Capitulation: Babies.


Spoiler Alert: You don't have to be sure you want kids to love parenthood.

Capitulation: Babies. | A Practical Wedding

by Lady Brett Ashley

My wife once told me that if she were straight she would probably have been married with a couple kids by twenty-five. We were twenty-five at the time. We had been dating a few months, and while it was said slightly in jest it was clearly true; that’s where she was headed. But being queer tends to enforce taking a step back about how you build your family, so she wasn’t quite there yet.

Instead, she was with me: the woman who had avoided dating her for eight months because I didn’t want a serious relationship, who didn’t see any point in marriage except perhaps if you were having kids, and who clearly wasn’t ever having kids.

Except I was seriously wavering on all that “not serious” stuff. I realized on the six-month mark that I would marry her if she were to ask at some point, and fervently hoped she would do no such thing. I was not prepared to come to terms with this new self. Rather than jump into making a lifelong public commitment, we purchased a home and navigated the polite concerns of friends and family over the enormity of that commitment. The dilapidated rose climbing our new front porch bloomed on our first anniversary.

We discussed having children, but we did not actually address it. Every time we discussed it we cried—unless someone was forward-thinking enough to change the subject before the crying. At the end of each discussion things remained the same. My wife wants children, has always wanted children, would even consider pregnancy as an option to procure them. I have never wanted children, I know very little about children, I am afraid of babies and more afraid of pregnancy and permanence.

At least we agreed: if we ever were to make a decision, we would pursue the legal, not the biological, route to parenthood.

Unable to agree on the main point, we skirted it. As the one on the side of the status quo, not talking about it left things squarely in my court. So I put in my best effort to convince myself to want to have children. My wife, politely (or resignedly), did not (she did make sure her mother knew who, exactly, was standing in the way of grandbabies).

On our third anniversary, we got married. I forgot to tell my wife the vow I hadn’t said—that I would have kids for her. She forgot to tell me that she had decided she would stay childless for me.

What I wanted more than anything was for her to be happy with our family. I suspect her reasoning was similar. Having decided having kids was something I would do, I continued trying to actually want it or to make it make sense. Clearly if I worried about it more, one day I would wake up with the realization that what I wanted out of life was “babies!”

And one day I woke up with the realization that I didn’t have to want kids. I didn’t have to understand her wanting to have kids. I had to be okay with it.

I spent three years trying to talk myself into wanting children because I was convinced that was the only viable reason to have children. I suppose it comes of the narrative that everything you do must be your passion, or you have failed yourself—and will fail at it. And how terribly would people judge our relationship if I said, “Well, I’m really only having children for my wife”? How terribly would people judge my parenting if I said, “Oh, kids? Really, I could take it or leave it, but here we are”? (As it happens, you can say either of those phrases in any company you like without judgment; you will always be assumed to be joking.)

We did it. About nine months after truly, actually deciding to go through with this children thing, we got our foster license (while deciding whether or not to have kids was probably the most difficult aspect of our early relationship, deciding to do it through fostering—for now—was so easy that I am not sure we even discussed our reasons).

I love it. I love being a parent, which has come as a shock. It is, more or less, as amazing and terrible as everyone told me it would be, which I was not expecting. I was not expecting it to be bad either; I think I was expecting it to be acceptable with a big dose of “I love seeing my wife this happy.” It’s not that at all. Because the details of parenting are sometimes as bad as you’ve heard; I actually worry quite a bit that maybe she doesn’t like this and we made the wrong decision because she’s not happy (not true either—as it happens, no one enjoys listening to three toddlers throw tantrums, which is not the same as disliking the whole damn thing). The reality is more that I love it, and I love watching her parent, not because she loves it, but because she’s great at it (honestly, is there anything better than watching your lover be awesome?).

I love our kids, I am keen to love our next kids, but I do not think I have changed my mind about having children. Our life with kids is wonderful, and our life before them was wonderful too, and I am almost certain that I could be happy with either.

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  • Grace

    As someone who as started recently waffling on the whole kids/no kids debate, thanks so much for this. Hearing someone else actually say they’ve realized they could be happy either way (and, maybe more importantly, that it probably won’t fuck your kids up) makes me feel so much better, because I think I just realized I’m the same way. And for some reason I never thought that was a legitimate position to have, because heteronormativity I guess.
    So now that I feel infinately better about my life, please continue going on being spectacular.

    • MEM

      I feel the same way! I always thought that in order to have kids you had to really really want them and if you doubted it at all then you shouldn’t have them. I am 80% sure that I want kids, which made me feel like I should not have them which made me feel really sad. It’s so refreshing to be told that it’s OK if you aren’t sure you can have them anyway!

      • Lauren C.

