“Why did you have a child?” she asked me (with a look of genuine curiosity).
We were talking about kids – the topic of Alex and I having more kids, actually – so it wasn’t a question that was out of the blue. But, still, it took me by surprise.
I had never really thought about it before. It’s a legitimate question, though.
I’m sure I said something about a void, and joy, and age, and family. I can’t recall my exact words. And, sure, those are all a part of it.
I just can’t help but think about it, even now, a week later since she asked me. Why did I want a child?
Oranges have nothing to do with this, but I’m an English major so I love a good symbolic image.
Three oranges – three people in our family. You can roll your eyes now 😉
I lived most of my life not expecting to become a mother. To be honest, I never considered myself very maternal toward humans. Animals were a different story. I could be moved to heart wrenching sobs at the site of an abandoned animal, just thinking about the horrors it must have gone through. But I had a hard time empathizing with people. It led me to believe I wasn’t cut out for motherhood.
I remember declaring to my mom (and, later, to my in-laws), “You’ll never get a grandkid from me! No way.”
I honestly thought I was broken, emotionally. Aren’t women supposed to want kids? Like, innately?
When I met Alex and, later, when I knew I would marry him, I still didn’t expect I would have a child. Of course we had “the talk.” We talked about how many kids we wanted and I probably stuck with a safe number like 2, knowing full well I wanted zero. I couldn’t tell you what Alex’s response was because, at the time, it wasn’t really something I took seriously (although I think he also stuck with the safe bet of 2 kids). And anyway, we didn’t spend much time on that topic which implied he hadn’t thought much about it either.
Don’t get me wrong. I didn’t dislike children. I didn’t think becoming a parent was the end of the world. I didn’t even think that I would fail as a mom. I just didn’t think “mom” was a label that would ever apply to me. It wasn’t something I felt called to.
But then? One day, something was different. Even now, I can’t tell you what it was. One day, I was 27 and I thought – my life is really great, but is there more?
I really enjoy working, but is there more? I love sleeping in, I love my dog (who was kinda like my kid… I carried him around in a purse for crying out loud), I love my alone time, I love going out whenever I want…but is there more?
Am I missing out on something – something that so many people seem to have. Am I robbing myself of some life experience that I should be running after? These were questions I had never bothered with before and they popped up out of nowhere. It was alarming.
So, Alex and I had “the talk” again. I was so surprised to learn that my husband, who up until that point had been neither here nor there on the thought of being a dad, was suddenly against it. He didn’t want a kid, at least not right then. He wanted to wait a year or more.
And me? The girl who thought mom was not a word that I would ever hear on a daily basis in reference to me? Well, I was devastated. It was something I couldn’t have, and now it was all I wanted.
But I waited.
Obviously, we eventually found ourselves on the same page. It didn’t take a year, but I remember those weeks and months leading up to when we were both ready. I remember convincing myself it was something I didn’t want after all. That I was totally fine if we never had kids – they’re inconvenient! They don’t sleep! They’re expensive! They’re life changers!
I was right about one thing. It was a life changer. It is a life changer. Ezra is a life changer.
But that still doesn’t answer the question. Why did I want him? Even during pregnancy I didn’t feel entirely connected to my growing little baby. I still worried that I lacked a maternal nature and that I wouldn’t be very compassionate or nurturing. So why did I put myself in that situation?
I could say it was my biological clock (I was three years away from 30 and they say around that time is when it starts ringing). I could say it was because I saw my friends having children. I could say it was because we had been married almost 4 years and that’s when my parents started their family, so it seemed like the “right” time based on what I knew about “parenting.” I could say it was because my husband seemed resistant and I realized what I might be missing out on. I could say it was because I was ready for a change.
Maybe it doesn’t matter what my answer is, because the specifics all disappear in light of one common thing – “I.” Ezra had no say in this choice. He didn’t exist until, one day, when he did. By whim, by plan, by chance – it doesn’t matter. I can’t help but think that parenting is a selfish choice – you bring someone into the world because you want them there, end of story.
But, I don’t think that is a bad thing.
It really just comes down to family. And togetherness. And growing. And change. All of which are parts of life. All of which play well together and all of which happen sometimes because of, sometimes in spite of our choices.
We chose to have children because we wanted more. More of us. More of someone new. More of life. Just more.
Selfish? Yes. But not selfish in the way that it’s damaging to those around us (unless you consider when my child flings food at a restaurant and it hits an unexpected passerby…).
Selfish in the way that had we not made the choice, we would have robbed ourselves of a richness that we didn’t know existed (or that we even wanted) – we wanted more. Selfish in the sense that we jumped in and decided the risk of the unknown no longer outweighed the potential benefits of what was in store – we wanted more. Selfish in that we wanted our family to grow, despite the fear of what that may look like – we wanted more.
So, it seems I do have an answer. More. I just plain wanted more in my life (and boy did I get it – not to mention that maternal instinct I was so worried about not having? My heart has never been so tender or open since becoming a mom). But the bottom line is it’s a personal choice with no one way to get there. And sometimes you never get there, and that’s okay too. More can mean many things to many people. But in this particular instance, with this particular question, at this time in my life… more is the reason I became a mom. Despite my proclamations and doubt, my fear – despite it all. I just wanted more.