I’m a worrier. Sometimes I lie motionless in a full-on horizontal couch coma, mentally rehearsing an endless chain of potential future catastrophes while “Next episode playing in 5…4…3…2…1…” silently ticks on my TV screen. It sounds dramatic, but I like to think that when I worry, I’m just preparing for life. I research. I think. My favorite question is “Why?” My worry du jour regards what I see as the biggest thing anyone can do during their little stint on earth: having a child. And I worry because you moms make it sound so freaking horrible. I’ve been avoiding pregnancy for my entire life, but suddenly, my peers and I are into our 30s, and many friends are trading their starter homes for mini McMansions to fill with children. Naturally, that means I keep getting asked, “So, when are you having one?” Babies are the next step in real adulting, after all. I’ve always thought I’d have a kid one day, but on my last birthday (31), the deadline started to get real. If I want my final kid before 35 (you know, to avoid the curse of “advanced maternal age”), and want to have the recommended two years between little Addy's and Anton’s conceptions, then I have to start having unprotected sex with my husband around my next birthday. Being the angst-ridden planner that I am, I started googling important questions like “How to know if you’re ready for a baby?” which avalanched into “How to ward off post-postpartum depression.” Slowly, I uncovered a toxic treasure trove of negative mom bloggers, scary mommies, do-it-all working moms, and lots of details chronicling the secret fact that the first months (years?) of motherhood are like going through hell on earth. Bloggy gurus tell me motherhood is a self-deprecating wait for the weekend. One mom literally counts down the hours until her kids are in bed. I’ve been informed that moms’ souls and identities slowly die while herding crabby kids, until in about 12 years when said cute crab is traded down for an “I hate you, Mom” tween. I’ll never sleep again. I’ll have a worse relationship with my husband. And let’s not discount the cool quarter mil kids cost. Each. So basically, all I hear are stories upon stories of depression and stressful breast-feeding and losing your identity and teething on your nipples and misery and what if your kid has a health problem and what if your stomach never looks like it did before and how not to become an unshowered zombie. Why do people treat having a baby like something horrible happened? At the same time, these blogs make it seem like those who are not ready to sign up for an all-sacrificing optional duty are simply immature. But how can I be so eager to give up so much for someone who doesn’t even exist? Especially when you moms make it sound so unappealing?
Why do people treat having a baby like something horrible happened?
All this makes me wonder whether motherhood was equally terrible before blogs existed, back when negativity spread the old-fashioned way. I look back to when I was a kid and wonder if my mom suffered while raising me. Was it all that horrible, changing my diaper and feeding me in the night? Did she feel like she lost her identity because she was a stay-at-home mom who gave her entire life to caring for, playing with, and loving us? Did she regret giving up her Master’s-educated career for watching us color in front of Sesame Street on the Strawberry Shortcake kiddie picnic table? She says she doesn’t regret it. She says it’s what she wanted. But when I hear musings from friends and mom-sperts today, I picture lonesome days of laundry, Dora marathons, and zero adult interactions. I picture struggling to schedule the rare “drink on the patio.” However, my mom tells me she talked to the neighbors when she was lonely. She says the fulfillment from work was nothing compared to raising a child. She says she didn’t miss out. But why does my SAHM friend question whether she’s making the right choice? Why does she feel pressure to go back to work for some elusive other type of fulfillment? Maybe in the ‘80s the pressure to do it all and be it all wasn’t the same as in today’s “Lean In” crowd. Maybe we’re all just different people. Maybe life is never a perfect balance.
Let’s hear about the hugs and the 'Mommy, I love you's.
Of course, it’s also true that people say this same negative mumbo jumbo about college, about owning a house, and about getting married. Having a good relationship with a parent can be work. Friendships take effort. So does going to work every day. Life, whether you add kids to it or not, is a lot of hard fucking work. Would you rather sit there and eat bonbons? Okay, you probably would sometimes. So yes, I know there are downsides to everything. And people say having a kid is worth it all. But that makes me wonder: Where’s the good stuff? The worth-it stuff? Let’s hear about that, moms. Let’s hear about the hugs and the “Mommy, I love you”s. Tell me about the love you feel. I know that some women share their joy, but it seems like a drop in the bucket compared to the sea of negativity I find online. And I want to know that having a baby is the best and biggest experience anyone can ever have. I want to hear more about why moms are glad they had babies. Because even with all this scary “information,” for some strange reason, I still choose yes. I choose yes even though you moms tell me those horrifying tales. I want to see Addy's and Anton’s first steps. I want to feel the unconditional love I rarely hear about, but feel a hint of when I hold my puppy in my arms like an infant. I want to dress my kids up and show my love when they cry. I want to learn about the world and become a more loving, patient person. I know you’re busy. I know things are hard. And I know you have a lot of people asking a lot of you. But wannabe moms need this from you, too: Talk about the positive things, and share your good stories. And hopefully, someday, I will too.