Here is how you are going to decide to become a mother.
You are going to take a walk one evening, just before you turn 30, and by the time you get home, you will have made the decision that will change your life.
It will be one of those glorious, languid, late-summer evenings when the light spills, golden, over everything. You will walk, slowly, through your neighborhood, and from the houses around you, through the open windows, you will see them, and you will hear them – families, sitting down at kitchen and dining-room tables. Low voices and higher ones, laughter, shouts. The clink and scrape of cutlery against dishes. Arms reaching across tables, passing food from one hand to another.
And as you see and hear all of this, you will experience the following revelations, which seem so obvious, it is almost painful to recall them:
1 | I miss my family and wish I could go back to being a kid at my parents’ table.
2 | But I can’t go back to being a kid.
3 | So if I want to experience that again some day.
4 | It will be as the parent, and not as the child.
And suddenly you will get it in a way that you never got it before. And all your years of being absolutely, completely, 100 percent sure that you did not want to have children will evaporate in the humid summer’s air.
Because up until this point, you were pretty sure that when people said they really wanted to have children, they were either lying, or crazy.
Children were, in your experience, chaotic, messy, demanding, and willful. Nothing you had seen about any individual child seemed to align with the statements of parents that having kids was a good experience, let alone a transcendentally wonderful one.
But it will suddenly become clear – strikingly, frighteningly clear. And by the time you make it back home on that summer night, you will have moved solidly out of the child-free camp, and into much less comfortable territory.
There will be people who will be – if not shocked, then at least surprised by your change of heart. To your child-free friends, this is something akin to an atheist suddenly declaring she has found Jesus, so you can expect some backlash. There will even be those who will suspect you must have secretly wanted kids all along. But you will know that this isn’t true.
When you were a teenager and couldn’t imagine having kids when you grew up, you meant it.
When you were 20 and working odd hours and living in a shady apartment, and said you could never imagine being someone’s mom, you meant it. When your best friend told you she was pregnant and your heart dropped out of your stomach and all you could say was “really?” you really were horrified for her.
But then you will take that walk – and everything will change.
It is not going to be easy. Wanting something, no matter how desperately, doesn’t make it easy. (Think of any crush you ever had.)
For one, being pregnant isn’t going to be much fun. Strangers are going to touch your stomach, you’ll be tired all the time, and for another thing, did you know you’re not supposed to eat lunchmeat?
Childbirth will go pretty well for you, but – there’s really no easy way to tell you this – it’s going to mess you up. Physically, psychologically and emotionally.
Parenting a newborn will be precisely as hard and exhausting as you imagined it would be, only you will also discover a deep well of anger within yourself, and find yourself whisper-screaming at your four-month-old daughter, “JUST GO TO SLEEP! FOR THE LOVE OF GOD! JUST SLEEP!” at 3 a.m., more than once.
And – there’s no easy way to say this, either – you won’t love her right away. It’s going to take a while. In fact, it’s going to be one of the biggest leaps of faith you will take in your adult life.
But you will get through it. You will get through all of these things, and I can tell you this: There will come a day when you will be sitting around the kitchen table with your family, while the late summer sun spills golden across the grass.
You will be smiling and laughing and talking, the sounds of your voices mingled with the clink of silverware floating out over the evening air. And you will look around the table at the faces of the people you love – at the faces of your family – and you will say to yourself, “Yes. This is it. I’m home.”