Tuesday, 9 July 2013

Do I want it bad enough?

Today is the second last day of our visit with my family.  It's been a wonderful vacation, minus M coming down with a sinus infection that's knocked him for a loop for the past day or two.  We've had beautiful sunny weather (quite the rarity for a province that's normally the rain, drizzle and fog capital of Canada) and I've spent a ton of quality time with my niece.  Leaving her tomorrow will be hard, but there's also a part of me that will be happy to get back to our house, our quiet routine and our bird/dog menagerie.

In spending so much time with my niece, one of the things that I've actually ended up reflecting on a lot since I've been here has been my desire to be a mother.  I'll start by saying right off the bat that nothing's changed, not really, and M and I will still be doing our next IVF in a month or so.  But I've started to wonder a little bit if I really want it as bad as I should, or at least as much as everyone else seems to.  

The thing is, I didn't always want to have a child.  Admitting this seems a little bit blasphemous in an online community committed to pursuing parenthood.  It feels like for a lot of infertility bloggers, becoming a mom is a dream they've had since childhood and fulfilling this goal is something they have a deep, visceral need to do.  It's never really been that way for me.   In fact, into my late twenties I was pretty adamant that I didn't want to have kids at all, and my online dating profile when I was 28 reflected that.  Looking back on it, I can't really decide if it was a factor of not having met the right guy yet, or not wanting to give up my time, my freedom, my money and my figure (yeah, I'm shallow, but it's hard work for me to stay on the slim side). What I do know is that I would never have been someone who felt strongly enough about motherhood to go through IVF with donor sperm to have a baby on her own.  I fully respect those who do, as it's got to be the farthest thing from easy, but it wasn't for me. 

Two things changed for me in pretty short order when I was 33 years old.  I started dating the man who would become my husband, and my niece was born.  For the first time in my life, I was in a position to be around a newborn and feel the incredible power that such a little being possesses.  A power that makes you want to do everything you can to protect it and keep it happy and watch it grow to experience life.  And, at the same time, I was finally with someone who I could envision as a full partner in creating and caring for that little being.  M and I started talking about marriage, and then kids.  It was something he wanted, and I realized that it had somehow become something that I kinda, sorta wanted too.  I mean, I was still incredibly terrified of the demands that a baby places on your life, your relationship, your body and your finances.  I was under absolutely no illusions that having a child would be easy or even enjoyable for large parts of it.  But I was part of a team now, and as a team I felt like we could do it.

I still feel that way.  I know that if we can ever manage to have a baby, we'll be good parents and we'll rise to meet the challenges that come with building a family.  But I have to be brutally honest here, and say that I wonder if we're really prepared for the changes we would have to make if we're successful in having a child.  Being around my niece has been a bit of an eye-opener for me.  While I've loved spending time with her, quite frankly, she's tiring.  I'm a novelty to her, so she's been pretty focused on spending time with me since we got home.  That's meant endless running and story-telling and colouring and bubble-blowing.  I've helped her get dressed.  I've helped her go potty.  I've held her when she's had a toddler meltdown.  And at the end of five or six hours with her, I'm done.  It's honestly a bit of a relief when 7pm hits and my sister tells her it's time to go home or go to bed, and I get to hug and kiss her and sit back and relax.  But for my sister, there's still work to be done.  Because she's the mom. 

What all of this has driven home for me is that there's a huge difference between understanding on a conceptual level that having a child changes your life, and actually living it.  Right now, M and I know conceptually that if we succeed in having a baby, our down time will be severely limited if not eliminated completely.  But what happens when our leisurely weekend mornings of coffee and internet-surfing actually disappear?  Our ability to just plop down on the couch and turn off our brains for a few hours in front of the TV will give way to listening to baby monitors, washing dirty bottles and folding onesies.  We'll be tired and irritable.  We're not even close enough to either set of grandparents to have someone pop over to relieve us if we need a break.  We'll be out on that tightrope without a net, and nowhere to sit if we get tired halfway across.  We'll just have to keep going, no matter how much we might want to stop.

