One thing that has always been true about me for everyone that knows me: I do not want children. When I was in early middle school, I had one motto: “I will adopt, why put more children in the world when there are so many without families?” In this period of my life our family were fostering several different children, and I absolutely fell in love with the thought of giving a child a home, when they had never experienced it before. (Disclaimer: this has not changed. I am still obsessed with adoption). I never understood the phenomenon “baby fever”.
However, once I moved out of the innocence of being 10-13 years old, my stance changed. I did NOT want children. Pregnancy was gross.
- You have to have sex. Ew. *Disclaimer, raised (and still am) a Christian, did not have my first official kiss (besides one that lasted .5 seconds) until I was almost 16, and it was with my husband. Sexual thoughts were not on the radar until much, much later. I am weird. It is fine.
- Something has to grow INSIDE you. As it is growing inside you, it also moves and makes you fat and sick. Sounds amazing.
- You have to listen to a baby cry all the time, and then once it is out of that stage, you have to deal with a toddlers million questions. Then they turn into hyperactive elementary school kids, then moody, smelly middle schoolers, and finally, teenagers who hate you and their existence.
- I did not have the patience or temperament for children, I would clearly kill them within the first two weeks.
These reasons, as well as many others, would surface every time anyone brought up children. Most people would laugh along and say “You’ll change your mind when you are older”, and I would adamantly reply that I definitely would not.
Now, before I continue with how my views on children have changed since I met Spencer these past six years, I have to cover what happened to me recently, and the discoveries that my counselor and I made after a minor breakdown I experienced.
Spencer and I are not around children very often, simply because of the age we are at. Yet, I have had many experiences with Spencer and children due to cousins that we have and other younger children we do happen to know. I have always known that Spencer was great with children, but it was never a fact that instilled any sort of significant emotion in me. It was a fact of life.
The first time that I ever felt any sort of emotion towards Spencer and children came in the summer before we got married, and it was actually because of me. During one of my panic attacks, Spencer was taking care of me, getting me food and comforting me. In the midst of my panic, I looked into those blue eyes I love so much, and it just hit me. He would be an incredible father. I shrugged off the thought until the next day when Spencer was at work, when I went out into my yard and cried my way through three episodes of my favorite Netflix show at the time, which was, ironically, Jane the Virgin.
After we got married, the feelings of wanting children only got stronger. I saw the quiet strength and hard work of my husband reflected in our daily lives. I watched him pull up to the house after work and climb up the steps, where I would run to greet him, and started wondering what it would be like to not be the only one running for the door. I considered how quiet our house was compared to the home I grew up in, and for the first time thought that I wouldn’t want a house that silent for my entire life.
In those days, I cried often. There are many realities in my life that point to the fact that I may never have children, or that it would not be wise for me to do so. First is the hurdle of actually conceiving. Not to be crass, but I have always had issues with the feminine side of life, and it has always been assumed that I most likely have endometriosis (it runs in my family), it has just not been severe enough to warrant any serious action. Strike one. I have also been fairly underweight for a while now. Every time I would go to the doctors or the gynecologist, and we would talk of the wedding and marriage, I would get the same disapproving face and warning: get your weight up, because you could be harming your ability to have children in the future. Strike two. Then, aside from biological issues with pregnancy, there is also the mental health side of it. As you should know, I suffer from emetophobia, and it is crippling. I would not even be able to think of getting pregnant for the simple fear of morning sickness. The fear of throwing up alone would put me in a state of panic and despair for the first few months of pregnancy. Strike three. Even past the phobia, there is agoraphobia. How can I be pregnant if I cannot get myself to the myriad of doctors appointments that women need to go to for pre-natal and post-natal care? What happens when I inevitably panic once going into labor? After the baby is born, how will I handle day to day life? I cannot just leave the baby for an hour to take a relaxing bath or do yoga. I have to be present. When my children are grown I need to be reliable enough to give them a social life, to support them in their dreams and hobbies. And finally, the greatest fear of them all: that I could pass my anxiety on to my children. My anxiety is at least partly hereditary, that I know. Many people in my family suffer with anxiety, and anxiety affects every single one of my siblings (thankfully I have it the worst). While I do not regret that I was born, sometimes I struggle with having a child that I know I could pass my anxiety on to, whether it be through genes or through my anxious personality in general.
I kept all of these feelings from Spencer for weeks, going into our room and crying by myself. Why? Well, Spencer and I have always been on the same page about the big decisions in life, ever since we were fifteen. One of the decisions we have voiced the most strongly is the decision to never have children. My husband is an adventurer. He loves to have his free time to discover his passions and travel to new places. For him children do not really fit into that mold. I had agreed with him. Children consume your life. Children are expensive. Children complicate everything.
I finally spoke to my counselor about my desires and my fears. We basically fleshed out everything I already knew. I needed to be in an excellent place mentally, and have a really good hold on myself and my health, before I even think about having children. Even then, the decision to get pregnant would be a bargain. The stresses and hormones of pregnancy could bring my anxiety flying right back. Post-partum depression could cause agoraphobia to rear its ugly head. After the child is born, I have eighteen years where I need to keep my life together enough to be there for my child and my husband. I need to be a mother. I need to be cautious if I want to avoid harming my child with my anxious behaviors. Simply put, pregnancy is not in the cards for me for several more years, if it ever will be.
During our talk, my heart was shattered. I realized something about myself that I had realized all along. By the time I was old enough to think of a future family seriously, and by the time I knew that Spencer was going to be my husband, I already had emetophobia and anxiety. In the end of my high school years, and for all the years of college, I have been almost combative at points with my discussions of children and Spencer and I’s future plans. I have snapped at family members and friends when they spoke of children. I have joked way too often with Spencer and others about never having children. But I realized that was all just a barrier for myself. I knew I wanted children. I wanted little chubby toddlers with Spencer’s dimples and beautiful long lashes. I wanted to feel that connection as husband and wife, and to feel that love for a child. Yet I knew I couldn’t do that. I couldn’t handle the morning sickness. I couldn’t handle when my child wakes up in the middle of the night with a stomach bug. I couldn’t handle the crazy schedule, the temper tantrums, the sleepless nights. I couldn’t be a good mom. So I pushed the desire down, and tried to convince myself that it wasn’t true.
I finally told Spencer in one tear-filled sentence after he asked me why I had been so emotional:
“You would make such a great daddy. I don’t think that’s ever going to happen.”
Bless his heart, my husband, who always said he never wanted children, comforted me, told me he had expected our views to change (though he was surprised at how quickly it happened!), and said that we would just wait. There was no way we would have been trying for a baby at this point any way, even if I had been healthy. He needs to finish college, we need to get a more stable place, and be more financially sound.
Yet here I still am, struggling with serious baby fever. It is painful. All of the advice that I have gotten have been from people who do not know the depths of my struggles. They tell me to get through this time like everyone else who isn’t financially ready, look forward in hope to when you can have children. This cuts like a knife. I don’t even know if that hope is there for me. My own body and mind just might have betrayed me. I very well may have baby fever forever.
However, hope is a funny thing, simply because it is hope. With all the uncertainty in life, I still stand in the bathroom, loathing this too thin body. I fight against my own mind, and the thoughts that consume it constantly. I try to go through my days running my house normally. I try to not need a break for “me”. I try to do that for many reasons. But right now, my biggest motivation for trying is that one day I won’t hate this body and mind. That this body will give me the greatest gift. That this mind will share knowledge and love only a mother can provide.
With all of the struggles and obstacles in my life, I still live my days in hope that one day I will have a little baby with my husbands blue eyes.