’d be sure I couldn’t manage motherhood. My hips were clearly built for bearing children, but my personality isn’t suited to raising them. I’m impatient and selfish and foul-mouthed.

A year and a half ago, my husband and I moved out of our cramped Brooklyn apartment. We bought a house in the Midwest, close to family. We adopted a puppy. We planted a garden. All signs pointed toward procreation. Yet I still couldn’t fully commit to the idea. So in December, when a pregnancy test delivered a single blue horizontal dash, I was relieved. But seconds later a perpendicular line appeared, transforming negative into positive, absence into presence. I stared at the plus sign dumbfounded. And then I began to cry.

The tears were not the pretty, joyful kind. I felt despondent, and immensely guilty for feeling despondent. I have so many friends who have struggled to conceive, some of them are still struggling. And then there’s me, a 36-year-old who isn’t even sure she wants a child suddenly knocked up and crying.

Today, I am six months pregnant. And the initial flood of despair has faded. I can feel my baby girl kick and squirm, and when my husband rests his hand on my ever-expanding belly, so can he. “Is this your first?” strangers ask. And I nod. “You must be so excited,” they exclaim, beaming expectantly. What can I say?

If I were being honest, I would say “no.” Excitement doesn’t begin to cover the grab bag of emotions inside of me. Terror and anticipation and apprehension have fused inside my chest to form a complex alloy that can’t be easily named or identified. Do you know how the sky feels right before a tornado hits? So still and ripe? Being pregnant feels a little like that, like something momentous is about to happen (minus the devastation and carnage, I hope).

So when the nice lady at the dog park says, “You must be so excited,” it’s hard to know how to respond. You can spend ten minutes trying to describe the emotional chimera swelling inside you like an impending tornado. Or you can smile and nod politely.

Usually I choose to nod and smile. Because the whole truth is ugly and complicated. It’s something I don’t even like to admit to myself. Three years ago, I couldn’t decide whether to have a child. Now the decision has been made. The baby is coming, and I have no doubt I will love her. In some ways, I already do. But even now, six months into my pregnancy, that niggling knot of uncertainty is there. I’m having a child, but do I want to have one?

Perhaps it’s a question I won’t be able to answer, at least not right now. Maybe the answer doesn’t matter. Maybe it’s enough to ask the question, to embrace the idea that I can be a good person, and even a good mother, no matter what the answer might be.

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Image courtesy of Jerry Lai via Flickr

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8 thoughts on “Motherhood: Indecision 2015

  1. I am very glad someone is acknowledging that not all mothers are excited about having a baby and becoming a mother. I was pretty sure I didn’t want kids, my husband was still trying to talk me into it, when I became pregnant with twins. I was not happy. I also cried upon finding out I was pregnant. I was never excited about it. People kept telling me, oh you’ll be excited when you meet them for the first time. Nope, I barely even remember it because of a reaction I had to something they gave me during my c-section and then I was overwhelmed with family who were excited about them. It took me a long time and some time with a counselor to come to terms with and actually start being interested in my babies. I had postpartum depression on top of everything. Today (with two 19 mos old crazy boys), I feel bonded to them, I feel interested in them, I feel happy they are in my life. Though I still struggle at times, but that is my normal. I do wish it was more accepted that not every mother is going to have ‘the babies are the best thing ever’ response to being pregnant or motherhood and that people did not look down upon those mothers who did. Thank you for writing your feelings on your pregnancy and helping to normalize them.

  2. I have two kids now and I still feel this way. Thank you for expressing what many of us struggle with. This Sunday we celebrate grandma because I’m certainly no poster child for motherhood. My mom would be the first person to tell you this. I count everyday I don’t lose my shit a win and the days I don’t keep it together I vow to work on patience and understanding. This is life and I’m certainly living it because I’m certainly not sleeping through it the way I’d prefer:) Happy Mother’s Day Cassie!

  3. You’ll be an awesome mom, Cassie. I felt many of the same things and still recognize my personality isn’t suited to being a mom. It took me days to not call my daughter “it” and weeks to fall in love with her. But no horror stories. She has made me grow in ways unimaginable and made me stronger. Be forgiving of yourself and let others help when you find it overwhelming! It may not be a road you chose with your eyes open, but the adventure will be beautiful. All the best!