        I forget which post it was, but Meg once said something to the effect of maybe it’s actually better (or at least normal) to have some level of doubt about having kids. It’s such a massive undertaking that anyone truly considering it on a critical level will probably waffle a little. Of course there are the natural child-lovers who are certain on an almost primal level, and that’s awesome too. But for the rest of us, some doubt is unavoidable and healthy. It made me feel better.

        • Meg Keene

          NORMAL NORMAL NORMAL. And I’m a natural child lover, even. It’s kind of a crazy thing to be totally sure about, when you think about it.

          • clairekfromtheuk

            Totes agree! As a natural child lover (and ex-nanny and older sibling of 5 much younger sibs and recipient of many ‘you’d be a great parent’ comments) I still waver on the kids/no kids boundary

        • Gina

          Yes! Exactly. I would even go so far as to say, even if you are certain on a primal level (I always have been), the actual reality of taking the step includes SO much doubt. And I agree that isn’t a bad thing! All big decisions require a lot of thought and back-and-forth and “what ifs.” I always get a little annoyed when people say “it’s never the right time to have kids” as a justification for having them, but it DOES seem true that you might never be sure about it until after it’s happened.

        • Caroline

          I would say I am 100% sure on a primal level AND have a lot of doubts on a critical thinking level.

    • Meg Keene

      Of course it won’t fuck your kids up. The idea that kids are something you choose and choose because it’s something your sure about is **so extremely new.** It’s good in that kids just used to be something you had, no real choices. But it’s bad because the idea itself is bullshit squared. It’s a huge life change that you can’t preview: OMG. On the plus side (shhhhh) I think most people end up really loving it on some level, if they go for it. But even if you don’t love all of it (and I mean, you won’t) you just have to love your kids to not fuck them up.

      I always say, some of my favorite parents are ones that got accidentally knocked up. I mean, seriously.

      • lady brett

        “you just have to love your kids to not fuck them up.”
        i heartily disagree. people fuck up people they love all the time. that’s been clear to me for years from watching people navigate terrible partner relationships that had nothing going for them *but* love, and it is clear to me as i watch people raise their children (doubly so as a foster parent).

        “I always say, some of my favorite parents are ones that got accidentally knocked up.”
        but yes to this. i think it is easier and more likely for folks who accidentally become parents to incorporate their kids into their lives rather than forming their lives around their kids, which tends to be a healthier way to live in the long run.

        • KC

          I agree on both counts.

          But on the knocked-up side, you probably also get to dodge some of the “I *have* to enjoy all of this because I signed up for it and if I don’t love every second of everything then I was wrong about what I wanted” or something. I guess, you might get to *own* that ambivalence that later plays out in “nope, screaming baby at 3am, not fun” and “aww, that was really cute” and whatnot, to a degree that might be harder for some “deliberate” parents.

          • Sarah

            great article, as my newish husband and I are making a move this month to be near family and realize this issue will be on our minds more (as well as dealing with the well-meaning but nosy friends and families we’re returning to). also good time to remember the “knocked-up” side isn’t an option for same-sex/infertile couples…

          • lady brett

            yes, this. that is something that my spouse really struggled with at first – there were (are) parts of parenting that were just awful, and she felt awful about not enjoying things that suck, whereas for me, not liking the parts of parenting that i had dreaded in the first place felt really normal. so i didn’t have this guilt on top of whatever was going on, which in some ways made the transition to parent easier for me, which was a definite surprise.

          • Ashley Meredith

            Fascinating comment.

            My mom has always been very upfront about the fact that my dad wanted kids and she didn’t, and her reasons for agreeing were decidedly…unromantic, shall we say. (She’s been equally upfront about the fact that they had trouble getting pregnant and by the time they did, she really wanted it.) So I’ve always been familiar with the idea that less-than-baby-fevered reasons were valid… but somehow my own unromantic reasons and decided ambivalence (to put it nicely) have never seemed sufficient.

            All of which is to say, it’s nice to know that there might be an upside to all that if I ever do decide to go for it. I’m very good at guilt, so anything that might lessen it would be a good thing. :-)

          • Meg Keene

            Yeah, the idea that you have to enjoy all of it is so unrealistic that it gets twisted up in lots of ways: pressure to enjoy all of it, exploding about how parenthood is THE HARDEST EVER, or you’re a “bad” mom, or what have you. If you’re able to come to it from a place of, “Eh, kids are reality, people have been having them for always,” or “Surprise, I guess we’re doing this,” I think it’s easier to embrace it as just… reality. Some parts are really amazing, some parts suck, some parts are just neutral.

        • Meg Keene

          Yeah, you’re right. If I didn’t have a baby screaming in my ear I could probably articulate better. I think love is enough, though it’s not always enough (someone spot me on articulating here). HOWEVER. In no way is your sureness or non sureness about having kids going to be the thing that fucks them up.

          And yes to the second bit. Exactly my point.

