Monday, May 30, 2011

When I was very small, I learned to equate having children with a funless existence. As a kid, I played with Barbies, not dolls. Barbie was grown up. She was pretty and fun. She had a boyfriend and a job and an endless assortment of outfits. Dolls were annoying and needed to be fed, burped, and carted around everywhere. They had diapers and bottles and stupid facial expressions.

I heard comments like "She looks amazing...for having three kids" and "THEY can spend two weeks at the beach. THEY don't have two kids in swimming lessons." It didn't take long for my small brain to compute that kids = the end of the funs.

I have always been deathly afraid of getting pregnant and giving birth. The whole thing seemed barbaric, disgusting and awful and was something I didn't want to be part of. Since high school I've been trumpeting about the benefits of not having children.

Over the past couple of years, as people started to really pressure us about starting a family I've been afraid of more than just the discomfort of pregnancy and the goriness of childbirth. I'm scared of being a bad mother. Of not being responsible or mature enough to look after someone other than myself. Of not being able to provide a good life for a child. I'm afraid that I'm lacking a compassion gene, that I have zero mothering instinct.

When we started talking about growing our family, we were both "pretty sure" it was a good time. Biologically it makes sense, financially we're OK, we're young enough that we'll be young parents, we're old enough that we've had a chance to do some traveling and partying and all that. There were lots of reasons why it's a good time, and far fewer reasons why it's not.

I know Peter will be a terrific dad. He's so patient, level headed and encouraging. I tend to be a little more, how should I put this...shrieky. Shrieky and impatient and sometimes downright mean. I hate whining and I can't deal with laziness. I lose patience when I have to explain something more than once or twice. I can just hear a little voice asking "why? why? why?" over and over again and can picture myself completely losing it.

"It's different when it's your own baby," everyone says. "You'll get the hang of it." What if I don't? What if I can't?

What if I can't stand the pain of giving birth?

What if I don't like the baby?

What if the baby hates me?

I'm afraid for our baby's health. Every time I feel the tiniest twinge, I freak out. What was that? Before we heard the heartbeat I was scared there was something wrong with the baby because I hadn't had any symptoms. I had a positive pregnancy test and positive bloodwork to confirm I was pregnant. No ultrasound. No morning sickness. No weird cravings. I wasn't showing. I was convinced the baby had disappeared. I heard horrible stories about blighted ovum and missed miscarriages and all these other tragic, awful things that can go wrong.

I read in a well-known and well-respected book on pregnancy that women who experience a lot of morning sickness should be happy because "it's believed that morning sickness means you're far less likely to miscarry!" Well, that's pretty reassuring for those of us who aren't sick, isn't it? I was almost sure it had happened to us, until we heard that swisha-swisha-swisha sound. It was almost a surprise to hear that things were OK.

I'm still terrified every day that something is going to go wrong. I'm scared to use plastic food containers or touch ATM receipts or eat fruit that's not organic.

If I don't do something that completely messes up the child physically or intellectually I'm scared I'll mess it up emotionally.

Contrary to how this post might sound, the other 99% of me is thrilled and excited, but there's a little sliver that's frightened all the time.

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