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Lauren: Do We Want Kids?


Decisions don't make themselves

by Lauren Fitzpatrick, Writing Intern

Lauren: Do We Want Kids? | A Practical Wedding

Before we moved, the toddler in the apartment next door cried a lot. Screamed, actually. From what I could hear through the wall, she wanted her daddy so bad that she was willing to burn through her entire range of emotions until her mom made it happen. I also learned that her mom’s preferred method of dealing with these tantrums was to raise her voice and yell SHUT! UP!  I tried not to judge her parenting, but it was hard to hear a disembodied voice shouting at a little girl, even if I, too, desperately wished that she would stop crying.

But what kind of parent would I be, if I was at the end of my rope? I don’t know, and I’m not sure I’ll ever find out. As I progressed through my twenties and into my thirties, I never worked out the answer to whether or not I definitely wanted kids. Sometimes I leaned toward yes, other times no. The underlying reason that kept me tethered more tightly to “no” was not the threat of an inconsolable child, but my genetic history. Muscular dystrophy runs in my family, and until recently I had no idea whether or not I was a carrier. What I did know is that I, unlike my parents, wasn’t prepared to wing it and hope for the best. I assumed that meant I simply didn’t want children badly enough.

My mom has three older sisters; each one of them has lost a child or grandchild to MD. When my mom was in her early twenties, she and her sister Marion made the hour-long drive from St. Augustine to Jacksonville, Florida, to find out if they, like their older sisters, also carried the gene. The next day the hospital called to say that they’d dropped the blood samples. She never went back, and to this day doesn’t know if she carries the gene or if it has been passed to any of her three daughters. She just knew that she wanted kids, no matter what. I was ready, she told me. She was twenty-six when she got pregnant with me; I am now thirty-two and have none of her conviction.

Jared and I have had the do-you-want-kids talks, and they usually end at a mutual conclusion of “probably not.” The decision feels close to the right one, but it doesn’t satisfy my itch to know what kind of little people we might make, what kind of parents we would be. Then I’d hear the neighbors, or think about my independence, or read a book like We Need to Talk About Kevin, and I wasn’t so curious anymore. More than anything, I wondered how much of my indecision was informed by the possibility that we might have a baby with a fatal muscular condition.

So I got tested. The procedure was free, unimpeded by the complications of insurance and doctor’s fees required in the US. I sat in a chair, exposed the veins of my inner arm, and looked away while the nurse got out the needle. Afterwards she taped a cotton ball to my arm and promised that the question I’d been asking for fifteen years would be answered in six to eight weeks.

I returned to my desk at work the next week to find a missed call from the genetics center. “This is Bronwyn,” the message said. “I have the results of your test.” When I called back minutes (minutes!) later, Bronwyn had left for the afternoon. I spent the next hour berating myself for choosing that exact moment to walk to the bathroom, leaving my phone to ring unanswered. By the time I got home, I’d convinced myself that I was a carrier. Something in the way she’d said “results” had sounded ominous.

Disappointment caught me off guard. I wasn’t sure if I wanted children, but always thought that if I turned out to be a carrier, the decision was essentially made. My reaction made me wonder if maybe, deep down, I wanted to be a mom more than I didn’t. Or was that just biology taking over? I tried unsuccessfully to push all useless speculation out of my head until the morning.

At 8:30 AM Bronwyn called. The test had concluded with ninety five percent certainty that I’m not a carrier. She was kind and helpful, promised to send me a copy of the doctor’s report, and congratulated me on the results. “That’s good news,” she said. I walked the rest of the way to the office in a slight daze. I’d been expecting resolution, a revelation even, but all I felt was surprise and the same familiar uncertainty. I’d hoped that genetic testing would tip me off the fence one way or another, but I was still firmly perched on top.

The more I over-think this decision (because I am definitely over-thinking it), the more I see that there’s a glaring problem with my approach. I’m looking at the kids/no kids dichotomy as if it’s black and white, but it is entirely grey. It’s like reading a Choose-Your-Own-Adventure novel; every choice we make leads to another. When I read those books as a kid, I held my place at every critical juncture so I could go back and explore each possibility: forty potential endings and I needed to know every single one of them. In my obsession with the outcomes, I lost sight of what happens between decisions, which is where life (or an exhausting book series) actually happens.

The answer to my question is obvious: I don’t know. There is no right or wrong answer, there’s only the choice we go with. Perhaps this is not a decision that we are biologically wired to make, as my brain and my body seem to be constantly at war. In some ways, I know too much about having kids to say that I want some of my own. In other ways, not enough to say that I don’t. Of course, I know nothing at all. That’s how it works, though: at some point the big decisions have to be made, and nobody lets you peek at the ending.

Lauren Fitzpatrick

Lauren graduated from Indiana University with no idea of what to do next, so she got a working holiday visa for Ireland. Over the next ten years she worked her way around the world, picking up a Master’s in travel writing and an Australian fiancé along the way. She is now based in Newcastle, Australia, and still doesn’t understand what “settling down” is supposed to mean.

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  • Anon

    Sigh. The grey! Because depending on where you’re living, what costs are covered, and what you’re comfortable with, I think IVF with Preimplantation Genetic Diagnosis can also be an option for these kinds of decisions? Particularly for families with genetic diseases.

    • ElisabethJoanne

      They can also do sperm sorting for some things so you don’t end up with “unused embryos.”

  • Ciara

    Ha, sitting here at 38.5 weeks pregnant, I feel like I know all about the gray! I have spent the better part of this pregnancy wondering about our decision.

    When I tell people this, they assume we got pregnant by accident when in fact the opposite is true. My husband and I talked about and soul searched for a long time before we decided to give trying to get pregnant a go. It took several months of very active trying before we got a positive result.

    So yeah, i’d say we tried very hard to get pregnant… and yet every day I wonder about our decision. Don’t get me wrong, I am quite looking forward to finally meeting this new human and I’m fairly sure we’re both gonna love the living daylights out of it, but at no point (so far, anyway) have I felt any certainty that deciding to have a child was the path my life was *supposed* to take.

    When it came to it, we agreed that of the two paths (to have children or to remain child-free), the one we thought we’d regret the most in 20 years time would be the one to remain child-free. What’s stressed me out most in recent months has been the cultural noise that you should just ‘know’, or that there’s a single right or wrong answer.

    So, I feel you Lauren. I’m not sure if you ever wake up one morning and know for certainty which path is the right one for you.

    • http://alithompsonart.com/ Ali

      That’s what tipped me off the fence too– the question of if I would be sad or sorry in 20 years if I didn’t have a kid. The answer for us was no, and I am comfortable w/ our decision.

    • Ashley Meredith

      It would be convenient if I had any thoughts at all on the question of “in 20 years, would I regret not having them?,” but when I ask myself this, the same blank ambivalence stares back at me as any other time. For me I think it is ultimately going to come down to a coin toss – figurative or, possibly, literal. Yes or no, just pick one out of a hat, because there is no way to decide based on everything I know (which is as much as any non-parent can) or have thought (which is a lot).

      I’m not worried about the supposed norm of, “You should just know.” I am worried that I will toss a coin and spend the whole pregnancy (assuming it comes up heads) wondering if I did the right thing. On the one hand it’s comforting to hear that people do that, and it’s a perfectly valid response… it’s just not the response I would like to have, even though it is a response that would be very much in character for me. I suppose that’s an issue in itself… *sigh*

      • Sparkles

        I’m 19 weeks pregnant here, and I’ve had the baby bug for the last 2 or 3 years. Like so certain I wanted kids that I needed it to happen NOW. And I’m struggling with uncertainty that maybe it’s not what I should be doing. Maybe now is not the right time to be having kids.

        I don’t think it’s possible to make such a big decision without wondering whether or not it’s the right thing to do. There’s no way to be 100% certain about it. The idea that you “should just know” is total BS.

        Even though I was pretty sure I wanted kids, in the few months leading up to us conceiving, I was constantly wondering if my life would be better or manageable or liveable without kids. And the answer I kept coming up with was “yes, of course it would be”. It’s a big responsibility and one that’s hard to back out of once you’ve taken it on. I think it’s only realistic to wonder about your decision.

        • guest

          AMEN to that. I had some serious baby fever and then we were a little bit less careful before we planned to actually start trying and now…..surprise baby on the way! When we first found out, I was elated. Now I’m confused and terrified. My parenting friends tell me this is normal. Doesn’t make it easier.

        • http://brokensaucer.blogspot.com/ sera

          I’m 18 weeks pregnant and as much as I don’t regret the decision exactly, I’m also not at all convinced it was a good idea. I’m a mess. I’m a clinically diagnosed as depressed mess in search of an elusive therapist (why will no one call me back???). How can I possibly be good enough for this baby? And our decision to have this baby was, at least for me, the “would I regret it later if I didn’t” decision. For me the answer was yes, but maybe I was wrong. Since this pregnancy, I am no longer a functioning contributing member of my life. How can the addition of a sleepless screaming baby help me move forward, make more of me, and more importantly, how can I be a positive example for this little one if I’m a huge mess?

          • Sparkles

            I don’t know you and your history with depression or how it will work out for you. I also don’t know anybody who had a parent deal with depression, so I don’t have any personal experience with this. I am convinced, though, that kids are resilient, and generally turn out alright if they have someone in their corner to love them and take care of them.

            I trained as an occupational therapist (if you don’t know what that is, you should find out, we’re awesome), and one of the core tenets of the profession is that people with mental illness, or physical disability, or any other sort of “limitation” can engage in the same things everybody else does (whether that be raising children or having a job). The caveat is that it doesn’t always look the same. With depression, that might mean that your little one, and you, need more support than someone not dealing with depression. That when you are unable to be a functioning contributing member of your life, and have difficulty taking care of yourself, let alone someone else, that you have a plan about how to handle that. I think you can be a positive example for your little one by admitting to your limitations and showing them that you are trying to deal with them.