  4. My dear kindred-not-quite-natural-born-Mama: you are not alone.

    I’ve rarely smiled at a kid in my life.

    When I saw the perpendicular line immediately appear, I hyperventilated. Deflated is more of an appropriate visual for you; I deflated like an over inflated balloon let loose across a room. You know how flies sometimes frantically get stuck in that space between window glass and blinds, making painful, buzz-crash sounds? That was me—crackling across the carpet (buzz), thumping numbly along the walls (crash). Frantic that I couldn’t escape to that visible outside world.

    I can’t smoke? I can’t drink? Who the fuck would ever want to live like that? Fuck, it can hear me say fuck.

    Omg. Can it perceive me thinking, fuck?

    How badly am I going to mess this one up?

    And mind you, I was a beautiful little preggers of a woman. On the outside, all was gorgeous. That hair and skin. Damn. Starbucks baristas would give me free decaff coffees and smile. Homeless folks would bless my baby. Ladies would smile lovingly. Teenagers would avoid my eyes (what’s that about?).

    Worry after worry poked the nerves, though I was slightly ‘rescued’ by my awesome morning sickness and the resolve to figure out how to quit feeling so horribly sick.

    They say nesting helps one cope. I didn’t really get into that. I also happen to hate shopping and decorating. That trait must be due to some closely linked genes—one big, happy package of motherhood genes. I bet they’re on chromosome 4 or some other lovely number.

    Oh, but oh, thank you Mother Nature.

    You know cats, right? Those suckers are some mighty self-centered little fuckers. They’re so pretty, and they’ll only approach you when they want you to pet them or do something for them. Selfish assholes. Have you seen one of those cat mommas completely engrossed the moment after giving birth? Those hormones man.

    Well, that didn’t happen to me after birth, no.

    Instead, as pregnant time carried on, that progesterone—that wonderfully GABA-modulating beauty—drowned my brain in a little more fuzz. It lulled it into a care-a-little-bit-less nature. (It was the loveliest high ever.) Maybe I was still a little frantic, but it was less intense than the insanity that would have existed without them. When I realized that, I sat back and enjoyed the high—those levels get wonderfully high towards the end (the loss of these hormones potentially contributing to the post-partum depressions the ladies often feel).

    The birth itself didn’t change me as it changes cats. I guess we humans take a little more time (or at least some of us do). But I wonder, if you’re looking at it as an observer, rather than the main character, it might help ease the struggle. I looked on as the curious observer… and along with that great progesterone high on my susceptible circuits, I think it was bearable. Bearable.

    ‘It aint easy’. And if I had the brain circuit and hormones I have at this exact moment back when I popped him out, I’d likely sprint out on him, leaving him with his father (no hairs on the tongue, excuse me).

    But now that he likes to rock out to the Detroit Cobras, “Midnight Blues” with me… I guess I mind much much less.

    And if you need a non-conventional, honest, overall good woman to talk to… I promise you can reach out and find a multitude of us. No judgments, no hairs on the tongue.

    Best wishes.

  5. I was always ambivalent about kiddos too. I guess I ultimately figured it seemed like a great adventure I wasn’t totally scared of (unlike, say, climbing a mountain) so we rolled the dice. I did NOT immediately fall in love with motherhood — in fact, my husband likes to tell how he asked me, about five days after birth, “Isn’t this so much fun?” and I burst into tears and said “NOOOOOOO! It’s not!” But that changed pretty quickly and now I can say that yes, it is great fun most of the time. I miss parts of my old life (and I think that’s completely natural if you actually really liked your old life to begin with). But the tradeoffs have unquestionably been worth it for me.

  6. I’ve never been a kid person. Children frighten me a bit to be honest. Especially the ones who misbehave – 99.9%. I’m an only child and have had 36 years to be focused mainly on myself. I like my alone time. I like my four hour trips to the mall. I like my body sans stretch marks and wilted boobs, and have had several nightmares about childbirth including one where I died! I also know that my husband and I would probably make great parents. Even if I’m being very indecisive about parenthood right now, I think I would be sad to be elderly and have no family except my husband. I do find myself wandering into maternity sections of stores and flick through baby name books. But… That burning maternal desire that I expect to be there just isn’t, and I can’t help but wonder if that is my conscience telling me something. Thank you for telling your truth, and I will be waiting to hear how your experience with parenthood goes. My bet is you’ll love it!

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