          • js

            Screaming baby in your ear+ love your kids= point articulated just fine, if you ask me. Meg’s comment, I think, brings up a unique conversation on What Love Is, Mature, Healthy Love vs. Horny teenager Love, different levels of love, Parent Love vs. Partner Love. I don’t think Love is enough, but I think wanting the best for someone, putting their needs ahead of your own, mutual admiration and respect and always trying your best (even if you can’t always be your best self, all the time, every day) and knowing you’ll get up the next day and agree to do it again, is a very good start to loving someone and showing them they’re loved, whether as a parent, potential parent or significant other. Not speaking for Meg or anyone else. Just making a conscious choice as a mom and a wife myself, every day.

          • Meg Keene

            You know that Oprah line, “Does your face light up when your kid enters the room? That’s what they need.” I think about that a LOT. Because Lady Brett is for sure right. Where I grew up LOTS of people loved their kids and deeply deeply fucked them up. Was that healthy love? No. But. Sometimes they were hurting them in one way or another, sure. Other times they really were doing their best, but their best was limited. (Poverty, man. It’s awful in so many ways.)

            So. It’s complicated.

            But I think a lot about that face lighting up line. Because so many parents love their kids, in a whole variety of healthy and un healthy ways, but miss the part about their face lighting up when their kid enters the room. And I really think you start there. Starting there is good enough.

            And getting back to the original point: how much you planned or were sure about your kids really has nothing to do with it. (Unless that leaves you unable to love them. Which is, I think, rare, and speaks to deeper issues at play that need to be worked on.)

          • http://heartsvsbrains.tumblr.com/ HeartvsBrain

            I’ve never heard this Oprah quote but it brought tears to my eyes. I’m not trying to downplay how hard it is to raise kids and not mess them up (and I haven’t even raised one, so I don’t speak from an authoritative place on this, I just know its hella hard).

            I’m speaking only as a former kid myself, who had a lot of the typical markers present: neglect, abuse, lack of love, etc. and I can tell you that overwhelmingly, the lack of love is what has really messed me up. I can get over (and even see some positives) that came out of the neglect and the abuse. But living a life devoid of love – to me that’s what did the real and everlasting damage.

          • ruth

            Thanks so much for sharing that quote, Meg – I had never heard that before – and wow, does it resonate. That gives me courage and hope about future parenthood.

        • http://heartsvsbrains.tumblr.com/ HeartvsBrain

          I think I’d question someone’s “love” if they’re hurting their child or significant other. I believe “you just have to love your kids to not fuck them up.” I believe it wholeheartedly. Except it has to be healthy love.

      • Kats

        A welcome breath of common sense into the usual dictates of “you have to really really want kids to have them” because “it’s so so all-encompassingly hard, like the hardest thing you’ve ever done hard.” As we look toward pulling our goalie, it’s much easier for us to be in the camp of “ok if it happens, ok if it doesn’t” than to try to get ourselves wrapped into a ball of “we have to really want this” stress. Because, honestly, if we get our heart set on “really really wanting”, it sets up a nasty place of failure/sadness if the biology or adoption or fostering doesn’t or can’t happen. And, at our age, that’s a real possibility. Thus, it’s kind of comforting, peaceful even, to come to a place where I think we’ll be ok either way – and it’s awfully nice to hear we’re not the only ones.

        • Cali

          The whole “You must want kids with every fiber of your being because it’s so so so hard” concept makes me think of this article that’s popped up on social media a lot lately. It’s called something like “The test to see if you’re REALLY ready for kids.” And it basically lists all these horrible, godawful things (e.g., “Go throw all your money into the garbage disposal, because you won’t have any once the baby comes” and “Set your alarm to go off every 45 minutes, get up, and walk around bouncing a wet sack”) and, if they sound horrible, you’re not ready. If anyone actually used that test seriously, NO ONE would ever have kids. I mean, who thinks that waking up every 45 minutes to hug a wet sack of flour sounds fun?

  • Marie

    Such honesty. And bravery, and commitment: to jump–while still uncertain– but to engage whole heartedly and lovingly once you’ve landed.

    Very Relevant: Dear Sugar’s beautiful piece “The Ghost Ship that Didn’t Carry Us,” on acknowledging, but letting go of, the “lives we didn’t choose,” especially in the context of having children or not:

    “I’ll never know and neither will you of the life you don’t choose. We’ll only know that whatever that sister life was, it was important and beautiful and not ours. It was the ghost ship that didn’t carry us. There’s nothing to do but salute it from the shore.”

    http://therumpus.net/2011/04/dear-sugar-the-rumpus-advice-column-71-the-ghost-ship-that-didnt-carry-us/

    • Meg Keene

      READ THIS IF YOU HAVEN’T. READ THIS.