            Also, you may already know this, but it’s quite possible that all of the hormones that come with pregnancy and the post-partum period can make your depression worse. I don’t know if it’s any consolation to know that it might pass. Sometimes when you’re in the thick of things that isn’t helpful, but I thought I’d let you know, because I find information makes me feel more in control of my situation.

          • http://brokensaucer.blogspot.com/ sera

            Thanks. I feel like in the last year or so (before the pregnancy) when I have tried to seek out help, I am getting the wrong kind of help, or talking to the wrong sorts of people. And now that I’m pregnant and I’m actively trying to seek out help, it is no less frustrating than the symptoms of the depression – having to wait a month to get in to see the recommended midwifery clinic associated psychiatrist, having her recommend that I get counseling that she doesn’t provide, her referrals not seeing new patients, not calling me back. Come on people, I need help, I will pay someone to help me, I’m insured, why can’t I find someone??
            I’m trying to deal with this during the pregnancy because I know it can be worse afterwards, but what do I have to do to get help? I’d like to believe that I don’t have to resort to a bottle of antidepressants just because no one will see me.

          • http://underacorktree.blogspot.com Christina Josephine

            I don’t have any sage advice, but wanted to share that I’m kind of in the same boat. I’m not yet pregnant, but am taking medicine for anxiety and depression because, well … without it I am extremely anxious and depressed, to the point that my whole life stops. I really, really want to start trying to have a baby as soon as we get married (August 3rd!), but I’m terrified. Terrified because I will insist upon not taking my medicine while I’m pregnant, and I don’t want to go back that deep, dark, place. Terrified because (even with meds) I still often feel overwhelmed with life and I hear that babies don’t help with that. Terrified because my grandmother and my mother also suffered from mental health issues and the thought passing down that demon to a future generation seems unkind. Despite these crippling fears, we are going to move forward with baby-making in just a few months. I am a good, loving person; I am lucky enough to have a lot of support; and my almost-husband will be there to balance out my stress ball tendencies with his easygoing, breezy self. This is just to say that just because you might not be a *perfect* mom (and who is?), doesn’t mean that you won’t be a *good* mom, imperfections and all. Wishing you all the best :)

          • http://brokensaucer.blogspot.com/ sera

            Congratulations on your wedding date! So close! hooray!
            As for going off the meds to start trying to conceive – be very VERY careful with that one. Consult your doctor/therapist and make sure you have more than just your husband as a support system. Maybe you’ll be lucky and the hormones will make you a happier person, but it’s a wild ride no matter how your body reacts.
            Somehow I’ve never been worried about being a perfect mom, no one is and I can’t be one. But I do deeply fear that my depression will not subside and I won’t be able to be there for my baby because of it. Also, this is day 3 of calling therapists and still, no one has called me back. I managed to make an online appointment with someone who doesn’t take insurance, but I’m desperate. Today is a worse day, bad enough that I’m starting to reconsider the meds. And this is no place to spout my issues but I just listened to a podcast that talked about how important it is to the healing process to just have a patient be heard. If no one will listen, what could I possibly do?
            Sorry, I’m done.

          • http://underacorktree.blogspot.com Christina Josephine

            Has anyone called you back? A few years ago, when I was looking for therapists, I had a hard time too. At the town I was living in, they all seemed to be semi-retired and only worked on, say, Monday mornings and Wednesday afternoons, and thus, weren’t accepting new patients. Not to mention, when I actually found someone, I personally didn’t find the once-a-week, one-hour-per-session, structure to be helpful. I really wish that therapists offered (and insurance covered) multi-day “intensives” for people in crisis. This is just to say that I’m sorry you are going through this. Please know that a random stranger in Naches, Washington (me) is rooting for you :) My email address is electivethinking at gmail dot com, if you care to chat outside of APW.

            P.S. Funny that you mentioned the whole pregnancy/hormone and mental health thing. I am 99% convinced that all of my issues stem from hormone imbalances. Not only do I have PMDD, after my mom went through menopause, her issues disappeared.

          • Natalie

            Christina, I share your frustrations and I have struggled with anxiety and depression since I was 19. (10 years.) It runs in my family, which means I also share your fear of passing it down to my kiddos. I empathize and I wonder how I will have a child when I have to rely on medication to counteract the panic attacks I have on a regular basis. One thing that has helped me is that a friend of mine who had a lot of the same fears and conditions (she recently had her second child) told me to remember that “normal is just a setting on your washing machine.” Perfection in life is unattainable, but the fear of not being good enough is a valid feeling and is worth exploring. I will keep you in my thoughts and I wish you peace and healing in your journey. I am certain that you will be a great mom, and that you are a wonderful person! -Natalie

        • MDBethann

          Sparkles, I’m almost 21 weeks pregnant and during my first trimester, I caught myself going “is this (nausea, nasty colds, exhaustion) worth it? Why am I doing this again?” even though we’d been trying for about 18 months and had even gone through some infertility procedures (then conceived during a month “break” from said procedures. Go figure). We definitely want kids, but I think you’re right – as with every major decision in life, there are too many twists and turns to be 100% certain about the decision.

      • Meg Keene

        I mean, I don’t want to be all blunt and stuff, but if you decide to go for it, you probably WILL spend the whole pregnancy wondering if you did the right thing. I did, and it was horrifically unpleasant. That said, though you obviously have “WHAT DID I DO?”moments when you’re sleepless and covered in spit up, I did generally find that it’s harder to stay ambivalent over the long term once the new person has showed up. It may take you awhile (or not) but once you fall in love with them, it’s a done deal.

        Good news bad news? It’ll be hard and grey and messy, and then you’ll fall in love and it’ll be final. In my experience, and in my experience talking to lots of people :)

        • ElisabethJoanne

          Marriage was this way for me, and with my husband’s disability/unemployment it’s kind of like having a baby in that it’s a long-term commitment to care for another person. I had all kinds of panicky moments in the first year. Now, 19 months in, we’re dealing with the possibility he may never work, and ever-increasing, unrelated medical problems, and he kept yet another huge financial secret from me – and you just deal with it.

          • Meg Keene

            Yes. And I don’t mean this in a “you can’t get divorced” way, or anyway that doesn’t celebrate our hard fought options. BUT. I think as a generation raised with so many options, we sort of missed one of the key lessons that older generations knew, “You just deal with it.” You deal with it, and you make the best of it, and you keep going, and often the best you back is better than the perfect you would have made up for yourself. In so many ways.

          • anon

            I get the point of the “you just deal with it” encouragement, but I also think this rhetoric is used to convince and shame people that they should have kids (not saying you’re doing this, Meg, just that it’s often wielded in this fashion). But if you’re not sure and you may not want to “just deal with it” or don’t want to be in the position of needing to “just deal with it,” then it’s totally and completely fine to decide that you don’t want to make yourself just deal with it.

          • Meg Keene

            Of course it is. But what I’m saying isn’t exactly about kids, it’s about life. Because this “FUCK, what have I gotten myself into?” is a problem that shows up when you’re pregnant, often, but it’s really just part of the human condition.

            My point here is, kids can make life hard, sure. But life is just HARD. It’s hard, and you can’t avoid it. It just comes in different kinds of hard. And at the end of the day, I think the core thing we have to know is that when it happens, we’ll just deal with it. And we’ll learn to cope.

            Because you can opt out of parenting for sure. But you can’t opt out of all of the surprises and twists and turns and hardness that comes with life. You don’t have to (or get to) make the perfect pre-planned choices. You just… deal. That’s the piece that got left out of our generational education, I think.

          • ElisabethJoanne

            Yeah, there are some deals you can opt-out of. Like, my mother is an obstetrician. She works nights and weekends. She deals with life-and-death issues professionally. Having watched that all my life, I decided I didn’t want that, so I didn’t become a doctor.

            But, 2 days after attending the memorial service for a friend who was not even 25, I find out my cousin, age 31 with 2 young kids, also has cancer. In another time and place, deadly disease in young adults wouldn’t be so shocking to me, as another young adult. I’d have been dealing with peers dying all my life. My friend’s widow would have other young widows to turn to. But these are not sadnesses you can opt-out of, unless you never want to feel love.

            Instead, a lot of us are insulated from certain tragedies. Our aunts don’t die in childbirth (at the rates they used to). Our fathers don’t die in industrial accidents (again, at former rates). So life is easier, until it’s not. And now when it’s not, it shocks us.

          • Meg Keene

            Fuck. I’m so sorry.

            I don’t have anything to add. This comment is everything.

          • ElisabethJoanne

            Thanks. My cousin will most likely be just fine, but it’s definitely been a couple of weeks where you realize no 21st century medical technology can beat human mortality.

          • anon

            “Because you can opt out of parenting for sure. But you can’t opt out of all of the surprises and twists and turns and hardness that comes with life. You don’t have to (or get to) make the perfect pre-planned choices. You just… deal. That’s the piece that got left out of our generational education, I think.”

            Yes to this. But the fact that life throws all sorts of insanity and hard stuff and tiring twists at you that you just need to (and will) deal with is exactly why I think it’s important to think through decisions that will, for sure, throw more twists and turns your way. Since parenting is something we can now choose (as opposed to illness or accidents or death or shitty bosses etc), it’s important to go into it with eyes open, with *a decision* that you *want* to be in a position to “just deal with” whatever parenting sends your way. I don’t think we’re that far apart on this matter, but perhaps apply the language differently.

          • Meg Keene

            Maybe. Maybe. I’ve just had a lot of friends end up in parenthood accidentally (I grew up in a poor area, and for better and for worse, there is a lot of unplanned parenthood outside the middle class), and I almost uniformly admire their parenting style more than the sort of currently in vogue super planned middle class style of parenting. So, I think we actually do disagree a bit on that.

            I think it’s GREAT when parenthood happens as a carefully thought out decision that you want. I also think that a lot of amazing parenthood happens outside of that construct. (And then there is the third option of choosing not to have kids, which is obviously awesome in it’s own right.)

