What’s there to fear about having kids?

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.

Posted in Family, Life & Faith, Memories, Motherhood, Parenting, Pregnancy/Birth | 4 Comments

4 Responses to What’s there to fear about having kids?

  1. Maureen says:

    We received a card when Andrew was born that said along the lines of “to have a child is to FOREVER walk around with your heart outside your body”. I have never forgotten that and it is so true. My heart is consumed with love and care for these boys. I have never been the same since they were born. And I’m thankful for that.

  2. Toni says:

    This is a good and heart-felt post, Dixie. Just remember everyone is different. For the ‘lucky’ ones like you, love springs spontaneously and hugely, but others have to struggle and work to feel the love.

    It’s interesting, reading this post and Johanna’s ‘first birthday’ post about the way you viewed and remembered your experiences. Ben’s birth was even more traumatic than Norah’s (the ventoux suction failed to have enough grip and they used forceps & much hacking around) and at the time Chris wondered whether it was worth all the pain to bring that poor little scrap into the world. We’re all different.

  3. You’re right Toni. I was lucky. Madeline’s birth — or her large head’s effect on my body — was quite horrible. But I didn’t know the difference. And I remember being overshadowed by this feeling of how beautiful she was — despite the fact that the whole top of her head was bruised, one side of her head was swollen and one eyelid was bruised. She was so beautiful!

    Loving my babies was easy. Loving my KIDS has not always been. I have struggled with finding unconditional love when my feelings and my anger make it feel conditional. Yet, when I think about it long and hard and rationally, I know I love them and want them with me. And the idea of losing them is so frightening to me.

    (P.S. I thought about you as I wrote this post, and hoped it wouldn’t hurt you or be offensive to you. Sometimes I think people who haven’t experienced the loss have no right to speak about it, because it is simply speculative. But thanks for seeing that it came from my heart.)

  4. Toni says:

    Ypu’re good, Dixie – I see no malice in you, and you are right to write about the things you think and feel because they’re yours. Pretty much everyone has lost someone or something they care about, and their thoughts and feeling are valid for them, regardless of whether they fit anyone else’s life. I have to be a little careful with how I treat others, when they face their own loss that seems like something they should just cope with *to me*.

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