Sunday, November 10, 2013


This morning I caught the tail end of an NPR story about a woman who gave up her cubicle job to row across the Atlantic. It was a harrowing tale of near death experiences, fear, loneliness, and exhilaration. At one point the interviewer asked her why she put herself in that position - couldn't she have just gotten another job? She answered that the fear of not doing it was worse than the fear of doing it. This really struck a chord with me, since it so much sums up how I've been feeling lately. It's the "damned if you do..." concept I touched on earlier. It sounds a lot more negative than I mean it. But even in my worst moments lately I've been cognitive of the fact that yes, raising small children on your own is hella hard at times, but life with no children would have just been unacceptable to me. And that's why I had one and am having another. Because I know myself and I just never would have been satisfied with anything else.

So, to me, not having children is far scarier than facing the challenges of having them. There have been many times lately where I've felt sad that I had to miss out on something fun or felt resentful that I have to get up so &/!@ early or run myself ragged keeping B busy and entertained. And those feelings are very real. But I always ask myself, have you considered the alternative? The way life would really look for me right now - 41, still single, childless, while all my single friends get snapped up and have one and then another child, while everyone asks, "have you tried e-harmony?", while I get invited to more baby showers and weddings, while people fifteen years younger than me get get my point. And again it's not to devalue my former life or make me look pathetic and lonely, which I was neither. But at 38 I could see the writing on the wall and I didn't like it. So I did this dramatic, crazy thing, and created two people.

So, was it worth it? This phrase, "worth it", is used a lot on my birth boards. Whenever a woman complains about her miserable pregnancy everyone chimes in that once you hold your baby in your arms, "it'll all be worth it." Do I believe this? Maybe on some level, but I would never use that term. Is extreme emotional or physical pain ever worth anything? When I held Bumpus for the first time, did I "fall in love" or say to myself, "it was all worth it"? Nope! I said, "thank God that hell is over!" and then prepared for the next thing - getting us out of the hospital, getting us breastfeeding, and learning the ropes as a new mom. So, was Bumpus "worth" that unpleasant pregnancy and horrible birth? I just don't look at it that way. I simply accept that this is (sometimes) what it takes to make a person. And that the alternative - not doing it because you're too scared - is not acceptable. And so we march on to the second and last baby.

As I've noted many times, I wish I could be more sanguine on this issue. But I think I can safely say at this point that it's just not my style. I don't believe in platitudes or glossing over reality. Babies and little kids are hard, period. But so is anything "worth" having. Thankfully I was blessed with a happy, healthy kid who much of the time is an utter delight. And the times when he's not...well...I may be gritting my teeth and thinking "I hate this I hate this I hate this", but I never wish I hadn't had kids; I never think this was all a big mistake and I'd be better off without them, because I know that's just not true. 

So in my worst moments I think of this, and it does help. Most of us parents of babies and toddlers just get through each day, sometimes exchanging deer-in-headlights glances, sensing each other's pain, and exhilaration. And sometimes that baby's giggle does kind of sort of make it all worth it. 


  1. Very well said. I think of it in a very similar way, and always have. There's some quote about the things that are regretted the most are the things NOT done. That spoke to me, and it very much helped me make the decision to become an SMC.

  2. This is beautifully put! And it reminds me of a line from one of my favorite novels (The Tidewater Tales by John Barth, for those playing along at home): "[we] decided to pay, but not to count, the cost."

    When I pulled the book down to find the line, which I've flagged many times over, I realized that it's spoken by a 39 1/2 year-old woman who is 9 months pregnant with her first child.

    Why did that perfectly happy pair,
    Like us, decide this late to bear
    A child? Why toil so to conceive
    One (or more), when they both believe
    The world's aboard a handbasket bound for Hell?
    . . . .
    Perhaps they considered all the above,
    (Like us, exactly)--instinct, love,
    The world's decline from bad to worse
    In more respects than the reverse--
    And decided to pay, but not to count, the cost.
    Fingers crossed.

    It's just funny that this resonated so strongly with me from the first time I read it (at 14 -- many, many years removed from parenthood of any variety, single or otherwise).