            I also think that we’re framing parenthood, in this micro conversation—but really possibly in our greater cultural conversation right now—as something that’s primarily hard and tiring. That’s absolutely the lens I was given to look at it with, and it was terrifying. What I’ve found in the last year and a half is that for me, it’s totally the wrong lens. Like TOTALLY the wrong lens. For me, it’s this earth exploding joy machine, that yeah, makes me tired sometimes. But I’m still operating in a culture that mostly treats kids as a nuisance, not a joy. Which sucks. And isn’t universal (I learned when traveling).

            And again. I’m TOTALLY in favor of people opting out of having kids. I just don’t think that the way we’re currently culturally approaching the decision making process is the only right way. And I don’t think the way we’re looking at kids as a culture is super helpful either.

          • Lauren from NH

            Yes. That last bit is most of what I was wondering about with the thread I started.

          • ElisabethJoanne

            To return to being a doctor and what’s opt-in and what’s opt-out, and how perspectives can be scewed: While of course there’s no getting out of the life-and-death issues of medicine, if I could have handled that stress, but not the hours, that wouldn’t have been a good reason not to become a doctor or even an obstetrician. Obstetrics is especially rough with regards to nights and weekends, but even 30 years ago, there were all kinds of specialties with more 9-5 hours. Today, there are sort of sub-specialties within obstetrics that have more regular schedules. (Some health plans that employ doctors directly are separating prenatal care from labor and delivery care. The pre-natalists keep regular office hours, and the laborists have scheduled shifts at the hospital, like nurses.) It would be wrong to say “My mother did that, and I don’t want to do that, so I won’t.” Because how my mother did it isn’t how it has to be done, and how she did it 25 years ago isn’t how it’s done today.

            Likewise, if I’m basing my decision whether to become a parent based on one parenting style, or one parenting style at one stage of development, or one set of family priorities, I’m not really basing the decision on what parenting will be for me.

          • Meg Keene

            THIS IS ALL REALLY SMART.

            And this trap of thinking about parenting is super hard to avoid, I’ve found. I knew I didn’t want to parent in XYZ ways, but there are so few examples of doing it differently, that it was hard for me to really convince myself it was possible. (Hot tip: it is.)

          • http://www.heytherewonder.com Lea Ehret

            “For me, it’s this earth exploding joy machine, that yeah, makes me tired sometimes.”
            THIS. I don’t have kids, but when I think ahead I think about pulling the joy out of all the hard stuff. I think about how the hard stuff shapes the joy; I’m happiest when I’m exhausted from pouring every ounce of myself into something that matters. And, like you said, this is more about life than it is about kids.

          • Meg Keene

            Yeah. It’s all more about life than about kids, I think. At some point I realized that the stuff I was separating out as “stuff that I could avoid if I didn’t have kids” I realized was just… LIFE. Which isn’t an argument either way, really. Because you could be like, “Well, it’s just life, so I don’t need kids,” and that’s logical too. But for me, I realized I wasn’t going to avoid getting old, or losing my great boobs, or being tired, or feeling awful pain, or fighting for time for myself by avoiding kids. So for me, at the end of the day, that WAS the reason to do it (logic working both ways). Because hey, if I was going to deal with it all anyway, I might as well try for a tiny love machine??

            I find having kids is just life, more intense. More joy, more pain, more exhilaration, more tired.

        • http://brokensaucer.blogspot.com/ sera

          I grip onto the “you’ll fall in love” hope with white knuckles. Because now, it’s all “what did I do?” It seems as if everyone else is happy for me, which is good, because I can’t be happy for myself, yet.

          • Meg Keene

            OH you’re pregnant!!! Pregnancy was so awful for me. But trust me, sooner or later (and it might not be right away) you’ll fall in love and it will be amazing and mind-blowing and you’ll realize what you did. And that you’d never take it back. (You know, sleepless spit-up days excepted ;) I’ve talked to a lot of people that had varieties of hard times, and every one of them got there. Their timelines were different, and they might not fit into the outward societal picture of maternal perfection, but they all found the crazy love, in whatever form. It’s good stuff.

            See: http://apracticalwedding.com/2013/01/learning-a-new-kind-of-love/

          • http://brokensaucer.blogspot.com/ sera

            Meg, I cling to every post you write, or post others write about pregnancy, babies, etc. because I know your pregnancy was hard and with all kinds of other complications, and you came out of it beautifully. And now, your parenting conversations are fantastic. I remember that post of yours. I loved it.
            This has been just a dreadful pregnancy for me and I feel like everyone expects me to be the happy pregnant lady. When I’ve told people, they’ve asked “did you want this?” in this uncertain confused way. And then I have to answer, “oh, yes! I just feel like crap.” And then I get the even more bewildered look of what do you say to that. I just can’t fake it. I have no energy for faking anything. I just have no energy.
            But one thing, I will say I get a little more scared when you talk about how society talks about how, as you said below “you decided to make your special snowflake, now it’s your problem”. I completely agree and it has made me so fearful of how people see me now, with belly, judging me for my special snowflake. It’s been brutally difficult for me physically and emotionally and I overly anticipate the judgement of others as “oh, she’s pregnant and now she’s useless and we’re supposed to make exceptions for her, how annoying” even if most people have been super kind and happy for me. Maybe if I could just be super certain and super happy then I could be confident and stand up to the judgment that I imagine, maybe it’s all in my head, but instead, I feel like a quarter person baking a human.

          • Meg Keene

            FUCK EM. You remember “fuck ‘em if they don’t like the chairs?” I feel like this it time for that times a zillion.

            Interestingly, the best part about parenting for me is how much less anxious it’s made me (about everything other than… my kid’s survival. But that just comes with the territory, I think, protecting them.) These days I do find it easier to, on some fundamental level, be like “You’re judging me for how I parent/ for being a parent? Ain’t nobody here got time for that.” It doesn’t necessarily make it easier on a case by case basis, like, I still want to be judged to be a polite parent at a restaurant, or in any given interaction. But overall? I know what I’m doing with my life right now, raising this kid, and if people have time for judgement about me trying to do the best I can with the human I got? I… just… don’t… care.

            Pregnancy wasn’t like that for me at all, but motherhood brought that, so it was worth it. That, and a lot less anxiety, over time. SO. There is hope. xoxo

          • http://brokensaucer.blogspot.com/ sera

            Thanks. I really hold onto the hope. I was already in such a weird, low transitional place before – part-time, underemployed, “finding myself” – and now with the pregnancy, I just can’t dig myself out. The creativity I was cultivating is, if not dead, dormant. I dread all social occasions because I just don’t have it to be what I think I’m supposed to be, what I used to be (and it’s grilling season – grilled meat is a nausea nightmare for me so that makes it worse). I have so little to talk about with normal people. I’d rather just avoid talking altogether.
            Any books you’d recommend?
            I started “Bringing Up Bebe” which I love, but at 4.5 months, the nitty gritty of actual baby care is, well, it’s too soon for me. I’ll definitely order “Love Works Like This.”

          • Meg Keene

            OH HI. Please don’t say you’re not being creative right now. YOU ARE CREATING A HUMAN. Forgive yourself if your body doesn’t feel like… you know… painting too ;)

            The only others I’d recommend are Anne Lamott, Operating Instructions, and Great With Child by Beth Fennelly. The later really sums up what motherhood is like for me.

          • MDBethann

            sera, you aren’t alone. Until just a few weeks ago, I was NOT enjoying my pregnancy – between nausea, 2 nasty colds (I missed nearly a week of work due to one of them), and various non-pregnancy stresses, the first 3-4 months pretty much sucked. I honestly didn’t start enjoying my pregnancy until about 19-20 weeks in. My parents, especially my dad, were over the moon about the baby and wanted to shout my pregnancy from the rooftops as soon as I told them. They were so excited for me (and for themselves) that I don’t think they could understand why I wasn’t more excited. But it’s hard to be excited when you’re exhausted and feel like crap all of the time. My hubby and I still joke when I’m exhausted that the baby is sucking the life from me like a parasite.

            My husband wasn’t noticeably excited until our 20 week ultrasound, either. Turns out, he was waiting until he knew the baby was developing okay and nothing appeared to be genetically wrong. He’s finally allowed himself to be excited, and honestly, I think that was a lot of it for me too (that and being sick sucks when you can’t take anything for it).

            I’ll gladly be the sometimes excited, sometimes feels like crap pregnant lady right along with you on the Internets :-)

          • http://brokensaucer.blogspot.com/ sera

            oh, I couldn’t get excited until the genetic testing came back normal. I was convinced I was going to get further attached and then have to lose her. The anxiety is much better now that I know she’s 99% ok and seems to have all of her parts. And that she’s a girl – for me that was a relief as well. And yes, she’s my sweet little belly parasite. That hasn’t changed. Solidarity! <3

          • MDBethann

            We had our quad screen results a few weeks before the ultrasound (we did full genetic testing before we did IUI treatments & I’m not a carrier for anything, so we didn’t do the full panel this time because the quad screen was so good). Seeing that everything was where it should be and developing properly helped my DH and I a lot.

          • moonlitfractal

            I know how you feel! My first trimester was like having bad food poisoning that lasted for three months. I spent pretty much the entire time either bedridden at home on IV fluids or in the hospital. My husband had to wheel me to the doctor’s office in a wheel chair once a week. At one point, I literally began to starve.

            Health care workers would try to congratulate me and I just couldn’t take it. I was the sickest I have ever been and they were trying to make it into a good thing? They would tell me all these stupid platitudes and cliches that people say to pregnant women and (when I had the energy) I’d just scoff and roll my eyes. Then the inevitable, “Oh this pregnancy wasn’t planned?” Oh the pregnancy was planned, but being this sick was definitely not. All I wanted was some sympathy for how awful I felt. Congratulations felt like a cruel joke.

          • http://brokensaucer.blogspot.com/ sera

            oh god! I’m so sorry! I feel like I can’t even complain next to you! I have a friend that had a similar pregnancy to you and was convinced that it wasn’t worth it right up until delivery. But then her baby came out and it was worth it again. And worth it enough for her to get pregnant again. At this point I couldn’t say I’d do it again – leaning towards hell, no.