Sometimes it feels like I'm the only one terrified of this prospect.  When I mention it, M casually shrugs his shoulders and says that we'll deal with it when/if it happens, and that it's part of parenthood.  But seriously.  We've only been here for a week, and this is how I feel.  Is it possible that I'm simply too selfish and lazy to be a mom?  That I don't want it bad enough?  What if I'm only supposed to be an aunt?  If we lived here permanently (not an option), would I get enough of a taste of kids by being around my niece that I wouldn't want one of my own anymore?  What if we do end up managing to have one of our own, and I end up resenting the loss of my previous life, or worse yet, resenting our child?  Everyone else always seems so sure!  Are these the kinds of things other people worry about when they talk about having doubts about having kids?  Do the people who have always wanted kids think about this stuff?  Or does having these doubts mean that my instincts as a twenty-something were right, and that I shouldn't be trying to have children at all?

24 comments:

  1. Ah yes, the debate about whether an infertile really wants it bad enough. A debate that I wish everyone had with themselves before they expanded their families.

    I'm glad to see this post because what you're going to find is that you're not alone in these feelings. Though children were always something I considered, it wasn't something I gave serious thought to until we were in the thick o this journey. Honestly, I think a lot of people are the same way.

    What I'm learning is that you don't have to have all of this figured out before you embark on this journey, but there is a huge benefit to seriously reflecting on why you are doing this as it will help you make decisions as you continue down this road.

    For what it's worth, I think you do want this as much as anyone else out there. Don't ever let anyone tell you otherwise.

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  2. I didn't want kids for most of my life...until I met my husband. I think that it was a combo of not dating the right person AND knowing that I was too selfish for a kid.

    I know that our life is going to change by the end of the year and it's going to be drastic. We are going to be exhausted and cranky. But there are also going to be great moments- the first smile, the first time walking, the first word, etc. Trying to figure out what part of the kid takes after you and what part takes after your husband. People continue to get pregnant and have kids even though it is seriously tough. There's gotta be an upside somewhere. :-)

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  3. I know as a person suffering from secondary infertility, I wasn't ready for my daughter when I had her at 21. Now I would give almost anything to have that opportunity again. We all go through different stages in lives and priorities change.

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  4. I always knew I wanted to kids... but now that I'm dealing with infertility, sometimes my mind wanders to the other side of the fence and I think about all we could do without a child. Maybe it's a coping mechanism for what we're going through? Maybe it's because other peoples' kids aren't what kids of your own would be like? Whatever it is, I do think it's normal! xoxo

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  5. I wanted kids my whole life. I was the kind of person who gravitated towards babies at parties, or sat down with the toddlers and played in the grass with them. Currently, we are expecting our first child and I am scared shitless. I mean what about the times when I don't feel like being climbed on, or having my hair pulled, or worrying about feeding someone else instead of having my own dinner when it is hot. So yes, everyone has those kinds of doubts. Even when you are certain it was the perfect and right thing for you. My husband is terrified, and tells me so daily. But it doesn't actually make us any less thrilled when we saw our little one bouncing around last week. You will love your child in a way you can't even imagine loving your niece, and that will make up for the hard times.

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  6. I'm with Aubrey. I always wanted a few kids, but I am reaching the point now where I am realizing that my life can be fulfilling and happy without kids. It would be a different life than I envisioned, but I am sure that I could make it a full life.

    I've been thinking of putting off further IUI treatments so I can go to Machu Picchu. (Hubby says if I get pregnant I cant go.) At times like this, it makes me realize that when kids arrive there will be no more last minute "hmmm I might go check out Machy Picchu and hike down to Bolivia in a few months" Life is what you make it. xoxo

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  7. It's not just you. I started to think I would be OK with kids by about age 20. Before that I went through a phase of thinking babies and especially pregnancy was repulsive. I think it had to do with the fact that growing up can be hard, and I would think (as I'm sure a lot of people do) "If I can barely manage to become an adult, why would I put another person through that?!) I also had huge doubts about my ability to nurture someone or even something to that degree. I would have nightmares where I was supposed to care for an animal and it would always die. But then as I got some confidence and a wider perspective I thought, yeah, kids would be OK. Just OK, not something I would kill for LOL. I also barely made enough money to put me above the poverty line before age 27, so having a baby would have been stupid. So much for the "most fertile years." Pah!

    By the time I started dating my husband, however, I knew I wanted kids. A lot of things changed my perspective including realizing how important family life was to me: family wasn't just something I wanted to outgrow, it was something I wanted to continue. Still, while I enjoy little kids (and big kids) and bond with them quite well, I've never been the woman who snatches at every baby in sight. I don't think that's necessary in order to be a good parent. Being a parent is a role that changes as the child grows. There's room for all kinds of personalities (barring abuse or neglect).

