I’m having a baby, and I’m not excited about it.
I first realized that I wasn’t excited about it when I watched my father-in-law’s reactions, because he is excited about it. He is smile-all-over-his-face, dance-around-the-kitchen, shout-it-from-the-rooftops excited about it.
He’s a fun person to tell things to.
I examined my response, and called it pleased.
I was pleased that I’m pregnant.
To quote Jane Austen: “(she) rather KNEW that she was happy than FELT herself to be so.”
I did have some moments where I actually felt happiness.
When I first found out, for about thirty seconds, before the fear kicked in. I lost a baby last year, and it hurt. What if this one slipped away from me too?
After my first ultrasound, because unlike last time, when I went in to make sure that every trace of my baby had left my body, this time there was something there. A very tiny something, but a something with a tiny, incredibly fast heartbeat. A something that, according to the nice lady, looked perfect, and also like a worm.
Whenever I got to hear the heartbeat, to which my response was always, “oh good, this child is alive.”
And random moments, mostly when I was driving, when I managed to believe for a little while that this was real and this child would live to see my face.
But most of the time I was rather numb. And a little bit sick. And a lot tired.
On the one hand, I thought being excited for nine months straight sounded exhausting anyway. High energy responses, especially over long periods of time, are not my strong suit. We’re not sure how much of that is emotional damage and how much is just me being me.
On the other hand, I have two friends who cried a little when I told them, and of that I was envious. That felt like the response that I wanted to have. I wanted to feel it. Quietly, deeply.
At least, some of the time I wanted that. The rest of the time I wanted to feel nothing, so that’s what I did. I did what I thought needed to be done right then, and I kept at it with my work, and I didn’t think about the future very much. I went to my first prenatal visit and had no thoughts or questions to ask.
I didn’t study pregnancy or childbirth, and I didn’t make any plans for this child’s existence. This was one of the things that made me realize all was not quite well with my soul, because normally research and planning are two things that I do more easily, consistently, and with far greater enjoyment than I eat food.
That was the first trimester.
The second trimester hit different.
I’m still not really excited.
But I’ve got feelings for sure.
I’m having a daughter, and when I found that out, I was furious.
Disappointed. Choke-on-the-tears, throw-that-piece-of-information-on-the-floor disappointed.
Oops. Apparently one doesn’t say such things.
For as long as I can remember, I wanted my firstborn to be a boy. Actually, on closer examination, I wouldn’t have been upset if my any and every-born was a boy. But it wasn’t until I was handed a firm “No” on that that I bothered to examine why.
Why was I so disappointed? Why did I even specifically want a boy?
I could blame it on growing up in two cultures that tend to value the feminine less. I don’t like the term ‘internalized misogyny’ but that day I realized it applied, at least a little.
My childhood was spent in a little world where women literally go second. Where family events are organized around what the men enjoy, and the women spend a lot of time making sure the food is served and cleaned up. Where women do not speak to a group of men. Where every woman is expected to have the same calling in life. To be clear, the men aren’t exactly living their best life either, but that should be obvious – there’s no way half of your culture can be living their best life while devaluing the other half.
In the larger world of America, though, where there’s a lot of shouting about sexism and gender equality, the general message still seems to be that a woman’s value is determined by how well she can play men’s games.
So, you know, there was that. And I’m sure it affected my belief systems and baby desires at least a little, but ultimately that wasn’t it. I don’t believe I or my daughter need to be a victim of any of the cultures we live in, and I personally never wished I was male.
No, it was mainly just about me and my issues. I had a particular fear of the feminine within me, because it didn’t feel safe. Emotions, intuition, being rather than doing, nurturing, connection and relationships? Ew. Get it away. Give me the logic, the data, the clear goals, the to-do lists being executed regardless of feelings, the independence.
(Someone always gets confused when I talk about this because their husband has feelings, and I just called feelings feminine. Suggestion: go Google masculine versus feminine energy, or if you don’t want to learn about that, just accept that a healthy human has access to both and move on.)
Realizing this, understanding how much I had been rejecting my feminine energy, explained many things to me, including the numbness – because that didn’t start with my pregnancy. And choosing, consciously, intentionally, to embrace my feminine energy was one of those decisions that are like opening a gate.
I spent that weekend reading a book on reclaiming childbirth as a rite of passage, and from there I dove into learning about this intensely primal, intensely feminine experience that I get to participate in. I became suddenly lonely, or maybe just suddenly aware of the loneliness I had hidden away from myself – and so I began intentionally spending time with people who make my life better. I found myself talking, extensively, to almost anyone who I didn’t mistrust who initiated conversation with me. I began to feel things, which is sometimes beautiful but usually uncomfortable and inconvenient. I started crying.