            I agree, it’s nice to finally have a conversation with some other women that still aren’t sure despite choosing this and being in the thick of it. I feel like every pregnant woman I meet is happy and doesn’t know what to do with my misery. It feels like it’s better if I just shut up. But again, yes, having you all comment makes me feel a lot better. Thanks. <3

          • MDBethann

            Yikes! And I thought my nausea and colds were bad. I’m so sorry you had such horrible sickness during your first trimester.

            I think we’ll likely be dealing with this sort of thing the rest of our lives, which comes back to what Meg has said throughout the comments on this piece. Life is HARD and there are curve balls and twists whether we have children or not. But just because we wanted children (and pregnancy), it doesn’t mean it’s going to be happy rainbows and unicorns all of the time – there’s going to be great parts and crappy parts, and we can appreciate the experience but we don’t HAVE to LOVE the experience the whole time, even when it is what we wanted. Like other posters have said, just because you landed your dream job doesn’t mean you’re going to enjoy it all of the time, so why should marriage, pregnancy, parenting, or anything else in life be any different? We should support one another in the rough patches and cheer for each other in when things are going well, rather than saying “but aren’t you happy/excited?” to someone who is dealing with crappy stuff.

          • Alison O

            Anyone lingering around this thread who can speak to whether I will still love my children when they get old (like, 9 and up) and not so cute and bratty as hell? Rhetorical/joking question, but that’s my equivalent concern. I love babies, toddlers, small children….exasperating in their own ways, but so cute and fascinating to me. When I taught first grade my colleagues and I would observe the 3rd graders in the hall and wonder how they got SO F*ING SASSY! …from our little darlings who told us we looked like princesses on the first day of school and brought us love notes regularly.

            My sister doesn’t want little kids, so we’re thinking maybe I’ll bear and raise them for the first 7-8 years, then I’ll send ‘em on over to her. I’ll be sure to get it in writing that she pays for college (and ACL surgery and car tickets and bail and rehab and all the other potential nightmares; oh, and weddings). Again, joking. But a little bit not. My mom told me recently the three children in my family are her reason for living. But I’m like, sheesh, but we’re all such pains in the ass and we’re not THAT interesting or lovable! Haha.

            I imagine going into pregnancy I’d be excited for what’s to come in the short term (although given hormonal/mental health issues, I suspect pregnancy could terribly exacerbate the problems, or dramatically resolve them), and trying to keep the faith that the love I develop for the little person that I’m making will be enough to manage the long haul!

          • Meg Keene

            Oh god. Once you’re in, you’re IN. Seriously. Different ages are better and worse (I don’t love little babies the most, they’re cute, but they don’t do much). But MY little baby? OMG OMG OMG. Hard, but the love was a totally off the charts.

            What I’ve learned is that my love for the age and my love for the human are different things. Right now at 20 months, we’re in the middle of one of my favorite ages, and I’m loving it. But that’s a developmental phase, my love for the human is it’s own thing, and in one way has been the same since I first fell for him, and in another way grows every day.

        • MDBethann

          Thank you for the reassurance! In the first trimester, I was “what did I do??” and when the baby started kicking during 20 weeks, I went “Ok, I made the right choice, this is pretty cool” in spite of continuing exhaustion and other discomforts.

          • Meg Keene

            See? That’s lucky. I was in a hell spiral of depression by 20 weeks, I did not enjoy the kicking in the slightest. (I can only really enjoy it in retrospect.)

          • MDBethann

            At first it weirded me out, but then I started to realize that my kicking, wiggly baby means things are going well, and for now at least, the other yucky stuff like colds and nausea have subsided. I might change my mind once the novelty wears off though. My work life has been incredibly stressful and we’re doing renovations at our house that are way behind schedule, so baby kicks are a nice distraction from the stress right now (it also helps that I have a lot of AWESOME female colleagues who are great sounding boards for saying “enough” to the work stress).

          • http://brokensaucer.blogspot.com/ sera

            So I guess it’s not so weird that I’m a bit terrified of the kicking that I know I’ll feel soon. Everyone keeps telling me about how it’s all neat until you get a foot in the throat or can’t eat because of the heartburn. I feel like it just doesn’t get better until I get her out of my body.

          • Meg Keene

            Yeah. I didn’t like it for a long time. By the end, when it was like A REAL PERSON, and I could see his foot sticking out, then I liked it more. But also, by then, the effects of the placenta were fading, so that helped too ;) I’m hoping a second time around I’ll like it more, because I’ll (really) understand that the kicking is a soon to be baby that I’ll adore.

          • http://brokensaucer.blogspot.com/ sera

            So, even after the horrible pregnancy, you’d do it again? I guess I just don’t have a baby yet, so I don’t get it. Maybe I’m just much more selfish than I ever imagined.

          • Meg Keene

            Oh, for sure. Not that I’m not dreading it. Anyway, don’t think about it in terms of being selfish, I think that’s sort of a false construct. You’re miserable right now (also, please go see a doctor to talk about the possibility of depression, this is exactly what mine felt like before it got bad). You can’t pretend you’re not miserable just because you’re growing a human, or you might not be miserable in the future. Acknowledging how you feel is just fact, it isn’t selfish.

            Later, you’ll be in relationship with someone, and that’s a totally different thing. And then you might still be miserable (say, not sleeping and being puked on) but it’s not you being miserable in isolation, but in relationship with someone else. Which can be better or worse, but isn’t the same.

            But let’s not pretend me wanting more kids is all self sacrificing. I love the relationship I have with THIS kid, and I don’t think I’m done yet. So while I hate pregnancy, I’m not miserable as a mother but feeling like I have to replicate that misery with another new human (which, honestly, THAT sounds pretty selfish, since that new human would probably have a pretty awful childhood).

            Anyway, I’m not articulating well, but I think selfishness is a totally false construct here. Hating pregnancy is just fact. Pregnancy isn’t supposed to be some glowing mission of self sacrifice, it’s just a means to an end. Same as with birth, and why I have such a problem with the language of the “natural birth” movement. Birth is a means to an end. Please! Let’s empower women to make WHATEVER choices work for them on that journey. But birth isn’t about having some magical birth experience, it’s about having a BABY. And getting you, and then the baby, out in one healthy piece.

      • Jennie

        I’ve always ‘known’ I wanted to have kids. I work with families/kids for a living, right now as a doula and hopefully as an Occupational Therapist in the future. I’m currently 21 weeks pregnant and the decision was anything but easy and I still question whether this is the right thing for us. Given our genetics, should we have reproduced? Is now the right time? Are we going to be able to afford to give this kid what it needs? There are a ton of people on this planet, should we be bringing another person onto it?

        I guess what I’m saying is even for someone who ‘knew’, I’m still spending my pregnancy wondering if I did the right thing. Even as someone who works with birthing and new families, the concept of pregnancy ending in a real live person is still abstract for me, so it’s easy to question our decision. As Meg said though, I’m guessing once this kid shows up, I’m going to fall in love with it and there will be (mostly) no looking back.

        • Gina

          This is really nice to hear (from both you and Meg). That you’re allowed to feel panicked about your decision, even when you’ve always known you wanted kids. I’ve always known–but I’m still absolutely terrified.

          • MDBethann

            I’ve always known I wanted kids. In my 20s, when I wasn’t having any success with dating, I decided that I was going to try to adopt or something even if I never met the right person to marry and have a baby family with me. Let’s just say I’m very grateful for the support of my husband, or I’d be a lot more terrified now than I am (mostly I just worry that the baby won’t be healthy or that all the crazy crap going on in the world means my kid will live in a distopia – thanks Hollywood and politicians). I don’t envy single parents one bit – they deserve all of the support and love we can give them (and my kid hasn’t even arrived yet!).

    • http://abasketcase.blogspot.com/ Basketcase

      I have a 15 month old, and I still wonder sometimes if this is the path I was really meant to take.
      And he is wonderful (most of the time). But while he is gorgeous and incredible, he is also really hard work.
      Now that I’m more settled into being a mum, I wouldn’t change him for the world.

  • Sarah

    This article really resonates, though I’m more on the “yes” side…but things can change. I recently read “Let’s Talk about Kevin”…and it scared me. When you can’t get pregnant/miscarry/have a child with health issues/lose a child you have a community and support. Of course these issues are difficult, I’m not trying to minimize them. But if your child is genuinely horrible/a sociopath people assume it must be the parents (aka the mother).

    • Lizzie C.

      I haven’t read “Kevin” but I recently read Andrew Solomon’s “Far From The Tree” and it scared me too. (Scariness aside, it’s a phenomenal book and I recommend it to anyone NOT on the fence about having kids.) I’m starting to think I’m doing too much research (very likely given that I research for a living), and the less I know, the better. After all, our moms and grandmas and great-grandmas didn’t have the internet when they were trying to figure out whether to have kids, and if they had decided not to…we wouldn’t be here. No pressure, right? ;)

      • Sarah

        That book looks interesting, I may check it out. “Kevin” is a piece of fiction–and it is well-written. I’ve read and listened to author interviews and while I don’t care for Lionel Shriver many of her books are good. And the movie with Tilda Swinton (!!) is pretty good and sticks to the book.

      • ElisabethJoanne

        I read “Far From the Tree” maybe a year ago. It is a great collection of proverbial worst-case-scenarios in terms of having children. I think it’s a great book for a certain group of people who want kids to read – serious people who still haven’t considered the worst-case-scenarios. It’s long, and non-fiction, so only some people will get through it. It’s on the list of books my husband must read before we start TTC.

