As I write this, I’m halfway through my first pregnancy. In fact, my baby person is moving around right now and it’s giving me great joy. Pretty much everything in my pregnancy has given me some joy, maybe because I never thought I’d experience any parts of pregnancy. Until very recently, I was the woman who was Team (Probably) No Kids.
I can’t tell you the moment when I realized I wasn’t interested in having children. I do remember playing with my dolls, but my dolls were my friends—not my pretend babies. I also remember that my goal in life was to have an awesome career; as a kid I wanted to become either a doctor or a scientist. When I imagined what my “grown-up” life would look like, I don’t remember kids being in that vision. As a young person, I was adamant that I didn’t want children because I didn’t need to have kids to define me as a woman. As I got older, that position evolved to, “I would only have a kid if I were married, and even then, I probably wouldn’t have any.”
I discovered feminism in my teen years and it instantly spoke to me. I grew up with a fierce, independent mom who fostered that same streak in me. My mom was also big on raising her four kids in an egalitarian way, which was so opposite from the images I saw in the world around me. So much of the feminist message in the ’90s just made sense, like having my own career and identity, and redefining what “being a woman” meant. It feels like becoming a wife and a mother are the two hallmarks of womanhood according to mainstream media, and I just wasn’t with all that. In fact, I’d regularly shake my young fist and rail at it. I was a woman regardless of my marital or parental status—I wanted to have that option.
As I went through college and graduate school, my resolve not to have children got stronger. Sure, I’d smile and wave at babies in Target, but I felt no desire to have one of my own. As my friends and siblings began to have children, I’d volunteer to babysit and happily play with them for a few hours, before I passed them back and headed to the bar for a stiff drink. I loved my life, with the freedom to think about my wants and needs, and to put my desires first. I liked kids (for the most part), but at the time, I never felt I needed to have one.
Putting My Fears On The Table
You know how some women just know they were born to be moms? I was not one of them. I know there are people who are firm in their decision not to have children, but I wasn’t one of those people, either. As I aged, I noticed I was loosening up on my stance. I didn’t suddenly want a baby, but I did start realizing that what I had envisioned as motherhood didn’t have to be my motherhood.
One reason my position on kids started to change was that I began dating my husband. I don’t mean that I met “the right guy,” and all of a sudden everything fell into place and I realized that I actually did want kids after all. I mean that he consistently showed me, in little ways, what a great father he would be. It turns out I’m really into that. Things I thought would have scared him off, like my desire for an egalitarian household or frequent discussions of intersectional feminism, were met with enthusiasm. I confessed to him that one of my fears of motherhood was being a married single mother—a woman who had to do a hundred percent of the childcare while her husband drank beers in front of the TV. I could only see myself having children if I was able to have a true partnership, where we both shared childcare duties. He never said it explicitly, but my husband responded by showing me how much he was willing to do his part to keep our home running. Seeing my husband owning a huge chunk of our household responsibilities, without complaint, started nudging me toward having a baby.
Along with my fear of doing it all alone, I put all my other fears on the table. I told my husband that I was afraid of losing my identity, going broke, losing our connection to each other, and having to sacrifice our dreams for our kids. Through multiple conversations, he provided alternatives to all the doom I envisioned came with parenthood. Basically his response was, “Parenthood is what we make it.” He shared with me his desires to have his own time with our child, and to be a very hands-on father, just as his father was. Through our discussions I learned that we were on the same page in terms of how we wanted to raise our children and divide childcare responsibilities, which was reassuring to me. All of a sudden it clicked: we really might be able to create the kind of parenthood I’d thought was impossible.
As our relationship progressed from dating to engaged to married, I found myself looking at my husband in a new light. Every time I looked at his beautiful dark skin, I pictured a little baby girl with my dimples and his chocolatey complexion. William is not just my husband; he’s my partner, in every facet of our lives. Through our relationship, he’s shown me that the type of parenting arrangement that I envisioned (and thought was unattainable) is possible. I know it will be hard, that I’ll be sleep-deprived and have less money for spontaneous fun purchases, but the idea of raising a little person with him sounds so amazing to me. Once that switch flipped for me, I became gung ho about having a baby—so much so that I think I asked him if we could have a baby every day for months.
A New Future
As much as I wanted a baby, and tried to prepare before we officially began trying, I was still shocked when I saw the positive pregnancy test. In my mind, I envisioned that getting pregnant would be a long process, based on the friends who confessed that it took them months or even years of trying. It only took us three months, and I had a moment of, “This was too fast!” before I allowed myself to just enjoy it.
It feels like things changed overnight for me after that positive pregnancy test. While my body has already gone through numerous changes, my heart and mind have done the same. I’m a chronic worrier, but pregnancy is actually helping me relax and mellow out. I tend to be a “contingency plan” person, but for the first time in my life I’m allowing myself to just go with the flow.
I’m allowing myself to imagine the future, and much to my surprise, it has children in it—more than one. Part of me is terrified, but in a way I think every parent should be afraid. I’m allowing myself to be excited about the baby, and give into this experience that for so long I told myself I didn’t want or need. I’m so surprised at how excited I am about our baby—I can’t help but gush to anyone who will listen to me talk about all things baby.
We still have twenty more weeks before we meet our baby person, but already I feel so confident that we made the right decision. This journey to impending parenthood has been a great surprise, but also joyous. I’ve discovered a new part of myself that I didn’t know was there, and I’m excited to explore this new phase of life.