Monday, April 03, 2006

Maybe Baby

Last night I had one of those nights where you keep falling back into the same dream--dreaming the same thing over and over, waking up, and then falling back into the dream. It was a clear case of knowing why I was dreaming what I was dreaming, but not really knowing or wanting to know what it might mean. It felt like someone kept pushing my face underwater--I would struggle to wake up out of it and then I would just fall back under.

The dream is fading now but I know it involved a baby--an infant--and breastfeeding, and a feeling of ineptitude with regard to the ability to not just care for the infant, but to remember that it needed caring for. At one point I went out and left the baby sleeping. The baby didn't seem to cry or make noise--it was like a doll. A placeholder. So it seems pretty obvious what the dream is "about," although I'm not sure that the conscription of narrative and meaning on what is so obviously non-narrative and disjointed is wholly appropriate.

The question of children--to breed or not to breed--has been on our minds a great deal lately. We are entering the age of life where nearly everyone we know has had children or is having children. At this point, we only know one couple who are married but have not made that leap. We feel a bit adrift. Currently we are reading this book, which, while timely, is not necessarily making our minds up one way or another.

Tell me how you know to have children? What are the reasons for it? Why have children at all? What makes it the "right time" in your life, your circumstances of place and situation? Am I treading water, waiting? Or is it not meant to be for us? Do we just not want it badly enough to justify what comes with procreation? Is it safe? Does it matter if it isn't? I want to know if anyone thinks about the world their children will inherit when they make the decision. How do you shrug that off or make it ok? Will it make me happy? Will it hurt the happiness I already have? What if it changes me? What if it doesn't?

Sometimes I think I do want parenthood, and all that it entails. I think that it would make things easier, in some ways. You have a defined role: in your house, in society, in the world. Everyone knows that you are a Mother, and what that means. But then another part of me wants to make my own path, my own role. I want to decide who I want to be. I know that I don't have to be the "mother" as anyone else defines it. I know that. But I also know that it is easier to walk a path that is already beaten down than one that you have to forge yourself.

But I also would want it for other reasons, too. I would want it for baby smells and a boy who looked like Mr. Bump, with those same hands that his father and his brother have, and he has too. I would want it for teaching someone, and that moment when suddenly you are learning from them. I would want it for heated arguments about political beliefs, for watching someone shape who they are, which parts align with yours, which parts are against yours. I would want it for the experience of the whole thing, baths and meals and games and tears and hugs and letting them go. I would want it for my parents' sake, even though they have never pushed a desire for grandchildren on me. I would want it for the people I hope I could raise children to be in the world, and how they might change it in ways the world wouldn't change if they didn't exist. I would want it for hope.

There is the other side of me, too. There is the side which doesn't want to have to discipline anyone, is frankly afraid of what kind of damage she could do to someone who is wholly dependent upon my guidance. It is the side that loves my life with Mr. Bump, loves the freedom we have in what we spend our money on, and where we can travel to. It is the side that can sit for a whole afternoon reading a book, letting silence fill the space around me. It is the side which likes its nap, doesn't like to share, doesn't like a mess. It is also the side that loves Mr. Bump so much and worries about how children tax a relationship, how they change it. How they strain a marriage financially, emotionally, physically.

If we had gotten pregnant by accident, I can't tell you what we would have done, but we are careful people and that hasn't happened. It probably never will. And so it is up to us which way we want to turn. We don't have (thankfully) any pressure from parents or families for grandchildren. We are left to our own decision-making devices. Some days I'm tempted to flip a coin, I'm so ambivalent.

But Mr. Bump is much more cautious about the whole thing. I think initially when I met him he understood that someday he would get married, have children, etc. But then he met me, and I imparted the beliefs that I had had since I was eight or so, which were, "Why have children? Not for me." I think he challenged his own beliefs and was won over to mine. Now he claims I did too good a job convincing him he didn't want kids. I understand how he feels and my feelings are so of two minds that I am on his side and I am not, all at the same time.

I want someone to tell me the answer but I know there is not really anyone who can. And so I dream this dream, probably at least once or twice a month, where I lose a baby, or I think I'm pregnant but I don't ever look pregnant, or something like that. And I know that dreaming about that baby doesn't mean that I want a baby. But I wish it did. It would be so much easier that way.

P.S.--I have heard that there are all these people out there reading this blog--directed there by one of my dear friends. But I have yet to hear from any of you--you ghost readers. In the world of forums and blogs you're called lurkers. It seems to me that I could use your help--tell me what you think about what I think. I'm never above hearing other people's opinions, thoughts, advice. Please. I don't bite. (Unless you ask me to, that is.)


