Here in Manitoba we have quite a few sets of friends who are newly married. Married two or three years, just long enough for people to start wondering, “So… what about kids?” Marc and I were married young — really young when I look back on it. I had turned 21 four months before the wedding and he was 22 turning 23 four months after. However, something happened to my ovaries one year into our marriage. I mean, nothing happened to them, other than THEY NEEDED TO BE USED! I was ready for kids. I was ready for kids even though I had really no experience with kids and had never babysat in my life. I didn’t know what I was getting into, but I knew — we both know — that we wanted to get into it. And so Madeline was born when I was 23, seven days after Marc turned 25.
Our friends here are already in their mid-twenties, so they’re not even that young anymore. Societal pressure is on both sides these days: “You had kids when you were that young?!” or you get to a certain age and it’s all: “What about kids?!”
What about kids? There are so many questions that go through a people’s heads when they think about having kids. Fears and joys, anxieties and hopes. You don’t know what it’s like, but you dream about what it could be. Or you have nightmares about what it could be. The money. The jobs. The maternity leave. The sleepless nights. The inevitably messy house. (Yes, it’s inevitable.) How many kids? When? Will we even be able to have them? What if we can’t have them? So many things to make us worry.
Marc put on Eric Clapton Unplugged for background music tonight as we work. I was working in the kitchen when “Tears in Heaven” came on. Now, I am not usually a crier. But that song… I have to consciously turn my emotions off, so I don’t think about that song and what it means — written for his four year old son fell to his death from an apartment building. It makes me think about the unimaginable pain of losing a child. Just as you can’t know what it’s like to have a child until you have one, you also can’t know what it’s like to lose a child until it happens. Though I occasionally get a very sick and hollow feeling in my chest when I imagine it.
I mention the song to say this: You don’t have to fear the work or the complexity of having and raising a child. What you have to fear is the love that you will experience once you have a child. The love is crazy and happens almost instantly. (I went into “mama bear” mode when I was just three months pregnant with Madeline– ready to take on three big guys single-handed who accelerated towards our car in a parking lot one night.) There is a bond that cannot be broken. It is not meant to be broken and when it breaks it is not just a breaking between people, it is a breaking within each person.
You see, love strikes both ways. You know how you don’t cry everytime you read an obituary in the newspaper? You don’t cry because there was no connection to warrant crying. We cry and mourn over the people that we love — the people we have connected with. The more you love, the more it hurts. The more you invest, the more you lose. The more you are given, the more is taken away.
Yes, there are many things to fear about being a parent, bringing children into a broken and often scary world. But those really aren’t the things to fear. What we should fear is what has the power to overpower us: the love we will feel — the love which we must always hold onto in order to make it through all of the scary bits of life and the love which we can never let go of, even when we are eventually separated from those we love in death.
Love is scary. Yet, it is all we really need. And when it’s really love, it does not fail. Even when it is battered and broken, it is still there — coursing through our veins, keeping us going even though it is the very thing that makes us not want to go on. That is the frightening beauty of love. And I know it’s worth it. Even if it really scares me.