Having My Kid Saved Me

The title suggests something like, “I had always wanted a baby or I never wanted a baby, but then I had my baby and he (it’s a he in my world) was so beautiful and amazing that I fell madly in love and I can’t imagine life without him and that love was so big and so pure that it changed my life. My child completes me.”

No. No he does not.

My child does not complete me. My child is an amazing little human who makes me laugh and who I love to snuggle and who is part of me, but does not connect all my dots, he does not make me whole. I make me whole. Me.

But having my kid saved me. Having my kid made me better.

Pregnancy for me was like climbing a very tall, very hard mountain. The kind of mountain that makes you sick half way up. The kind of mountain people don’t summit. The kind where if you get to the top you grow wings and you fly away. Pregnancy was a big giant awful mountain. It wasn’t all sickness and near death and trauma, it wasn’t. Sometimes I was just walking. Kamel was there too, and my parents, and my friends. Sometimes they would hold my hand and help me up the mountain for a ways, but most of the time I was lugging my own self up the steep hills, picking myself up when I would fall and scrape my knee, watching as the top got closer and closer.

Gabe’s first birthday was great for him. He got new things, I get to put a hat he hated on his head, family came over, I made blue cupcakes, shark photo booth, etc. And part of it was, “Oh my god my baby is 1!” but a bigger part of it was about the anniversary of my summit.

Giving birth, for me, was not about giving-birth-to-Gabe. I could have just as miraculously given birth to Sarah or Paul or Susan or Benjamin. I didn’t even really like him when I first saw him – he looked like a creepy old man vampire, bless his heart.

Giving birth, for me, was about pushing another life out of myself. It was about feeling the most strong, the most capable, the best at 1 thing I have ever felt in my entire life. It was absolutely life changing and not because my son was born, but because I did something I will never truly understand. Another human, with his own thoughts and feelings, his own future and abilities, came out of MY PERSON. And if that wasn’t good enough, or cool enough, or amazingly jaw-droppingly spectacular enough – what happened after got even better.

Having a baby made me so much less anxious.

Having a baby turned my overwhelming concern for how I look or how I dress or what people will think of me into confidence, into a non-concern.

Having a baby made me free. Free to say no, to say yes, to live directly in the moment. I don’t feel embarrassed like I used to, I don’t feel panic like I used to. I feel like I have a firm grip on what exactly is important and what is not.

I climbed the mountain, I got to the top, and I sprouted wings.

I don’t think that having a baby is everyone’s mountain. I don’t think that everyone even should have kids. They are needy and selfish and a lot of work. Pregnancy has hormonal implications that can send a lot of women into a tailspin. This is not a speech about how children will save your life and how you should really get on that if you want to be happy. Please. Happiness could just as easily be found as a single person living your life the way you want to and climbing real life mountains.

But I do think that everyone has a mountain. The big kind, that not everyone climbs, the kind that changes you if you climb it. I didn’t know pregnancy and having a baby would be mine. I didn’t know just how much or in what ways it would change me. I wasn’t even looking for it. But I want to remember it. I want to say this thing happened to me and sometimes the largeness of it brings me to my knees. The feeling of having a life pulled from my insides. It’s graphic, it’s violent, it is immense, and it absolutely saved me from myself.

35 thoughts on “Having My Kid Saved Me”

  1. This might be my favorite post you’ve ever written (been reading for a few years since APW but don’t often comment.) Thanks Lauren. Off to think on this for awhile…

  2. Wow what a powerful post. I love that you were so honest and real. Congratulations on reaching the top of your mountain, good work Mama!

    I am currently 7 months pregnant and have been spending a lot of time thinking about how my life will change over the next year or so. This post was great for those thoughts.

    1. Good luck with everything!! It will change and some things will be missed, but some things won’t change much. It’s all a phase and a journey. πŸ™‚

  3. Yes to all of this! Thank you for articulating it. It is tricky when people say “You are so brave for cutting your hair short!” and I want to say “I can do it because I made a person” but connecting those dots for people is hard.

    I love how you can separate Gabe-as-person from your experience having him. That is so key.

