Sunday, July 17, 2011

Planned Parenthood

As Amelia’s first birthday approaches, I can’t help but look back on the past year.  My little girl has changed so much and she’s done it so quickly.  I want her to grow and develop, but I sure do wish I could hit a pause button now and then.  Amelia isn’t the only one who has changed—I’ve changed, too.  It’s not a secret that being a parent dramatically alters your entire existence, but nothing can actually prepare you for the highs and lows of having a baby.  

The past year has been the most exciting, terrifying, joyous, frustrating, beautiful, exhausting, fulfilling, draining, incredible experience of my almost 32 years.  And while the adjustments haven’t always been easy, I believe I have transitioned to motherhood more smoothly than I might have because I (A) wanted a baby and deliberately got pregnant, and (B) I am at a point in my life where I am emotionally, mentally and financially stable.  Even under the best circumstances, babies are challenging, but I have to believe that I would struggle so much more as a mother if Amelia had been unplanned, especially if it had happened ten (or even five) years ago.  If I had a dollar for every time someone over the past years tried to talk me into having a kid, I could take you all to Sizzler for a steak dinner.  People just couldn’t understand why on earth John and I didn’t have a kid when we’d been married “so long.” 

I didn’t understand what the rush was (or why it was anyone’s business).  I knew that I wasn’t ready  for motherhood.  I was still too selfish, too unsteady in life.  There were areas of my marriage that needed to be addressed and worked through to provide a foundation for our future child.  Having a baby wasn’t the logical “next step” for me—not at that moment.  I will never regret waiting to have Amelia.  My life isn’t perfect and I don’t have it all figured out, but I am existing on an entirely different plane in 2011 than at other points in my adult life.  If I had become a mother earlier in my marriage, I wouldn’t have loved Amelia any less and I would have probably done just fine taking care of her.  But I wouldn’t be the mother I am to her at this point in my life.  Choosing to have a child was crucial for me.  I didn’t spend nine months trying to accept that I’d be a mother.  I was able to prepare to be a mother. 

Now please understand that I am only speaking for myself.  Every woman approaches and adjusts to motherhood differently, regardless of her circumstances.  I have known single moms who stepped up to the challenge and are wonderful, nurturing mothers.  I also know women who outwardly seem like the perfect “candidates” to raise children but who are selfish or unstable (or a dangerously unhealthy combination of both).  And whether or not a pregnancy is planned does not dictate a mother’s success.  There are many “accidents” walking around in the world who are happy, healthy, well-rounded people.  And there are entire sets of “planned” siblings who are broken, scarred products of broken, scarred parents and marriages.  All I’m saying is that I know me.  And while I would have done my very best if I’d had a child earlier in my life, my “very best” would have been hindered by insecurities, unresolved anger, anxiety, and past mistakes I was still very much clinging to.  I don’t think I would have totally screwed Amelia up, but I know I would have been less patient and more self-absorbed.  I make mistakes as a mother every day, but I don’t think I would have been as conscious about them back then. 

Image by Shawn St. Jean
I always hated when people told me I “needed to have a baby.”  However, I find myself tempted sometimes to tell people they should wait.  I know, though, that it isn’t my place to tell people what they should or shouldn’t do where babies are concerned.  I do share with younger couples why John and I chose to wait.  And I tell them how it has not only benefited Amelia but also our marriage.    We still have our rocky times, but we had nine years to lay the groundwork for a stable, happy home in which to raise our little girl.   Maybe some people can do this in a year or two, but we needed more time.

I love my little Peanut.  I can’t imagine what life would be like without her and already struggle to remember what life was like before her.  I gain nothing at this point by dwelling on what kind of mother I could have been, but I do believe I wouldn’t have been so willing to be a mother.  When I make a mistake, I am conscious of it.  I acknowledge my shortcomings and actively try to better myself.  I don’t know if that would have been the case under different circumstances.  It would have been difficult to focus on the needs and well-being of a baby if I were instead focused on my own hang-ups and selfish desires. 

Almost every woman has potential to be a good mother, even under the worst circumstances.  The key is having the energy, patience, wisdom, and desire to be a mother.  I am thankful that I waited until I truly had that desire.   Becoming a mother has changed every aspect of my life.  I can’t help but wonder if I would be struggling with resentment or depression if these were not changes I had initiated and welcomed. 


Julia Canada Wilburn said...

I completely agree. We waited to have M, and plenty of people kept asking when we would have a baby. Just being a couple was important to us, and we knew we were too selfish early on in our marriage.

There was a couple in our childbirth class who couldn't have been more than 21. And you could just tell that they were too young. Maybe they'll do great, I don't know, but there's certainly something to be said for waiting.

pink sparkle stars said...

I agree. I nanny, Ive taken care of kids my whole life practically and I know Im good at it. Im always told how good I am at it, that I have the patience of a saint.
K and I dont have kids yet.. hell we wont even be married till June 30, 2012 (yey!) BUT we know that we want to wait about 2 years after we are married before we even start to try. We want to give ourselves time to just be married and build up a nest egg. Plus we run the 50/50 risk of our children being born with NF like I was. If that happens we need to prepare for that as well. Waiting is the better option for us.