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.