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Advice from Women with Children, please??

By Anonymous January 27, 2009 - 1:46pm
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I have been doing a lot of stock taking lately, wondering what the meaning of life really is and why we are here, etc....
I have never really wanted children, never really felt any kind of bioligical clock at all. I got pregnant at 17 and had an abortion as I felt that my life would have been ruined at the time and have NO regrets about this. To me, this was NOT a baby.
But now I am in a great relationship. We have wonderful dogs who lead a fantastic life full of hikes and the best of everything. We have been together 4 years and are talking of marriage. We have spoken about the possibility of kids but I have always said no as I have felt that I have too much to do in my own life; that they are noisy, messy, ruin your sense of peace and order, may ruin your body, your sleep,etc.. All childish reasons, I now feel.

I think that one of the problems is that nowadays, we have too much choice and control over whether or not we get pregnant. A hundred years ago, I would already have had a TWENTY ONE year old child!!!!!! (the idea of this FREAKS me out as I am very youthful and still get carded!)and may also have had to marry the guy who got me pregnant.
My therapist feels that my fear of having a child is all connected with my becoming pregnant when I was little more than a child myself and also that I was one of many children growing up and have issues of jealousy.
The thing is...now I am 38 and am starting to feel that life really is about the continuation of our genes and that when a couple is bright, attractive, nice, liberal, artsy, intellectual and focuses on why not to bring children into this mortal coil, that maybe they should as they are very thoughtful and TRULY understand the pros and cons of it all. Maybe we DO have something to pass on to a child. Most people in the world seem to want children and many have them without really asking why. Look at poeple like Britany Spears and her little sister for that matter.
To get to the point, I am wondering if anyone who has kids can really explain what is so wonderful about it? I have known women who have said that they regret it! Do any of you?
Does it make you feel that death is ok, that part of us continues, does it make you feel more complete.
I am not asking you whether I should do this or not, but to tell me why you did.I would love to hear any responses! I don't want these last few "good" childbearing years to pass me by, without at least, really considering seriously if this is for me or not.

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My kid sister cannot have children. So, she's a great "other mom" (not yet stepmom) to her boyfriend's son.

My youngest sister cannot have any more children, as she had her son just before she turned 40, so she's a great mom to her only child.

I was told I couldn't have any more children after my first one, but I had 3. Go figure!

One of my best friends simply doesn't want children, and neither does her husband. Some people just don't and there is absolutely nothing wrong or selfish about that.

Frankly, this is a personal choice and no one has a right to tell you if your choice is right or not.


January 28, 2009 - 6:57pm
HERWriter Guide

I do take exception, with all due respect, to one particular theme here. And that is that being a good pet owner, or being an animal lover, somehow equates to potentially being a good parent. I’m a good driver but I have no idea how to build a car. I can’t even change oil. One does not equate with the other and this theme of being a good “dog or cat mama” being proof that it makes one a good parent troubles me. Having a pet cannot and should never compare with raising a human being. I understand where one is coming from, using this kind of comparison, but please, let’s not put the two in the same category; they are completely and utterly different.

I very much agree with Diane on not trying to intellectualize having a child to such a degree that we forget some fundamentals. Why do we have children? Simple science. We have a biological predisposition to propagate the species - just like any other species. Most go on to do this, some don't. And many us do it because we have a love for children and want to raise a generation of decent human beings who will make the world a better place.

It's so subjective it's hard to categorize or compartmentalize these things. Spend too long doing it and you’ll find that the option has passed you by. It’s imperative to think before having a child, it’s the responsible thing to do. But if you want to make everything a philosophical equation, then you may have a hard time trying to dig your way out.

Unfortunately, you'll never know the tremendous love for a child until you have one. It's like trying to describe skydiving. Unless you do it, you don't get it.

To answer some of your questions, yes, you'll have days of exhaustion, they are extremely expensive to raise, you may even face heartbreak. Of course you gain weight in pregnancy but a healthy diet and exercise puts a person back on track. And there is nothing more natural than breastfeeding. Declining alcohol should be pretty easy in pregnancy. If it isn’t, there may be an unhealthy relationship with drinking. And the 9 months goes by…in about 9 months! And if you expect parenting to be 50/50 in the first year, I think that’s a bit of a pipe dream! It’s nature’s way that the mother spends the most time with the baby, especially for the first year. Don’t expect everything to be fair, it simply isn’t, when it comes to motherhood. Don’’ keep a score card with your spouse – you will lose. And your relationship with him will change. I think this is a good thing. Relationships evolve – they should. So the first couple of years see a dramatic decrease in evenings out or “me” time. Parenting means the end of “me” time for several years. And so you gain a pound or two. Have sore nipples for the first couple weeks of nursing. We know all this in advance. Yes, I am “Mom” now, but being Mom is magical, life-affirming and the best of life’s natural highs. And I still have much learning to do, when it comes to parenting. But I’m also a grown woman with a lover, friends, work and interests. It’s easy to lose one’s definition in and of life when one is a new mother but it comes back. All in good time.