      • megep

        READ THIS EVEN IF YOU HAVE READ IT BEFORE.

        • Helen

          I just read it. Best ever. thanks – off to find semen now.

    • BreckW

      I love this one, in particular.

    • lady brett

      oh, that is a lovely sentiment.

    • clairekfromtheuk

      Love that! I’d read it before and forgotten about it because I was in the ‘definitely not the right time now’ camp but now…

      Such good advice :)

  • Lauren C.

    Thank you so much for this. I’m in that boat right now, trying so hard to want kids because my partner really wants them. He’d be an amazing dad. I’ve moved from “definitely don’t want kids” to “could be happy with or without kids,” and there are times when I truly look forward to adding another little person to our family… but I can’t help wondering if that’s enough and if I’ll regret it horribly, this huge, life-changing, un-take-back-able thing. Like you, I love our lives now and I’m afraid to upset the balance. I found this piece really reassuring, and I hope so much that it will be my experience too.

    • Kathleen

      “if I’ll regret it horribly, this huge, life-changing, un-take-back-able thing.”

      For what it’s worth, I’ve always known I wanted kids, as has my husband, and now that we’re expecting our first, much-wanted, planned-for baby, I spend a decent amount of time wondering if I’ll regret this huge, life-changing, un-take-back-able thing.

      • Meg Keene

        I think that’s a normal fear. I think most people have it, and lots of people have it intensely.

        What I’ve learned though is, the nature of the person-ness (IE, you’re bringing a new person home*, you’re not just signing up for an identity shift, or something like that), means you usually don’t regret it. Just because once the new person is there, you can’t imagine what it would be like if they’d never existed. So that’s the sort of trick of the game.

        I also think that you can be perfectly happy either way. Just differently happy.

        *Brand new or new to you ;)

      • MsDitz

        This. I am currently 6 months pregnant with our well planned, well thought out, perfectly timed, 100% wanted baby. Yet I find myself looking around at our current life thinking, “This is so great. Why were we so eager to bring another person into it and change everything?” I just have to remind myself (and this post was a big help) that just because I love our life now doesn’t mean I won’t love our life when the baby comes. You’re allowed to love both.

        • MDBethann

          We’re going through infertility treatments right now (3rd round of IUI was yesterday) and I catch myself thinking the same thing. Our live right now is GREAT and we’re happy, why do we want to change things again?

          But then I remind myself (she who hated change as a child) that change can be good and has, for the most part, been good in my life.

  • http://heartsvsbrains.tumblr.com/ HeartvsBrain

    Thank you Lady Brett, thank you so much. It eases my mind to read this. I’m actively trying to get pregnant but I’m not 100% on board with having kids. I’m honestly not sure how anyone could be 100% sure they want kids. Of course – I’m not a 100% sure about ANYTHING so maybe that’s just how I roll.

    Either way, I think what you’ve exemplified here so beautifully is the idea that it’s not about whether you wanted them, didn’t want them, planned for them, tried hard to get them or they just happened, it’s about what you did when they got there. You loved them.

    Frankly the only “bad” parents in my eyes, are the ones who can’t/won’t love their kids. I don’t think you have to be over the moon in love with your kids, but I think you have to love them deeply in order to properly care for them and it sounds like you absolutely do. What came before them, what comes after them – it doesn’t matter. Not in my eyes. All that matters is what you are when they are there – a loving mom.

  • EF

    I’m not going to comment on the wanting kids or not bit, because there’s enough discussion about that.

    But instead, as a kid who had a traumatic, unstable childhood, and finally found a home with two dads when I was a teenager — and haven’t used the ‘foster’ to describe them for years — thanks for doing what you’re doing. There aren’t enough parents out there taking on the kids that others didn’t want, or couldn’t take care of. And thus those kids (…we kids…) come with a lot more baggage than if you had your own. Where I grew up, it started to become not uncommon to see same-sex couples fostering, particularly because Massachusetts legalised marriage so long ago now. When I got my dads, it was probably the single best thing that ever happened in my life, and that includes meeting my fiance. Before them, I had no idea what a loving relationship looked like, or really knew what it felt like to be wanted. They changed all that.

    I can’t talk for all kids who have been through multiple homes, but I can talk from my experience, so thank you. You and your partner are doing a wonderful thing. I hope that everything continues to go well for you.

    • BreckW

      This is a really beautifully written comment. I’m so glad you found your dads, too.

    • Cali

      Wow. I needed this comment today. My husband and I know that we want kids, but keep going back and forth one whether we want to go the biological route or the foster/adopt route. I think, deep down inside, I really want to go the foster care route but it scares me a little simply because it’s a different path than our friends with children have taken. This comment just totally reinforced my desire to have children via foster/adopting.

      Thank you for sharing.

