This post is in partnership with Hancock Regional Hospital as part of their empowering women and children site. All thoughts, experiences, and opinions are my own. Be sure to check out their site for additional resources and support.
If you've kept up with my recent posts on my fears about pregnancy, and what happened to my body when I went off birth control, it should come as no surprise that having a baby has been on my mind a lot lately.
For months, I thought this post was going to be a laundry list of reasons why I'm scared to have kids.
You know the ones:
I'm afraid having a kid will ruin my career
I'm afraid a child will change my relationship with my partner or friends
I'm scared I'll never want to have sex again
I'm scared we won't have the money to give the child the best life
I'm scared I'll never be cool again
I'm scared I'll be mom shamed
I'm scared of breastfeeding
I'm scared my body will be ruined
I'm afraid I'll never feel like “myself” again because this other person will always come first
But as I sat down to write this, I realized something changed. A lot of my fears had disappeared. That's not to say I'm fearless (we will still get into my fears in just a moment, don't worry). But I realized that all the fears above aren't what parenting is all about.
For every reason I'm afraid to have kids, I can find a reason to let it go:
Career & Money:
Yes, of course I value my career as a blogger, but I stumbled into this world and have faith that whatever the next step in my life is, I'll figure out my career and financial situation as I always have.
And of course I worry about how a child will impact my relationships, but this is something my husband and I talk endlessly about – and we've both agreed that each other comes first, not the kid, otherwise we aren't a team and that'll be the beginning of the end.
Uncool Factor & Mom Shaming:
If I'm honest, I was never cool. And if I'm even more honest, I've been shamed for almost every decision I've made in my life so it's pretty ridiculous to think that being a mom would be any different. My job is to learn to not let shame or other people's perceptions define me.
If my body gets me through birthing an actual human being and survives, well then I'm grateful for that simple fact alone and the rest of it I'll figure out. If I'm not pleased with it, that's just a reminder that I need to prioritize my self-care. And it's to be expected that breast-feeding will be a rollercoaster from what everyone has said, so I'll find support by finding resources likes breast feeding classes or support groups or leaning on my peers and survive that too.
Feeling like myself:
Sure there will be points I will probably lose myself in my child – what mother doesn't? – but if this happens for an extended period, that's a reality check that I'm off-balance and need to make a change. I should always know where I end and my child begins, otherwise that's enmeshment and isn't good for anyone.
So at the end of the day, am I still afraid of having a baby? Of course.
But my fears have boiled down to only three:
Fear that my baby won't be healthy.
I know mental health stuff for our future children is probably 100% unavoidable and I'm okay with that. I feel ready to handle that because it's all I've known in my life. E and I have heavy mental health and substance abuse issues in our personal and family histories. The chances that we will birth a perfectly well-adjusted kid (do they even exist?!) are slim to none. I know the odds are high that our child may abuse substances in their lifetime. We both did. I know if the child is a girl, she will 99% have some sort of mental health ailment to cope with – every woman on both sides of our families have had something going on in the that department. So I can't list mental health issues as part of this fear because I know it's probably just our reality. If and when the time comes, we will figure out how to parent and help.
However, physical or cognitive health issues are another story. Which logically I know that I have little to no control over. Of course during pregnancy I'll do all the things you're supposed to do like take childbirth preparation classes and take care of myself. But I have friends who did those things and ran every test under the sun, and still had some complications when the baby arrived. That's life. You prepare and lay the ground work as best you can and the rest is up to the Universe. And even with this knowledge and clarity, I am still afraid sometimes.
I'll repeat the mistakes of past generations
No one has a perfect family. I get that. Some are more messed up than others. And if you've been a reader for a while, you know that I don't have a relationship with my parents. I've written the full story about my parental figure before (read here: A Fatherless Father's Day) and have only referenced the strained relationship I've experienced with my mother. In short though, we haven't had much of a relationship my “adult” life.
I don't want to repeat her mistakes. I know that's something almost every person walking this earth probably says. But I've watched her struggles with her own mother – and I know the old adages, “mothers and daughters blah blah,” but I don't accept that. I don't accept that this is just the way life is. That the mother-daughter relationship is destined to constant rejection, hatred, and toxicity. I refuse to accept that as the sole possibility for the mother daughter relationship.
I won't be good enough
I have countless shortcomings which I write about all the time. I know that's human, but my most “human” self has a short temper, can be selfish, and can fall into depressions where I struggle to take care of myself. I have a history of mental illness and if I escape postpartum depression with my history, I'll honestly be surprised. The idea of taking care of another person when I still struggle to care of myself at times scares me.
Logically, I know that I always get my needs met and would be able to do that for another, but when I let my mind drift, I think back to my lowest moments and ask, “how can that person take care of another?” Extreme? Yes. Logical? No. But it's my reality sometimes. I know perfection isn't a real thing, nor would I ever want to be it, because how isolating would that be?!? I know that movies like “Bad Mom” exist because we are all just people, doing the best that we can. But I have a tendency to over analyze and be so overly critical with myself that it paralyzes me. I take on any negative message people say about me as a definition of my self and I'm working on letting that go.
Why I'm Choosing To Walk Through These Fears
Parenting isn't meant to be easy. That's why there are countless support groups from car seat and sleep safety to positive parenting and everything in between. But we are choosing this path because we are excited for the challenge. Throughout our entire relationship, the thing we both are usually most grateful for, is that we push each other to grow and become our best selves. We look at parenting as another step in the self actualization journey.
A long time ago I had an epiphany – children innately love and need their parents (or whomever fills that parental role in their life) unconditionally for who they are, the good and the bad. It's survivalism. However it's not innate for parents, to unconditionally love their children for who they are because they don't need the child to survive.
In my experience, many parents who choose to stick around view their children as an extension of themselves. And many unhealthy parents turn to their children as a source of unconditional love, support and adoration as a result. When a child removes those things – does the parent still give love unconditionally? Probably not in many cases.
Parents can be selfish in wanting a child to meet their emotional needs and heal their wounds – but that's not the child's job. The child's job is to figure out who they are, learn independence, and learn how to cope with themselves, the world, and others in order to become their own person with their own mission in life. In the process of self actualization and individuating, it's inevitable for children to create distance and test their parents as they explore who they are. It's a parents job to not be hurt by that withdrawal, but instead to create a safe space of unconditional love or support.
Realizing all of that made my entire view of bringing children into this world shift. I no longer wanted to have a kid at 25 because I wanted a mini-me I could dress up and be silly with. Instead, I wanted to have a child so I could meet this person that is supposed to be in my life for some reason. A person who I will have the opportunity to watch grow and blossom and unfold into their own unique person. My fears began to disappear because I realized it's not about me. It's my job to set boundaries, to protect, and provide unconditional love so they feel their absolute safest and securest to find themselves and give back to society.
… but then again I don't have kids yet so I have no idea what I'm talking about and this all may change some day haha! #TheConfusedMillennial