I don't believe in heaven or hell or past/future lives. But I will always live on, because of my DNA in my children, although that was certainly not a factor in why I had them. And as I care for them, so, I hope, will they care for me in some ways, in my later years. I also love the fact that I get to raise my children to love the world, to love life, to love me, their dad, themselves and each other, and to keep their sense of wonder. How I parent them, will define them for life and I think it's a privilege to be able to be a parent. I don't think it's a "right" and it’s not trendy or cool. It shouldn’t be.

My words of caution- I don't think anyone should have children because their partner wants it or it’s “expected” in some form. Forget about the adult for a minute - that is unfair to the child and a heavy burden to place on tiny shoulders. I don't think people should bring innocent human beings into this world because they figure they'll grow into liking being a parent or it'll all somehow work out.
Every year we hear experts telling us all to make sure that we are very serious about the puppy or kitten we buy at Christmas - that's it's a serious commitment. Multiply that sentiment by a million, when it comes to bringing a human being into this world. You will never do anything bigger than raise a child - nothing can compare to it. So if you do want to do it, make sure you are prepared to give your all to that child and are prepared to sacrifice anything. You can't return kids or send them to a shelter.

Of course, you might make a great parent! And raise great kids! If you are thinking this much about it, you probably would make a good parent:) But if you are nearing middle age and not feeling any maternal pull, you might prefer to care for your animals and enjoy your relationship as it is now – because it will change dramatically with children. Are you sure you’re ok with that? Does your husband travel? Do you have family close by to help? I don’t and it makes a huge difference. There will be days you feel resentful and days your children will drive you crackers and you don’t exactly look at them with stars in your eyes. Sometimes it even seems pretty thankless, even if it’s not true. Like any big decision – if one is unsure, one should always say no. Because once one says yes, it’s too late to turn back. If an answer right now is “I’m not sure”, then perhaps that should mean “no” - at least for now.

This is the reality of parenting. There is nothing wrong with keeping the status quo; it is also noble and this may be where you passion lies – with animals, like the amazing work done by people like Betty White and Brigitte Bardot. Don't feel you have to have kids because time is running out; seeing the age of 40 around the corner is just not a good enough reason to have a child. Only have a child if you believe you can offer him or her a childhood filled with happiness and a strong foundation for the big world out there. The choice is yours right now; once a child is here, their interests should always come first. That's a lot to give up, it really is. You are under no obligation these days (thank God!) to have a child, so make sure it’s the right thing for all of you!

The ultimate decision is yours! Good luck with it, I know it's hard.

January 28, 2009 - 1:29pm

I started writing down my answers, but the best thing to tell you is everyone is different. Just because I had a certain experience doesn't mean you will. Being pregnant, breastfeeding, night-time feedings are all temporary situations. The bigger issue is do you want to have another little human being in your life & are you able to do whatever it takes to do what is right for him or her.

January 28, 2009 - 10:41am

Anon, I have just a slightly different take on all this.

I, too, was a strong, happy career woman in a marriage with my best friend. He and I talked about kids and how they would change us, and we were unsure for a long time. I, too, searched for something that would make me "know" it was right. I just wasn't born with the "I always wanted kids" gene. I was born with the "Someday, maybe" gene.

Here's what I'll tell you. If a person who had no dogs asked you why you had them, you'd barely know where to start. (I have three.) Explaining the intangibles about having a dog is easy, but I think understanding them is hard. That person without a dog might say, "but they bark, they shed on your clothes or your furniture, they're expensive, they get sick, they pee in the house sometimes," and on and on. You could try to explain how none of that makes a bit of difference -- and, in fact, how all of that is actually beside the point, you know? But somehow, the person without a dog still doesn't understand until they love one of their own. I just don't know how you can actually communicate such a thing so that another person almost experiences what you're saying.

I think it's the same about kids. We can try to pull it apart, to ask the questions, to listen to the answers, and to have intuition about ourselves -- but I have the feeling we never get the whole story unless we go ahead and take the leap. The unexplainables are just too big. But I think that in the end, the noise, the mess, the difficulty -- they all end up being side issues, just like the barking or the dog hair.

I will counsel you this way, though: If you think you want to try, don't wait too long. Don't spend all your time going back and forth and looking for the answer that helps you know for sure -- it just may not come. And those last years of fertility are special. If you think you want this, you need to go for it before it's too late.

