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I turned thirty a few months ago. I’ve been married to my husband for nearly six years. I bet you know where this is going. We’ve always known we wanted children, but we’ve been putting it off. It’s never been a real consideration until lately. We have dogs and cats and a house and busy lives and full-time jobs that have kept us challenged trying to balance our four-legged friends, our social lives, and our marriage effectively. The thing is that we have done it effectively. We are financially stable, healthy, and enjoying life together.
My husband and I are happy together, but lately, the child question has arisen, and we’re undecided. A big part of me just wishes we’d have an accident so we wouldn’t have to make a conscious decision about creating or bringing a child into our home.
I know there is time. That there are more fertile years ahead (assuming our bodies are in working order for procreation), that we don’t have to rush. The thing is that, lately, I’ve been wondering: why wait? We’re not getting younger. We’re pretty settled together. And yet, I have nagging uncertainty about the whole thing.
Are we going to miss late nights that led to miserable hangovers? Will we have to actually eat dinner before 9:00 at night and not spend three hours at the gym socializing on a Wednesday after work just because? Will we even be able to keep going to the gym? How can I birth a baby if I can’t even manage to birth this second novel draft? How will I keep writing and working full-time and effectively fulfill my duties as a parent? Who would even watch our baby? What if the dogs don’t like the baby? What if we don’t start trying now and wait and then can’t have a mini-me? What if we put it all off and decide on adoption and then have to wait even more years? What if adopting a child instead of having a biological one because I don’t want to push a baby out of my body is a bad reason to adopt a child? What if we adopt, then we can’t have any kids ourselves, and we want really badly to see what a combination of ourselves would look like? What if I get fat? What if we just aren’t ready? Is wanting to give my parents the opportunity to be grandparents a good enough reason? Is wanting to bring someone into our tiny family just so they can be loved a good enough reason?
I’m the kind of person who goes all-in for people she loves. My maternal instinct, despite what people think, is and has always been extremely strong. I’m scared to have a child and then have that child become my everything. I’m scared because I want that. I’m scared that I want that because that’s what I’m supposed to want.
I’m scared to lose myself. And for my husband and I to lose each other.
I don’t really expect much of an answer to these questions past “there’s never a good time to have kids,” which seems like reason enough to plan for a happy accident. But what if it isn’t? What if my husband and I can’t figure it all out like we think we can?
Thanks for anything you have to offer.
I kind of wish I could crawl through my lap-top and give you a hug right now. I’m writing this to you while my five-year old daughter is sleeping, with her mouth open and her arm flung over her head, and my eight-year old son is reading on the couch. We have a ritual; we cuddle up with some blankets, and I read to him for about 30 minutes every night after his sister goes to sleep, and then he reads on his own for another thirty. And then sometimes he’ll turn to me and say something like, “Did you know an octopus will regenerate its arm if it’s cut off, and it will be as good as the original?” He also likes Greek mythology, and so I now know more about Greek gods and goddesses than I ever learned in school. There are other things I’ve learned from my kids, too many to mention, but here’s a short list:
-I’ve learned what it means to have compassion for myself because if I don’t, my kids won’t have any for themselves.
-I’ve learned not to drop f-bombs when I stub my toe.
-I’ve learned what it means to love someone so much you think your heart might explode.
-I’ve learned that sometimes love looks like cleaning mascara off all four of your bathroom walls because your two year old daughter thought it was paint, and that the bathroom looked “boring”, before.
-I’ve learned that I can slow down, and listen, and be present because they’re little for such a short period of time, and that everything else is less important.
-I’ve learned that nothing is better than the sound of their laughter, or the feel of those little arms around my neck. It’s a wonder I haven’t eaten their cheeks off.
I really could go on for hours, but you probably get the point. Having children is awesome. They make you want to be the best possible version of yourself, and to work on anything that might be blocking you from doing that. You don’t lose yourself, you become more of yourself, which I believe happens with any great love. You open in ways that blow your mind. That’s why so many people do it more than once. If it was really awful, we would only ever have families with one kid. And people would be warning their friends. Having said that, it does change things. It sounds like you and your hubs have a nice thing going. A full life, full of furry creatures and great friends, and good times. Full-time jobs, and writing projects, and fun nights out. I’d be lying to you if I said, “Oh, hey, don’t worry about it! You’ll still be able to do all those carefree, spontaneous things!”, because you won’t. I mean, you’ll be able to do some of them, but it will take awhile to find your new rhythm if you bring a baby into the mix. The first three months are insane. Having a partner who’s enthusiastic about the baby helps, a lot. Taking shifts so you can get some sleep, and asking for help when you need or want it is key, and it sounds like you’re in a position to do that. As far as you and your husband losing each other, you avoid that by continuing to feed and nurture your relationship. The best thing you can do for your baby is to love your spouse, that goes for both parties. When a child grows up in a house full of love, with two parents who admire, respect and prioritize each other, that’s a kid who’s going to grow into an adult who knows how to be a partner.
