Last week, one of my husband’s friends asked me about that whole kids thing (you know what I’m talking about, just-married-people and also everyone else—because just married people complain about it constantly). Do you want to have kids? Are you having kids? How many kids will you have? When will you have kids? OH WOW HEY you probably haven’t thought of this—great idea—you should consider kids!
My response went something like this: “I think so. I mean, on one hand I really like being able to fully focus all my time and energy on whimsical decisions about where Taylor and I will be eating dinner tonight—ramen or Thai?? But on the other, I really want to buy, like, adorable bear-shaped plates for a tiny human.”
Look of alarm.
“THAT’S why you want a baby??”
No, KAREN, that’s not why I want a baby, but casual wine night with my husband’s high school friends doesn’t feel like quite the right place to outline the crippling anxieties and yet also paralyzingly intense daydreams that sometimes almost bring me to tears when I imagine being in charge of, and creating, a human from my and my husband’s own physical selves and then nurturing its mind and body to become the best and happiest it can possibly be, OKAY?
Or, what I said out loud, “Pretty much, yeah.”
Do I Even Want A Baby?
Right now, at just shy of thirty, the worries and wonderings are of all shapes and colors. Do I not actually want a baby? I don’t feel that visceral ache for one, like I always imagined I’d have, which makes me think I’d be just fine plodding along hand-in-hand with my one person for my whole life. But then I think about getting that ache for a baby when it’s “too late” (or on the cusp of too late), and the stress, the sorrow, and the regret that would ensue, and I feel nothing but dread.
The thing about babies is I’m already terrible at personal time management. I’m already terrible at getting myself and my husband to eat the homemade, real-foods, plant-centric diet our bodies need. I’m already terrible at long-term life planning, at properly structuring my energies around intrinsically valuable priorities, at cutting out my email/work/laptop time to give my husband the attention he deserves, at meditating, at exercising, at yoga-ing, at finally touching that new watercolor set and nurturing my creative soul. I’m so terrible at saying no to projects I can’t handle, of actually spending time with all the friends I want to keep in my life, of sitting on my mom’s couch for chit chat as often as I should, at making sure I get the absurd nine hours of sleep I really need, for god’s sake.
I’m already so terrible at not stubbing my shins on corners.
AND BABIES ARE FOOD-NEEDING, EMOTIONALLY VOLATILE, TIME-SUCKING, SLEEP-DEPRIVING, CORNER-SMASHING CREATURES.
Even More Fears
And that brings us to Other Concerns: What if I’m contributing to overpopulation and the slow but inevitable destruction of our planet? What if I’m being greedy by needing MY OWN little human? What if Taylor and I drift apart? What if I lose all the traction I’ve made in my career so far? What if I never make that hobby film I want to make? What if we don’t have the funds to realize all the parenting plans we’ve imagined? What if I’m stressed and resent the baby? What if I’m stressed and resent Taylor? What if the baby is mean, or doesn’t like me, or just becomes obsessed with chicken nuggets and won’t eat anything else, or gets a chip on his shoulder because his classmates are richer than him, or doesn’t look at the world from the bottom up, or gets anxiety issues (from me! Or just at all!), or doesn’t have friends, or is kind of an asshole, or is lonely, or is failed by the education system or the economic system or the social system or the disciplinary system? Or the rape culture, or the food culture, or the academic culture, or the consumer culture?
And, more soberly, what if the baby isn’t healthy? What if I bring a human into a world that desperately needs more, maybe more than I can offer, and the baby’s entire life is difficult, scary, frightening, painful, helpless, or some combination of all of the above, from some physical or mental birth development or disease?
A Short List Of Big Questions
I think, in sum, my many, many questions and fears and concerns come down to a list that looks like this:
How will I watch my precious baby grow up in this world?
How will I watch my husband watch this?
How will I support this baby, physically, financially, and emotionally?
How much can the life I love change?
How many ways can my heart break?
How do I do this, people? Or, how do I NOT do this? Lay your own “what if’s” and “how will’s” on me. Or even, “this is why” and “that’s what.” We could all use a little clarity. If clarity is even a thing you can get on this subject.
Are you afraid of having kids? How? And if you have kids, what were you afraid of, and how did it work out?