After a long silence here, I have something to announce:
Yes! It is a big announcement, bigger than the other recent news that I spent a month this summer traveling in England, Scotland, and Newfoundland (Canada). Do you need a moment to process? So did we. I’d had my suspicions for weeks, but I took the home test two days after my sister gave birth to my nephew, and almost instantly saw a very strong blue line. I showed it to Erik. I sent the photo to my sisters. And then I sat on the bed next to Erik and said, “I feel weird. How do you feel?” Long pause, then he said, “I feel weird too.” We were prepared for it — indeed, we’d facilitated it, after years of strenuously ensuring the opposite — but it was still a strange feeling to see a totally changed future predicted in one little line on a plastic stick. Strange to feel so completely stunned by a decision we’d made ourselves.
We had thought long and hard about that decision, and I am deeply grateful that I live in a time and place when such a decision is within my power and purview. Those of you who’ve been reading this blog for awhile know that I’ve felt deep conflict about whether to have children. There are so many reasons not to. The practical: cost, time, the logistics of school and childcare and material upbringing, even the environmental impact. I was more concerned with the emotional and mental: the social/cultural/familial pressure to be some kind of mom raising some kind of child, the seeming impossibility of reconciling my trajectory as an individual with the necessities of parenting, different expectations for female versus male parents (and female versus male children), the potential burdens on Erik’s and my partnership, and perhaps most of all, my own terrible fear that I would lose myself and become some kind of mindlessly contented suburban soccer mom.
I’m not joking about that last one. I have long known that (too?) many of my personal and creative ambitions are neutralized by my other goals of living happily and harmoniously. It’s not that I would ever stop creating, but it’s such hard work to complete anything significant; set me down in a beautiful home in a beautiful place, surrounded by loving friends and family, and would I not be just as content making small sketches for my own enjoyment? I am afraid that I might be — or at least, that I would be content enough for long enough that my bigger projects would never get off the ground. What, then, of parenthood, which — so everyone says — makes one both busy and happy? What of the potent neurochemical rewiring that happens to women upon pregnancy and childbirth, so that they are compelled to tend to their children above all else? I couldn’t be convinced that having a baby wasn’t going to destroy everything I held dear about myself and my life. I did not want to invite that kind of change into my life willingly.
Except, of course, that I did.
What changed? As with so many other big shifts in perspective, it was a gradual accumulation of many small shifts, coming together in the right ways at the right time. I realized, to my surprise, that in spite of my terrific fear of losing myself in the process, a big part of me actually wanted to have a baby — for no useful reason that I could articulate. It wasn’t a desire that had anything to do with my conscious mind. I probably wouldn’t even have had this realization had it not been for a very particular massage last year on my birthday; there are truths that arise from a good massage (or other bodywork, I suspect) that can’t always be accessed otherwise. And in acknowledging the part of me that wanted a baby, I opened up a lot of lines of thinking that I hadn’t entertained before. That was a vital first step.
Then, too, my sister got pregnant, and a dear friend got pregnant, and a childhood friend had a baby. I began tutoring an eleven-year-old, which meant afternoons spent at an elementary school. In short, within a matter of months there were suddenly more baby things and pregnancy talk in my life than ever before, and a lot more kids and relating to kids and trying to remember what it was like to be a kid. All of that had basically been missing from my entire post-college life, and although it was initially unnerving, after awhile it started to feel normal. It started to feel like a thing that people did, and not some dreadful upheaval. And my fifth-grade tutee — a truly special person — reminded me how amazing it can be to have a relationship with a child (or a preteen, really, in her case), to build trust and rapport, together. So all these interactions opened up yet new ways of contemplating the possibility of children. There wasn’t a single moment of awakening, but a slow erosion of the resistance I’d felt, until my curiosity and interest became strong enough to outpace it.
It’s worth mentioning, too, that just before I became pregnant — which itself was not long after I decided I could welcome it — I began a women’s self-defense course. I’ll say more on that in a later post, but this much is immediately relevant: before I took the course, I had thought self-defense was about fighting, and specifically about fighting bad things that other people do to you. But our instructors taught us that more than anything else, self-defense is about communication and empowerment, about knowing what I want for myself even in the face of things that might happen to me. It’s not a stretch to say this mindset has impacted everything I’ve done since the course began, and that it’s been particularly meaningful as I ponder what kind of parent I want to be. Although I didn’t realize it, I had always thought of having a child as something that was going to happen to me, rather than something I chose. In a literal sense yes, of course, I knew I would have some say in whether it happened, but I saw it as this unstoppable wave of change and unfamiliarity that could sweep away everything I valued — no matter my own feelings on the matter. I doubted my own capacity to make decisions, to stand up to others’ expectations, and to create, if necessary, an entirely unique approach.* But in self-defense class, our instructors told us, week after week, that we always have options, that we always have resources available to us, that we always have the power to act and use our voice, and that we always deserve to. Every time I heard it I felt more capable and more trusting of myself. And it was in that mental state, as it turns out, that I conceived and began to carry a new being.