Most of it, you’ll figure out on the fly. The truth is, you just can’t predict what you’re going to want or how you’re going to feel. You might buy a crib, and read all the information about putting your baby on a schedule, and end up co-sleeping and being a huge proponent of attachment parenting and baby-wearing. You might decide to hire a baby nurse so you can sleep in the beginning, or maybe it will turn out that you have one of those incredible babies who sleeps through the night, right away. That happened to one of my closest friends, it’s not an urban legend.
The first year, really, is like a rebirth. Your old life isn’t gone, but this third person, this new life, is not just a new life for the baby, it’s a new life for you and your family. It sounds like you have a solid foundation. It also sounds like you’re anxious and ambivalent. I think that’s great, because it is a big deal, and if you weren’t aware of that, I’d be concerned. It’s like marrying someone. It’s not something you want to do lightly, or without forethought and consideration. I just think you’re over-worrying and over-thinking. “What if the dogs don’t like the baby?” Again, I’d like to hug you. What if the roof caves in, or aliens come down and turn everything blue and we all look weird? If you want to enjoy another year as things are, do it. I mean, I’m not a fertility expert, but I think you can put this on hold until you’re thirty-one and not radically lower your chances of getting pregnant if you decide that’s something you want to do. If you’re scared about getting fat, I wouldn’t worry. I’m assuming you’re not just socializing at the gym. You just work out and take care of yourself and eat well, as you always do. The rest will take care of itself. If you use your pregnancy as an excuse to eat cheeseburgers and fries and milkshakes every night, then yeah, that probably won’t go well, just as it wouldn’t if you did it without being pregnant. Other than that, I’d really scratch that off the list. How about all of us women stop worrying about our weight, when there’s so much MORE TO US THAN THAT?! Wouldn’t that be awesome?! Can you imagine all the great sh&t we could do if we just relaxed? If you’re scared of childbirth, I won’t lie to you about that, either. No way to know how it’ll go for you. I had one traumatic birth, and one relatively easy one. The difficult one came first and I did it again, so that might help alleviate your fears. With my second, I was at the park four days later, with both kids. The body is really a miracle.
You may find yourself feeling very inspired creatively if and when you have a baby on the way, or even after the baby is born. I can attest to that. I’ve written more since having my kids than I ever did before. You ask who will watch the baby. I mean, you’ll work it out. If you’re going back to work full-time after maternity leave, and you don’t have a grandma nearby who wants the gig, you’ll find a nanny. Maybe you’ll decide you don’t want to be away from the baby that much. I mean, M., we could go on here for months this way, worrying and obsessing over every possible eventuality. And it’s like anything else. You just can’t predict the future, and at least half the stuff we worry about never comes to pass, and things we never worried about end up throwing us totally off center. No one told me I’d use the phrase “Watch your head!” nine million times for the first 3 years my kids were crawling around, or that I’d be wondering what to do because two girls in my daughter’s preschool were being mean to her.
If you don’t feel ready, put it on the back burner for a year. If you’re still undecided at that point, maybe you and the hubs go talk to someone so you can uncover whether there’s anything else going on. But until then, I’d just really enjoy your life. The alternative is to have a happy accident, but I’d seriously only do that if you feel ready, and at that point, it’s not an accident. I’m very grateful that I had my kids when I knew who I was. When I’d traveled and had fun and been practicing yoga for years and years, and spent enough time on a therapist’s couch to feel pretty certain I wasn’t going to screw things up too badly. If you don’t feel like you’re there yet, wait. Or don’t. Either way, you’ll figure it out. But don’t spend your present worrying about your future. That’s no fun at all. Enjoy it.
Ally Hamilton is a Santa Monica-based yoga teacher, writer and life coach, who streams online yoga classes all over the world. She’s the co-creator of YogisAnonymous.com, which has been featured in The New York Times, Yoga Journal, Self Magazine, Shape Magazine and The Wall Street Journal. She’s a regular contributor for The Huffington Post, a wellness expert at MindBodyGreen, and writes an almost-daily blog at http://blog.yogisanonymous.com. She’s the mama of two amazing kids and one energetic Labradoodle. She’s excited about her forthcoming book tentatively titled: “Sex, Love and Yoga: Ancient Wisdom for Modern Times”, from Llewellyn Worldwide due in 2016.
Please note: Advice given in Dear Life is not meant to take the place of therapy or any other professional advice. The opinions or views offered by columnists are not intended to treat or diagnose; nor are they meant to replace the treatment and care that you may be receiving from a licensed physician or mental health professional. Columnists acting on behalf of Dear Life are not responsible for the outcome or results of following their advice in any given situation.
Featured image photo credit: Michael Segal.