Mrs. Arnold said...

Dear Lana,
For me, having kids didn't feel like an option. It just felt like a bodily function that I had very little control over. It became an obsession, tracking my cycle, reading conception books, pregnancy books, birth books...In large part, it was more about the pregancy for me than it was about parenting an actual person. I wanted someone to suck on me, sleep with me, maybe complete me. Having a baby,too, got me out of things. I didn't like working, and having a baby seemed like a good alternative. I was too unmotivated to really write or find a meaning for myself, and having a kid promised to make me too busy to care about writing and give me built-in purpose. I have not been disappointed, as motherhood has done all of those things for me, but even though I wanted to get lost in pregnancy and babies, I seem to have forgotten what else is out there, to the detriment of my relationships with other adults, esp. those who have not had kids. Now, with both my babies walking and talking, I find that those parts of my life that I so wanted to hide from are coming back, and I am rusty and out of practice. Not only that, I find myself wondering who I am besides a mother. You were also right that having a baby changes the marriage, at least in my experience. After Max was born, for a while all I wanted was for Keith to go earn a paycheck so I could be left alone with my baby. It went from the twosome of me and Keith to a twosome of me and Max. To be honest, it was really hard in lots of ways. But after the hormones leveled off (which took about a year, honestly), we got down to the business of being a family. Parenthood has been really hard on Keith, because he, like Mr. Bump, I imagine, takes things very seriously. A couple of weeks ago, we found out that Max had allergies, and the following weekend, Mr. Arnold spent four plus hours scrubbing the bathroom to rid it of mold after spending the better part of Saturday researching allergies online.

But having a baby doesn't just change the relationship; it changes the people in it, too, of course. I don't know if we're better off for having kids or not, and I am sometimes very aware of the choices we no longer have because of the babies, but having them is still one of the best choices I ever made, second only to marrying Mr. Arnold.

I say, go ahead and have a baby. You'll never be sorry, either of you, once you see the little guy and fall in love, but if you don't have it, you may end up regretting it forever. You may think (or Mr. Bump may think) that I am oversimplifying it, but it is simple! Once you're pregnant, the question of whether or not to get pregnant will be settled.

Then all you have to decide is what color to paint the nursery...

Mrs.Bump said...

Mrs. Arnold--you have a blog! You Go!

sasha said...

Elizabeth Stone said, "Making a decision to have a child--it's momentous. It is to decide forever to have your heart go walking around outside your body." Well, almost. It's more like having your heart torn out of your chest, Temple of Doom style, and thrown to a pack of badgers who got up on the wrong side of the den this morning.

I often say (mutter? grunt?) that if I had known how painful it is to have children, I would not have done it. I'm not referring to the C-section either. I'm talking about that heart-outside-the-body feeling that comes when your most beloved, your precious, is out there, in the world, mortal and vulnerable to harm. It is not for the weak, Mrs. Bump. Do you ever worry about Mr. Bump if he comes home a bit late without calling? (Not that Mr. Bump would be prone to that kind of behavior.) Has your imagination ever run away with you as you conjured up the worst? It's like that, except all the time.

However, I've also been known to say from up here on my soapbox that there are mysteries that are only unveiled to those with children. (Must I offer an apology at this point to the dear readers who are childless?) Granted, you're also faced with a whole slew of new mysteries. But I have grown as a person in ways I would not, could not have grown if it were not for having become a parent.

One of my favorite benefits of breeding has been watching my husband become a father. He admitted to me that his initial feeling the first time he held our firstborn was not "overwhelming love" but "sickening terror." Nevertheless, I have witnessed his transformation from someone who never thought to ask if I wanted any when he got up to get some (MAJOR only child syndrome!) into a man who gives ceaselessly to his children. I've gotten to see him grow into someone who I never would have known had we not had children. (Which, incidentally, we were NOT planning to do when we first got married.)

So is it safe? Most decidedly not. Will it change you? Yes, irrevocably, and no, not enough to be the parent you'll want to be.
How do you bring children into a world as screwed up as ours? Mrs. Bump, the world has never been a safe place to live. This will sicken you all the days that you are a parent. See paragraph 1.
Will it make you happy? Yes, I promise. Also it will make you miserable and insane.
Will it change the happiness you already have? Yes, but you know well enough that you can't take insurance out on that happiness anyway.

Parenthood is the ultimate adventure. It is the ultimate trip. It is NOT for the weak. Nothing can prepare you for it, no one can warn you enough. But Mrs. Bump, I definetely would recommend it to a friend.

sasha said...


I say you take that hole punch and make some confetti out of whatever method of birth control you've been using. Life is short.