      • EF

        It’s a brave choice, and not an easy one to make. Don’t let my comments make you think that my dads had an easy time either — I lashed out a lot, and it took a few years before I was really comfortable, but in the end they always gave me a home to go back to. If you do think fostering is for you, I kinda gently want to encourage people to consider taking in older kids. While it’s probably harder on parents/families to do so, it’s really hard to get placed for any length of time once you’re school-aged, even, and much worse by the time you’re in high school. BUT I wouldn’t ever encourage someone to bite off more than they can chew, as it were, and I think it’s really quite wonderful to take in any kid that you don’t give birth to.

  • Meg

    That ending made me really happy :)

  • KISig

    “I suppose it comes of the narrative that everything you do must be your passion, or you have failed yourself—and will fail at it.”

    THIS! For kids, for jobs, for life. Finding your passion and following your passion are all well and good, but there are plenty of other valid reasons for doing things, and there’s no need to feel guilty about that, or let it stop you from doing things that make sense for you.

  • KC

    So, this is somewhat tangential, but I had this possibly entirely unreasonable feeling that I would want to “practice” on a biological kid before accidentally screwing up “someone else’s kid” (and/or would like to know what “sort of normal” looks like before working out additional attachment issues, etc.; I mean, anyone could get a medically challenging child or one with early mental issues, but I feel like it’d be easier to know how to deal with “extra complications” the more context you have for what “normal” is, ish?).

    Any thoughts?

    • lady brett

      so, i sort of love this perspective, given that people sometimes view fostering as “practice” for having a biological kid (i don’t mean that i know foster parents who view it like that, but that other folks may feel that is what we are doing).

      we’re still fairly new at this, but we’ve now had 5 kids under 4, and between those guys and the kids i know through friends and family, “normal” is such a wide range i’m not sure how much help it will be. the other thing about “extra complications” is that between those and simple personality differences, parenting techniques that work with some kids are all wrong for others. many of the parenting lessons we learned from our first placement are completely useless for our current kids because their backgrounds and personalities are so drastically different.

      on the other hand, there are some things that we have really figured out and legitimately done better this time. most of all, that parenting is *hard work* and we recovered from that realization a lot faster the second time =)

      • KC

        That’s very true on “normal” being a super-wide range, especially for older kids. I think I was partly thinking of some (most?) parents I’ve known who are way more chill with their second (and onward) kids, because they’ve got the basic juggling skills down (the diaper goes *this* way!) and know a bit more about things like when to freak out and when not to freak out (like fevers or continued screaming or motor skills delays or even later things like piercings or curfews). So it felt to me like having experience would provide more “kid caretaking” resources than newbies like me would have, which would potentially help with extra brain cells available to try to cope with attachment or PTSD issues and potentially differentiate between a kid who is trying to get a cookie via guilt vs. a kid who really needs the cookie to know you care. :-) I’ve babysat a certain amount, and… yeah. When to go hard-line on the rules and when to compromise is hard to know without experience… but you’re probably right that most of that experience is with *that specific kid*.

        (I also think I’d have a hard time fostering knowing the legal-but-not-what-I-would-consider-ideal situations some of the kids will be returning to, because I get attached and Mama-Bear-ish really easily [i.e. acquaintance with manipulative and abusive boyfriend? here, come stay with me while you break up and I'll sit with you and make soup while you cry at 2am until you get enough emotional stability to avoid rebounding back to him like he's "trained" you to do.]. But that’s a separate question. And it’s obviously better for the kids to have a stable environment while they need it than *not*. Just… augh.)

        • EF

          ‘the legal-but-not-what-I-would-consider-ideal situations some of the kids will be returning to’

          Oh, good, then you know the reality.

          I wrote a loooooong comment out about bouncing back and forth between state care and familial, realised that was probably oversharing, and deleted it. But if you recognise you wouldn’t want kids to go back to a shitty environment and you would fight for them to be treated better? Then damn, get on that list of people willing to foster. You are who we need.

          • KC

            Unfortunately, for personally-sucky situational reasons, I’m “not available” right now, so this is all theoretical (but for Big Responsibility stuff like fostering/having-babies/getting-married, it has to stay theoretical in my brain for a while before I “jump” anyway, which is why I’m eagerly absorbing this thread!).

            My impression, though, is that foster parents don’t get much, if any, say in when/what the kids go back to? And I feel like that not being able to do anything (or even give a card to the kid saying “and if you need help or even just a hug, CALL US”) would kind of kill me. (if I could stay in lives as a sort of backup aunt or something, I think that would potentially work for me, to know that in a serious pinch, the kid is going to end up knocking on my door at 3am if they would otherwise have been running away to the street?) Is that the case?

