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.