We waited. We waited too long. We tried, and then we found out we had some small medical issues on both sides. We addressed those, tried some more, no luck. We made the decision to explore adoption, but it gets complicated when couples are "older" (I can imagine your distress at thinking that you are an "older" couple, and I shared that distress!! But it's a fact in the adoption world).

We ended up without children. We're very happy, even though I wish we'd been able to have some. We dote on our 15 nieces and nephews and spoil them with our time and love endlessly. So you'll be happy either way. But there IS a deadline for biological kids, and if you decide it's important to try for them -- to bring a smart, cute, artsy kid into your world -- don't wait too long.

January 28, 2009 - 10:27am
(reply to Diane Porter)

I echo Diane's message about trying to answer someone's question, "what is so great about having kids? Do they make life more meaningful?" with using the pet/dog metaphor. Of course, raising a human being vs. an animal does not compare...but putting the question out there in terms that are understandable makes sense. You have dogs you love, and I assume Diane's post resonated with you--it would be hard to explain to a non-dog lover the same answers to the questions, "what is so great about having [dogs]? do they make life more meaningful?" It is hard to put into words the answers to these questions, whether you are talking about dogs to a non-dog person, or talking about children to a non-kid person. I, for one, was a "non-kid" person before having a baby, and I DID NOT understand how women could breastfeed, how they could stand snotty-noses and changing diapers. It was beyond me! However, I have cats that I absolutely love, and it is no problem cleaning up hair balls and kitty litter. That's where the comparison ends, though...it serves just enough to understand that there is a world out there that is indescribable, with feelings that are intense, about a living human (or pet) that you love.

I'll tell you this---as much as I loved my cats, and never thought I could be without animals....the love of my son is a million times more powerful than I ever thought possible, and my beloved cats are far down on the priority list (I never thought that would happen!!).

Oh, and regarding weight gain. Yes, it will happen (it's supposed to!). Breastfeeding helped me take the weight off, no problem. Keep exercising throughout pregnancy (per doctor's orders), and you'll be fit and healthy. (Most doctors recommend exercise throughout pregnancy, barring any health problems). There is a lot of support for breastfeeding, and it is such a small amount of time compared to the child's life that it really is a non-issue. You do it, you have support...then, it's over. Once you have a child (if you choose), the other women with newborns literally come out of the woodwork (!), and it's wonderful support to breastfeed in a group of women while the babies goo and gaa, and you talk about your sore nipples or Obama or the weather or the economy...

Everything works out in the end. If not, then it's not the end.

Do you need any other information or resources that we can send you?

January 29, 2009 - 1:55pm

Your questions are awesome! I didn't put this much thought into it before I had children.... maybe I should have. In any case, my first pregnancy ended up being nothing that I could have ever expected, and it changed me completely as a person. I got pregnant the very first time we tried, after I went off the pill, and I was pregnant with identical twin boys. That initial surprise turned to shock when we found out 14 weeks into the pregnancy that one of the boys would not survive outside the womb and would most likely die during the pregnancy and cause a miscarriage. It's a long story, and not one you'd ever be prepared for by any of the pregnancy books on the market, but in the end we ended up with the boys being delivered by emergency C-section three months before their due date. One lived for 21 hours in our arms. The other miraculously survived the horrible pregnancy, delivery and a subsequent massive brain hemorrhage -- he's now about to turn 14 and is the most extraordinary kid.

Even after the nightmare we experienced while bringing our boys into the world, I got pregnant again (a little girl that time) just 4 months after they were born. I remember friends and relatives thinking we were insane to attempt another pregnancy so soon after the trauma that we experienced. But somehow, sometimes, you just move ahead in life and don't think too hard while you're jumping off that cliff.

I guess that's really what it's like having kids.... jumping off a cliff. You can never, ever be prepared. No matter how many answers you seek. There are risks around every corner -- before they're born, when they're learning how to cross a street, when they're learning how to drive. But there are so many joys too. Far too many to count. And even in the midst of mind-numbing grief, when I had that tiny, miniature hand of my one-pound baby boy wrapped around my index finger during his 21 hours of life, I felt the inner peace of having known him and having given him all of my love during that little window of time.

There's no greater honor than having brought a life into the world, and helping to guide that life for just a little while, whether that time spans 21 hours or 21 years.

