Why Our Conversations on Parenthood Always End On A Pregnant Pause

Last night, I dreamed that Warrior Poet gave me the nod for us to start trying to get pregnant. I was clearly surprised by his definitive declaration on a topic that usually inspires his vagueness. I reminded him that I would need to wean myself off some of my medication first, so if he were really ready, I would have to start doing so pronto. He reassured me that I was physically strong enough to get through the journey, that he would be there to support me every step of the way. With the extremely lucid details, the dream felt so real. But alas, it was just a dream.

It’s not surprising that the question of ‘Will we or won’t we—or should we or should we not—not have children of our own?’ has been on our minds. A co-worker of WP’s recently urged him (and us) to decide soon whether we want them as we’re rapidly approaching our 40s. And for the last couple years, my lady parts doctor has been reminding me of the ticking biological clock. And after we made it official as husband and wife, our friends have been increasingly encouraging us to be parents—citing our wisdom, compassion, encompassing perspective and emotional stability. Plus, we’re just so darn fun, ha.

But it seems like there are just as many reasons to not have kids as there are to have them.

What You Give Up to Get

While abstractly we both feel that we’d be fairly decent parents, the logistics of parenthood raises questions. Are we willing to give up so much of our freedom and mobility? Are we financially mature enough to start saving and planning for the expenses of raising children?  And are we prepared to lose our precious sleep? And if not, would we consider adopting older children? The sleep depletion is one of the most important factors of early parenthood to me, as a sleepless me always means a much sicker me.

My health, of course, is also a huge question mark. Would I go into remission with pregnancy, like many of my friends, or would I be one of the unfortunate women with serious, chronic illness who get significantly sicker when carrying a child? It can be a real struggle on my off days to shower, cook and take care of things around the house, let alone manage anything or anyone else. Would I crumble trying to manage a child, or simply get more efficient with my energy and time?

Keep Your Head In The Game

“Keep Your Head in the Game” Danielle Guenther Photography

I also wonder if WP could handle the noise, mess and distraction of children, especially when doing dishes in his hearing zone alone can set him off. As it is now, when he comes home from a harrying day of work, sometimes it takes an hour for him to even decompress enough to take me fully in. Once we have dinner, he physically and mentally shuts us down, and it isn’t long before he nods off. On the weekends, he needs his long escape into gaming when he’s not at the gym—at least until the sun starts to go down. I can’t help but wonder if I would wind up raising a child mostly on my own?

When I had more of a village surrounding me, I had more confidence in taking on the myriad challenges of parenting. But now that we live more than an hour away from our families and almost all of our friends, I can’t help feeling like we exist on an island even without kids. Of course, we’re still fairly new to this area, and I could make more an effort to connect with a community here now that the weather is nice and I’m feeling significantly more physically energized and mentally awake again.

Other Perspectives on Parenthood

Last weekend I was fortunately pepped up for a couples’ night out with friends, which was really fun and emotionally nourishing for us both. Toward the end of the night, the men and women split up as the guys went on to have one more drink, and we gals sleepily settled at a table to chat. While the boys were likely talking about martial arts and their manly adventure trip coming up, the girls wound up talking about children and parenthood.

The sole mother of the group had previously let the cat out of the bag that she and her husband-to-be will be trying to get pregnant next year. Now, she informed us that an abnormality in her baby-making hardware meant that her time for having more children was also running out, although she’s only in her late 20s. She lives for being a parent and is an incredibly doting and nurturing mother to her school-aged son. For her, it’s especially important to her to have more children while she’s young and able.

My doctor has also been urging me to be aware of the passing of time as I am already considered a high-risk pregnancy, and that risk jumps exponentially beyond 40. Of course, I’d like to be able to simply cite the research that claims older mothers have better educated and more physically resilient children. But with an autoimmune disorder that affects blood clotting, I have to be a bit more realistic about the physical risks of older pregnancy to both a potential child and to me. That is not to say that if we’re having children, I’m going off the birth control tomorrow. It just means that I realize I can’t just postpone making a decision for another five years without consequence.

Our other friend is in her mid-30s—and like WP and I—she and her husband are both on the fence about having children of their own. They both absolutely love kids, but they are open to adopting. They also, like us, are content being the great aunt and uncle to their nieces and nephews and the children of their friends if life passions lead them elsewhere.

FB-expecting-a-babyNow when I was younger, I absolutely wanted a soccer team of children of my own, but as I’ve grown older, the urgency of that desire has faded as reality kicked in. I didn’t meet my lifemate early in adulthood. I lost the overwhelming baby-making desire that threatened to derail my life in my 20s. Years and years of chronic illness forced me to alter my perspective a little bit and put more focus on self-care and self-love first. I’ve certainly enjoyed the role I’ve been able to play being a present and active aunt with my niece and nephews, literally watching my niece being born and caring for the older two when the third was born. I love playing soccer with them, reading to them, learning from them and snuggling them. Yet I also have been grateful to step back in hectic times and moments of exhaustion.

This indecisiveness of WP and me is what always causes the conversation about potential parenthood to simple fizzle out into ellipses…Unanswered, equally as unsure. And having and raising children should be one of the most important decisions you make in your life. Shouldn’t you be sure? Shouldn’t you decisively say, I definitely want to bring new life into this world—or at least to help raise new life in the world?

A friend who is a father says it doesn’t work as neatly as that. He says nothing could have prepared him for experience of parenthood, both its challenges and its immense rewards. His certainty about being father only has strengthened with time and experience, he tells me with the awe of one on the brink of bringing in his second child. Sometimes, he says, you have to take the leap.

As WP and I try on and grow into what it means to be man and wife, we have answered questions and uncertainties as they present themselves. We are forever defining, refining or clarifying our needs, desires and approaches. In time, we always make the choice that’s best for us. And I have no doubt we eventually will when it comes to parenthood, as well.

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