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  8. It's not just you. I could have written this post.word.for.word

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  9. I think that it is totally normal to feel this way. This post verbalises how a lot of us feel. I find it really overwhelming at times around children as well.

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  10. As someone who has always wanted to be a mother, I can tell you I have these thoughts too sometimes. I work with kids, and at the end of the day, I am so happy to come home to my nice, quiet house. But I also know it's different when it's your own kids. Somehow, that makes the noise and the chaos and the exhaustion all worth it. (Still not sure exactly how that math works, but every fertile on the planet will tell you it's true.)

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  11. "...does having these doubts mean that my instincts as a twenty-something were right, and that I shouldn't be trying to have children at all?"

    No.

    Having those doubts means that you are a responsible, thoughtful person who knows that parenting is about more than fulfilling your own (or worse, someone else's) expectations. It means that you are already thinking about the well-being of the child you haven't conceived yet. Having those doubts means that you will be an amazing mother!

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  12. I'm one who has always wanted to be a mother. But your feelings are completely normal and I'd say most people feel that way at times. My husband wants a child just as badly as I do, but I know he worries about how it will change our lives. My sister is one who wasn't ever sure she wanted kids, and even while pregnant at 35, worried about resenting her child because of how her life would change. But now, seeing her with my niece, I know she feels she made the right decision. You'll be a great mother.

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  13. You're not alone in feeling this way. I didn't always want to be a mother. It didn't hit me until I was about 29. And I had the same doubts about motherhood as you. I don't think feeling this way makes you unworthy or means you don't want it enough. It means that you're intelligent enough to consider all possible outcomes and make an informed, well-thought-out decision.

    Speaking from my own experience (which is rather limited at this point), I have no regrets about having a baby, despite the complete exhaustion, lack of free time, and postpartum depression. For me, it's all worth it. He's worth it. I can't say for certain that you'll feel the same way, but I'd wager that you will. :)

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  14. It's so different when it's YOUR kid. At least, I have to assume it is. Just like I get annoyed all the time by my nieces and nephews and even more so by non-related children, but I still know in my heart of hearts that I need to be a mother.

    Maybe it's a bad comparison, but I never wanted or liked dogs. Eric insisted, I relented, and now I am head over heels crazy in love with my two boys. I still don't like other people's dogs; they piss me off (though I'm a hell of a lot more tolerant than I used to be). I think my dogs are the cutest and greatest dogs to ever walk the Earth and no other dog could possibly compare. Sounds a lot like parents, right?

    Just because you didn't want it until later doesn't mean you want it less. I think we (infertiles in general) are so quick to get angry when parents complain about the challenges of child-rearing, but it's silly to think it will be sunshine and roses all the time. Things will suck. Things will change. But in the end I truly believe it's worth it and the good things far outweigh the bad.

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  15. I always wanted kids, maybe more because of societal reasons--kind of like why I went to college. I didn't really think about why I wanted to go, just that I always knew I would go. That said, I really do want them. And I really have to believe that when they're your own it's different. Because I feel the same way around other people's kids.

    I wold guess that most women fall into my pre-IVF category of wanting children--wanting them because you're supposed to. Then, they get pregnant relatively easily and that's it; end of debate. We infertiles have months and years to think about the ins and outs of having children and we have to weigh the pain and expense it takes to bring a child into the world with the abstract idea of how rewarding having a child is.

    However, and this is only tangentially related to your post, I'm not sure that I want my own bio kids enough to go through all that we're going through. Chances are slim that our kids will have my or my husband's genes, but yet fighting for just that. And each time something goes wrong, despite knowing our odds are long, it still affects me, him, us. And I'm not sure I want to keep going through it. Having a child seems worth it; having one biologically related to me is starting to seem less so.

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  16. I think this may be a self-protection mechanism. I always wanted kids, and yet, at some point -- during a ttc break because it was all getting too much for me -- I seriously considered living child-free. Because I didn't want to go back to the misery of trying and failing. Or, perhaps, in your words, I didn't think I'd want it enough [to go through this]. And yet, at the same time, I think I also learned to accept that we'd be okay without kids, even if that wouldn't be what we initially wanted.

    Hang in there. You'll be a good mom someday.

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  17. You are not alone. I always figured I would have kids one day, but it wasn't something I dreamt about. I was happy to wait until I found the right person and was ready for it. I am terrified of the changes about to happen to my life. I really enjoy my downtime and that is going away. I very often think I may be too selfish for this. I love being able to do things spur of the moment. It made me feel better when we had a friend tell us it's different when it's your own kid. He and his wife would babysit their friend's toddler and were wiped out and couldn't wait to give the kid back. Now they have their own and while it's still exhausting, they say it's just different and you can deal with it all better.
    I think all that matters is that it's something you want now. It doesn't matter how much or for how long. It's not a competition.

