Thoughts On Mothering From The Mother Me I'll Never Be
This is a crosspost from Facebook.
I wrote this impromptu essay about babies and mothering elsewhere, in response to someone asking about pros and cons. I decided to repost it because I feel like I can't possibly be the only one, and the feelings I have don't just apply to pregnancy and having children. I've edited it and added some bits.
cw: abortion, abuse
I've been thinking about the question of children for several years, because I'm starting to get to an age where the people around me are having children, and where the people I date are not unusual or unreasonable for wanting marriage and children. Intuitively, since I was very small, I knew if I had children in this life I would either end up giving birth to twins or having no children at all, and that if I chose the former, that it would not go anywhere good.
I am adopted, and when I was 13, I was severely emotionally and physically abused by an 18-year-old man, including being raped. I tried to commit suicide when I found out I was pregnant, and I ended up terminating the pregnancy because one my parents emotionally coerced me into terminating. This happened almost concurrently with CPS investigating my allegations of sexual abuse and rape against my grandfather, after 6 years of severe sexual and emotional violence from him. When I reported my grandfather, they told me that it was "my choice" as to whether or not we moved forward with the case, but that if I did opt to, that our entire family would hate us, my parents would be destitute in their elderly years and I wouldn't be able to go to college because we'd get cut out of the will, and I - personally - would have to explain to my grandmother (who had mid-stage dementia/Alz at this point) why my grandfather was in prison. It was disgustingly coercive and violent to make me think I "chose" not to be protected. The same thing happened with this pregnancy. My mother told me "it was my body my choice", but I was told that if I gave birth to that child or even just made the decision to carry the pregnancy, they would throw me out of the house, and they would not support me in any way, shape, or form.
On a certain level, I wanted that baby. I wanted the deep love I thought having a baby (in my very precocious, emotionally sensitive, deeply loving baby brain) would be able to give me. I wanted the fresh start from these awful people who sold me out and abused me from start to finish, who let other people abuse me with impunity, and then made me out to be the problem. I have never forgiven myself for letting them bully me into giving my baby girl away and for denying me agency over my own body. But I also went through a period where I was intensely afraid of pregnancy, and the physicality of pregnancy: I couldn't be in the same room as pregnant people, I couldn't look at ultrasounds, I was basically a wreck every time someone mentioned anything about this particular subject. When I ended up having a pregnancy scare with my most recent ex, and I ended up not being pregnant, I found myself unexpectedly crushed. I really wanted to be pregnant, because I had found out that in addition to my trauma, I have physical fertility issues (PCOS) that would make conceiving more difficult. I thought it was going to be one of my only chances at having a baby.
This is a very long-winded way of me getting to my point: I have a mother now who loves me the way my caregivers should have loved me. She's actually a retired nanny who has already told me that if I choose to give her grandcubs, she will happily move into my house and coordinate the team of nannies and/or the village required to raise the little bastards (I say affectionately.) I know my entire village would be there, and those children would be so ridiculously loved that they *would* be spoiled. I would love them most of all...and that is why I should not have them. Loving them would split me open and destroy me in ways that would make me dangerous for those children.
I would never actively want to hurt my children, and I have been talking to my therapist for the last year about breaking patterns. Just because I yearn for children, does not mean I should have them. Setting aside my obvious concerns for the environment and bringing more Black children into a world that is actively hostile to them, if everything were ideal, I could not and would not be able to handle the emotional duress of motherhood and mothering. My body might be able to weather it, but I know that I would not, and that no matter how much trauma processing, therapy, and medication I force myself to take, there will be things my children will need from me - ACTUALLY need from me, not the martyrdom we ask of mothers and parents - and those needs will cut me open and I will bleed on them even if I try not to. And not just the incidental bleeding that happens because we all have trauma and humanness that enters our relationships with our children. I am talking about the type of emotional hemorrhaging and resentment that would make me bitter and angry in that quiet, unspoken way, even with the most wonderful partner in the world, the beautiful village I know I would have, and in this same ideal scenario, a special ops assemblage of nannies to rival that of Bey and Jay Z. Even as I loved them more than anything in the world. I would feel permanently trapped and suffocated by them. They would make me feel dead and like I was dying and empty, that all of my independence and humanness were drained onto the soil of nurturing them (because it would require that much emotional strength and effort from me to be present as a parent), and I wouldn't be able to let that go. I wouldn't be able to live anymore, in that anguish. It would feel like a horror movie on a loop where every day I'd get chopped to pieces, and nobody would hear me screaming while it happened. This I know with absolute certainty.
I desperately want to have a baby. Desperately. I dream about babies all the time. Sometimes I wake up from dreams about holding my dream babies, and my chest physically aches, because I want to know that feeling to badly. It hurts very much to be honest with myself and to really sit and think about who I am, where my life is and could go, and weigh out those parts. Very few people take the time to think deeper than how they feel or the material aspects of their lives, and down into the nitty gritty of *who* they are. If my foster parents had stopped to think about those things, rather than the base instincts and semi-selfish measures people use when making decisions around kids (no shade, but let's be real, biological imperative isn't always logical or thoughtful), I never would have suffered the way I did. My parents were not people designed - with or without their trauma, or their whiteness - to parent. But their egos told them they deserved to be parents, and on paper, their personalities would have seemed like good candidates, and everything looked good on paper financially, too. It was the "ideal situation" by those very surface measures, and even in the "ideal situation", their children suffered and suffered greatly. Nobody stopped them to ask, and they never stopped to ask, the question: am I REALLY capable of nurturing another being to full independence? Even with my traumas and flaws and messiness, do I actually - taking a long hard look at myself - know I can do this safely and successfully, no matter what comes our way? Or at least be 80% positive we can do this without breaking something deep inside these other little beings?
It's not quite what you asked, but...take plenty of time and really sit with that self-awareness mirror and get to know who you are before you bring children into the mix. Like really do that work as much as possible. I think the worst thing you can do is have children without trying to know yourself first, because you will always be trying to dig parts of yourself out of them, and when you do you leave scars and injuries you didn't mean to leave - and will have trouble accepting responsibility for creating - because you were just trying to love them in ways you didn't know you didn't have the capacity for. That is the greatest gift you can give yourself as a parent, and to your children. That self-knowledge.
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