Tuesday, September 21, 2010


I have always been someone who does better with anticipation than actuality. I love the weeks building up to Christmas, but if I'm not careful, I can look forward to the big day so much that it's kind of a letdown when it comes. It's almost never about things I anticipate receiving, by the way: it's much more likely to be about a gift I'm so excited to give that, when the person receiving it has anything less than a "OHMYGOD THIS GIFT WILL CHANGE MY LIFE" reaction, I feel a little deflated.

This has me a little concerned about parenthood.

When I got engaged, there were lots of people who wanted to give me advice about marriage. Mostly, they felt the need to say something about how much work marriage is - as if that had never occurred to me before. There's never a way to know what something is like until you do it for yourself, of course, but I always felt those comments were overly patronizing. I was, after all, 31 years old. I counsel couples going into marriage and couples who are married and couples who are thinking about not being married anymore, so I had some experience with the "it's a lot of work" theory. But people had a big need to share this.

About a year later, a friend of mine asked me if marriage was what I expected. "Mostly," I said, "but nobody ever told me how much fun it was." "What?" she asked. "Well," I replied, "a lot of people told me that marriage was a lot of work, but nobody said anything about it being fun. Which it also is." "Oh," she said, "I'm so sorry - somebody should have said that too."

I've been doing a lot of thinking about how much work parenting is. Long nights and lack of sleep. Years of worry and anxiety. Decisions to be made which feel monumental (this has been particularly on my mind, having visited a potential daycare yesterday). 24-7-365 responsibility for the life and well-being of another person. Oh, and having to squeeze said person out of your body.

It seems like most of what people are telling me about parenthood - well-meant as it is - is along the same lines as their marriage advice: "it's a lot of work." And I know this, insofar as it's possible to know something as monumental as parenthood before you do it for yourself. Maybe a lot of people felt blindsided by that realization and they don't want me to experience that shock. Maybe there are lots of people who really felt like parenthood would be a walk in the park and now they feel obligated to inform the general public that this is not, in fact, the case.

Maybe I'm overreacting to my general tendency to over-anticipate things by focusing on how much work it will be. Maybe I'm turning into freaking Woody Allen with my neurosis over this.

Maybe I'm protecting myself by imagining the worst all the time, as if imagining those things will make them not happen, or somehow prepare me in advance, when in fact all it does is give me heartburn.

Every once in awhile, someone who talks to me about parenthood says what a great thing it is, that yes, it's a lot of work, but it's also wonderful. I suppose all I really want to do today is give thanks for those people. I have no problem imagining the worst, the work, and the worry. But if you can remind me of the good stuff? I'm really going to need you around in the next month. And thanks.


  1. Very true point! I can't wait to smell the fresh baby scent or touch his soft skin. Can you imagine waking up and having him grin at you? I don't think that will ever get old!

  2. I love this post. It's so true.

    I think sometimes it's hard to be positive, because it sounds like you're bragging. "Getting married is much more fun than being single" and "Parenthood is better than anything you'll ever dream of" are statements that might be offensive or hurtful, because it can make those receiving the comments feel inferior. How many times, as infertiles, have we heard people talking about parenting in a way that just stabs us in the heart? Maybe that's why you don't hear the positives so much.

    But, you asked, so I'm here to tell you (and I'm only nine months in, so I've still got all the scary stuff to worry about)... being a mom is the most amazing thing that's ever happened to me. Every single aspect has been worth it (including infertility, pregnancy, and a complicated, painful delivery). Sleepless nights were cake for me when I spent them holding my precious little girl. More than once, I have found myself teary with joy, whispering prayers of gratitude, and just smiling/laughing to myself, thinking I can't believe this is actually my life.

    Yes, sometimes it's hard. My whole life is different, my whole focus is different. I'm different. But I love it this way. You'll love it too.

    (I hesitate to post this in case those who are still waiting are reading. I know how painful that would be. All I can say is - hang in there. Hopefully soon, in one way or another, you'll experience these feelings too.) ❤

  3. Great post. I've been told (in addition to how much work this will be) that parenthood brings out a level of love you just never though possible. I really really love a lot of people in my life. So to imagine a love that is so intense, so protective, so primal, so pure, just leaves me in wonder. I kinda suspect they're right.

  4. Two things that were told to me by recent parents when discussing my pregnancy:
    "I felt that my life really started the day the baby was born. I hated being pregnant, but could never have imagined how much I have enjoyed being a mother."

    And from a friend that knew how hard we tried to get pregnant: "I'm so glad you will get to experience this. Looking at your child for the first time, everything else just drops away."

    It sounds pretty good, actually.

  5. I love your point about marriage! It's so true! I like your idea that maybe parenting can be the same way, too.

  6. Oh my goodness!! Can I just say THANK YOU for this post! And THANK YOU to all of the previous commenters who put in their "positive" two-cents about parenthood!!

    As a girl who is 28 weeks pregnant with her first little boy, after trying to conceive for almost 3 years.. and after hearing EVERYbody tell me how HARD its going to be during my whole pregnancy. Reading these comments are like seeing the springtime sun after months and months of gray clouds and snow! Seriously.. I am the kind of person that over analyzes the BAD in every situation that I have prepared myself to basically make a trip to hell and back during the first year of my son's life. And it shouldnt be that way! I KNOW that it will be very hard at times.. but my goodness. Would it KILL somebody to tell me some good things about parenthood every once in awhile??