  • Eh

    Ok this is what I needed today. I have a genetic condition. It’s not life threatening like MD. It doesn’t really affect me as an adult but when I was a kid I was in and out of the hospital and on medication for a few years. (They know a lot more about the condition now and kids are rarely hospitalized for it anymore and they don’t take medication; which is good since the medication I was on had some pretty bad side effects.) My family doctor has warned me that I could pass it on to my children which scares me but at least I know that’s a possibility (one of my parents is likely carrier of the gene that causes the condition but they were never affected by it so they had no clue that it was a possibility). A few months ago my husband and I have decided that we’re going to start TTC (I went off birth control last week). Then on Sunday my nephew had to be taken to the ER by ambulance and my brother and SIL found out that he has the same condition as me (like one of my parents, my brother is likely a carrier). This made things a bit more real for me, and gave me a bit of the parent’s perspective. Since I live with the condition my perspective was that it wasn’t that bad to have the condition and it didn’t affect my life too much, but having a child with the condition is pretty scary. Since I can’t know if I pass on the gene to my children and even if I did that it will be expressed or if they will be a carrier (I can’t peak at the ending) I just have to go ahead with the choice.

    • Lauren from NH

      Yes. I would tend to agree there is a huge difference between accepting an illness in yourself and the thought of passing it to a child. I am not sure how genetic these things are or if it is more of a re-enactment type of behavior, but my family carries alcoholism, depressive tendencies and suicidal ideation. I am pretty good at handling them myself, I self medicate with exercise, healthy eating and the right social influences, but I wouldn’t wish upon anyone the horrendous time I had in highschool or going to a sibling’s funeral at 6 years old. Now reasonable me would say, but you are willing to look these problems in the face, be open and address them and that makes a huge difference, but then you add breast cancer and heart disease and that’s only my family, what about his? So if we ever want to seriously consider having kids I am getting some major gene mapping done.

      • Eh

        “what about his?” – this scares me too!

      • andee

        I have type 1 diabetes which I could pass along to a child and I sometimes think the guilt of passing on a totally manageable, but still terrible and life altering disease to a child I love would eat me alive.
        I expressed this concern to my doctor to which he responded, “but you would give a child life which is better than never having lived, even with a disease”. My thought was, yeah you’ve never given someone you love a life altering disease have you?
        It certainly adds a complicated dimension to the decision making.

        • Lauren from NH

          Yeah generic pro life advice not super helpful. Also might make me a little furious in that I just shared something super personal and without really thinking about it Captain Helpful way over simplified my feelings.

          • KEA1

            not to mention that a kid that doesn’t exist can’t regret not living…

        • MDBethann

          That doesn’t seem really fair of the doctor to ask that – an unborn child is a hypothetical.

          There are always other ways to become a parent though, so I hope you don’t discount it totally because of genetics. It is possible to love and raise a child who isn’t genetically your own. We considered it before we finally became pregnant & it is still on the table as an option for child #2 when the time comes.

          Also, you can do genetic testing, and it isn’t as expensive as one might think. I don’t know if they can determine that way whether or not you can pass diabetes on to your offspring, but I do know it was something our infertility clinic strongly encouraged us to do before we started treatments so we could go in with our eyes completely open and be as informed as possible.

      • Sarah G

        Oh, I hear you. My fiance and I have mental health problems on both sides of the family (in addition to breast cancer) and sometimes it’s just too much to think about. I do want kids, though I am also grateful for the non-kid time we are spending together. The conclusion I have come to is that half of the grief in my family, and in his, that comes from mental health stuff comes from how poorly managed it has been. Many generations of sweeping things under the carpet, not going “outside” the family for professional help, etc etc. I have to believe that our commitment to doing this better will result in, if not less pain, less struggle layered on top of the pain because people can’t/won’t/don’t know how to really deal with mental health problems. Hugs!

    • http://kara-tanoue.blogspot.com/ Kara T

      I too have a pretty ugly and rare genetic disease that runs in my family (that fortunately, somehow, my sister and I escaped from, but may carry). Add on to that a firm streak of anxiety disorders that run through the entire family, and it makes me wonder about having children. I have struggled with my panic disorder for so much of my life, and I don’t know that I could handle knowing that if my hypothetical children develop similar disorders, it’s because the disorder runs in my genes. Knowingly passing on such a burden seems irresponsible at best and cruel at worst.

  • MEM

    yes!!!! my husband and I were very firmly in the “no kids” group until my friends all started having babies and I met them and held them and my body went “you NEED this!!!!” even though my brain and my heart still say “no, you don’t”. we both have some serious mental health issues and it would be a bad idea for everybody to put a kid into that environment. but apparently my uterus doesn’t care about that…

  • Ella

    “That’s how it works, though: at some point the big decisions have to be made, and nobody lets you peek at the ending.” This. I was so that kid that skipped to the end to see if my favorite character made it and if the ending was a happy one. I’ve gotten better as an adult (and, you know, Kindle makes it harder to peek) but I still struggle with the what-if game sometimes. What if I did this differently? What will my life look in 10 years? What if what if what if?

    I think part of growing up is the ability to let go and let your choices guide you. But it’s so haaaaaard. Great post! :)

  • joanna b.n.

    This. This this this. Sigh. I’d send it to my mom to read but it would break her heart…

    • http://TxtingMrDarcy.wordpress.com/ Brooke

      Joanna, YES!. I think we’re leaning toward the “no kids” camp, but discussion keeps coming back to how that decision will affect both of our families. My mother has made no secret of the fact that she has been prepping for our eventual children since I was out of college. To feel that we have the weight of the future of our families squarely on our shoulders is just too BIG.

  • Sara

    I used to do the same exact thing with Choose Your Own Adventure books. I couldn’t stand deciding and then end up ‘dying’ or having something terrible happen. Those books drove me crazy. I’m one of those people that reads the end of a book to know where its going. I’m not fond of surprises or leaping into the unknown. I like to know all angles of the outcome before making a decision. I’d like to think because I put so much pre-thought into things, I rarely regret them but that also loses some of the spontaneity of life and makes it a little less fun.

  • Lauren

    “because I am definitely over-thinking it…” I don’t know if you are, Lauren. I mean, having a child is a literal life-altering event for you, your family and the new human you’re creating, so it’s good that you are so invested in thinking about what it actually means to have a child and if this is the right decision to make. I’m in the undecided-leaning-toward-child-free camp right now, but the real reason why I’m undecided is because I can’t honestly answer “why do I want a child?” and “why should I have a child?” I know everyone is different, but sometimes it feels like people don’t invest enough time in their decisions to have or not have kids. I hope that doesn’t sound bitter – I suppose it comes more from my view of how precious life is as well as my hope that when people are deciding to create a new human, they are doing it with the understanding of how very significant that decision is for them and their unborn children. Please don’t feel like you’re making too big of a deal out of it. You aren’t. The fact that this decision is hard for you means you genuinely care about yourself, your family and your future child. Keep mulling it over if you need to!

    • Meg Keene

      I sort of agree, and then I sort of don’t agree, all at once. I just think that humans are not biologically designed to make a choice on kids (We used to just… have to have them. Or not be able to have them. But it wasn’t much of a choice.) Now there is enormous pressure to Make A Decision, and Make It The Right One, and because of that, we treat parents like, “Well, you made your special snowflake choice, so it’s your problem.” Instead of treating kids as just part of life.

      So while I do think being thoughtful about it is great, at the end of the day, I think kids are just part of life (whether you have them or not). And there is no way to make a perfect choice. And a perfect choice for SURE won’t make you a perfect parent.

      I think where I do disagree is the idea that a thoughtful choice somehow makes for better parenting. Some of the best parents I know are the ones who got accidentally pregnant. Instead of shaping their lives around parenting, they let parenting into their lives, staying fully themselves. That’s really good for kids and parents. So I just don’t think that tons of thought somehow makes you better at parenting. Deciding that you’re in it, and you’re going to do a good job… that tends to be what makes a good parent. Whether you’re a parent by choice, or a sudden adoptive parent, or the parent after a surprise pregnancy.

      • Lauren

        Oh yes, I hear you about the perfect parenting part you were talking about. Although, its the whole choice thing that I’m finding myself question. The fact that there has been progress in birth control and it has now given many women the chance to choose to have children or not – I think that’s significant. It’s evolution. For me, it makes me examine my motives for considering having children – it’s a not consequence of having sex like back in the day. It makes me curious about why people don’t think more deeply about biologically bearing children. But then again, we are still humans who carry that biological urge to be “fruitful and multiply.” Eh, food for thought, I suppose :)

        • Meg Keene

          I mean, I think a lot of people do think deeply about it. But at the end of the day, I’m not totally sure there are any actual answers. We have kids because it’s how human life continues, really. I mean, we can frame it in terms of self actualization if that works for us, but really it’s… just… the circle of life.

          IE, thinking about it is great and important, but I don’t think there actually ARE any cold hard answers, you know?

      • Christina

        I totally agree with you Meg and wish people would realise that this is not a topic on which there is One Correct Choice for everyone. I am sure most people are capable of being happy with *or* without kids. I just wish there was less pressure on those of us who *don’t* want kids to “Make A Decision, and Make It The Right One”. Whenever the topic of future children comes up and I mention I’m not interested in having any, people (friends, family and strangers alike) demand that I *justify my decision to them*. Then after I give them some vague reasons (vague because it’s none of their business really) most of the time they tell me I will change my mind or that I’m making a mistake. People seem to believe that others are only entitled to not have children if they have some justification for non-parenting that they personally find satisfactory. I find it insulting, because *I* find my reasons satisfactory and that is all they need to know. I *have* thought my decision to not have kids through very carefully, but even if I hadn’t, the choice would be valid. Ending up without kids because you just never got around to it is just as valid a way to live life as having kids because you accidentally got pregnant.

        • Meg Keene

          YES.

        • MDBethann

          Definitely. Two of my BFFs are firmly in the “no kids” camp and have been the entire time I’ve known them (basically half of our lives, in both cases). They know themselves well enough to know they like being “aunties” but even with me and others in their family and friend circles having babies, they have not changed their minds. More power to them, and they shouldn’t have to justify their decision to anyone (other than a significant other, because they are the only other person affected by such a decision).

  • http://www.twenty-somethingtravel.com Stephanie

    You are definitely my favorite writer on this site (and possibly my secret twin?). It’s like every time I find myself worrying about something I come on this site and you have just written about it.

