Just between you and me (and you internet strangers, hi!) my husband and I are trying for a kid. It feels like the right time, and I am happy and getting excited!!
Here’s the thing; as a childless person, every time I offer an opinion on raising a child (i.e. crying it out, cobedding, wanting to go back to work, time outs, etc) I get the verbal equivalent of a pat on the head and told “Oh, you’ll change your mind when it’s your child.”
I’ve ignored it for years but now that a baby is an actual possibility I am beginning to become more and more afraid that this will in fact happen. The problem is, I don’t WANT to change my mind. I am afraid I will lose what I believe in the second I meet the grasshopper. I mean, don’t get me wrong, I’m prepared for things changing and I’m not pretending to know the love or bond that is created, but the things I’m hearing like “I found the true meaning of my life” and “this is what I was put on Earth for,” while perfectly true for some, are really freaking me out.
Is this truly an unavoidable thing that happens upon childbirth? Is it possible to have a baby but still be me? Will I still want to be?
(Ready But Still) Terrifically Terrified
Dear Terrifically Terrified,
It actually sounds like you have two questions wrapped into one.
- I have some parenting beliefs and I want to have a plan before having a kid and I don’t want my thoughts on parenting techniques to go flying out the window the second a child shoots out of me even though that’s what everyone keeps saying will happen.
- Overall I do not want to change into some “version” of myself post baby. That is scary, will this happen?
First, it seems you have fallen victim to the evil clutches of “You’ll see.”
“You’ll see” is a terrible tick that many older people like to say to younger people and many moms like to say to non-moms. It’s shitty, but most of the time it’s word vomit and comes out of a special mix of condescension and well-meaning we all store deep down inside of us.
Both Kamel and I received tons and tons and TONS of this while I was pregnant (oh, and yes, unfortunately being pregnant is like holding up a sandwich board asking for free advice, so if you think it is bad now – brace-yo-self).
99% of the time I listened, smiled and nodded. Other people may tell you to be more aggressive and tell the poor sap who has the “You’ll see” tick to shove off. I prefer a kinder, less in-your-face method of ignoring everyone and silently giving them the finger.
Now, when it comes to sticking to your parenting guns – I’m not going to lie to you and say everything you imagine right now as being THE WAY won’t change. Some things will change. I’m not going to pat you on the head about it, but I will be honest with you based on my experiences.
I, personally, had in my head a specific way I wanted to parent pre-Gabe. Most of that stuff still rings true. I was adament that we would maintain our ability to travel, maintain our home in such a way where the child does not TAKE OVER ALL THE PLACES, and I knew that we didn’t want to co-sleep. I also had thoughts on the amount of tech we would involve our kid in, and how we would discipline.
I was shocked to absolutely crave that my newborn be snuggled up right next to me while I slept. I craved it. It totally freaked Kamel out – he thought I would roll on top of him or knock him off the bed or something, so in the end I wasn’t able to sleep with him next to me, which was fine! It was what we had originally discussed and there are 2 parents here, not just 1 and that is all well. But, if Kamel had no insisted I would have absolutely changed my tune and had Gabe co-sleep with me from the get-go. What actually happened was he slept in a crib an arm-reach away and I could eye ball him whenever I needed.
Kamel became an expert at swaddling while I was pregnant. Practiced it all of the time pre-baby. And what happened? Gabe hated it, always escaped, his arms always finding their freedom. So we stopped doing that, got him a sleep sack and he slept great, no more fighting the swaddle.
Bottom line, your kid and how your kid fits into your family will dictate a lot of what you do, but this is also something that you have a lot of control over. You get to choose based on what you think is important and what is best for your kid. And your kid will let you know what works for them and what doesn’t, then you’ll adjust.
For so long we think of babies theoretically. “When I have a kid it will be like this, and I will do this and this and that. When I become a mom I will be this kind of mom, not that kind of mom.” But then, your baby comes and they are not theoretical. They are real. And they are immediately their own being with their own personalities and their own specific needs. Your job as a mom (and dad) is to figure out what those things are and how to fit them into your already established world and family.
Now for the second part of your question: Will you change after having a baby?
The quick answer: Yes and No.
We are always changing, right? That’s sort of the cop out response, but it’s true. I think you want me say you won’t change and you’ll still be you, and that would be super comforting, but it would be a shitty answer.
Did you change while you were in college? Did you change after you met your husband and went through all that was engagement and the wedding? Are you the same person you were 10 years ago? 5 years ago? (Sometimes Yes and sometimes No, right?)
When you are a mom it is harder to make time for the stuff that is just about YOU.
When you are a mom your priorities change. Your kid becomes a floating priority in the 1-3 category. Sometimes #1, sometimes fuck everything, stop the presses, my baby wins all the games. Sometimes #2! Sometimes your marriage and your husband are #1, but your kid is there being a close second. Sometimes in order to make time for the stuff that is JUST YOU, your kid is maybe #3. Maybe keeping them alive is the best you can do today, tomorrow they can be back to #1, but maybe for a day, an afternoon, a week, whatever – you are not the greatest mom in the world and the greatest wife, you are just you – and that’s ok.
When you are a mom you are no longer alive just to be alive and do your thing. You are now responsible for not completely fucking up another person. That is a big responsibility.
When you are a mom the things you have to do often outnumber the things you want to do.
When you are a mom you are absolutely the same person you were before and absolutely not the same.
It is ok to be Terrifically Terrified of this. It’s a big thing! If you didn’t change a little bit by going through all that is pregnancy and making a human and then having them come out of your body and then being allowed to just …. take them home and care for them! If that wasn’t a big deal, then what would be the point?
Another thought on your letter: There are no rules, Terrifically Terrified. If you want to talk about being pregnant before it has been 3 months, then talk about it. My only advice there: tell the people you would naturally go to if you miscarried. Tell the people you want along on the journey regardless of the (totally normal and common) outcome, just to keep yourself as emotionally safe as possible.
And one last thing. The best piece of advice Kamel and I ever got was from Kamel’s old boss: “Remember, everyone is going to tell you how to be a parent because everyone is their own expert, but the truth is the only expert on your child and your family is YOU. So fuck everyone else.”
In the end, Terrifically Terrified… fuck everyone else.
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