Doing It All Again

Monday, February 7th, 2011 • 2 Comments on Doing It All Again

Mary Ann Mohanraj wrote a letter to her two young children Kavya and Anand (3 and a half and 16 months, I believe), telling them about a conversation she had with some childhood friends regarding having children.  I found myself nodding at so much of what she wrote, that I wanted to share it.  Especially this passage about what parenting is like:

It is like taking on another full-time job, on top of the one you already have. And then some. You give up all control of your own life, because at every moment, your infant’s needs must come first. Research has shown that the brains of sleep-deprived parents look very much like the brains of psychotic people; you are literally crazed with lack of sleep while you are trying desperately to keep this small and fragile creature alive. Breast-feeding can be a torture for both mother and child when it doesn’t go well, and the guilt, while the hormones rush through you, can make you feel like an utter failure. Exclusively pumping for six months takes twice as much time as normal breast-feeding would, which is already an impossible amount of time. Showering becomes a luxury. Cold food is better than no food. You are at the mercy of your body and its hormones, your child and its unending needs. It is as if someone has reached in and torn a hole in your very self. The first nine months of your life, Kavya, (until you finally slept through the night) were the most intense physical, mental, and emotional gauntlet that I have ever been through, and I just put my head down and tried to survive the days. And then, Anand, we did it all again with you.

We did it all again.

Because for all the misery and difficulty, it is astonishing, being a parent. It is transformative. I imagine it must be similar to being in a war, or having a transcendental religious experience—you go through a door into another country, one you could never have envisioned. In passing through that door, you are changed forever. Admittedly, I am an experience junkie—if you asked me right now, would you like to go into a war zone? , I would want to say yes. Only the thought that I have a responsibility to my children to keep my body safe for the next seventeen years would give me pause. In my life thus far, I have chosen great risk every time, as long as there is also the possibility of great rewards. So let that frame what comes next.

Because although I would never say those words to anyone—do it. have kids.—I said it to these women, at the end of our lunch. I told them to dive into the trenches. Take the risk.

Despite the sheer terror at the thought of having to take care of an infant alone; despite the moments of utter despair that I would never sleep, eat or write again; despite the sneaking suspicion that I am utterly insane to not only have one child in my 40s but to now be pregnant with a second… I would say the same to anyone who thinks they might want children.  Do it. Take the risk.  It’s sheer exhausting, chaotic madness, but it’s also unbelievably joyful and fun. I hope, hope, hope I feel the same way when the second baby arrives… though I imagine he or she will be at least six months old before I can even put the words “joyful” and “parenting” together in the same sentence. 

Yes, it’s crazy.  But it’s a good kind of crazy.

Posted by Kristina in Pregnancy 2011, Pregnancy and Baby
  • Kristina says:

    Thanks for the congrats, Elizabeth! (By the way—do you have a blog or last name? I’m sure I’d like to see what you’re writing!)  We don’t have any family here, so we rely on friends and a very good babysitter (who I fear will leave me someday!). I’m still not a baby/toddler person—but I do enjoy watching him discover the world!

  • Elizabeth says:

    First, congratulations on the second pregnancy!

    It IS a crazy ride.  My hat is off to you for taking on the challenge without backup – I’m not sure what I would have done without my husband, as we really don’t have any other backup besides each other.

    We lost two before I got pregnant with my little girl, and I think that plus the difficulty we had during the pregnancy changed the way we viewed what happened after she was born.  Life with a preemie is, to say the least, challenging. 

    The first two months after she came home from the NICU were insanely hard in some ways, and I remember being in a constant fog, but I think the losses and the scares we had during the pregnancy changed the way I viewed them.  Had everything gone without complications, had we not been slapped by loss, I think I would have felt more resentment at the demands upon me physically and emotionally.  Instead, it felt more like I was fighting for her and *with* her—which helped bring out my ornery nature.  (Like THAT needs help coming to the forefront!)  There were a few times I wept from exhaustion, but I always had a sense of progress, and that helped, too.

    What people tried to tell me and what I thought was complete garbage was how I would change.  I never liked babies, was never, ever comfortable with them, and I have never been sentimental about children as a whole.  I don’t *dislike* them; I used to teach, although I taught middle school, by choice, because I was comfortable with teenagers and enjoyed working with them.  Attitudes, I could handle.  But babies?  AUUGH!  Even up until I actually had my daughter, I really figured that I’d wait out the first couple of years until she started getting old enough to talk, and then I could really enjoy her.  I know that sounds terrible, but it’s the truth.

    But it just hasn’t been that way at all.  She’s got her bad moments, but mostly, she’s just plain *fun*.  Granted, I’m fortunate to have an amazingly unfussy child (my husband says she’s cried less in her two years than both her brothers did in two months) but I’ve been blown away by how much unalloyed joy she brings us both.  There isn’t a day that goes by that I don’t stop for a moment and stare at her in amazement and wonder how I had her. I never expected anything or anyone could bring me such awe and delight.  It’s the exact opposite of grief; you’re just going along about your day and you stumble over something that makes you feel wonderful.  My husband and I knew we’d be happy even if we couldn’t have children, but I know neither of us expected how much happier she’d make us together.

    Experiences like that are well worth the price of admission.

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