  • Lauren from NH

    So I wanted to comment on how it seems to me that more people of our generation are taking a firm seat on the fence or even standing on the “no kids” side of the fence and leaning their backs up against it, not wanting kids, but not ready to walk away either (to overextend the metaphor). I wanted to wonder a loud, why that is, for though this decision is always personal, so many people feeling a similar thing would seem to indicate a social trend.
    But then on the other hand, when I told my rather progressive friend that T and I are planning to get married in the next 15 months, her response was, “and then babies?” (I hope I did an okay job masking my horrified feelings, thank you progressive confidant for responding in the most traditional way possible.) So maybe the Have babies! norm is in no danger after all.

    • Eh

      Yesterday I was talking to my SIL about how scary it is that my nephew has the same condition as me. (Side note: My SIL is pregnant with their third child and they want another child.) I mentioned to her that my doctor warned me (that might be too strong of words) that I could pass the condition (it’s genetic) on to children if we chose to have children. Her next question was about when we plan on having children. It was a bit weird since we’re talking about how my nephew needed to go in an ambulance and how she’s going to keep an eye on him to keep the condition in check, and then she asked when we are going to have kids. We haven’t told our families that we’re going to start trying in August (after my sister’s wedding) so I gave her a vague answer. So since having one child with the condition doesn’t scare her enough to not have more children who might also have the condition; I guess she assumed that having lived with the condition that it wouldn’t scare me off of having children since that’s what people do (Have babies!).

    • jhs

      Yeah, I think it’s easy to stay in my progressive bubble and think that the world is totally accepting of any personal decisions I make, and then I step outside for a second and realize the assumption is still OVERWHELMINGLY that you’ll start making multiple babies after marriage. More people are probably speaking up about not having kids or not being sure about kids to make sure those decisions don’t get silenced or berated.

      • Lauren from NH

        Oh the progressive bubble! How it disturbs me so when people pop it. I discovered a new coworker is quite literally homophobic the other day, it ate at me for a week! Who (in 20-f-ing-14) thinks two male sports teammates can’t share a hotel room without sexual implications??? (Who doesn’t have middle-school-brain that is).

        • Bets

          It’s so disturbing! I met a grad student who claimed that women are worse than driving directions than men because their brains are biologically different, and cited the scientific paper he had read to prove it. I was in a roomful of biologists and everyone seemed totally okay with what he said (in fact some of the female phd students believed it), and thought he was a really smart guy… *eyeroll*

          • Laura

            At the risk of starting an Internet science war (which is totally off-topic and beyond the point of this thoughtful article), there *are* biological differences between men and women’s brains. I actually study age and sex differences in spatial navigation abilities (working on a Ph.D.) as well as the roles that sex hormones play in modulating these skills, so I’ve read a LOT of the literature in this area.

            As a group, men outperform women on a lot of spatial navigation tasks. Additionally, men typically adopt different strategies to navigate new environments (typically based on coordinate space, i.e., north-south-east-west), while women tend to use landmarks to orient themselves. Yes, this may be partially due to social influences, but you see the same things in rodents learning mazes, suggesting that there are biological bases to these behavioral differences. And there are a few really cool studies looking at females exposed to male sex hormones in utero who use more “male-like” strategies, while men lacking those sex hormones in utero use more “female-like” strategies. I could go on for ages (and provide papers if anyone is interested).

            However! I think it’s important to note that these are group-level differences. If someone is saying, “she’s crappy at reading maps because of her sad little lady brain,” that’s just not necessarily true. You can’t generalize from group differences to individual performance. But I also think that the converse, trying to say that there are no biological differences in cognition or brain structure between men and women, is misleading at best and dangerous at worse. Sure, social influences play a huge role (see: women and lower confidence in their math abilities), but with the enormous influence of sex hormones on brain development, how could men and women’s brains *not* show differences?

          • Bets

            Thanks for the explanation. I can definitely see how men and women’s brains show difference … my issue was more with the guy I was speaking to, who said it in such a way that it was deterministic – since you’re female, you naturally won’t be as good as this. I felt like he was more interested in using science to justify his beliefs than in merely observing differences, which I found very condescending and limiting. (I’m also really good at directions and have been since I was a child, so I found his attitude hard to accept. It was also a negative statement – “women are NOT as good as men at this,” rather than men and women’s brains show difference. The negativity itself would affect one’s confidence.)

            Sorry for the tangent.

          • Laura

            Oh, I totally get where you’re coming from. I was once having a meeting with two female coworkers, and something math-related came up. One of them actually called a male coworker over to do mental arithmetic, because “we girls can’t do math.” Um, hello. I didn’t take years of calculus for nothing.

            And having sat through a course on evolutionary psych (which has very sexist undertones…or overtones, half the time) taught by a professor who I’m pretty sure falls into the category of using science to justify sexist beliefs, I totally feel you.

          • rabbitdarling

            THIS.

          • http://www.aprilbooth.com/ April

            I would be quite interested in reading some of those papers if you don’t mind pointing me in the direction of them?

          • MDBethann

            I get the whole hormone impact on the brain! Ever since I was little I loved playing “navigator” and being the map reader. Was always pretty good at it too. But since I became pregnant, forget about it. Hormones are totally messing with my brain (or it could be exhaustion, but it’s all a result of hormones so….)

          • rabbitdarling

            While I totally get this, I often fret about the implications for our non-cisgendered identifying folks. What about their brains. Do we want to talk about gender as something this biologically essential (I resist it, and tend to talk about performatives and enculturation, but like, hey. Philosophy scholar.) ? This is also something I think a lot about when it comes to parenting, too, to bring it back around.
            Factually speaking, extricating the powerful differences between how children are socialized based on the perception of their gender/sex and the powerful force of biological circumstances at a chemical and developmental level, what, as a maybe-someday-parent, is my role in all that? How can we address this crazy-making dissonance between the two extreme poles (male/female) on what is likely a broad and flexible spectrum?

            I could probably ramble on for a while, but I’d rather be like, “Oh my freaking golden tap shoes, guys, what do we even do with all of this?”

          • rabbitdarling

            Oh my goodness sloppy evo-psych is the total vile worst.

      • MC

        Yep. I think for me a lot of it is wanting to change the presumption that *all* women will have kids. Because as someone that is on the “no” side of the fence, it’s just awkward when people ask me all the time or make jokes or hints about babies… and for women who are infertile or who have miscarried, it’s just insensitive.

        Actually, last week our neighbors asked us if we were planning on having kids, and for the first time I said, “No,” instead of, “Oh, I don’t know, we’re kind of leaning toward no right now but who knows what we’ll think in the future…” I think it’s because for me, it feels easier to give a definitive answer now and still have the option of changing my mind later (obviously) than to waffle around it and kind of encourage people to keep asking us or assuming. But that’s just me.

        • jhs

          Ooh, that’s a good idea. I’m definitely on the leaning toward no but not gonna say anything definitive camp, and I always worry that if I tell everyone “no” now, and change my mind, I’ll have to put up with all the “I tooooold you sooooo, it was just a phaaaase” bullshit later. But maybe I just need to stop worrying about that.

          • MC

            Y’know, I kind of dealt with that re: marriage. I always said I never wanted to get married, and here I am, engaged and one of the first in my friend groups to be getttin’ hitched. I was pleasantly surprised that there weren’t really any “I told you so”s – my friends would/will sometimes say, “Wow, I can’t believe you’re getting MARRIED,” which is how I feel a lot of the time, too :)

            I think with the kids thing I want to be less obstinate about my “no” than I was about marriage. I don’t feel the need to explain myself or act too stubborn about it – but I do want people to know that Fiance and I have an opinion and it’s not up for discussion.

          • MDBethann

            Just say “not planning on it anytime in the forseeable future”

            That way if you change your mind, it doesn’t matter – you weren’t “wrong” before. And if you don’t change your mind, you weren’t wrong either.

      • Sarah E

        Among my close friends, who all shared the “No babies!” sentiment with me in their early twenties, I think I’m the only one still firmly in the “No” camp. It was revealing to me when my buds started thinking about kids, and when I would continue to state that I didn’t want any, I’d still get double looks. Like: Of course “No babies!” when we aren’t ready for them, but surely now that you’re headed toward marriage and in your late twenties, you’re thinking about them, right? Answer: Nope. Hurray for making the choice that’s right for you, and the choice that’s right for me is no children.

        • Lauren from NH

          That sounds kind of tough. Almost as though it WAS(?) a phase for them, a “this is our twenties, whoa no I am not thinking about marriage and babies because I am supposed to live it up right now” hat that they wore when it was cool and appropriate and then took off. I don’t mean to judge their choices or claim at all that one or the other was the more authentic choice, I more mean to wonder how much we are socially influenced, especially since there seems to be some major anti kid culture in America (in terms of thinking they are a burden and an annoying nuisance on planes etc.).

          • Sarah E

            Yeah, it was definitely a major realization for me, and a good reminder that no judgment is necessary on changing your mind or standing by your choice. I think it stemmed from trying to be smart, progressive women who took the appropriate birth control steps to avoid pregnancy, and for adhering to the career woman model of job first, kids later. All A-okay, but definitely surprising when we had the mutual realization that “Oh, so you really DO want to plan for children now that your career is settled?” and “Oh, you really seriously don’t want kids, period?”

            It is nice to have friends all over the spectrum, though, including one BFF who absolutely wants kids, but is ambivalent about finding a partner first. She’d definitely consider sperm donation or adoption if she wanted kids and wasn’t partnered at the time. Go her, I’ll make a great auntie :-)

    • Lizzie C.

      I love the phrase “firm seat on the fence.” That’s exactly where I feel I am. I don’t want kids rightnow, and I’m not sure I’ll ever be gung-ho about them, but unlike one happily childfree friend I’m not going to get sterilized right away. So some days I feel like a hypocrite–“kids? barf! but no sterilization for me”–and your post/all these comments make me feel like less of one. Thanks, ladies.

