Actually, let me start with:
What do you tell people who are considering having children — well, quite frankly, they’ve already decided they’re going to do it, but they just want you to bolster their nerves. But what do you say when they ask you, “Would you do it all again… honestly?”
Do you have a moment where you wonder, Should I tell them? Should I tell them how hard it is? Because really, what good does that do? Like the blogger says, they’re going to do it anyway; why take away this moment of happy anticipation? Maybe I should just smile and say, Sure. I’d do it again in an instant.
Not me, kids. I can’t lie to them. I smile wanly and say, “You know, I’m just not sure.”
Which invokes the recoil of horror. Which prompts me to self-correct: “Don’t get me wrong. I love my kid. I really, really love him, and I can’t imagine not having him in my life. It’s just that if I were right back at that moment, before he was a real flesh-and-blood human being, back when s/he was just an abstraction, and you told me — really told me — about what this was going to do to me…. Well, I just don’t know.”
When I was 11 years old and approaching my twelfth birthday, my mom asked me what I would like as a present. I asked her if I could get a hysterectomy. Also, I said, I would like steak, a baked potato, and asparagus for a birthday dinner.
But back to the hysterectomy.
I don’t quite recall exactly what was going through my mind when I asked for this gift, but I’m pretty sure it was some combination of knowing (or thinking I knew) that I didn’t want children and having endured a junior-high health class where we talked through the realities of menstruation. Good lord, I remember thinking, I’m not going through all that if I don’t even need the equipment.
Yeah, I was a weird child.
To her credit, my mother responded with her usual respectful sagacity that this was a serious decision, and we should think it over for a while. If I was still interested on my 13th birthday, we could discuss it again.
Yeah, I love my mom.
It never came up again, except as a funny story. By the time I was in my twenties, I was sure I wanted at least one child, possibly two. I went into pregnancy with near-total confidence that this was the right thing to do.
Without belaboring the details here — that’s a story for another day — suffice it to say that childbirth and the first four years of my son’s life were hard. I went from being a physically and mentally healthy person to being clinically depressed and 60 pounds overweight. Things have slowly gotten better, especially with the depression, but I feel permanently altered.
Again, granted, this permanent alteration has also brought with it a truly lovely, loving child whom I adore with every fiber of my being. OK, sometimes I want to strangle him, but sometimes I want to strangle everybody, and that’s people I don’t even have to see that often. So really, he’s fine.
But still, I find myself thinking often these days about that 12-year-old wish of mine. Maybe it wasn’t so crazy. Maybe I wasn’t cut out for this. But I’m in it now and there’s nothing for it but to muddle ahead through this strange mixed-up soup of anger and unconditional love.