            (I’ve also thought about collecting a kid who’s about to age out, potentially, and trying to help give them a leg up with college-or-job-applications/breakup-ice-cream/furniture-assembly/holiday-gathering-location/all-that-other-stuff-people-sometimes-call-family-for, which would dodge some of the red-tape helplessness maybe, but feel like I might need more training/experience [in recognizing drugs, understanding mental illness of various kinds, not being a complete pushover, how to help get someone really established in a way that's right for them rather than just sort of dragging them into what I see as a Ideal Stable life, etc.] before doing that. Is there a way to get training on that, or on how to be a good foster parent in general?)

    • Sarabeth_n

      This has long been our plan – in our case, it’s a compromise of sorts between my husband’s desire to experience of biological fatherhood and my dislike of actually being pregnant/giving birth. What’s complicated now is that any decisions we make about fostering in the future will have to take our daughter into account. And the emotional complications of welcoming new children into our home on what might end up being a temporary or permanent basis seems like a lot to ask of a young child (although still much less than what foster children are going through themselves). This will not necessarily stop us from fostering in the future, but it’s become more complicated than I anticipated.

    • Cali

      Interestingly, my husband and I are wavering between foster/adopt and biological children, and I actually feel the opposite… that I would want to adopt first and have a biological child second, because then I could devote more of my energy to that first child without having to take the needs and well-being of a biological child into account. I do, for whatever reason, somehow feel like it would be inappropriate for us to foster because we rent an apartment and both work full-time… two things that don’t even phase me when I think about biological children. Like, somehow I think we have to be way “better” to take care of a foster child than to care for a biological baby? I don’t know.

  • YPI

    Thank you so much for this well written, lovely post. I waiver on kids, just like I waiver on most major life decisions. And grappling with the guilt that can accompany such a weighty decision (what if I’m bad at this, what if I change my mind?).

    My first taste of these feeling were when I decided to move across country to go to grad school- I was excited because I think that was the expectation, but at heart I was terrified- people want to know you are happy with your decisions. Then when I decided to adopt my first cat- the trickling fears and doubts- what if I’m a bad cat mom? Then leaving grad school because it was a terrible fit for me- and the onslaught of fears accompanied- “I’m letting everyone down; what if I fail?”. And even now, pursuing a job that is what I want- the fears and doubts sneak in. Constant expectations to be fully satisfied, to not second guess. Sometimes when we make these huge life changes, the people around us (family, parents, friends) want to hear that it was the right decision, that we are happy- because anything else is hard to talk about.

    So thank you- not just for writing about kids- but for writing about the realities that accompany big, scary, life changing decisions. I think if I needed to be 100% on board with every decision I had to make (kids, career, whatever else!) I’d never be able to make one. I’d be scared, and stay where it’s comfortable. But many times the scary things worth doing are uncomfortable, and that’s okay too.

    • Ashley Meredith

      I don’t really have anything to add to this (or I have too much, half-formed…?). But I just have to say THANK YOU for posting it, because it is absolutely true and very brave. You see these things, and you know them, but sometimes it takes hearing someone else say it to really confront it.

      • YPI

        Aw, wow, thank you for your kind words! Totally- I think sometimes it’s really easy to assume you’re the only one who second guesses, or has doubts after the fact- although this whole thread is proof positive that these are such common feelings!

        It’s funny because, while on a smaller scale, we are looking to adopt our second cat (a wee kitten). And I feel like it’s such a good practice for me because I have the hardest time taking things lightly. I waiver, and ask myself if it’s the right choice- will it throw a wrench in? Will 1st cat be ok? Things i’ve heard my friends with kids worry over.

        I think it’s my nature- but it’s good to stretch my comfort zone and see what’s on the other side. Cats, kids, houses, jobs- whatever the crux of the situation is.

    • JenClaireM

      This: “I think if I needed to be 100% on board with every decision I had to
      make (kids, career, whatever else!) I’d never be able to make one. I’d
      be scared, and stay where it’s comfortable. But many times the scary
      things worth doing are uncomfortable, and that’s okay too.” I need to, like, paint this on my wall or something because it is SO TRUE for me too. I am the same way and get nervous about EVERY decision I make. Which is why I love this comment and this post. I rarely feel absolute about anything, and it’s really reassuring to know how normal that is and how many other people live in that space.

      • YPI

        I’m so glad it helped & resonated with you! This community is so great for just that- feeling validated. And if you write it on your wall send pics :)

  • js

    I want a baby so bad right now, it’s all I think about. My stomach actually drops every time I walk by baby clothes, monitors, you name it. It is a physical ache. I already bought a high chair at a Mom 2 Mom sale, under the guise of needing it with all the little members of extended family at our house for the holiday and toys, initially for other peoples kids, that I liked so much I kept. Also, picture frames for the baby’s room, which will be where the office is now…my point is, I have lost my ever-lovin’ mind. I have baby fever. I just wish it were contagious. My husband is SO practical. It’s one of the things I love about him; he keeps us grounded while I am busy naming a baby I don’t have. He wants us to be financially stable, (hello, wedding we paid for all by ourselves and new house!) and I want that too, but it’s hard to hear over the roar of my biological clock. I’m also facing some fertility issues and feel like its a now-or-never situation. I know I shouldn’t be mad at him for wavering, for being terrified, for being logical. So, it helps to hear Lady Brett’s viewpoint on this, as someone who was not 100% sure. I’m going to spend some time thinking about that sister-life. I think my husband needs to talk it out as much as I need to stop shopping the clearance section of Baby’s R Us.