      • Satsuma Caravan

        There are so many good health reasons *not* to get sterilized, no matter what your choice might be on the having or not having kids front. So goodness, no reason to feel like a hypocrite here.

    • ElisabethJoanne

      Let’s remember that it’s only been a couple generations where the decision to have sex and the decision to have babies were pretty distinct. It would only be unique, strong personalities that used modern birth control to opt out of the traditional narrative. Socialization is a very strong force.

      Then, having made having kids a choice, rather than fate, society has turned things around and made it so raising kids can only follow one model – The children live full-time with their parents, and the household is set up to care for the children. Attachment parenting, daycare – all today’s choices aren’t really that different compared to a time when boarding school was more common, extended families more involved, full-time help in the home cheaper (and therefore available to more families), etc.

      • Meg Keene

        EXACTLY THIS.

        The fact that it’s a choice is new. Like, a micro second of the human existence. The fact that it’s not just a choice, but a socially condoned choice (not the easiest, but something that people have context for) is BRAND new. And while I’m really grateful we’ve got options, I’m not convinced our lizard brains have caught up, and can cope, with said options.

        And the new american way of making ONE model of hyper involved hyper stressed parenting the only model? Well. That might not be helping. And I’m not sure it’s what our lizard brains are set up for, either.

    • http://mnnjcooks.blogspot.com/ Jessica Nelson

      I think it’s also worth pointing out (sort of in connection with ElisabethJoanne’s comment below) that people who choose to have more then, say, three kids also get a lot of inappropriate expressions of judgement from the world around them. (Are those all yours? Don’t you own a TV/know how to stop that from happening? Are you done yet? Was this an accident? I could never do that [said in a tone of voice that implies that no sane person could ever do that, lol]). There are many ways to be outside of the cultural norm.

  • lady brett

    “In some ways, I know too much about having kids to say that I want some of my own. In other ways, not enough to say that I don’t. Of course, I know nothing at all. That’s how it works, though: at some point the big decisions have to be made, and nobody lets you peek at the ending.”

    oh dear, yes. i believe this is how i feel about all decisions.

  • Belle11

    Thank you for this. My husband and I are right at this point – the deciding point. While we’re pretty firmly camped out on the “yes” side, I feel like he’s more firmly set on it than I am. While I do want a child, my brain starts going through all of these “what-ifs” – mental disorder, physical disorder, social issues, the list goes on – and suddenly I find myself clinging to our life as a couple. I truly enjoy the extra time with my spouse and I just know that in four or five years, when we have multiple children and are exhausted and out of patience, we won’t have the energy for one another.

    TL/DR: I worry that I’m risking my wonderfully happy and fulfilling relationship to have kids. And if I’m worried about that (and possibly not willing to risk it), does that mean that I don’t want kids enough? That I don’t deserve to be a mother because I couldn’t be as selfless as the next woman? Like you, I’m not sure my body and brain are set up to make this decision.

    • lady brett

      being a mother isn’t a competition over how much you can sacrifice for your kid.

      your (theoretical) kid needs you to prioritize yourself and your wonderfully happy and fulfilling relationship as well as the things that are more obviously about the kid.

      • Meg Keene

        THIS.

        And also? You probably will go through periods when you’re exhausted and out of patience. But I’m not sure not having kids is going to exempt you from that. It’ll come in different forms, but as my grandmother always cheerfully says, “Life is hard.” Sometimes I feel like we need to remind ourselves of that in a way that previous generations didn’t. Life is just… hard. And long, if we’re lucky. And it’s going to be hard with kids and it’s going to be hard without kids. Different hard. But hard.

        That doesn’t mean pick kids. But it does mean we can’t hide from things being hard.

        • Amy A.

          . . . I have started typing 5 different comments here, but instead I’ll just say, “Yep, exactly what Meg said.” Real wisdom there. Thanks Meg.

    • Lisa

      YES about risking your relationship. I know you can prioritize each other after the kid comes, have date nights, whatever, but honestly, most of the parents I know don’t do this–they’re just trying to make it through the day–and lots of them seem exhausted and frustrated with one another. Do I really think I’m so special that our relationship will be exempt from the slings and arrows of raising a child together?

      Thanks for bringing this up. I feel like this is rarely mentioned as a reason for not wanting kids, but it sure is up there in my book.

      • lady brett

        oh, yes. that was the tip top of my own “don’t want kids” list (right up there with “what if i raise a sociopath?”), and frankly i think it’s a damn good reason not to have kids if that’s where it takes you.

        but i also think that it’s an addressable issue (generally), and that being worried about it means you’re more prepared to be vigilant and/or make needed changes.

        and shockingly, to me, the first year of parenting caused a dramatic *improvement* in our relationship. the second year, on the other hand, has been hard on us – but that’s where we stop and say “this doesn’t have to be normal” and find changes that work for us. which we can make partly because of luck/privilege, but also because we’ve chosen our relationship as a priority we’re not willing to sacrifice for our kids (and even if we were, we’re shitty parents when we’re not good partners).

        • Lisa

          Ooooh, interesting! I love the idea of saying, “This doesn’t have to be our normal” when things go off the rails a little. Do you have any insight into why the second year may have been harder?

          • lady brett

            well, we’re foster parents, so we had different kids different years, so that might skew the data a bit =) (although, something similar but less drastic could be said for kids growing up – you may mesh with some stages better than others.)

            some of it just had to do with burning out on being over-worked – just on the logistical stuff of work + housework + parenting. also with kind of letting our guard down when it got easier (like, when we were first thrown into it, we were pretty seriously scrambling and overwhelmed which for us made for an awesome “teamwork” moment, and i think when that faded we just kind of…didn’t replace it with anything).

      • Sarah

        When I brought this up to my husband, he said “Well, what do we do now that we can’t do with kids?” And while we aren’t wild and crazy we do enjoy certain cultural events. And I’m sure we can no longer sit in a bar for four hours on fall Saturdays watching college football!

        • Bets

          Why can’t you watch football in a bar with kids? Is that just because American restaurants and bars aren’t exactly baby friendly? I’ve definitely seen instagram photos from my European friends of their newborn napping in the stroller while catching the World Cup at a local pub.

          • Sarah

            This particular bar is very dude-heavy–I’ve seen women go to the bathroom or car to breastfeed. And it gets loud and I’ve seen kids cry. But some people do bring babies. I’m certain in depends on the kid. I’d hope my baby could hang, but you never know.

        • Meg Keene

          Well no. Not right away. (Well, ok, you totally CAN right away. And then it’s definitely harder with a toddler.) But you can get a sitter. And you’ll be able to do it again in the not too distant future.

          But, even with a toddler you can sit in your living room as a family and watch the world cup and kick a ball around and yell “BALLLLL!” It’s different, but I’m not going to say it’s any less fun.

          • MDBethann

            One of my colleagues watched the World Cup final with her kids and they decided to cheer for the ball instead of either of the teams. She said some interesting sound effects and words of sympathy for the ball (i.e. OUCH!) resulted.

      • Meg Keene

        See my above comment. Having kids IS hard on a marriage. But so is life ;) And the period where kids are small passes. But yes, you DO have to prioritize caring for each other. And, a strong foundation (which it sounds like you have) really helps. A strong foundational relationship is, I think, the most important thing, period. And knowing you’re flawed and human, and you don’t know how having kids… or life together… is going to turn out, and facing that, and deciding to do your best.

        This is also a rad essay on this that helped me when I was pregnant: http://apracticalwedding.com/2011/08/babies-dont-ruin-your-marriage/

        • Bets

          I love this part from the linked essay: “Don’t get me wrong—we go to all of the same places we used to, we just usually lug along the little one (they’re portable). Cute cafes or fancy restaurants aren’t off limits—just grab an outdoor table and push up the stroller. So, when we do go just the two of us, the rare-ness makes it extra special—in an “absence makes the heart grow fonder” kind of way. Sure, babies are gonna change your marriage—but I don’t see why everyone acts like the changes are bad.”

    • http://peckishadventurer.blogspot.com/ Amanda

      This dilemma reminds me very much of Ayelet Waldman’s ‘Bad Mother.’ I highly recommend you check it out, I think she addresses a lot of the “mommy myth” that scares us. http://www.ayeletwaldman.com/books-projects/bad-mother/

    • karen

      We had more arguments in our first year of parenting – the nasty deliberately hurting feelings kinds of arguments – than in the previous five years of our relationship. The baby wasn’t a sleeper, we were zombies, family was far away and friends at a similar life stage few and mostly also far way, and we took it out on each other. The way things changed was making a conscious effort to fight fair (love the other comment about refusing to make a bad patch the new normal), and just waiting it out until we were getting more than a few hours of broken sleep a night.
      A few years on, cue baby number two hitting a sleep regression, both of us stressed out with work overloads, and this time we are prioritising caring for each other. So, for us, yes, having kids can damage your relationship – but that damage can also be something that you can learn and grow from into better partners and parents.

  • Caitlin_DD

    This is so good. It’s a struggle sometimes.

  • Fiona

    Gah such a good way to put it! It’s definitely a gray decision. I know that I could be happy with my partner with or without kids, but I also know that he really, really wants them, and so I know that I could and will try with him.

  • http://www.armyamy.wordpress.com/ Amy

    My husband is a carrier of the Cystic Fibrosis gene. Although people with CF are living longer and improvements are being made in treatment, there’s still no cure. Last year his brother died just shy of 25 from complications related to CF. Interestingly, CF has never scared me away from having kids. My brother-in-law was just about one of my favorite people of all time. (People always say this of the deceased, but he was honestly the nicest guy ever.) Even seeing the sickness and pain and the fear and then the loss, if we had a kid with CF, it wouldn’t be the worst thing ever.
    But the truth is that I don’t want kids. I envy people who talk about “knowing” or having a “feeling.” I don’t have that feeling.

  • Kirstin

    “In my obsession with the outcomes, I lost sight of what happens between decisions, which is where life (or an exhausting book series) actually happens.”

    This. Yes.

