I was not born to be a mother. I didn’t grow up dreaming of being a princess in a castle and marrying a prince. I didn’t spend a lot of time cradling babydolls, and I didn’t play house all that often. I had Barbies for awhile, but they were oversexed weirdos. In fact, by the time I was about ten years old, my make believe games often had aspects that were distinctly weird. When my cousin and I would hang out, we’d pretend we were a bickering old vagrant couple and we’d speak continuously in cockney English accents (it used to really flip my mother out).
The point is, I didn’t grow up dreaming of the day I’d marry and have a family. By the time I left middle school, I was pretty well on my way to Tomboy-hood, and by tenth grade I was fully entrenched in Goth subculture. I was fierce, I was a fighter despite my small stature. I didn’t take shit from anyone… and I wasn’t sure if I ever wanted kids. I was on birth control, and as far as I was concerned, getting pregnant would have been one of the worst things that could have happened to me. I was going to college. I was going to do something big.
And then…fast forward 10 years or so and many crappy relationships (one was a real doozy!) with even crappier men, (and a few good men that just didn’t “do it” for me,) and I meet the man I want to marry. He’s gorgeous, he sensitive, he’s “tragically”damaged (haha), and he’s smart (a total requisite, as I have dumped guys for being “too dumb” to hold a decent conversation.) More importantly, he’s a good guy, and MOST importantly…he lights my fire, baby! Two weeks and I am in love with the guy. And not only does he love me too, but he is the most understanding, non-jealous, non-judgmental, and generous person I have ever met. He understands my flaws, and he supports me.
And though we talk marriage for a while, that’s all we do. He knows I’m not a kid person, and he says he’d be fine if we never had kids, but, bless his heart, I see how he is with children and I know he’s lying (even if he doesn’t.) And the more sure I am that I am SO in love with this man, the more the idea of carrying his child appeals to me. And I know he would look on me with nothing short of reverence if I was the mother of his child- always a plus.
Fast forward again about 5 years (the poor man is a bit gun-shy about marriage, probably due to the bi-polar ex (yes, there was one of those))… half of which I spend telling him, “if you want a kid, I’d like to get started before I am 30, and if you want a kid, we get married first. So almost five years to the day after we met, we marry. And I have stopped my birth control, not necessarily trying to get pregnant, but not trying not to either.
And we conceive on our honeymoon…and then at around five weeks, we lose the baby. And I feel crushed. How did I not know I wanted this so badly? Was it just hormones talking? But I cried in my husband’s arms for two days and feel like a failure of a woman for not being able to carry the baby. Now I know there are a host of feelings that go along with miscarrying, but this story is really not about that, so moving on…
I decide immediately to try to conceive again, even though it is probably the worst time financially for us. And I do… and for a myriad of reasons, none of which have to do directly with my child (although my pregnancy does make me very ill), the next year is the worst of our lives probably. It is a year of loss. Jobs, houses, family members…almost our relationship.
But we survive, we persevere… and 3 and a half weeks early, in August, my daughter is born…and I am never the same again.
All of what you have just read is pretty much back-story. The real point of this story how having my daughter changed me.
Obviously, becoming a parent changes most people. If you are any kind of decent, your life becomes about sacrificing anything for your child. Selfishness goes out the window. You and your spouse generally take a backseat to the baby. The funny thing is, I never expected to be SO okay with that! I’ve always been a little selfish, at least emotionally. I always had this romantic notion that I’d be number one in my love’s eyes no matter what. If I am completely honest, on some level I was afraid he would love the baby more than me. But you know what? After the birth of my baby girl, we both fell in love with her, and she actually brought us back together after the horrendous year we’d had. I loved her even more for bringing my husband back from the brink of the depression that had threatened to tear us apart.
And we both love her more than anything in this world, most likely even each other. And we are both cool with that.
Next point; I have always been a sensitive person, but now my emotions are…ridiculous. Especially about anything having to do with kids. And I don’t just mean the initial hormone craze right after birth (although that was…fun…) I didn’t have postpartum depression either… But let me tell you, when you have an anxiety disorder to begin with, hormones and the new emotions you have as a parent just rocket anxiety into the stratosphere.
One day some untold days/weeks/whatever after the baby’s birth, I was watching an episode of Six Feet Under (I know, I should know better, right?) from the full box set we owned. I had forgotten this particular episode had to do with a baby dying of SIDS (and they showed it from the baby’s perspective! WTF?!!) I found myself storming around the room, sobbing and talking to myself, as I pulled the disk from the DVD player, and resolved on the spot to sell the full box set of the series. It was gone by the end of the night.
Now, a year and a half later, I still cry over the dumbest shit… movie previews, commercials, books… and I’m all teary if I read any sappy article having to do with kids or a parent’s love for their kid… God forbid it’s about a kid getting sick or hurt. My eyes will be streaming by the time I’m done reading.
I actually had to stop checking AOL news for a while, because every day- EVERY DAMN DAY- it seemed there was another article about a parent/ parents abusing or killing their own kids. My empathy for children is now out of control. And it was too much to handle every day in the face of all the worrying about my own child… How could I keep her safe? No matter how vigilant I am, no matter how careful, there are those children that get into accidents, get abducted… And what if, for one second, my vigilance slipped and something happened to my child as a result? I am fairly certain I could not live without her. I now understand something I never really got before, and that is why so many marriages fall apart after the death of a child. I don’t think I’d care about anything, if something happened to my kid. I’m already fearing scenarios in my head where my kid will get into a car with a drunk driver even though she knows better.
And here’s the last part, maybe the weird part. I am superstitious about it. Even typing this is very hard, as if by talking about it, I will somehow cause the worst to happen. I am a writer, but find I can no longer write even fiction that involves harm to children of any kind. As if, by creating a character, I am creating the actual harm. I know better intellectually, but I can’t erase the feelings (this probably IS the OCD at work, at least in part.)
On the flip side of the coin, I find I am much more sympathetic to other people’s kids now. The crying toddler in Walmart no longer elicits annoyance, so much as a soppy empathy.
Also, my three cats are no longer “my babies” (much to their displeasure.)
I wonder if I’ll ever be normal again- well, “normal” for me. I’ll likely never stop worrying. I think it’s a parent’s job, like a prerequisite or something. But maybe I would like to get to a point where not everything about kids that I read or see on TV makes me get weepy, and where I can once again write unfettered by superstitious and false emotional cues. I just keep telling myself that I will do the best I can to make sure my child is healthy, happy, and above all, knows she is loved more than anything.
See? I’m a total puss now… Mom would be so proud.