Having a Baby is Great
“Will I choose to have a baby?”
I made it through my 20's questioning if I would become a mom one day. I envied the clarity that many women seemed to have - “I’m meant to be a mom!” or “I want to remain childfree!” they would exclaim confidently. Meanwhile, I could never find a way to feel confident about either choice. It seemed like such a big thing to be so sure about.
When a casual conversation would turn toward the topic of children, I’d shrug noncommittally and pour myself another glass of wine. Then, I’d wonder privately:
- What if having a baby sucks?
- What if it’s actually great but I’ll change into someone I don’t want to be?
- How will it impact my relationship?
- What if I can’t handle being a mom?
- What if it’s boring for me?
- Will I have to give up my work?
- Will people stop seeing me as being capable and ambitious?
- Am I too scared to go through pregnancy and childbirth? I could fucking die!
- Will it mean I can’t keep traveling?
- What if I can’t handle the sleep deprivation?
- How is anyone supposed to have children after baby boomers have literally destroyed the planet?Is it even fair to bring a child into this world?
- What if I regret becoming a mom?
- What if I regret not becoming a mom?
- What am I going to miss out on? Etc etc etc… Not great. Just fear, really.
A fork in the road, with two separate lives before me: one with a child and one without. As the pressure to make a decision loomed (after all, I was turning 30 soon, gasp), I stood paralyzed with fear as I desperately tried to guess what my life would be like if I chose to have a baby.
I didn’t know where to look for answers. Our friends weren’t having kids, most of the advice online didn’t apply or was terrible, and I couldn’t rely on family since they were all out of state. My husband and I were essentially on our own.
One day, sitting across from each other on our tiny couch in our tiny apartment in midtown Manhattan, we agreed to stop ruminating on the scary existential questions. Making decisions based on fear has never worked out well for us. Instead, we embraced the fact that it was up to us and started wondering. “What if it could just be good? What if having a baby only added to our lives? What if it’s possible not to pause or abandon the lives we’ve built for ourselves? What if we could both thrive, right here and right now… and have a baby?”
Suddenly, the weight was lifted. Having a baby became a shared adventure between the two of us. We stared at that fork in the road and said “no thanks, we’re making our own way,” stepping off the prescribed path and into the unknown.
There’s no one way to have a baby, and no one way to live a life. We weren’t going to blindly follow anyone’s advice; we would figure out what worked for us. We weren’t going to buy a bunch of stuff or move to the suburbs; we would to stay in our tiny apartment in Manhattan. We weren’t going to limit our life’s ambitions; we would work together to make every opportunity work for both of us.
Even if walking this new path was going to be harder, we were excited that it was going to be our path. And you know what? Our path has been great, and we’re proud of it so far.
If I could go back and tell my past self anything, it would be to stop wasting so much time wondering what it’s like and spend that effort getting my shit together. Society really doesn’t support women who want to have children, so I would give my past self this bit of advice:
- Go above and beyond to create a support network for yourself, you’ll need it
- Figure out who you are so that you don’t get lost in the first few whirlwind months of motherhood
- Work on your relationship to make sure you are in an equal partnership with excellent communication
- Be healthy so that you can withstand the demands of pregnancy. Every pregnancy is different, and yours is going to suck (sorry, self!)
- Figure out childcare and other practical logistics to actually having a little human to care for
- Live somewhere you love
- Find work that gives you purpose and get really good at it
- Acquire decent (sigh, as decent as can be) parental leave, because recovery is no joke. It is outrageous that women are expected to be back at work so early after having a child. Make sure your spouse has parental leave, too. This is an avenue for inequality to snap into your relationship. Do not let it.
- Only take advice from people whose lives and choices you aspire to
TLDR: Having a baby is great, it’s the rest of life that’s hard. It takes creativity, cleverness, and a whole lot of work to make life with a baby good, but it can be done.