After so many years of freaking out at the possibility of having a baby, to my surprise I now find myself feeling quite calm about it. But after all, I have done many things in my life already, no? This will be just another adventure. The biggest one yet, granted, but if I came out of all the other things okay, I think I can handle this one too. Probably some of it will be horrible. Probably a lot of it will be fun. But it will be something I have never ever done before, and for that alone, I’m kind of looking forward to it! This is what life is for, isn’t it — facing challenges and seeing how we do?
*This is, in fact, a pattern that has recurred at every major turning point in my life, and the fact that I’ve faced challenges before somehow never seems to register when the new challenges are, well, new!
I am happy that you are happy with your choice. And it is your choice to make the life with your kid as you want. Or at least… as much as the kid will let you. But you’ll be there guiding her/him/it so at least you maybe get sort of a say. 🙂
❤ So happy to be going through this change and growth in our lives together.
I’m so glad we’re doing this together too. ❤ ❤ ❤ It definitely helps to make it feel more normal and doable. And of course Teddy is the cutest, cutest, cutest. 🙂 🙂 🙂
So happy for you two! I love the way you’ve written about the process of resisting and then deciding. I’ve thought those things myself. And clearly, you’ve come to a time when you want this! What a lucky child. ❤
Thanks so much, Bonnie!! For a long time I was really kind of worried that I would never get to this point before my body’s reproductive capabilities mutinied on me. I’m glad it happened when it did, though maybe I have my sister to thank for prodding me along. 🙂
So happy for you! Congratulations!
Thank you thank you, Jessie!! ❤
Beautifully said, Lisa. You have an uncanny ability to describe your thinking/feelings. Having been a reader for a number of years, I was able to intuit your ambivalence about bringing a child into this world. So interesting to follow your journey to this new perspective. (That must have been some amazing massage! 🙂 )
Thank you, dear Sherry! It was an amazing massage, but also I think it’s because it was the first time I’d had my belly massaged (you have to ask, because it’s such a vulnerable area most therapists will not do it uninvited) and before she touched it, she asked whether I’d ever conceived and whether I wanted to. I said, and thought, my answer was no, but I think as she massaged my belly my body told me otherwise. And I realized it afterward, and felt this deep sense of grief that I then had to sit with for awhile and pick apart.
Many of us had the same thoughts. I worried about so many of the same things. We chose to have only one because of world population, and the fact that we felt we could do more economically and emotionally for one. I also did not want to lose self identity and creativity and with one, I was devoting a set time period to having to put self aside, rather than continuing to do so with each new child that came along. You will find times for creativity during those early years, but it may be harder. And you will have to put ‘self’ aside in many ways. Remember that all you have done and all that you are blends to create a world of impressions for this new being. Your child will grow and draw from all you and Erik have done. Unless of course you have a child like mine who insisted up until age five, that he came from Saturn and chose us to be his parents…you’re going to have so much fun. I envy you those beginnings. Write it all down. From now, the very beginning. Journal for the child to come. You may think you’ll remember all the little details, but trust me, you won’t.
Oh, Lisa, it’s so interesting to hear your thoughts too! (And hah, on Saturn!) I am indeed writing things down, and have been doing so since I first found out — I’m preparing some upcoming blog posts at this moment. 🙂 It’s actually the only creative activity I’ve wanted to do since I got pregnant (unless you count pregnancy itself, which of course, we probably should) but I am so glad I’ve written about it, because in looking over my entries from July I realize how much had already faded.
Congratulations, Lisa! They turn your world upside down…again and again. They will draw out your creativity in ways that will leave you reeling… how I loved those days, even the exhausting, maddening ones! I wish you billions of breathless blissful blessings in this Grand Adventure that you & Erik are beginning!
Thanks so much, Valerie. 🙂 I’m already feeling the breathlessness part of those blessings… 😉
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Congratulations Lisa! And you have had a fantastic journey about learning about yourself and the world before taking on this new role in your life.
Thank you, Carla! It’s true — I feel very fortunate to have had so much time to just figure out how I want to be in the world. I think I’d feel a lot more frantic if I hadn’t had that.
Congratulations! I will stop here by saying: motherhood is mostly a magnificent experience! It will transform you and teach you things about yourself that you can only learn from that singular experience. Onward!
Thank you, dear Empress! I’m sure a lot of it will be unpleasant (I am talking to my sleep-deprived sister at the moment, haha) but I am definitely looking forward to that singularity of experience, as you put it so well.
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Big decision, big step into the unknown. I wish Erik and you all the best in this next stage of your lives together as you prepare to welcome your little one 🙂
Thank you so much, Angelina! 🙂 Huge step into the unknown — like a step off a cliff, really, but I try to remind myself that all the insights and skills I’ve developed up to this point in my life will probably continue to be helpful. 🙂
I’m sure they will and you will do just fine 🙂 Gambate!
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