The idea of having children of my own has long sent chills up and down my spine.
While I have always adored babies – you can usually find me snuggling with one whenever given the opportunity – the idea of being responsible for nurturing and growing another human being has always been absolutely terrifying.
Labor and delivery had not scared me much until my nephew was born. In the past, I had visited a number of friends in the hospital shortly after their deliveries. Other than looking sleepy and a tad bit parched, their bodies had not really appeared to have gone through hours of screaming and pushing – in short, massive trauma. They had hidden from me the world of episiotomies, incontinence, hemorrhoids, vagina-numbing sprays, and adult diapers. Instead they handed me their newborns and in between coos would look at me and say, “When’s your turn? Don’t you want a little darling of your own?”
When I visited my sister, the room looked nothing short of a crime scene. She looked like she had been punched in the face several times and laid there almost lifeless. In between the gasps and fainting spells she looked over at me and said more than once, “Have ‘em young.”
I gave her a “you must be clinically insane” look and decided it was not time to go off the pill just yet. If I had anything to say about it, I was going to try to preserve my private parts just a little longer.
In the mean time, there were still plenty of other reasons which made me ill at ease when thinking about having babies. First, there were the dreams. One dream I can still remember:
It was a normal, uneventful day and I had spent it like I would any other day – eating with friends, doing the laundry, running a few errands, and maybe some shopping. I come home only to find a newborn screaming at the top of his lungs because his negligent mother had forgotten about him for the last 24 hours.
I woke up in cold sweats. What if I had a baby and was a complete and utter failure as a mother? What if I was incapable of doing simple tasks like heating up a bottle correctly or changing a diaper? (I was once laughed at in the face by a two year-old who figured out I had put her diaper on backwards and forgotten her diaper cream. I had to receive instruction from a toddler.) Or worse yet, what if I was so exhausted from the lack of sleep that I happened to drop the baby? I am way too young to have Social Services after me or to go to prison.
Next, there were the parents of newly born or young children. These were the couples that looked like they just had ten years of life sucked out of them. They would refer to their pre-baby days as “the good ol’ days.” They would have fights to astronomical proportions and at moments looked as though they could tear each other apart with their bare hands. They were clearly in survival mode.
And I was happily childless. I still enjoyed spending time with Mr. Checkers. We had the freedom to do whatever, eat whatever, spend whatever, and go wherever. A newly married friend of mine once said, “Why ruin a good thing?” and I thought surely she must have been speaking words from God. Mr. Checkers and I still liked each other, and I wanted to keep it that way.
And then there was the sinking feeling that having a baby would mean that life would be over as I knew it. That is, my life would be over – Mr. Checkers of course, would still go on to lead his life. He would still be able to devote time to his career and go out with his boys; meanwhile I would be at home with an inconsolable baby literally sucking the life out of me. Say goodbye to all of my dreams, hopes, and aspirations; hello to poopie diapers, engorged breasts, and sleep training.
To say that I was afraid to become a mom would be the biggest understatement of the decade.
Even when we started “trying” (i.e. what married people say when they are having lots and lots of unprotected sex), I wasn’t exactly shouting from the rooftops, “I am now ready to be a mom!” I was only a little less scared of the idea and had just enough courage to stop taking the pill and “wait and see” what would happen.
And it happened. And life as I knew it did change.
But it wasn’t the change I had expected. Instead of terror and fear, I was elated. Each day I carefully thought about what I was doing and putting into my body so that our baby would be safe. I cut out all of my favorite things without complaint (e.g. sushi, coffee, deli meats, etc.). When I felt queasy and exhausted or when I was waking up in the middle of the night to go to the bathroom, I was excited to be showing pregnancy symptoms and hoped that meant our baby was strong. And sometimes I would sing the song Phoebe from Friends sang after the tiny little embryos were implanted in her uterus:
Are you in there little fetus?
In nine months will you come greet us?
I will buy you some Adidas.
I began to have different kinds of dreams – dreams of what our baby would look like and what kind of parents Mr. Checkers and I would be. I had dreams of calling our baby by name, of cradling and smelling our baby. I thought about April, the month we would have met our baby, and how spring would be the perfect time for our baby to enter the world.
The funny thing is I could not have imagined how this baby would rock my world and turn it upside-down in just the two short weeks I knew I was pregnant. I had no idea I could be so captured with just the thought of our baby without even having been able to meet him or her. I was not aware I could love so fast, so hard, and so deeply until now.
That’s the funny thing.
I originally wrote this essay in 2011 after my miscarriage.