None of my friends have babies. All the ladies that I’m most fond of are scattered across the country working cool jobs or in medical school or grad school or, if it’s late, in the bars next to their cool jobs and med schools and grad schools.
They’re all hard-working, fun, ambitions women who have no plans for babies any time in the next five years, if ever.
They are also, as I’ve come to find out since having my son, very curious about pregnancy, childbirth, babies, and motherhood. As the lone mommy, I find myself answering questions about motherhood almost every time we talk.
Most professional women in their mid-20s have begun to think about whether they want children, but most don’t have a lot (if any) mommy friends who they're close enough with to ask about the intimate details of motherhood. I wished, when I was pregnant, that I had had others to learn from. So when they ask, I’m more than happy to share.
I get a lot of questions about the mechanics of things, how pregnancy feels and if labor hurts and how bodies know how much milk to make. By and large, I don’t have trouble answering these questions. In addition to being a real-life mom, I have a masters in maternal and child health and far too few opportunities to share information on these sorts of fun topics.
There is one question I get though, only from my friends (and sometimes acquaintances) who are still wondering if motherhood is for them, that, while easy for me to answer, doesn’t give them the answer they’re looking for.
The thing is, if you chose not to have kids you’ll be missing out on a lot. You'll be missing out on pregnancy, on feeling your body grow and change in a way you have no control over – all to make room for a whole new person.
You’ll miss out on hearing a first fluttery heartbeat in a dark ultrasound room, and on realizing that the bubbles you’ve been feeling in your pelvis are actually your baby’s kicks. You’ll miss out on feeling more powerful than you’ve ever felt before in the moments after giving birth and the rush of love and joy that flows through you in the weeks and months and years after.
You’ll miss out on birthday parties and tiny backpacks. You’ll miss out on watching a person with your eyes and your partners nose grow into someone all their own in the most magnificent miracle of life you could ever imagine. You’ll miss out on seeing the world through the eyes of a two-year-old and then a four-year-old and then a six-year-old.
You’ll miss out on helping someone figure out what they like and what they don’t like and how to get by in the world. You’ll miss out on being someone’s most important comfort and deepest source of love. You’ll miss out, basically, on an entire life. A life that’s not your own but, somehow, comes to define yours in both obvious and subtle ways.
The thing that makes this answer incomplete though, is that you’ll also be missing out on something, a whole lot of something’s really, if you do have a kid.
You'll be missing out on career things and travel things and spontaneous things – the entire course of your life will be different. It’s hard to say just what you’ll miss out on because, really, life’s a mystery, but it’s certain that you’ll miss out on really big, really cool things if you choose to become a parent.
So, to my friends who are undecided about what they want for their future, I usually add that babies are a beautiful thing if you want one, and probably much less beautiful if you don’t. No matter what choice you make, know that you’ll be missing out on some things for a chance to experience others. There’s simply no getting around the trade off.
In time you’ll probably feel pulled in one direction or the other, and when you do, the things you miss out on begin to matter less and less.