    In conclusion, yay you!

  4. I mostly enjoyed being pregnant, and I loved our birth experience. I definitely climbed a painful, loud, messy mountain. I had numerous doulas popping in and out cheering me on, a kind nurse (and one a-hole nurse), and an amazing husband that didn’t get to eat, drink or pee the whole time because I grabbed his wrist and pulled him back anytime he tried to go away. I was one of those women who went into a tailspin afterwards. There’s light back in my world again now and I’m even starting to fathom that I could handle ever having another baby. The one I have now is an amazing little human being. I can’t believe he’s mine. I’m so proud of me.

  5. This post is amazing, beautiful, and powerful. I loved every sentence and for some reason, it made me feel… better. Not just about having kids, but about life in general. There is so much out there about how having a baby is (insert super negative adjective here about how your life will change and be ruined) and this was just real and honest. It’s hard, but it can make you better. It isn’t for everyone, but for you, it was amazing. Thank you for being so open and for sharing this with all of us.

    1. You’re right, it is negative. I think it is a backlash from the constant “Being a mom is beautiful and magical!” sentiment. Some times it is SO NOT MAGICAL OR BEAUTIFUL. A lot of it is gritty and real and hard. But I think it is bigger than all that. It is not just awesome and wonderful or just terrible and hard. And the world wants to stick every life event into a pretty box and shelve it. But that does everything and everyone a major disservice.

    1. I have been thinking about this possibility. Part of me was like YES! OF COURSE! But then another part of me is thinking, God I hope not. Mountains are hard! I want to believe I’m done. (I’m probably not done.)

    2. At 64 years old, I can answer that question with a resounding, “Yes!” The hope is that not only does one survive, but one learns and evolves. Looking back, some mountains seem more like hills and vice-versa. PS 34 years later, I am still in awe of the reality that there is a human being on earth because of me–my daughter takes my breath away.

  6. Yes to all of this. I can’t say if pregnancy will be a mountain for me but I can absolutely relate the idea of a life changing experience that shifts your perspective. I occasionally joke that if I can handle Istanbul on my own, I’m fairly certain I can handle most situations but it’s totally true. Once you push past the fear, its all just logistics.

    Congratulations on a beautiful post.

  7. This post is wonderful. It is powerful and thought-provoking. Congratulations on not only climbing your mountain, but recognizing that it was your (one of yours?) mountain.

    Pregnancy and childbirth was incredible for me. I relished every minute of that pregnancy, even when my feet got scary big. I don’t even know how to describe how I felt after giving birth, but it was a game-changer. I felt powerful. I had confidence that I could do it. I felt such relief when Elliott was OK and cried after a bit (he aspirated meconium).

    My mountain, I think, was the infertility journey. I think that set me up to have confidence in myself (hey, watch me give myself shots!) and it set me up to have even more confidence that Brad and I were really each other’s biggest supporters.

    1. Yeah, as I read this I was thinking of infertility as the mountain. It taught me to be in the moment and to “let go of the why”, to understand that there will be things with no logical explanation, that I will not be able to understand, and that’s OK. Not knowing is OK.

  8. Yes, to this.

    My little boy and I started to talk about feelings – happiness and sadness and frustration. And it’s interesting to see what he’s picked up at 2 years old – that when I told him he makes me feel happy, he suddenly felt a great burden that he had to keep me happy all the time, which is impossible. I’m not Disneyland. Now I tell him he is one of the things that contributes to my happiness, but I’m in charge of me being happy or not. Just as he gets to feel happy or not. And I’ll love him whether I’m happy or sad, whether he’s happy or sad.

    I feel the same way about labour and birth, but feel my wings were clipped pretty damn quickly with the whole breastfeeding thing. It rattled my new found confidence and brought an anxiety to my life I never knew before. Rather than a mountain, it felt like an abyss, and climbing it, climbing out of it, really only got me back to where I was before.