    • Anon

      Oh man. I read your comment and felt such relief. I want you to know you’re not alone!

      It’s so hard to see friends announcing pregnancies/cute pictures of children every goddamn day and not react with “now. I want that now.” It’s a constant battle between my bio clock and my practical side. Like yours, my husband is more practical, and I know that a house + a year of mortgage payments is his main focus right now. But it is So. Hard. to wait!

  • Rose

    “My wife wants children, has always wanted children, would even consider pregnancy as an option to procure them.”

    I don’t understand, is it so weird or extreme to want to have children biologically? I guess I am reading this sentence as “she wanted kids soooooooo much that she would even have them biologically.” But honestly how else can it be read? Stranger than the sentence itself is that it goes totally unexplained as though it were self evident why the author threw in that phrase “would even consider pregnancy as an option”.
    Maybe I am just sensitive, because so many people have belittled my urge to have biological children as selfish or irresponsible.

    • Caroline

      The author said that she, personally, is terrified of pregnancy, so I suspect that it is in that light. “My wife wants kids so badly that she would go through this thin that really really scares me, to have them, which is hard for me to relate to.” not a judgment on people who hve biological kids. I’m sorry you’ve been belittled for wanting to have bio-kids.

    • lady brett

      that is definitely not a statement about anyone else’s decisions to have biological children.

      it is not weird or extreme in general, but would have been a very extreme and uncomfortable measure for us, but one we had to consider if we were considering having kids.

      a bit more detail (excluded because the family planning details didn’t seem relevant to the rest of that): biological children aren’t particularly important to us, pregnancy would be a rough emotional experience for my genderqueer spouse, pregnancy is off the table for me, and her pregnancy would be a rough emotional experience for me given issues around medical and other stuff. but at the time we were having these conversations fostering and adoption were illegal for queer couples in our area (and i suppose there’s surrogacy, but that costs about twice what our mortgage is, so we didn’t really discuss it).

      edited to add: sorry that people are jerks. i don’t understand wanting biological children, but i certainly respect it!

      • Rose

        Thanks! Sorry for overreacting!!

  • http://cafeaubride.blogspot.com/ Catherine

    I love this post, and I love seeing writing from Lady Brett! Yay!! Hi! I just wrote this in a post on my blog yesterday, but about the whole “ready to have a baby ” thing – I think it’s a myth. a gross one. Because our society tells us our “readiness” or capabilities come from the outside. Got questions of insecurities? Seek them because the wisdom couldn’t possibly be innately inside of you! When I think about our timeline to have kids and start to doubt myself, I stop and step back. Because to me, your readiness isn’t your skill or capability- your readiness is in your willingness to extend yourself, to take the leap, to trust yourself, to rise to the challenge, to commit. You’re never “ready” but you can be ready to try and *that’s* where your strength is. Just my two cents. Because who ever knows what they are getting into when they have a baby anyway??

  • Amanda L

    Wow. Thank you so much for writing this. My husband and I are 18 months into this TTC journey, and I’ve always felt guilty that he doesn’t WANT children. He’ll have them for me, he’ll love them to pieces, and he’ll be an amazing father. But would he gladly stop trying today if I was ready? Yep. So your words here (And how terribly would people judge our relationship if I said, ‘Well, I’m really only having children for my wife”? How terribly would people judge my parenting if I said, “Oh, kids? Really, I could take it or leave it, but here we are”?) put my fears into succinct prose, and at the same time, made me realize that it really is enough for him to be open to doing this for me. It is enough.

  • Amber

    Lady Brett,

    Thank you for this wonderful post :) I am on the fence about having kids. Its nice to know there are people who feel the same, then have kids and really enjoy it! I’m very concerned I’ll have kids and then …HATE being a parent because I don’t want to do that to any children, much less my own, or myself/partner for that matter. Your last thought was so encouraging and honest. Thank you

    ‘Our life with kids is wonderful, and our life before them was wonderful too, and I am almost certain that I could be happy with either.’

  • Jess

    Thank you. A million times over. Because I’ve heard a lot of “it’s ok to be on the fence, to not know 100%,” because that’s the socially acceptable conversation to have when somebody says, “I don’t think child-raising is something I have any desire to do.” That or the good old, “You’ll change your mind.”

