Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Dear Me, Do you really think you want a kid? Is now the time?

I read this post by Glennon at Momastery today, and this particular part made my head bob up and down:

Every time I’m out with my kids – this seems to happen:

An older woman stops us, puts her hand over her heart and says something like, “Oh- Enjoy every moment. This time goes by so fast.”
Everywhere I go, someone is telling me to seize the moment, raise my awareness, be happy, enjoy every second, etc, etc, etc.

I know that this message is right and good. But as 2011 closes, I have finally allowed myself to admit that it just doesn’t work for me. It bugs me. This CARPE DIEM message makes me paranoid and panicky. Especially during this phase of my life – while I’m raising young kids. Being told, in a million different ways to CARPE DIEM makes me worry that if I’m not in a constant state of intense gratitude and ecstasy, I’m doing something wrong.

I think parenting young children (and old ones, I’ve heard) is a little like climbing Mount Everest. Brave, adventurous souls try it because they’ve heard there’s magic in the climb. They try because they believe that finishing, or even attempting the climb are impressive accomplishments. They try because during the climb, if they allow themselves to pause and lift their eyes and minds from the pain and drudgery, the views are breathtaking. They try because even though it hurts and it’s hard, there are moments that make it worth the hard. These moments are so intense and unique that many people who reach the top start planning, almost immediately, to climb again. Even though any climber will tell you that  most of the climb is treacherous, exhausting, killer. That they literally cried most of the way up.
And so I think that if there were people stationed, say, every thirty feet along Mount Everest yelling to the climbers – “ARE YOU ENJOYING YOURSELF!? IF NOT, YOU SHOULD BE! ONE DAY YOU’LL BE SORRY YOU DIDN’T!” TRUST US!! IT’LL BE OVER TOO SOON! CARPE DIEM!”  - those well-meaning, nostalgic cheerleaders might be physically thrown from the mountain.
The paragraph about why she believes people try parenting made me think about why I decided to throw my hat in the ring in this parenting match.  I had an email dialogue with a friend about this in  January 2009 when we were on the cusp of making a decision to try to have a baby.  I have to preserve the conversation here because this is where I'm storing memories for now.  Reading it in retrospect made my eyes well up with tears because I can honestly say, "Yep.  I am so glad we did this."  Even though the first year was the biggest roller coaster of my life.  Let's hope I'm still saying that when Bo is a teenager...

Me to Friend:
I just got through calculating my fertility window online.  This might be the month we go for it.  I’m a little concerned that I feel so blasé about it.  I can’t decide if it’s because 1) I don’t think it will actually happen 2) I don’t want to get emotionally invested in whether it will happen or not; or 3) I’m still not ready.  Is it irresponsible to have unprotected sex without dissecting this first?  Because I’m really just so sick and stinking tired of trying to figure this out.  On the one hand, part of me says, “You’ve waited this long.  What’s a few more months until you work out your feelings?”  The other part of me says, “You’re stalling again, missy.  Get on with it already.”
 Friend to Me: 
You crack me up with this fertility window stuff.  I love it!  I was talking to ______ about you guys having a baby the other day.  I was asking him, do they really think they want one? do they just think this is the time to do it so they better get it done?  how do they know they are ready?  You know, all those questions I would ask you if we were together because you would actually answer me rather than grunt something at me during the commercials of the game.  I don't know how to help you with this one, except to say that I don't think anyone who has any common sense ever feels truly "ready" for something like motherhood.  You are going to overthink this into the ground.  If you think you want one, get off birth control and give it a try.  Why not?  (of course I would never  follow this advice).
Me to Friend:

I’m treating this like a quiz:
do they really think they want one?
This has been answered “yes”.  The part of the question I’m struggling with now is “why”? 
So far the only thing I can come up that doesn’t sound totally lame (to me) is that I want to share my life with a child.  I kind of liken it to “why do you stay married?”  (because let’s face it, I didn’t dissect the “why are you getting married” question at 22 like I would at 31).  I stay married because I love The One, because I can never be the kind of person he is, and seeing the world through his eyes is as close as I’ll come to that, but ultimately, because I want to share my life with someone—to share life experiences, to make big decisions with him, to bounce ideas off of him, all of it.  And while I could walk through life alone and likely have a heck of a time, I like sharing my life with a partner and think my life is better for it.
I think I can have a full life without kids (and even may by all means), but I also think I’d like to share my life with children.  My large family has been something I have always adored; it has its rough spots no doubt, but I love sharing life with my parents and my siblings.  I think my life is fuller for it.  And while there is no guarantee that I won’t lose a child to a horrible disease, murder, or accident and end up childless anyway, while there is no guarantee I won’t have children that I can’t stand or that can’t stand me, no guarantee that I’ll have children who will get along, etc., I think I’m at a place that it’s a gamble I’m willing to take.  I would never have gotten married had I been guaranteed that my marriage would end badly in divorce, but I did get married knowing that my marriage ending badly in divorce was a real possibility and the chance that it would work was worth the risk that it wouldn’t.  That’s kind of how I feel about kids right now—I know there is the possibility that they will suck and that parenting will suck, but I think for me the risk that it will work is worth the risk that it won’t.  I love so many things about children—I think mostly because they represent everything I am not---spontaneous, nondiscerning, free spirited little creatures.  I love their absolute joy about ALL things (and how every sentence somehow ends in an exclamation point!).  And when they turn into who I turned into and do stupid stuff and say awful things and get confused and make horrible decisions, I’d like to love them and reassure them, help them find out how they can be the very best they can be, encourage them to be productive citizens.  It’s all corny I know, but it is something I think I’d like to be a part of.  (I fully realize they could be black fingernail painting cat killers who end up in bad places, but I guess I’m saying I’m willing to risk that that’s what they’ll be.)
I know there will be days I wonder why I did it, that I’ll miss pre-kid life, that I’ll be tired and grumpy, that they’ll smell and curse me and really test the concept of unconditional love.  But again, I just keep going back to marriage.  There have been days I’ve wondered why I got married, that I miss my single days, that I’m tired and grumpy, that we both smell and curse each other, days I wonder if I can live up to my promise of unconditional love, but in the end, I’m still glad he’s mine and I’m his.  In the end, I know I’d rather spend my life with him than without him.
do they just think this is the time to do it so they better get it done?  
Kind of.  It feels inevitable that we’ll jump, and we’re running out of excuses of why we shouldn’t jump now.  I don’t feel that feeling that some people say they feel like “something’s just missing from my life”.  I love our life.  I really love our life.  At the same time, I wonder if it’s one of those things that can be an additional thing I’ll love about my life, but I just don’t know it yet because I haven’t experienced it yet.  Kind of like travelling.  I never knew how much it could add to my life because I never travelled before college.  Then I did, and I was hooked!  It’s not like my life was empty before, but now travelling is just another dimension of a satisfying life.  Maybe it’s a pipe dream, but I hope expanding our family will be like that—just another dimension to an already satisfying life.
how do they know they are ready?  
We don’t----which is why I’m going through this diatribe with you and myself all the time.  I don’t think we’ll ever be ready.  I do know that we’re financially stable now, we’re healthy, we’re at a pretty good place in our marriage, and that we’d like to be through with kids by 36. 


1 comment:

  1. Sis I love u so much even though we are so different in our thinking! I am so glad u have a child it's the best & most undescribeable feeling ever as you well know! I never knew I could love like I do after having 3 children I would lay my life down for!!!!! God is so good! Always remember that! As I tell my children- I love you to HEAVEN and back!