  9. I did not feel particularly empowered by going through the birth process, except for the pushing part… which for lazy me was the greatest workout I have ever been through. Because I had no control over any of that. it felt as if it wasn’t me doing it. I was just in awe (and still am) at Biology, at the wonder that is making a human from the start. But, at the same time, realizing that I was able to go through the whole bizarre experience, and also to cope with what came after (the first few weeks were very hard in terms of dealing with what had just happened, I had nightmares and a weird emotional-cough that I am not sure if it was stress-induced reflux or panic attacks), made me stronger.

    The pregnancy part was not difficult for me, I got lucky that I barely felt sick and after wishing for it for such a long time I was mostly enjoying the changes in my body, and admiring and marveling that it was finally happening, the kicks, my changing body, the big boobs πŸ™‚ (Though the last bit was tiring and uncomfortable and as soon as it was over and my energy came back I realized how much I missed my normal “self”).

    Then becoming a mom made me suddenly and clearly distinguish the hay from the straw, like you said “I have a firm grip on what exactly is important and what is not.” And suddenly I am so efficient, and I do not care for things that used to drive me crazy.

    As for the mountains, like Melanie said… it was infertility that made me learn all kinds of things, but mostly, to be in the instant, to find the little things.

    Lauren, thanks for sharing this. you write beautifully and I am so glad you found your wings .

  10. I love this post so fiercely, it makes me wish I had written it myself. I 1000% agree with you – especially about the anxiety: “Having a baby turned my overwhelming concern for how I look or how I dress or what people will think of me into confidence, into a non-concern. I don’t feel embarrassed like I used to, I don’t feel panic like I used to. I feel like I have a firm grip on what exactly is important and what is not.”
    It’s like a re-prioritization for my life. But you said it much better πŸ™‚
    Also this: thinking about the largeness of this brings me to my knees. EVERY.DAY. I am floored that he is alive, HERE, and came from my body. Makes me wish I had paid more attention in biology so it isn’t just a big “whoa” to me.

  11. I don’t have kids, or plan on having them, but this was lovely. It’s nice to hear so articulately HOW having a kid changed you. You know, as opposed to the extreme your-whole-life-changes-for-the-worse or my-baby-completes-me-and-is-my-everything. Thanks for sharing!

  12. I love this post! I wouldn’t write this except that you’ve said you want to have more children, so I’ll mention it: I’m really looking forward to reading about your next pregnancy, labor, and delivery with the added perspective of your experience with Gabe..

    1. That is so kind, thank you. I am so excited to see how having other children changes things, to see who they will be and how it all shakes up. I’m happy that people are also willing to stick around and see what happens too!

  13. Reading this gave me chills. And made me vaguely excited about pregnancy/motherhood in a way most things I read about pregnancy make me vaguely anxious/worried/pre-nauseous… this is an excellent reminder that when we do hard things we get stronger. Thank you.

  14. I want this so badly….Currently my mountain is also infertility (so glad someone else said that too!). I’m glad for you and all the positives that Gabe has brought into your life!

    1. I think about you often and I am hoping that your fertility mountain is complete soon! I actually worry that some of the posts here could be upsetting. I wanted to mention this in another post, too – I am always so happy when you comment. I appreciate your thoughts and feedback. πŸ™‚

      1. No need to worry about upsetting me (or probably anyone else for that matter). I personally love hearing of others happiness, and don’t want others to filter their thoughts because of me.

  15. Yes a thousand times over to all of this.

    I think it shows women that sometimes and in some ways, pregnancy and motherhood can be about you, too, and not just about your baby/ies.

    Watching you love Gabe fiercely and not lose yourself in him gives me so much joy. You’re a real solid lady, Lauren. And I just adore you.

  16. I like that Lauren acknowlegded that pregnancy isn’t the only mountain. For me my mountain is Nursing school. I have learned so many things about myself and I am not the same as when I started in January of 2013. Here here for climbing mountains.

  17. You know, of all the pregnancy and mom stories, yours on becoming and being a mom are some of the least scary. Not because you made it look easy or effortless, but because it was a mountain and you found a way through each obstacle and without minimizing it either! I like and admire that in a woman πŸ™‚

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