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  18. I was directed to this post by Conceptionally Challenged and I'm so glad she suggested it. I just wrote a similar post about judging myself for considering life without children. You are not alone in your doubts and worries - I'm right there with you. Thank you so much for putting a lot of my fears into words and helping me not feel like such a freak for having them!

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  19. Hello - just found your blog! I have felt similar to you from time to time and sometimes worried that my quest for motherhood is one for 'fitting in' with my peers. I know I would loved to be a mother - but expect there will be plenty of moments where I miss my old life.

    I love my nieces and nephews but don't worry that they tire me as:

    1) you're right, she probably was extra wound up because she sees you less often
    2) I assume I will have a stronger attachment to my own offspring (biological or adopted)

    Kate

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  20. If you didn't have doubts, then you don't know what you are getting into. It is big and life changing. I think doubts are signs of a good to-be-parent. I had doubts that I wanted to ever get married until I met my husband. And I had doubts that I wanted a baby until I held mine in my arms. She is definitely tiring but it is oh-so-different when it is your own. I just got back from a family trip too and spent time running around with my neices. I love them dearly too but it is not the same. I think what surprised me the most about my DD is how interesting I find everything that she does. think about all the times you are trapped by a parent telling you the most boring story. But, in my experience, as the parent, that story is so interesting. (I also (mostly) understand that no one else agrees and try to keep them to myself. But, it is this big difference when it is your child. Most of my freinds (who went on to become parents) were quasi-reluctant parents and now they are all the crazy obsessed types.

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  21. Soo... I will also feel like a dick for saying this, but I'm not really a "kid person" at all. My best friend has the cutest nieces and nephews, aged 2, 4 and 6, and they are seriously as lovely/hilarious/adorable as it gets. But after hanging out with them for a few hours, I am so done. Not just physically exhausted but mentally "over it", as it were. Bored with playing "I spy", annoyed at their repetitive line of questioning, etc. It sounds HORRIBLE, I realize, but my mom said she kinda felt the same way -- but when it comes to your own child, it's totally, completely different. Another friend of mine once said, "There are people who want to breed, and people who want to parent," and we are definitely in the "breeding" camp. It's a pretty darn selfish place to be, I guess, but also pretty normal in a way.

    Long story short, your niece is clearly amazing and you are an amazing aunt... but I still think you should keep pushing for your own, just a teensie bit longer!

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  22. I also could have written your post word for word. Before I met my husband I was determined to only ever be an auntie. 6 months after my wedding I developed an insane deep instinctual need to have a baby but somewhere between my first and second IVF that feeling died. Conception was supposed to be the "funnest part" of parenthood (so my friends told me). I was clearly not having fun and when I thought about parenthood I no longer thought about all the fun stuff but about all the drudgery and sleepless nights. I began to fear pregnancy and when our cycle failed I felt guilty that I had caused it to fail. Honestly the fact that the baby hunger hasn't returned has made the decision to go childfree easier and when I have second thoughts, spending the day with my nephews gets rid of them quickly. I think doubts are normal and that they will help you be happy with whatever path you end up on

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  23. Great post. I have the exact same fears about being a parent and I'm someone who has always, ALWAYS wanted children. I wonder that being childless for so long has gotten us into a rut of selfishness that can't be overcome, and sometimes other people's kids are annoying as hell. I'm new to your blog, but for what it's worth, it sounds like you want it very badly and are being a responsible adult by asking yourself these questions.

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  24. A few weeks ago, Hubby and I spent a few days with my niece and two nephews. Then we turned around and spent a few days with his two nieces. When we left, we were about 5 minutes down the road when my husband said he was now terrified of being pregnant, especially because we have twins! But being an Auntie and Uncle is a lot different than when they are your own kids. Because you are a novelty to them, they are always wanting to be entertained, always busy climbing on you, jumping around you, and it's never ending. At least they SAY its a lot different, and I would tend to agree. Not that it will be easy by any means. You are so very normal in having these doubts. I've had them. I still have them. Yet I still hope we get to take these babies home when it's alll said and done. I hope you get that opportunity as well.

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I'm needy and your comments validate me. Help a sister out!