I’ve tried to write this post for a few months now (just in my head, because that’s generally how I begin my process), but have put it off for one reason or another. I kept going back to the thought that the subject of having kids isn’t anyone else’s business, but I’ve felt more and more that I need to share my story, even if the only person that it helps is me.
Christopher and I have been married for nearly five years (our anniversary is on Thursday), and since we got engaged, we have had to deal with the questions about when we would have kids. We discussed a general idea of timing together, but never shared it with anyone else, because I didn’t feel like it was necessary, and really didn’t want anyone else’s opinion about such a personal matter (I got many unsolicited opinions anyway). Because our church is very family focused and it’s unusual for couples not to have kids within the first few years of marriage, we are in the minority being a not-so-newly-wed couple without kids. When we were first married, many would say “oh, you have lots of time”, which then turned into “do you think you’ll start having kids soon?” and now there are no follow-up questions when people find out how long we’ve been married without kids, because it’s assumed that because we’ve been married for five years without kids, it’s because we can’t, not because of a choice.
I have wanted to be a mom for as long as I can remember, but was always scared of the idea of labour. I started university believing that I would finish my degree, maybe work for a year or two and start popping out the 5-7 kids that I always wanted. However, the closer I got to childbearing age and especially after Christopher and I got married, I became terrified of the thought of labour. When women would share their birthing horror stories at baby showers and around my newly pregnant friends (why do they do this???), it would add fuel to my fears, and I often had to excuse myself from those conversations. I still knew that I wanted a baby, and after each year of marriage, I would think to myself “this year, I’m going to be brave, and we’ll have a baby”. But time and time again, doubts, uncertainty and often paralyzing fear would overtake my mind (and sometimes even my body). Whenever I tried to explain my trepidation about having kids to others, it was often met with “you’ll get over it”, “that’s what an epidural is for”, “it’s worth all the pain” or “women have babies every day, you can do it too”. While I know that many of those comments were given without malice, I always felt like there must be something seriously wrong with me if I can’t bring myself to do something that women have done for centuries (and often without any medication to ease the pain).
My anxieties about having a baby are layered. Initially it began as a pre-teen/teenager due to my squeamish nature (basically after puberty when I began to understand the realities of childbearing), my fear of needles and anxiety about being in hospitals. Within the past few years, my fear of pain and control issues have compounded it. Though I often try to mask my fears with humour, my trepidation about having a baby is really serious, and much more than just being scared. I’ve known many women who were scared to have babies, and they figure out a way to overcome that. Though I feel like I’ve come a long way, especially in the last year (though I’ve felt like I’ve had a huge set back in the last few months), I still haven’t figured out how I can get over it. And maybe that’s the problem — I don’t think I’ll ever get over it, but I think I can find a way to get through it. I’ve talked to my husband, my mom and my sisters about my fears and concerns at length, and while they have all been incredibly supportive and understanding, I think my next step is to seek help from an unbiased source, likely a professional in the mental health community. I’m someone who thinks I can figure out everything on my own, and rarely ask for help (except from Google). So, coming to the point where I’ve realized that my anxiety is limiting me and affecting my quality of life and I can’t treat it on my own is a big deal. And yet, even as I’m writing this out, I am thinking to myself that maybe I don’t need anyone’s help and it will sort itself out on its own. Now it probably makes sense why it took me 8 years to graduate from university.
I hope that this post has made sense, or at least helped you to understand me a bit more. And if not, that’s okay too. If nothing else, it’s been therapeutic for me to get my thoughts out and unpack my fears so that I can work on pinpointing their origins. I plan to continue to be open about my struggles with anxiety and any breakthroughs I come by in the future. Thank you for reading this, and thank you to my husband, family and dear friends who have listened to my concerns and helped me through this process.