Saturday, March 03, 2012

To Have or Not to Have

For some women, the decision to have children is easy: Either it’s something that, given the right set of circumstances, they know they want and will do, or they have absolutely no interest in the child-making, -birthing, -raising experience. Then there’s people like me who can’t make up their minds.  

When MM and I were engaged, we were on the same page about having kids--the “yes, we will have kids” page. In my excitement over the rest of our lives, I had the feeling that we might both be up for taking the parenting plunge quickly, rather than waiting a year or so to get settled into married life. Somehow that bright idea faded, and when I started thinking about having kids again, I was far more tortured about the prospect.

Why? Because MM and I had a nice life together. We had time to do the things we wanted to do; we had the expendable cash (for the most part) to do them. No longer blindly floating around in the post-adolescent, quasi-adult stage (and staying out too late and drinking too much), we were living the lives of professional, functional adults. This was a life that could be lived indefinitely and happily. Why screw it up by introducing a baby into the mix? The argument in favor of having kids was harder to define, it swirled around feelings of, “well this was the plan...” and “what if we regret not having kids?” 

While MM said he wanted kids, he was ultimately on board with whatever decision I wanted to make (which sounds nice in theory, but is infinitely frustrating). I also had the suspicion that if I didn’t make the decision, he’d fill his life with so many other projects, he’d forget about having kids until it was too late (if he ever remembered at all).

So it was left to me, in typical Lou-fashion, to agonize over my baby ambivalence. Sure, I had time--I was/am only in my early 30s--but it didn’t feel that way. If the plan is to have two kids, then you’re talking at least three years of baby having, maybe more depending on how the whole getting pregnant part goes and how far apart you want the siblings to be. So, yes, there was time, but it felt like I should KNOW. Ya know?

My two best friends from college, both moms, both done with the baby-having years, come to visit me about once a year or so in Chicago. We plan few activities and mainly devote large amounts of time to problem solving any major life issues we are experiencing. It’s like an extended group therapy retreat with the people who know and understand you (and can say things to you that others cannot) better than anyone else in the world.

In fall 2010, I posed this question: Should MM and I have kids?

My friends are pretty honest about the trials as well as the triumphs of parenthood. But while the trials are clear; the rewards are less definable. Though I think they want to say, yes, have kids, they seem to waver on what direction to point me in. After all, if I have kids, where will we all go for kids-free girl time?

Fast forward to summer 2011. My friends make the sort-of annual pilgrimage to Chicago. I’m in a new (old) house, in a new neighborhood, but little else has changed. We spend hours sitting around my kitchen island chatting. And of course, keenly aware that my current birth control prescription running out, I bring up the big question again.

OK guys, we really need to figure out if MM and I should have kids.

One of them looks at me and says this: Lou, if you didn’t want to have kids, you wouldn’t still be asking this question.

Simple. Brilliant. True.

It hit me then that I was never going to be able to come to the conclusion that I didn’t want kids. I could hang in limbo indefinitely or I could take the plunge, but I was never going to be able to say, “Not for me” and go on with life never again questioning my decision.

From that moment on, I haven't wavered once. I also don’t doubt that many women can go through the same torturous process I put myself through and come to the opposite decision with just as much confidence.

But I still can’t fully answer the question as to why we decided to go down the baby-having road. Maybe it’s part fear of regret or societal expectations, but I think it’s more than that. There’s the excitement about MM and I creating something that is greater than the sum of our parts. There’s the hope that this adventure will be rewarding. There’s the knowing that we’ll never look back and truly wish we didn’t have kids (moments of extreme frustration and classic Lou dramatics notwithstanding). But mostly, it’s still undefinable, and I’m OK with that.

1 comment:

heidikins said...

I am pretty firmly in the "Not To Have" camp, although I do give myself permission to change my mind.