I’m still working on these things. Intentionally making space for them. Spending time doing unproductive things that take little brainpower, just so I have time to think and process and feel. Writing on my arm to remind myself to be present in this moment, instead of always planning my to-do list for what’s next. Doing my best to listen to the feelings that are starting to timidly raise their voices. Choosing to take the time to find a private place and invite the tears even if it feels like a selfish and illogical response to the situation.
It scares me to death. To do it, and even more to talk about it. I feel weak. Vulnerable. And when I talk about it I think people will hear that I’m being lazy, or letting my feelings control me. I want to squash all this back into a little box and make a list of things I need to get done and go back to being the woman who works with focus and analyzes the world from a distance. I feel like a child. I want to feel competent and calm.
But I also want my daughter to be strong and powerful, not like a man is strong and powerful, but like a woman. And I want that for myself. I want to be alive, all of me, as I was designed to be.
My daughter dances inside me, and she terrifies me, and I think she may be one of the best things that have ever happened to me.
I’m having a baby, and I don’t know why.
Here’s an interesting thing: if you tell people you’re going to have a baby, almost all of them will react like you just told them good news.
After this happened to me about ten times, my brain asked its most favorite question:
Why do we assume a new baby is a good thing?
See, I feel like someone is uncomfortable that I would even question that. But your feeling that I’m uttering blasphemy or wandering into dangerous waters by asking this question doesn’t actually answer it.
And I feel like it’s obvious by now, but I am deeply grateful for this child growing inside of me. Every time she moves is a gift, because she’s alive and we’re one minute closer to the day I get to touch her with my hands.
I participate in acting out this deeply-held belief that the existence of new life is a blessing. I’ve been delighted every time my sisters and friends have told me they’re pregnant.
But I don’t know why.
Someone new to love, some people say. As though they couldn’t possibly go out and find anyone new to love already in existence. As though everyone around you has been loved to the max.
Maybe it’s simply survival instinct. If we didn’t think babies and small children are wonderful creatures, we might stop making them (or start killing them) and eventually we would just die out.
Wanting a child is basically the greatest vote for life being worth it that you can make. Despite the ugliness, the suffering and evil that snakes through all of our lives, by choosing to birth a child you are literally saying, “It is still better to exist.” And there is a beauty in that kind of hope.
One way that I don’t participate, though, is that instead of just saying “Oh, that’s so exciting!” I always want to ask why. When I hear someone is going to have a baby, my reaction is to wonder why they’re doing that. Were they trying to become pregnant? What made them decide to do it now? How do they feel about it?
I honestly almost never ask that, though, because I think it might be invasive. But I do wonder.
Some people, I hear, have children because they want a legacy. I’m not entirely sure what that means. Maybe that they don’t want to disappear from existence. They’re trying to build something that will outlast their tiny lifespan. Or they feel like they have something worth passing on. Having that be your sole reason seems a little bit of a risky business to me, though, because what if your child grows up and simply does not want to pick up that thing which you want to pass on? What will you do then?
I think some people have children because they want to be loved. Those people are different from me in that while I do believe it’s my job to love this child unconditionally and for the rest of my life, I don’t think the reverse is true. I’m not convinced my daughter will love me – I think she will depend on me and need me deeply, especially early in life, but that isn’t the same thing at all to me. Later, she may choose to love me, and I would prefer it, but she doesn’t owe me that. She doesn’t owe me anything. I chose for her to exist, inasmuch as any human can choose that for another, but as far as I know she didn’t have any choice – so to me that means I start out with mountains of responsibility towards her, and she starts out with a clean slate.
But perhaps some people have some children not because they want to be loved, but because they want to be needed. They want to fill a large role in someone’s life, to be important. It’s a clever solution, because a child does need you and therefore thinks you’re the most important person in the world, other than themselves – at least for a few years. But I think these are the people who cannot let their children leave – because if I’m not your mother, who am I?
And then some people, I think, have children on autopilot. Because that’s what you do. You eat, you drink, you get married, and sooner or later you have a baby. Or two. Or four. Or thirteen. I think they feel like there’s some moral value to it, if only because they’ve long heard certain parts of Psalm 127 quoted without any context, but I don’t think they question it.
The only logical reason I’m having a child is curiosity.
I’ve always said I wanted children, but I think a lot of that was based on my mother having children. I expected to be a mother eventually, and I like children. Their openness, their honesty, their fresh eyes, their willingness to learn and try. But then I got married, and I simply wasn’t in a rush to make a baby. I enjoyed my childless life with my husband very much. So much that at one point we considered not having children at all. But in the end, that decision wasn’t for me. I think I would have always felt like I missed out on one of the major human experiences, and I really did want to know what it’s like to build a child inside my body.
It’s a growing experience, man. My body, soul, heart, and mind are all being stretched.
I’m having a baby, and sometimes it feels a little like dying.
I’m having a baby, and I’ve never felt so alive.