I know it’ll probably suck, but I’m still going to have a baby
Updated: Oct 18, 2022
Guest Post! My lovely friend is about to embark on the #blessed journey to motherhood. But she's scared, and rightly so. She generously shares her story here.
Disclaimer: I acknowledge and respect all individuals with uteruses and their experiences with pregnancy, labour, and parenthood, including transgender men and gender non-conforming and non-binary people. I’m using the term ‘woman/women’ in this post for simplicity.
When I was a little girl, I wanted to have ten kids.
When I was 18, I wanted two or three, and I wanted to have my first at 23.
When I was 20, I didn’t ever want to have kids.
When I was 24, I became an aunty. This solidified my choice to have kids one day.
When I was 27, this desire grew a little heavy under the weight of urgency. Biological clock and all that.
Now I’m 30 and I want two kids. My fiancé and I plan to start trying for our first next year.
But I’m fucking scared.
My exposure and expectations
I’ve had my share of exposure to babies, toddlers, and kids. I have a sister and several close friends who have kids, and I have friends who are midwives.
I’ve also had my share of exposure to teary tales of traumatic births, debilitating pregnancy symptoms, sleep deprivation that makes you want to rip your eyes out of your head and put them in a glass of iced water, the confusion, beauty, and pain of matrescence and the inevitable identity crisis that comes with it, the intrusive thoughts of dropping the baby and watching its head explode like a watermelon, the impossible loneliness that makes you feel like you must be the only human who has ever experienced this, the loss of control and agency over your body now you’re simply a milk machine, the gaping chasm of resentment and disappointment that forms between you and your partner.
Mucus plugs. Postnatal depression. Medicos who don’t take you seriously. Chapped nipples. Judgy mothers’ groups. Existential dread. Unannounced visits from in-laws. The fear of the first post-birth poo. Changing friendships. Guilt, guilt, and more guilt. Haemorrhoids.
Honestly, it sounds pretty fucking shit. But knowing that could help make it better, right? Expect the worst and hope for the best?
I’m lucky to have had exposure to honest mums generous and trusting enough to share their experiences with me. I hope I made them feel validated, and I hope I can vent to them when it’s my time.
I’ve watched as they’ve maintained friendships, careers, hobbies, and homes as they’ve barely maintained their sanity. I’ve often thought “I don’t know how you do it” and “I couldn’t do that”.
I hope this exposure has helped me form realistic expectations. But I also hope it’s not as hard as I’m anticipating.
What scares me
Honestly, the discomfort of pregnancy and the pain of labour and the sleepless nights aren’t what scare me because I hope my love for the baby will give me strength through those temporary adversities. (I know, I know – go ahead and laugh at my naivety, mums. Let’s see how far love gets me when I enter transition).
The main reason I’m scared to have a baby is because I struggle with my mental health, and I know that women with pre-existing depression and anxiety are more likely to develop postnatal depression.
I don’t cope well with mess or noise, I don’t like when plans change, I have anxiety around health and death, and I need a lot of reassurance from my partner (thanks to a history of dating wankers).
These are just a few things I worry will make parenting tough for me. But I’m hoping this self-awareness gives me an advantage. I see this as an opportunity to prepare myself and do what I can to safeguard against these fears.
Why I’m doing it anyway
When a woman doesn’t want kids, she’s asked why, like the world is entitled to a socially acceptable justification for this “bizarre, rebellious, selfish choice”.
But isn’t the more important question why do you want kids? Why do you want to be a parent for the rest of your life?
As a societal norm, it’s just assumed having kids is the done thing, so we don’t raise an eyebrow or seek candid conversation or share our feelings about it.
I’m personally fascinated and would like to see research on what drives that choice for people (and the kind of reflection and critical thinking that goes into making that massive life-altering decision – if any).
For some, it’s an unexplainable, caveman, biological “I just want to” ticking of a box.
For others, it’s because they want to be surrounded by family and support in their old age.
I once heard a parent say a significant motivation for them to have kids was so they’d have people to attend their funeral one day. Yikes.
I want to have a baby for many reasons.
I want to be a parent. I want to love and support a human from birth into a well-adjusted adult with a healthy attachment style.
I want to have a baby as an expression of love for my fiancé. I want to create a family unit with him and be a team sharing a common goal – to raise an emotionally healthy and happy human with parents who model what a healthy and respectful intimate relationship looks like.
I’m not having a baby to heal my childhood trauma, but I do think having a baby could be a healing form of evolution and acceptance through love and sacrifice.
On a selfish note, I’m excited by the idea of getting to love and care and give and nurture to such an extent, as I see myself as a “giver” and place a lot of value on what I do for others.
And then there’s the dream of our niece and nephews having cousins to play and laugh with as we grow not only our immediate family, but our extended family, to create a village.
Everyone’s reasons for wanting to have a baby are different. I’d like to think mine are well-informed.
Who knows – maybe I’ll read this back as a mum and cringe and roll my eyes and laugh with the witch-like cackle reserved specifically for women who know better.
Or maybe it’ll spark some self-compassion for a sleep-deprived new mum who doesn’t know what she’s doing and secretly – and regularly – wonders if she made a huge and irreversible mistake, and having a cream couch and spontaneous trip to Italy would’ve been a better choice but it’s too bloody late now isn’t it, dickhead?