You should have kids. Or don’t, or whatever, it’s really up to you.

A friend earnestly asked for my thoughts on pregnancy and childbirth recently, and I was drunk enough from crappy draft beer and was coming off a cruddy week so I was terribly cynical. I believe that I told her that it was like a grenade went off in your vag, and went on to discuss the various body fluids and such at length until she presumably left to go get her tubes tied.

I’ll let you form your own opinion about what kind of a-hole that makes me, but I am here to rectify that. Because you see it’s all fine to be cynical and self-deprecating when I am drunk and trying to be humorous, but I actually find my kids delightful. I enjoyed pregnancy and those early days even though I was crippled by anxiety and depression. I am proud of my boys and proud of myself for making it through the hard bits, and I would never want anyone to think otherwise.

So, my dear friend, this is what I would say to you if I was being honest:

There is no real apt comparison, but pregnancy and childbirth is a bit akin to the wedding before the marriage. Everything is about to change again. Use this time to find your voice, rely on your body, start discovering how you want to raise your child, building your network of trusted sources, and learn what your own limitations are. Mourn or celebrate the changes in your body. Learn to cut out the chatter of parents, relatives, friends, experts, and google.  Everyone has an opinion, and the only one that matters is yours (and maybe the opinion of a caring and competent midwife or obstetrician). While ideally you have an easy pregnancy and a joyous birth that leaves you with a euphoric start to parenthood, it may not happen as you planned it. That’s ok, mourn that too.

And once you get over that hurdle, the real work begins. Your body will be a mess for a while as it knits back together, but you’ll hardly notice because you are in the kind of sleep deprivation state normally reserved for torture tactics and vision quests. You will both love the little being (or beings!) and be drained by it’s endless need. You will feel like you are doing everything wrong during the bad phases and everything right during the good phases, but recognize that it is all a phase. Everything is a phase. Enjoy the good ones, endure the bad ones and know how much wine you can safely drink before breastfeeding if that’s how you roll.

You have to deal with the various plagues and teething and other people’s terrible kids. Your kids will like things that make you feel stabby and they will flush all your preconceived notions about parenting down the drain (literally, if they’re written on something. Everything goes in the toilet). Your efforts will be spoiled by well meaning grandparents and you’ll have to navigate the wilderness of choices over babywearing, breastfeeding, toys, tv, feeding, sleep training, daycare, preschool; the list is virtually endless. And the worst part is that you will be in charge; you will hate making decisions. But, you will also have instinct on your side and develop a keen eye for things that will work for your family.

And they get bigger and become little kids at a furious pace. Kids are sticky and cuddly and surprisingly strong and louder than you think at 3 am. But they are delightful. Truly. All the magic that you lose the first time you have to pay for car registration or realize that you’re on the hook when the faucet breaks comes rushing back to you when you find yourself blowing bubbles in the middle of a Tuesday. Sure, it’s bound to end in failure and tears, but very few things are as freeing as staying in that moment. They come to you when they’re happy and when they’re sad and both of those are gratifying. There is nothing more powerful than when they snuggle into you or grab your face for a big messy kiss.

My boys saved me, healed me, and helped me become a more fully realized woman in ways that I never expected. They humble me and make me eat my words often and I am frustrated every single day.  But they also make me slow down and appreciate things I had forgotten about. I feel things with more depth because I bear the weight of their emotion too. They still have all the best qualities without the cynicism that comes with age; curiosity, humor, generosity and kindness. It’s impossible not to let that rub off on you a little. And they are watching, so you become a little more mindful of your actions and hopefully a little bit of a better person.

But this is my experience and yours might be different. You are already amazing, and your kids may not have the same effect on your life as on mine. Maybe you’re up for it, and maybe you’re not. Maybe you are really looking forward to getting tapped on the forehead at 3 am or taking the little beast everywhere under the sun. Or maybe you dread the thought of touching all of someone else’s body fluids and maybe a grenade vag is enough to put you off forever. Maybe you like being untethered. That’s all cool by me. Just don’t fail to do it out of fear or because parents complain all the time because those are just the surface bits. It’s harder to talk about how crazy in love you are with your kids than playing along with the narrative that parenting is terribly hard. If you decide you want kids, don’t do it expecting happiness or exhaustion or perfection or anything at all. Do it expecting your life to be ripped wide open and to keep expanding.

And you are totally going to rock this.

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31 comments

  1. Nice. I never wanted to have kids, but your advice here is great. Everyone I know who has kids says pretty much the same thing, that you shouldn’t avoid it out of fear, and you shouldn’t become a parent expecting it to make everything perfect. As for me, I think I’m one of those people who’s more suited to be a non-parent.

    1. My best friend doesn’t have kids, and her husband got the snip before they even got married. It was the right choice for them; they’re happy, they travel, they have full lives with their family and friends. I wouldn’t want anything different for them. And there are many days where I just want to drop my kids at auntie’s house and trade for a day ;)

  2. I read this after my facebook comment referring to you as smart and funny- and yep, you’re still both. And you’re brilliant. You made me cry! This is such an accurate portrait of our lives now.

  3. I so needed this. I’ve just come off of two days with a sick, constantly crying toddler boy, and I so wanted to drive off a cliff and then, of course, felt guilty for feeling that way, and, of course, am completely sleep deprived. But today is better. And you’re right, it’s all phases and it ain’t for everybody, but when that little goofball runs into my arms I’ve never been happier.

