Two of my good friends are pregnant.
I’m having a hard time with it, but not in the way I expected. Mostly I’m not sure how I feel about it. I guess I’m having a hard time determining how I feel and why I feel that way. I can’t quite make sense of what is going on in my head and heart.
First and foremost I am thrilled for them. Truly. They want to have children and they are having children. That is awesome and I am so happy for them.
But there are other feelings swirling underneath that celebration, and I’m not quite sure what those feelings are.
I think there is jealousy, but I’m confused because when I probe that feeling I conjure aspects of their family building experience that I don’t usually covet. It’s not that they didn’t struggle to get pregnant (in one case she actually kind of did), but that they took their time deciding if they even wanted children, they waited until the time felt right, they weren’t rushed into it by fears of infertility (that ended up being founded) or a crazed (and completely unexplored) desperation to become a mother. They both took their time arriving at the doorstep to parenthood, and in their mid-thirties, it didn’t take too much knocking before they were let in.
I didn’t even realize this was something I envied in other people. The slow, uncertain shuffle toward something that eventually became a deliberate march in the direction of a desired future. The certainty of attaining that future. That certainty not being unfounded.
Below even that is an ambivalence toward parenthood that I’m loath to explore. I’m not loving being a mother these days. It’s brutal. Grueling. Relentless. There are moments of brightness, but they are frequently overshadowed: pinpricks of light swallowed by the yawning darkness.
Parenthood was my ultimate prize. It was supposed to complete me. It was supposed to infuse my life with happiness and delight.
I was so overcome by my blind desire. I had no idea what I was getting into. I had no idea what the reality would look like.
And I suppose that is why I’m jealous, of the time they took to decide. I know neither of them were sure they wanted kids. They thought long and hard, watched as others went before them, got an idea of what it entailed. And then they made as well-educated a decision as one can when the uncertainties are as boundless as in having kids.
I’ve done a lot of work on myself in the past couple of years, as I’ve tried to sort through the debris that feelings of apathy toward parenting littered throughout my life. I have some theories as to why I so desperately wanted to become a mother (the guarantee of being loved and having someone to love in return) and identifying those motives have helped me re-evaluate my expectations of parenthood and allowed me heal.
I don’t regret rushing into TTC, because who knows if we could have achieve our family any later in life, but I wish I’d gone into this life-changing endeavor with my eyes wide open instead of stubbornly sealed shut. I wish I could have quieted my fears long enough to recognize that the path I choose would present its own challenges, unavoidable and significant. I wish I’d acknowledged how good I had it back then, even amidst the uncertainty.
Parenthood is amazing, but it’s also really fucking hard. I thought it would complete me, but a lot of the time it feels like it gets in the way of who I am and who I want to be. It feels like sacrilege to say that, and I’m sure much of what I’m feeling now is born of the frustration of our current challenges, but it’s how in this stage of my parenting journey. And it’s hard to come from that place and talk honestly with my friends about this massive transition they are about to undertake. Most of the time I don’t know what to say.
Have you ever struggled with your feelings about parenthood? What do you say to close friends who are soon join its ranks?