    I remember before I got married, all of the people who would come through my place of employment would see my new engagement ring and let me know how hard marriage was going to be. Except for this one lady.. came up to me one day and said something I'll never forget and I'll forever be grateful for. She said.. "Oh honey.. you will just LOVE marriage.. it really is so much fun!" I almost fell on the floor in disbelief that somebody said something positive to me about my upcoming nuptials!?!

    And guess what?? That lady was so right! Marriage IS fun. Sure, its hard work at times. Just like everything else in life. But, its also a whole heck of a lot of fun for me and my husband! We have a ball together. So, all of these negative nancy's out there who want to make someone dread an upcoming situation just for the heck of it.. well they can suck it!!!!! LOL

    ahhh.. can you hear those pregnancy hormones talkin'?? =D

    Anyway.. thanks for this post. It helped me more than you know!

    God bless xoxo

  7. This post really resonated with me. As I was reading the paragraph about how folks had advised you that marriage was hard work, I turned to my husband and asked, "Do you think marriage is hard work?" because my marriage has never felt like "work." Ever. My husband said the same thing. Sure, we have our moments, but we're both decent communicators, and we work things through when we have those rough moments. I guess my point is that my marriage has always felt 95% fun, 5% other.

    My MIL has repeatedly told us how much joy parenting will bring us. She is such a hoot to listen to when she is reminiscing about her pregnancy and my husband as a baby. I love this about her. It helps that I work in such a baby-centered area as well, as all of my coworkers have just been so delightfully happy about my pregnancy and have been so good about stoking my confidence in this journey...

    Count me as grateful for all of this!

  8. You're right.

    Though I love my marriage and I love being a mother and I think I convey that pretty well, I think I also need to focus more on saying those things to people who are getting married/about to have a baby. You tend to want to prepare people for things that they may not know about though chances are they've heard all the same assvice over and over and are ready to beat the next person who says something.

    thanks for the reminder!

  9. I have a 1-month-old daughter, so I'm still new at this and trying to figure out what in the world I'm doing. But, what I can tell you is that I'm a new person since she arrived. I can't believe how much I love her. So much that it kinda hurts! I feel like I have a great purpose in this world than I ever had before.

    Now, the first 2-3 weeks were really tough for me since my hormones were crazy and I was adjusting to no sleep. But once things settled down, I feel like I'm living my old life again with the most amazing new person around to share it with. So, if you feel overwhelmed at the beginning, it's normal. It will get better and it will all be worth all the hard work.

  10. Yes, having a baby is freaking hard. Having TWO is really hard. In fact, right now a night nurse is watching them so I can get some sleep (off to bed in a minute), and I'm sort of happy it's her and not me since I can hear my son crying. Because I'm so tired.

    BUT!!! It's also really, really awesome, most of the time. I'm learning how to squeeze in the bottle washing and laundry and everything else, and in the meantime, I have two adorable little ones whose smiles make my heart melt every. single. time. The smiling doesn't get old at all, no matter how tired or cranky I feel.

    And I'm SO SO happy I have my blog and I wrote my birth story, because the moments around when they were born were some of the most awesome, intense moments of my life, and I would have sworn I'd remember them, but I think that without my blog, I wouldn't have written it down in such detail, and I wouldn't have that surge of emotion when I read the story again. Definitely write your birth story while the emotions are still new and fresh, even if you don't publish it, just to have it for yourself.

    So yes. It's hard. But it's incredibly worth it, and there are lots of really wonderful moments.

  11. I agree! Although no one told me the marriage thing - cos we got married in July after being together 12 years and we're gay, so maybe they just assumed it would be a blast! But the whole baby thing - yes! Some co workers were going on and on about how hard it is and I said, "why are you telling me this now? Are you telling me it's a horrible idea to have a baby? Why didn't you tell me all this before I got pregnant?!!! " they kind of laughed it off! But yes, I know it'll be hard, I really don't want to dwell on that too mch right now, but someone please tell me it's amazing too. It makes me feel like I'm some stupid fool that got pregnant - and now look what I'm in for!!! Aaargh!

  12. Is it a huge commitment? Yes, absolutely. I can see how people who were not expecting to be parents, or those who jumped in it without much planning or thought, would feel utterly overwhelmed. But to me I feel like I've ben waiting my whole life for this. I wake up every morning with a smile on my face, amazed that life is this good. Oh there are poopy diapers and sleepless nights, but I look at my daughter and am overwhelmed with joy. She's learning to laugh and play, she smiles j huge when she sees me. It is a lot of fun to spend time with her. I truly think this is the best time in my life.

  13. Wow, this post really resonated with me too. At 25 weeks, I'm starting to hear more and more those comments like, "do ___ while you still have a nanosecond to yourself!" I have such an active imagination for negative futures, and such a stunted one around positive possibilities, that those negative tidbits really stick with me and can ruin an otherwise good day. So thank you for raising the issue and explaining the ickiness of it so articulately.

    My only theory as to why well-meaning people do this is that they genuinely think they're doing us a favor by saying so. My yoga teacher looked so concerned for me when she looked me in the eyes the other day and said, "I wish someone had warned me about how dry your vagina gets after you give birth."

    Alrighty then.

  14. A lovely post! I can't wait to read your thoughts from the other side of the parenthood line.

  15. wow, friend. you really struck a chord here.

    language development- A.MAZ.ING. Front row seat as it unfolds. PRICELESS!

    hard? heck yes. worth it? ABSOLUTELY.

  16. Oh wow, what an awesome post-- truly. I'll be linking.
    THANK YOU for this. Yes, you're right. And yes, me too. And just a big fat YES.