John on January 12, 2007 at 10:12 am
Update 6PM: You’ve got to check out this article over at HuffPost. It’s a follow up to a post from a week earlier. That one said, in essence, society should support moms. Apparently there were plenty of Huff Post readers who didn’t agree:
I wrote that parents are making an unselfish contribution to our future. Dang that was a hot button. (Let me clarify here and now that saying nice things about parents in no way diminishes non-parents. There are all sort of wonderful ways to contribute to our world with and without having children.)
Let me help you out Joan, most people who don’t have kids don’t do so because they’re selfish. See that wasn’t so hard. Somehow I don’t think the Huff Post crowd is big on motherhood anyway:
Somehow a chunk of the replies were about indiscriminate “breeding”…writers who object to contributing to the wellbeing of children because they believe it rewards or encourages reckless child bearing.
Today’s Daily Mail offers an autobiographical account of having a child and, in particular, overcoming years of feminist instilled fear about it. Amy Jenkins describes herself as the child of liberal parents who grew up in an era where having a baby was not cool:
Our mothers’ generation seemed particularly concerned we shouldn’t fall into the trap of being all gooey about babies. They had in mind the stultifying atmosphere of the Fifties – against which they had rebelled in the Sixties -an atmosphere of Stepford Wives, pink frills and claustrophobia. They wanted to save us from all that.
No teacher or parent I knew would ever have talked to us about the joy of being a mother, the amount of love and laughter it brings into your life, together with a sense of purpose and meaning. Not that its purpose and meaning is any greater than that found in a career, but it’s certainly as valid.
From that last line it’s clear Amy’s journey to motherhood isn’t quite complete, but still she’s come a long way:
I for one made a vow to myself that I’d never have a baby. I wrote my vow on a piece of paper and put it in a special box. I felt, however, that there was a very real danger that inevitable broodiness would take over and I’d forget my vow – so I wrote out a list of future years and vowed to sign the document every year to keep me on the straight and narrow.
That’s how much I couldn’t bear the thought of what seemed – after all those fearful videos – like the humiliation of childbirth.
The reality was very different:
Every report of childbirth I read in the press was full of words such as “hell” and “agony”. On the other hand, natural birth advocators threatened that an epidural for pain relief was bound to end in punishment by forceps (the loss of sensation sometimes means it’s harder to push the baby out).
Plus, you have to have tepid baths, rub cream into your belly so you don’t get stretch marks, massage your perineum (very hard to reach), eat spinach, pull up on your pelvic floor, play Mozart to your baby, but don’t, whatever you do, lie back in comfort of an evening and watch television – TV must be watched on all fours so that your baby is in the right position for birth.
Well, that was what everyone said, anyway. After all that worry, I’m very lucky – and surprised – to be able to report that I really enjoyed having my baby when he arrived last April.
The birth wasn’t frightening; it was really, really exciting. The pain was painful, but it came and went, and at no point did I feel even near to losing control. I had an epidural which wore off in time to push.
I didn’t find the experience humiliating. I found it empowering.
It was one of the great moments of my life when I heard my son Arthur’s voice and saw his face for the first time. I was very glad I hadn’t kept my teenage vow and missed out on such an incredible experience.
This last bit is the part I personally can relate to (not the loving men part, but the rest of it):
The other thing no one managed to get across to me was how the love gets you through. I’ve loved parents and siblings and dogs and men in my time – but not like this.
Of course, it’s true that baby love brings its fears, too – I sometimes find myself carrying Arthur downstairs fantasising dramatic images of catastrophic falls – by which I mean to say you realise, when you have a child, that you’ve got a hell of a lot to lose.
But the upside of the love – the most present side – is that it’s fun. It’s fun loving someone so much. It’s like the early days of a romance, when everything’s going well.
You’ve always got something to look forward to – seeing your baby again in the morning, seeing him grow, his first steps, first words, first day at school, first drum kit; I look forward to it all.
I almost missed out. My wife and I were married for 10 years before we had kids. Both of us come from divorced families where basic relationships between children and parents were often strained. We didn’t see the appeal. And plus, what if our marriage didn’t make it. We couldn’t do that to someone else.
It was only the fact that our good friends had children (giving us a front row seat to the daily joys of parenthood) that made a difference. Like Amy Jenkins, the thought of almost not having the kids I have is unbelievable to me.
Most of my wife’s friends have either decided not to have kids or just put it off indefinitely. As they approach their mid-thirties I often think they have no idea what they’re missing. And in a few more years it’ll be too late. But what can you say? Nothing really.
For our part, children are a wonderful and ongoing part of life. My wife and I found out just before Christmas that we’ll be having our third this Summer. I’m hoping for a boy this time. She wants another girl. We both agree that whichever we get, it means more joy in our lives, our kids’ lives and even our friend’s lives.
Amy Jenkins wouldn’t say it, but I will. If you’re not a parent, you’re missing out on life.