I remember when I ran the plot of my latest full-length play by Morethings5. His response was, “That’s such a Phoebe story.” And the reason for that was that it prominently dealt with issues around babies.
I write a lot of things that have babies in them. Pregnancies, new babies, lost babies. Babies that change things, that very seriously matter. If I ever become famous and get an author page on TV Tropes, this thing about babies will get listed. I didn’t realize I did it until recently, but I guess it shouldn’t surprise me. Because issues about babies are such a huge thing in my head.
I am a mess of contradicting feelings about them, a miasma of conflicting desires. On one hand… I love them. On at hand, I think they’re the most important thing in the world, babies, children, your children. I feel a strong compulsion to be a mother someday. And while not everybody has the urge for children, I feel like if you do have it, it is a singular thing that is not comparable or equivalent to any other need you have in your life.
A baby is never negligible, never an insignificant thing to be disposed of lightly, even when should you decide that pregnancy or parenthood is not for you. While I acknowledge that abortions have to exist for the good of society, and that they can absolutely be the right choice in many situations, the idea of them makes me hurt in my guts. There are childless couples who would KILL for a baby of their own and can’t have one, and their pain is enormous. Again, I respect a woman’s right to do whatever she feels is appropriate for her own body, but it makes me ache to think that people who want babies can’t just connect with women who don’t want to keep their babies.
But at the same time… pregnancy terrifies me. Frankly TERRIFIES me. I just have this knowledge in my gut that it would be an awful experience for me, unpleasant at best and completely miserable at worst. I’m already prone to nausea, I would probably have it constantly if I were pregnant. My hips are very narrow, carrying and birthing a baby could just not work. And God forgive me for being so shallow and vain… but I think of what it would do to my body and I just freeze. During it, the thought of being big and ungainly, of taking up so much space, of everything being a gross swollen mess due to the hormones and the physical changes… and after, the stress put on everything by the birth, being bloated or stretched out or sagging or scarred… I shudder. And the body never really comes back. Not for most people, who don’t have a dietician and a physical trainer constantly at their disposal. And that scares me more than I can convey.
I feel disgusting and small for caring that much about it. For wanting a baby, but being too vain to want to go through one of the most fundamental experiences of life that’s part of it. And there is a season to all things in life, nobody gets to be beautiful forever– especially if its my kind of beauty which is of the particularly ephemeral sort. I am fortunate that things worked out for me in such a way as I got to experience what it’s like to be that lean and strong and firm kind of beautiful for a while. But still, the thought of losing it for inevitable reasons is hard enough without thinking that pregnancy might make it hit all the harder.
People have said I’m a prime candidate for adoption. I don’t want to be pregnant, and I couldn’t give a damn about biological connection to my baby. Don’t care the lineage, the gender, the color. Just want a baby. But I get scared to think of that because it’s so difficult to adopt. Expensive, so vastly advantageous to the rich, and often heartbreaking since you could for any number of reasons lose the right to the child before the adoption is legally finalized. Again, no moral condemnation of abortion here, but if it came down to my needing to BEG some woman to please let me adopt her baby instead of abort it, I’d do it in a heartbeat.
Of course, if pregnancy seems so terrible to me, I can’t say I don’t understand why somebody would rather abort than go through it even if they don’t have to keep the baby.
But still… but still… I can’t shake that part of me that says that your child is too important. The Most Important. And if you have to go through painful difficult undesirable things for the sake of your child, that’s part of what it is to be a parent. The love and responsibility that is so strong that you sacrifice your well being for theirs. That notion feels right to me in my guts. Because that is what grows out of the nature of the bond between parent and child.
Here is what makes me believe in that bond. It leads into my other fear related to having a baby– the fear that one’s self is subsumed into it. How often do we hear about parents– usually mothers –who’s entire life revolves around their children? That they lose their own interests and even their personality to being Mommy? That is chilling to me. I would HATE that. As much compulsion as I feel toward being a mother, that seems awful and terrifying to me. But I would want to be a good parent– to be the kind of parent that is everything their child needs. I am a pretty self-absorbed person. Am I too selfish a person to be as selfless as that would require? Am I too selfish to be happy making the shift that motherhood would require?
And yet. And yet. This comes back to the thing that makes me believe in the enormous power of that parent child bond. As much as kids take over their parents lives– as much as they demand and necessitate and impose on their parents– their parents LOVE THEM. Are madly, crazily, IN LOVE WITH THEM. Would do ANYTHING for them, WOULD DIE for them. No matter how much of a pain having kids is, it is rare indeed to find a parent who doesn’t love their kids more than anything.
That gives me hope. That maybe I can be a parent, despite my vanity and selfishness. That my love for them would be greater than my love for myself. And that I don’t have to choose between being a miserable parent and having that part of me go unfulfilled.
I keep taking about “in my guts.” That’s where my desire to someday be a mother comes from. And so that’s where a lot of my feelings around children come from. Maybe they’re not totally reasonable or fair from an intellectual standpoint. But I can’t shake them.