    I’ve NEVER EVER EVER heard a woman say, “I didn’t really want this for myself. I learned to be ok with the idea of it happening for the sake of my partner over time. And then it happened and it turned out to be a good thing.” (Maybe I should find guys who thought that way and figure out what they did?)

    It’s lonely and a little painful to hear a lot of, “You don’t have want it 100% to be a good parent, as long as a little bit of you wants it a little bit,” but never hear a single person say your voice, and what happened to them on the other side. “You may feel like it’s 0% of what you want of life. And that’s ok. You can still do this if somebody in your life wants it and you want it for them.”

    You opened up that possibility for me. Because I don’t hate kids… I don’t really adore them either. And I don’t have a desire to raise them, but everyone I’ve been in a relationship with does. R does. And after reading this like a million times in the last 24 hours, and crying more than once, I found out that maybe if it comes down to that, I’ll survive. I might be able to raise somebody who doesn’t believe that I wholeheartedly resent their existence (biggest fear about caring for a child right there). I might even find out that I like being a parent.

    I didn’t really think that was an option before. So thank you for easing the pain and fear I’ve been carrying for a really long time.

    • lady brett

      excuse the delay, but i wanted to add one other thing about liking or not liking parenting: it’s not static. i am not very fond of parenting a baby, but he’s not going to *be* a baby for that much longer (which, by the way, is fucking awesome to watch, so there’s that). and it’s (hopefully) not static on your end as a parent either (playing dollhouse makes me resentful, having a kid “underfoot” in my shop doesn’t, so i try to do the latter more and the former less).

  • Jana

    Thanks so much for this. I grew up long entrenched in the “not me, not ever” camp, but lately I have started to realize that I relish the idea of someday having grown children. Unfortunately, there are steps that usually come before that, i.e. raising said children in some capacity to create a family. I don’t think that I will ever be one of those women that glows just mentioning having children someday, and sometimes it makes me feel like my own ambivalence will make me a horrible parent. But apparently… you can not be sure and still love it when it happens.

    Like other comments have said, I feel like we, too, would be happy going either way. We’ll see which way we go. ;)

  • jenny

    Decidedly late to the game for commenting.. but first THANK YOU for writing this, and second THANK YOU APW for knowing that this needed to be said. My wife and I go through phases when we talk about starting a family. And then she gets discouraged that she can’t impregnate me the “old fashioned way” and a piece of me dies inside because something I want so badly (to be a mother) causes her such pain. (Not to mention the practical side of me that immediately knows we’re no where near financially stable enough to afford specialists and sperm and multiple rounds of ivf.)

    So the topic is dropped for a few weeks, or a few months. I distract myself by throwing myself into projects, or Netflix marathons, etc. And then another coworker announces she’s expecting, or 15 more people on my FB NewsFeed post pics of their infants. And I start thinking how lovely it’d be – and how I’d post just enough during my pregnancy to be cute but not annoying (because i’m pretty sure my college friends don’t care if my baby is the size of a tangelo). Our best friends mention drunkenly that they’re going to start trying to get pregnant, and there the topic is again. It ends in anger, frustration, depression, among other unpleasant things. We get envious of straight couples that don’t have to DECIDE to get pregnant, that don’t have to justify wanting a family now even though their finances may not be great, that don’t have to figure out how to beg borrow or steal 10k for ONE chance at pregnancy all the while knowing it statistically will take many more than one try.

    I resolve to not bringing it up so I don’t make my wife feel worse, brushing off my mom’s comments about wanting to be a grandma as “oh someday, we’ve been trying for 9 years with no result – hahah”, and trying to convince myself that a life without children can be fulfilling. But at the end of the day, when I’m alone with my thoughts I know I still want to be a mother.

    So – thank you for writing this. For making me realize that maybe I’ll end up with a family I never imagined – and that someday I might just be happy with my family childless or not.

    • MDBethann

      FYI – IVF isn’t your only option for biological children. I am doing IUI right now and I’ve met at least 1 female couple at the Maryland clinic I use also doing IUI (inter uterine insemination). If not covered by insurance, IUI at my clinic runs $2400/cycle plus meds (which are around $300-$400, though you can get some discounts with some pharmacies), which is 1/3 the cost of IVF ($9500 + meds at my clinic). Granted, I don’t know what it takes to get a sperm donor & how that works with IUI, but based on the options on the paperwork I fill out, donor sperm is definitely an option for IUI (though not one my husband & I need to pursue).

      Good luck with your decision process. I just wanted to make sure you knew about all of the options. Until we started at the fertility clinic, I didn’t even really know about IUI – only IVF. Yes, I have to do injections & monitor stuff & it can be a bit of a time suck, but it’s not nearly the financial drain of IVF. Just something to think about.

      Best wishes!