January 27, 2009 - 10:51pm
EmpowHER Guest

Thanks everyone for your great responses.It's interesting how the common thread of joy and sacrifice comes through in your posts.
I have so many more questions....but these answers help a great deal.
It seems that no one out there regrets their pregnancy , happily.
I had a friend once take me aside when I was about 25 and she was around 40 and she said that she had real regrets as she felt tied to a man she didn't love and felt she had lost her freedom, with her two boys. But maybe that was just her....and she may have been unhappy anyhow.
How did any of you deal with the feelings of loosing your freedom? Did you have family support? Did any of you still have an occasional glass of wine while pregnant? I can't stand the idea of not being able to have an occasional drink. Did you have help so you could go out sometimes alone or with your husband after giving birth?
Do your husbands help a great deal? I can't stand the thought of having to get up every night while my man snores! And mine is a wonderful guy! He just doesn't wake up no matter what! I had a little dog who suffered from seizures and my boyfriend lay asleep while I jumped up within seconds(sometimes even before the seizure would start!)to help him.
I believe that the work should be split 50/50, especially as I am the one who is forced to give birth!
Did any of you struggle with weight gain? Is it ok to continue to work out and hike while pregnant?
Does the nine months creep by or is it over in a flash?
Did all of you breastfeed? I am a little squeamish about this as I am quite modest and also the idea of it sounds painful and weird.

Thanks again, girls!!

January 27, 2009 - 4:28pm

Hi anonymous,

You ask a great question. Having a child DOES change your life forever. It is truly the hardest job you will ever have and you do have to give up a lot of luxuries in life that you never considered as luxuries before. And I will be honest, you will miss them. Also, it's really hard to care for someone when you aren't feeling well yourself & the pain from my c-section that still comes back from time to time. That being said, my daughter is the best thing that ever happened to me. Her smile seems to fix everything and she has the best laugh that totally cracks me up. I am very lucky to have her in my life. We have so much fun together & she makes me see the world in a wonderful new way.

I hope this helps. Please feel free to ask me or others more questions on this.

January 27, 2009 - 3:35pm

Wow---what a powerful question! I wrote about why I choose to have kids in another recent post ("Where is My Biological Clock?"). You may also be interested in reading a similar post regarding "How Does Your Marriage Affect Your Children". Both of these posts have excellent insight from all who responded!

Similar to what many other women have said, I just knew that I wanted a future with children. I wanted my husband to be a father. I wanted my relationship with my husband to be that of "parents", and raise a child (or children) together. As the above post, I wanted my parents to be grandparents. I don't know---there was never a strong biological or emotional "pull", but just could not imagine any other way of living without a family.

I also have friends who do not have children, and they are very happy! I don't believe they think/feel that they are missing anything. We talk about it sometimes, and they say they feel guilty not wanting to have kids in this society, which I can understand.

I never felt the need to "pass on my genes" or anything, and prefer not to think about the celebrity's lives...who knows what is fact or fiction when it comes down to what pictures/stories we see and hear. It's not really relevant, in my opinion!

I don't think anyone is ever really ready to have children at first. Not financially, not emotionally. It's impossible to prepare for the unknown. Your marriage can change for the best or worst. Same with your finances, your body, your career, your self-image.

Personally, we have ups and downs with all the above "categories", but our lives have improved 110% with having a child! I feel closer to my husband, I am more confident and assertive, I changed jobs/careers and it was the best decision. I feel like I see things more clearly than I did before; I have more perspective maybe? My son is just the love of my life, and I love being near him (most days--ha!) and watching him learn and grow. The world is different. And, again, I never had the biological urge to even have kids; I actually never was a kid/baby-kind-of-person, so this is all strange to me!

I don't need to tell you the downsides to having kids, as anyone can tell you that it is physically and emotionally exhausting (I can't seem to stay up past 10pm anymore...so uncool)! Some marriages are strained; finances have to be re-worked. New friends will be made, both for your child and yourself...and this extreme protectiveness comes over you that you would not believe! I have new insight as to what my parents were going through as I was growing up.

Do you have any new thoughts?

January 27, 2009 - 3:19pm
EmpowHER Guest

Thanks for your comments. I was in therapy as I used to have issues with insecurity, a few drinks too many, career problems, etc.. Also, I believe that we can all benefit from therapy. I really just see it as a way to get feelings out and a way to deal with issues. I happened to discuss the abortion also in my sessions though it was not a major topic of conversation. I haven't been for a while though.

My boyfriend is also a little on the fence about kids. He always thought that he would meet a girl who would convince him to have a child....and he met me!! LOL! he wants one more than I do though. He thinks also, that I would be a great mother. I am extremely maternal with my dogs; caring, compassionate, bring them to bed with me, spoil them, etc..

How did you deal with the sudden change in status , suddenly being a "Mom" and not a "cool girl"??? Did you have issues with breast feeding? How did you deal with pregnancy in general?
Do you feel now that there is more "meaning" to life?

Thanks so much for the time and effort you have put into answering my questions!

January 27, 2009 - 3:02pm
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