Making the decision to have a child is momentous. It is to decide forever to have your heart go walking around outside your body. ~Elizabeth Stone
Just this morning, I was contemplating change.
I was thinking about how for the past 8 months, the constant mantra I have heard from well-intentioned friends and family has been, “Your life is going to change in ways you can’t imagine.” Some people share this [fairly] obvious insight with a gentle smile, others with a knowing grin; a few deliver it with a devious snicker, and still others with a grimace of impending doom. The result has been that in my over-emotional, physically tapped mind I have started to fear change … which is definitely not my style. I have started to worry about change and to wonder if I am up for the task of facing (not just parenthood) but this whole notion of CHANGE that seems to be so paramount in the language of so many well-meant “advisors.”
I have also started to notice that some people say my LIFE will change, while others say I (my SELF) will change. Is there a difference? Me VS. My daily grind? Me VS. My priorities?
In preparation for Sydney’s birth, I have been talking to loads of people. I have been reading loads of magazines. I am subscribed to far too many blogs, Web chats and e-newsletters. Overall, source after source assures me that upon the birth of my child, my life will be forever stripped from me. That my own sense of self, my interests and my cares will be “lost” in the mad scramble of parenthood.
Lately, I have been reading these pieces of wisdom out loud to Leon with disdain in my voice. I then usually hurl the offending resource against the wall (laptop excluded). Where is this emerging anger coming from, I wonder (besides the obvious pregnancy hormones!) … Are Leon and I selfish people that we balk so adamantly against the suggestion that we will be ourselves no more because of Sydney? Shouldn’t we be “okay” with this? What kind of people are we to not willingly surrender our entire selves for the good of our baby?
Well ~ maybe we are awful people, but Leon and I are absolutely bored with hearing how we won’t have any time for our own thoughts; that we won’t have any sense of our “old life”, and that even our marriage will be forever stripped of what it once was by the presence of our baby. We are bored of it and we refuse to believe it!
Interestingly, while I think the point of most of these articles and blogs and ballsy advice givers is to suggest that a baby will be more than worth such sacrifices, the speakers never really get around to saying that as convincingly as they warn us of all we are about to lose forever in a vast abyss of toys, dance lessons, Mommy and Me classes, piano recitals and baby gear. I have been more and more troubled by the attitude expressed by so many that children stamp out, destroy, and even strangle personal hopes, dreams and wishes … the idea I hear and read and absorb from so many is that a child replaces any sense of personal or marital identity.
I think I am going to boldly suggest that can’t possibly be true. (And yes, I can already picture which of you dear readers is laughing into your morning coffee at my next thoughts, which will probably seem either endearingly naïve or innocently just plain stupid, but bear with me) …
Leon and I are walking toward parenthood with the idea that, after 10 years of married life, Sydney is adding to, not replacing our hopes and dreams and goals; that the change that everyone “warns” us to expect is a welcome change that we do actually understand more than folks might realize.
Do I understand the “realities” of day-to-day care for our baby? Of course not. But do I “get” that life is changing in ways I can’t anticipate ~ definitely; after 32 years of living I have rather figured out that life provides lots of stages where things change completely and this prepares us for the next stage …
Sydney is an added piece of our life; not our entire existence. She is a gift from God; entrusted to us for care and parenting. She is His and we have the opportunity to love and nurture her; and to provide her with opportunities for growth and joy and learning and faith.
Now, this doesn’t mean we won’t be guilty as charged when we behave like typical Gen X parents and hold forth about every little burp our baby makes. But we’ll try really hard not to obsess that way too often. And I am also not suggesting that we will be like sitcom parents (think Ross and Rachel on FRIENDS for example), whose baby never enters conversation and who is largely forgotten except for at “milestone” events ;-) (I always wonder when I watch these shows, where on EARTH is their baby??) But I think what I dare to suggest is that I will be a lousy parent if I lose my identity because of Sydney. What a road to resentment and what a tremendously uninteresting mother I would be!
I don’t want to be afraid of my daughter’s arrival because it means I am at the same time committing hari kari on my own spirit. And I don’t think I am missing the point of the sacrifice of parenting and motherhood to make that statement …
Maybe Leon and I are wholly wrong. Maybe in a year or two, someone will come up to either one of us and ask us to define our selves or to express our deepest goals, and we won’t even recall what those were before life with Sydney. Maybe.
But my guess is that even if and when those things do change, when the inner person shifts and is so redefined, it won’t be a mindless slide into a person-less oblivion … but considered and connected to who I was before my child and to who I plan to be with my child and who I would like to be when my child is grown … I suppose time will tell.
It's not only children who grow. Parents do too. As much as we watch to see what our children do with their lives, they are watching us to see what we do with ours. I can't tell my children to reach for the sun. All I can do is reach for it, myself. ~Joyce Maynard