  4. RG, nice post. I don’t have children but my sisters do. There’s good days and bad ones, according to them (and you here), but they say it’s worth it and the good outweighs the bad. I also know that actually birthing a child is not the “pretty” representations one sees on television programs. You’ve heard them all, I’m sure, the comparisons of what childbirth feels like!

    Sidenote: I am following your blog, but not getting notified!!

    What’s up with the WordPress alert thing??

    1. You know, I didn’t get any notifications about comments today either. WordPress must be having a bad day. Thank you for reading. And you’re right, there are good days and bad. I don’t think that kids are the only thing that work that way either; any endeavor is bound to have highs and lows if it’s worth doing.

  5. Well put! Today, when my husband got home, I thrust our toddler into his arms and told them both to get out of my face. I immediately regretted it, because I love them both desperately, but it certainly is hard sometimes to remember that. Having a child was a good decision, but you’re right — it ripped our lives wide open.

    1. You mean there are days when that doesn’t happen??? That’s a pretty regular occurrence around here! There’s only so many hours in the day where you can deal with a toddler’s special brand of crazy before you lose your ever-loving mind.

      1. Today was especially bad. Especially once the child decided to knock a closet door off its track with his head, and then scream when I wouldn’t let him ‘help’ me to put it back. This was a two-glasses-of-wine-plus-a-little-extra night, as opposed to my normal one-glass-with-dinner night.

  6. Beautifully written, RG. I had absolutely zero maternal instincts before having kids, so much so, that before I married my husband, I confessed in a tearful, entire bottle of wine confession that he might NOT want to marry me because I didn’t know if I wanted children. Now, three kids later, I couldn’t imagine my life without them (although I often imagine being on a beach without them for a a long weekend)>. =)

    1. Ha, that is a daily imagining here as well. I don’t think having kids is ever a clear answer, but once they’re here I don’t think many people regret having them. Isn’t it amazing how biology works though? I always marveled at how much I just sort of knew how to do when the kids were born, when I was more the individualistic wine drinking type before kids.

  7. You are such a gifted writer! I loved this blog entry. It’s all so true, from the vaginal grenade to the big sloppy kisses! I love being a mom, but it truly is also the hardest thing I’ve ever done. Especially when all three are climbing all over me wanting a piece of me, and all I want is a minute to myself, all while my wonderful husband is sitting blissfully alone 5 feet away.

  8. It’s odd growing up, all through college I never wanted children..Well that changed, had 4 girls, 1 boy and while there were some rough patches, i now have 5 people to wait on me hand & foot when I get old and feeble.. Oh, and if I need a card playing partner too. :-)
    Much enjoyed this post!

    1. 5 kids! Those are terrific odds that you’ll have at least one or two to dote over you. I worry that my boys will just find the cheapest home and abandon me there. I might have to put a permanent cruise in my directives.
      Thank you for reading.

  9. Thank you for putting into words the very feelings/thoughts I have been trying to communicate for the last 3 years of my parenting career. It is just a crazy, wonderful, incredibly challenging ride. I’m going to have to share your amazing blog with others……….
    p.s. I think one gets an extra glass of wine when you have twins+.

    1. Thank you so much for the kind words. It is a crazy ride, isn’t it? At least I feel crazy.
      Also, I have been running under the extra glass of wine assumption for some time. Even before the twins in preparation.

  10. This blog reminds parents to cherish the moments, good or bad. My 19 month old triplets have been hell on wheels the last couple days and these words make me take a step back and remember this too is just another “phase” and life would be terrible without them. I seriously just read your whole blog while my kids napped. Keep up the great work!!

    PS – we met briefly last year at the TTMAC retreat, our friends are mutual friends. I wish I knew you were such a fantastic blogger back then!!

    1. Thank you Brandi for your very kind words. It is hard to reach out to people with little ones in tow and I have found my blog to be a great outlet.
      I remember you from the retreat; we were sitting at the same table for part of brunch right? I only remember because that’s the longest stretch of sleep I have had in quite some time. If we have mutual friends, please feel free to look me up on FB or however. I’d love to keep tabs on your trips! (And bow down to you periodically).

  11. As the mother of 2 boys, 4 & 7, you hit the nail on the head here. No one tells you the things like the fact that it will feel like you’re having the baby out of your actual ass, nor that your ass will look like a hibiscus flower afterwards. Then there’s the crippling anxiety and depression that many of us suffer though…the list goes on and on. I just wrote a post on this a few days ago :

    http://illbeoutinaminute.com/2012/10/11/pregnancy-revisited/

    With all that said, I would do it all over again for these two little creatures who both frustrate and enlighten me, fill me with love and wonder every moment of my life.

    You said it best right here, ” I feel things with more depth because I bear the weight of their emotion too.” Beautiful.

    Tracy

    1. My friend who inspired this post later admitted that she actually appreciated that we made the grenade vag reference because she didn’t want that kind of information to be a surprise. I don’t blame her one bit. I am going to send her your post as an addendum to that. We’ll see if she is still contemplating kids after that.

  12. This would have been a great post for me to read in my late 20s. Thankfully, my husband dared me to have kids, knowing I wouldn’t be able to walk away from any kind of throw-down. Three kids later, I’m SO happy he knew how to engage my middle school persona.

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