The picture above is from baby man’s first swim. Be still my heart. Gah! Those sunglasses… Okay. The topic today is love, kids- more specifically, what it is to love one’s child (as promised in my last post).
For most of my life I’ve wanted to have children. However, there were definitely some anti-kid, angst ridden threats I made as a teenager.
So, when I was a teenager, in classic teenager style, I didn’t get along with my mom. I was a sad kid, a goth because I’d been called a goody goody in middle school. A person who chose to identify herself in negatives. In what I was not. Probably it shouldn’t have been a big surprise that my mom and I butted heads.
“You’ll understand when you have kids,” my mom said. It’s likely this was said with a heavy sigh, a pained expression on her face. It’s likely she called it out to me as I made my way out the front door. I was always leaving.
I probably laughed in response. Then something like: “no, because I’m never having kids.” A slammed door my emphasis.
At the time I felt unfit. Well, I suppose I still do sometimes, but it’s nothing like that great yawning maw of self hatred. Its constancy. The overwhelming depression that could open secret sewers within me; dark places to fall and fall and never quite land. The suicudal thinking. I was shit- why would I bring innocent babies into the mess that was me.
In my twenties I still felt a mess, but I also began experiencing a deep desire to procreate. It was intense, physical- I’d see a baby and my stomach would ache with longing. To say my friends at the time, well, and my ex husband, were not into kids would be a laughable understatement. We had such derision for babies, for settling down (at least in public, at least for each other, in my heart I pined and pined and became irresponsible with my birth control [luckily this never resulted in pregnancy. I have to be trying in order to get pregnant, apparently]).
And I saw those feelings reflected back in popular culture, in articles on mothers’ regret (see here, here, and here). I also taught an essay in English Composition by Daniel Gilbert that gets at the same idea. It’s a chapter (“Reporting Live from Tomorrow”) from his book Stumbling on Happiness that talks about how parents are the unhappiest people in the land. It’s great though, you can read it here.
These things led me to believe that my desire for children was a biological/evolutionary hangover kind of thing. That if I ever did have kids, I’d surely regret it. I’d feel stupid and duped.
So, in my thirties, when that baby pining got ever stronger, ever more intense, I thought: Fuck it. Perhaps I’ll deeply regret this, but I can’t not try.
Happily, Westley was on board. This was no small thing as the man had envisioned his life sans kids. To do that kind of 180 requires guts, tenacity, spontaneity. And maybe most importantly, trust: in each other, in our relationship, in love.
But! The point of this post? It’s this: that thing about a baby being your heart living and breathing and walking around outside your body? Accurate. That shit about how having a baby is more work than you can even imagine? Accurate. There are moments when just looking at baby man brings me to tears. Because I love him so fucking much. Because that love is absolutely beyond language. There are moments when my back throbs from holding him, my neck strained and aching, when trying to do even one more thing, say, the dishes, makes me want to just give up. Lie down. Cry. Sleep for days. But then his face, his face, his sweet little smile. His eyes that make me love drunk.
Do I regret this?
You probably already know my answer, but I’m going to risk redundancy and tell you anyway. No. Hell to the fuck to the no I do not regret it. I the-opposite-of-regret it. I cannot imagine my life without this tiny human. I’m not saying that he is what makes my life meaningful or worthwhile, I think I was doing okay pre-baby man, but at the same time the love I feel for him in some very real ways defines who I am. That love is in everything I do and everything I am. It’s something people can tell you about, but doesn’t make sense until you’re in it- neck deep, nose a little beak gasping for breath- I’m drowning in this kid in the best way.
Drowning sounds negative, but I don’t mean it that way. Drowning in love love love love. Everything entwined in this creature.
Someone said to me something like “don’t you regret those years without a baby? Haven’t you finally become who you were meant to be? Wasn’t life before baby totally unfulfilling in comparison?” This person had the opposite thinking of the articles I’ve read, ha. Damned if you do, damned if you don’t, eh?
(Am I flying too close to the sun by admitting I love my son more than life and I am not only his mother? Can we be feminist parents? I think so, but maybe we can explore that more fully another day.)
But anyway, no. As much as I love this child (hint: he is my solar system), I don’t regret the years I had to grow up. The shows I played with my bands. The mistakes I made. I’m a mother, but that isn’t all I am. And I’m a much better mother for the time I spent figuring out that I am not a piece of shit.
I’m actually much more complicated than that.