For a long time now I’ve been deeply ambivalent about pregnancy and parenthood. The whole endeavor is so huge and permanent and…scary. By nature I’m not a procrastinator, but this is one area in which I’ve taken a long time to make decisions and feel comfortable with those choices when I do finally make them. Because C has been absolutely certain for so long about her desire to parent and be pregnant, my ambivalence has caused us both quite a bit of suffering.
Though I’ve long thought I’d have at least one kid and have always supported C in her choices about pregnancy and parenting, I wasn’t chomping at the bit to get pregnant when I began trying. I tried because she was not having success getting pregnant. I was old enough and thought I’d eventually try anyway, so why not try now. She wanted us to have a baby already and I wanted her to be happy. I was able to accommodate her desires in a practical sense and figured my emotions would catch up- especially as I wasn’t opposed to having kids, just ambivalent about the timing.
Turns out that the enormity of the decision does not lend itself easily to suppressed emotions. I’ve never been good at stuffing it down anyway. I’d thrown myself completely into getting pregnant- reading every book, taking every test, ramping up interventions as fast as I could. When I actually fell pregnant, though, damn. It hit me like a ton of bricks. I was terrified.
I didn’t feel ready emotionally or mentally. I thought that one *should* be ready before they embark on such a huge journey. And my internalized homophobia told me that we should be *especially* ready since it wasn’t going to happen by accident. Here I was with the clock steadily ticking down to b-day and absolutely overcome with certainty that I had to get it all (the ptsd, the depression, the mom issues) fixed in time. There was no room in my head for the idea that we are all works in progress, that mothers don’t have to be perfect, that my baby would love me fiercely despite the issues that I have.
So when I was pregnant with Olivia I did embark on this quest. I quit work, went to weekly acupuncture and chiro visits, saw my therapist sometimes 2-3 times a week, hypnotized myself through hypnobirthing, got care from the crunchiest midwifery practice in town, and ultimately gave birth without medication at their birth center.
And you know what? I walked away from the whole experience even more deeply traumatized than before. I didn’t only fail to solve my original issues, but heaped many more on top- from physical birth injury to emotional pain from the false promises of hypnobirthing, to excruciating breast feeding struggles. I’d failed this too and though I wasn’t going to run away from what I’d already done I was certainly not going to do it again.
That’s where I’ve been for the last 3.5 years. Deeply uncertain that I’m able to do this parenting thing well. Convinced that I’m simply not equipped to love my kid enough, that I’m selfish by nature, and that I’d irreversibly mess up any more kids if I had them.
However, at the same time little messages have come my way in this past year that at first simply made me go hmm.. but now have me really feeling like i might need to question the thoughts I once considered absolute truth.
Firstly there’s that last point alone. Simply learning to notice my thoughts and label them as well as question them has taught me that I don’t have to believe everything I think. It’s amazing the freedom I’ve been able to experience from learning that pain is inevitable, but suffering is a choice. I can sit with the inevitable pain and discomfort of parenting and breathe through it, naming the feelings, reminding myself that it will pass or I can get wrapped up in it, freak out, and suffer. The irony is that naming the feelings and gently reassuring myself of the normality of those feelings makes them pass much more quickly than getting caught up in resentment for having them at all or trying to ignore them into disappearing.
This first point has led me to wonder what might happen if I questioned the thought that I’m not cut out for more than one kid. If I didn’t automatically believe this thought, what choices might I make? Then I thought about how I’d always only wanted one kid. I believed one kid would be easier. I’d have an easier time having a pleasant experience with only one kid. Well, again, I’m not sure my experience is really bearing this out! Is this really the truth, I’m asking myself.
In my life I have doubted myself a lot. I’ve agonized over choices and beat myself up for years. Hard lessons have taught me that ignoring my gut is not a wise plan. Then again, as I grow up, I also realize that the truth my gut speaks is not always black or white. In fact, it’s usually grey these days. I want to make embodied decisions as I get older- decisions that feel right. However what I’m realizing now is that doesn’t always mean that I won’t regret them later. I used to think that there was one single perfect choice out there for every dilemma and that if I did it the right way then I’d be guarunteed satisfaction and peace.
Turns out that isn’t how parenting works! Ha! I make lots of minute and big decisions these days and some of them I end up regretting later though I felt very good about them when I made them. One cannot ever know every little thing that might potentially happen.
Which brings me to another point that I haven’t been able to forget since I first heard it. I can’t remember where it was that I read it, but someone pointed out how ridiculous it is that queer women feel like they have to be 💯% certain before they have kids. By and large, hetero people don’t hold themselves to that standard- even the ones who do have to try to get pregnant. They leap while maybe still ambivalent. Why can’t I? Do I not trust myself to build the bridge as I fall?
Well, you know what? I should! Hell, I’ve proven to myself time and again that I can. When Olivia’s birth caused me physical trauma, I rallied my support network, I got physical therapy and I healed. When I was almost laid flat by PPD, I signed up for intensive therapy and went twice a week for a year. When I got pregnant, despite the terror, I threw myself into preparation and some of those choices tangibly made my life better in the postpartum period.
Without a doubt, I don’t give up. I own my shit and face my fears and question the truth. Why would this be any different? I’m not calling myself stupid or short sighted. Of course I have fear and trauma. This shit is hard! But I AM objectively capable. So now I am here: If it’s not that I *can’t*, is it just that I don’t want to? Telling myself that I’m incapable, as it seems, was a clever cop out from facing and owning my desires.
Always has been, eh? Was back when I used to say that I wish I could like a girl, but I just wasn’t able. Is now, too, that I say I wish that I could want more than one kid, but I just don’t.
Life sure hasn’t turned out like I thought it would up until this point…