When I was five or six years old, I begged my mother to have another baby. I already had a brother — and a younger brother, at that — but we were so close in age that I never got the chance to change his diapers or hold his wriggling newborn body, and I wanted a baby. A baby baby. And while I don’t know what I said, or how I broached the subject, I do know that I swore to take care of it. I would feed it; I would bathe it; I would “raise it” as my own.
But instead of having another baby, my mother bought me a goldfish. Instead of having another baby, my mother bought me another baby doll.
And while my mother may have been done having kids, it was around this age that I began obsessing about having my own family. You know, my future family: my husband, our two — or maybe three — kids, our family dog, and our picture perfect house (the one with a swing set in the backyard and a white picket fence around the front).
The good news was, I found (and married) a man whose dreams aligned with mine. I mean, I never exactly asked him if he too wanted the picket fence or the ranch-style house, but I knew he wanted children. I knew we both wanted kids.
However, since we were young when we married, we didn’t jump right into the whole parenting thing. Instead, we took time to enjoy our relationship. We took time to enjoy each other, as husband and wife.
Unfortunately, sometime after our wedding, but before our second or third anniversary, things changed. My mind changed, and I began to question parenthood altogether. And soon, I became absolutely terrified by the prospect of becoming a mom.
I told my husband I changed my mind. Maybe we didn’t need kids. Maybe we didn’t need a family. Maybe we just needed each other. We could party and travel at our leisure. We could grow old together, just us.
My husband was shocked and saddened by this prospect, because he was finally ready; and he wanted to have a baby.
But I just wanted to give up. I wanted to run away.
You see, my greatest fear was that I wouldn’t be a “good mom.” I wasn’t sure I could be loving and understanding. I wasn’t sure I could be empathetic, funny, witty, and warm. And I wasn’t sure I could be selfless: selfless enough to give up my career. To give up identity, and to give up my body. (I know that last one sounds particularly terrible, but when you have struggled with an eating disorder — as I have — things like this make sense. Fears like this seem completely normal, and completely rational.)
I didn’t think I could be tough and sensitive. I didn’t think I could be solid and stable, and I didn’t think I could be a single parent. Not that I wanted to be, or that I planned to be, but since my own father’s death, when I was 12 , I have irrational fears of death. I am hyper-aware of things like mortality and that perpetually ticking clock.
I worried that, if we had a child, something would happen to my husband. Or, worse, something would happen to one of my kids. And what would I do then? What would I do if I had a daughter and she tried to take her own life, as I once did? What would I do if I had to sit back and watch my son destroy his life with alcohol, just as his father did? Could I handle the weight of a cancer diagnosis, or any debilitating — and potentially fatal — diagnosis? Would I be strong enough to continue if something happened to the father of my children, and the man of my dreams? Would I be able to listen to my children and comfort them without judgement and without pushing them away? Or would I fail them all?
Would I fail myself?
However, life works in mysterious ways, and in the fall of 2012, I found myself jobless. But it was also at that time that I found myself — because I realized then that I had a chance: I could redefine my identity and my life. I could take a leap of faith, along with my husband — and we could try to conceive a child.
So we did. In September, I stopped taking my birth control, and by November I was pregnant.
By November, I was expecting.
And while I didn’t fall into motherhood gracefully — early on, I struggled to connect with my daughter, I struggled with my sense of self, and I struggled with postpartum depression — before long, I fell into a groove. And while I still struggle with doubt and occasionally call myself a “bad mom,” most of my fears were in naught.
Because having my daughter actually made my career.
Having my daughter helped transform my body image.
And having my daughter has made me more understanding and more empathetic in all sorts of ways.
The image I had of that “bad mom” — the one who once permeated my every thought — has since been replaced by a stronger, more loving, and more selfless me. Not a “perfect” me, of course; but a better version of myself than I honestly ever could have imagined.More On