  • anon

    I decided a long time ago that being pregnant was never going to be the right choice for me. And I’m tired of doctors not wanting to prescribe me meds because I might get pregnant even after I tell them that I would terminate any pregnancy.

    Unfortunately, that doesn’t help me decide re: adoption. I’m adopted, many people in my family are adopted, my partner is interested in adopting, and we’d prefer to adopt an older kid (like, 6 years old or older). Part of me thinks that because older kids need families too (and because we’d rather have an older kid) we should do it. We understand the kind of care that an older kid in the adoption system might need and we could give it.

    But I don’t know if I want to. And that sucks.

    • Meg Keene

      Just want to make sure you’ve read this: http://apracticalwedding.com/2014/01/choosing-to-foster-children/ It’s my favorite essay on the subject.

    • Katriel

      I’m a foster-adopt parent of (the world’s most adorable) 10 year old boy. I have two suggestions. 1) Take the training and see what happens. And 2) Try respite!

      My husband wasn’t sure if older child foster care adoption was right for us, even though I was all in. So we did the training, and by the end he was sure. Not saying you’ll definitely decide to go for it, but the training gives you enough info to make a decision. And you’ll get to hear the real stories from foster parents and social workers about what it’s like (heads up – the foster system is so broken, so crazymaking, so frustrating. Our son is great, but the system itself feels like it’s traumatizing me).

      Also, once you do the training, you can do respite. Foster families need breaks, and respite give you a chance to see what kinds of kids with what kinds of issues need homes. And respite is rarely longer than 4-10 days at a time. You’re making a huge difference in the lives of foster families and foster kids, while helping yourself make a slower decision on whether foster care or foster-adoption is right for you.

    • snarkyteacher

      We plan to adopt too. And leaning more and more towards “older”
      adoption. We are still 5-10 years away
      but it is frequent discussion. One thing that has helped me more and
      more want to (like some days, I want to NOW even though we aren’t really
      prepared to deal with a challenging child. My biological clock to adopt? Is that a thing?) is through work. I work with
      kids and the more I get to know them and love them, the more sure I
      am. I teach challenging/at risk/alt.edu kids and I’ve seriously asked myself if this is something I want to/can deal with in a child and the answer is yes. But it isn’t something I am ready to do tomorrow. Although I have seriously considered what it would be like to adopt one or two of my students who have really really crappy situations.

      BUT there is nothing wrong with not wanting to adopt. A
      child from the foster care system is usually a very difficult child. And
      depending on the issues, a very expensive child who requires a lot of
      time/appointments/attention. Most people I know look at me like I am crazy when I tell them our
      plan because it is tough. Just because you CAN do something doesn’t
      mean you HAVE to do it. There are other ways you can reach out/help/be involved beyond adopting.

  • Aj

    in the last year we became aunts twice in a matter of 6 months. we also got married (after 7 years together it still feels like something). we had always been in the firmly “no, let’s just be great aunties” camp. however…seeing our nieces discover the world and become tiny humans has had an unexpected impact on us. I describe us now as firmly in the “undecided” camp. unfortunately, for us getting pregnant will be a Process (and a not-cheap one at that) with a lot of decisions to be made. those seem like definite roadblocks on the way to the firmly “yes” camp. I’m not terribly comfortable in the undecided camp but it is a part of the whole journey and a necessary place for us to be.

  • Kat91314

    “I held my place at every critical juncture so I could go back and
    explore each possibility: forty potential endings and I needed to know
    every single one of them. In my obsession with the outcomes, I lost
    sight of what happens between decisions, which is where life (or an
    exhausting book series) actually happens.” THIS. I’m slowly learning to just let life happen instead of obsessing about each & every possible outcome. But at the same time, trying to plan a wedding makes that almost impossible, at least as far as the wedding is concerned, LOL…..*sigh*. I’ll get there someday :-)

  • Bets

    Has anyone thought – those of you who aren’t dealing with genetic predispositions for certain health issues – of letting an accident happen? As in, either “not not trying” for those who are on the fence but maybe leaning towards having kids, or for those who are generally content not having any kids but wonder if they should, “use birth control but if an accident happens it happens”?

    What stresses me out about kids/no kids is that it’s a curse of choice: we’re supposed to make the decision and live with the consequences for the next twenty years of our lives. And if one does decide to have kids there’s pressure to actively try right away, and if you’re not pregnant within a year you need medical help, which is… frankly stressful and unromantic. If we’re feeling ambivalent, why not let nature take its course and be open to the possibility of either or?

    • Cara

      I’ve kind of wished for an accident, just so I don’t have to really make a decision to start trying. It is too scary, and to take the choice out of the equation means that I’d likely automatically respond in one way, reacting rather than preparing. But then again, if I just decided to try to let nature take it’s course, and nothing happened, I’d probably get antsy and think something was wrong as if I had been trying anyway. Which I suppose is a choice?

    • ElisabethJoanne

      This was my plan before we married, but my birth control pills help with more than fertility, and we both suffer from sexual dysfunctions. It looks like accidentally-on-purpose isn’t in the cards for us.

      I really don’t think it’s so awful that “half of American pregnancies are unplanned.” I’ve had some responsibility for asking pregnant women the questions behind those statistics, and small changes in wording can lead to different boxes being checked.

    • Meg Keene

      Or, really, “the old fashioned way.” Like legit the FOR REAL old fashioned way.

    • Mezza

      Wish we could do this. The hardest part for my wife and I hasn’t been deciding whether we want kids (we do), but figuring out when and how to start the very deliberate process required for a same-sex couple. And I’m not saying this to point out that your suggestion doesn’t apply to everyone, but rather to acknowledge that yes, it’s totally an appealing option!

      • Aj

        this. as I’ve become more ambivalent about having a child (from being very certain about not having one), I’ve wished to just let nature take its course but as part of a same-sex couple, nature ain’t going to gift us with an accidentally-on-purpose fetus.

    • KH_Tas

      I can’t think in the ‘not not trying’ way, especially not after the last couple we knew who tried this got pregnant after 4 days. For my brain, piv sex with no birth control = trying, and we’re not there yet (maybe next year)

  • Meg

    Congrats on not being a carrier! I work in MD research. I agree with others you are doing the exact right amount of thinking.

  • Kae

    Now that my (new!) husband and I have gotten married, we’ve begun to more seriously discuss kids – I know he wants them, have known that for years, and even aside from ALL the genetic grab-bag fun we can have (Type 1 diabetes and schizophrenia on his side, high blood pressure, depression and heart disease on my side), I’m more than a little terrified I’m going to be saddled with a tiny circus while he works all the time…he’s got a really demanding job and has already told me he has no interest in being a stay-at-home dad. So. Aside from just uhh….venting my fears? I guess it definitely comes back to the Choose Your Own Adventure situation and you just end up choosing something. Downside: I hated those books and always had to bookmark the forks so I could pick the “winning” path. Ha.
    Anyone with similarly insanely busy partners have any stories on how that went for them?

    • Sparkles

      I don’t have kids yet (expecting our first in December), but we’ve decided to go for it even though my partner works crazy hours (at least 15 hour days 6 days/week in the summer). One of the perks of his demanding work is that it gives me the flexibility to stay home with the wee ones. We’ve planned as much as we could, we’ve decided to have a winter baby (were willing to wait another year if we had to), so that he has more time to help out with the newborn (things are a little slower in the winter). I’m ready to by a stay at home mom. I’m building a support network of women who are willing to help out and understand my situation (my SIL and MIL are both very aware of the limitations my partner has to deal with).

      Other than that, we’re going for it. Because I think it’s meaningful to have kids and life goes on and people grow up all the time with parents who aren’t always available. My partner is a perfect example, his dad worked the insane hours he does (family business) and he and his siblings are just as f**ked up as so many other people I know who had parents who were present (which is to say, a regular amount). You make it work, and make sure you have a support system. You don’t have to do it alone, even if sometimes you’re basically a single mother.

      And as someone who’s partner has a family history of bipolar disorder and a brother with schizophrenia, I know those things are shitty, but people live with them. And flourish with them. And are awesome people with them. You can’t go through life without struggles, and whether it’s winning the mental illness lottery, or having to deal with some other crazy tragedy, that’s life. You can’t protect your kids from life, that’s the whole point.

      • Kae

        You’re totally right, it’s always a gamble with life that there will be things you struggle with (be they genetic or anything else) and people just deal and live. Sounds like you guys have a pretty good “meeting of the minds” on your upcoming parenthood (congrats :)); I do hope that we can get to a similar place. Part of it is also my own confidence – I’ve never really been around babies and I’ve never even changed a diaper…so I’m a little unsure how all that stuff goes too.
        I’m aware that most of this is just vacillating and I have no real arguments for or against. Change is big and change is different and different can be scary and I’m probably just being chickenshit about this…talking it through is helpful for me though, and I’m hoping if I talk about it and think about it I’ll have a better grasp on things.

  • NicoleT

    I don’t know if anyone else does this, but I keep looking at the genetic combination FH and I have and thinking “Man, our kids are gonna hate us”. We both have suffered from depression (I think I have a bipolar relative as well), bad teeth, bad feet, and have obesity and Alzheimer’s in our family. I can’t help but feel bad for any kids that we may have, if only because I remember what it was like growing up with a bunch of mental stuff going on, even in elementary school. I wouldn’t wish that on anyone.

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  • Soraya Swan

    This is a *great* read. As someone firmly in the grey, I feel like this place doesn’t get talked about often enough. Totally relate to waiting for something else to make a decision for you, only to find out that there’s no “easy” way out (of course debilitating medical conditions aren’t easy); there is nobody to figure it out but you. Thank you for so eloquently addressing a topic close to my heart that I rarely see. And let me know if you ever figure it out, because I’m dying to know how that process works!

  • Mara

    Ahah moment here for me! Walking in the grey zone is what I do. The over-thinker! The “I just don’t know”, that’s me! Good to know I am not alone! To parent or not to parent, what a BIG question!!

  • Amanda

    This is beautifully written and describes my situation perfectly. Thank you!