If you’re tired YOU ARE tired whether you have children or not

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I will be the odd one to say that I don’t agree with this. If you don’t have kids and are exhausted, you still ARE exhausted. I believe you. Not sleeping for whatever reason sucks. And sometimes there’s a medical reason why a person feels tired 24/7. A couple of years ago, I had untreated hypothyroidism which made me feel sluggish ALL the time. No matter how much sleep I got, I was exhausted. A coffee or nap would NOT help.

Now having had a baby, I’m TIRED. She’s 8 months old and not sleeping through the night. The early days were pure sleep deprivation torture. But I would never laugh at someone who doesn’t have kids and tells me that they are exhausted. Yes, it’s a different kind of tired. But being exhausted no matter the cause stinks. And I will sympathize, dear one.

From living child free to having a baby

The other day, my husband told me that he has a hard time imagining the time when he wasn’t sure about having kids. When we first were married, we thought a “5 year plan” was great (meaning we’d wait 5 years to have children). Then as time went on, I began to explore the possibility of living a child free life. If you’re happy + content where you’re at, why change it? We came so close to living a child free life before we had a change of mind/heart. (we also had heartache in the process but that’s another post).

Now, I don’t want anyone who is happily child free to think that I’m yet another person who is telling you that you HAVE to have children. Heck no. Now after having a baby (and enduring the torturous sleepless nights), I’m even more convinced that having a baby isn’t for everyone. I remember appreciating reading stories by those who embraced the child free lifestyle and then later changed their mind. So that’s all I’m doing here. Sharing our story.

I’m 8 months into being a new mom. And while I’ve loved my daughter every step of the way, it’s lately that our bond has become so much deeper + I’m loving being a mom more and more. Honestly, there are times that I look at her and I can’t help but thank God for this gift (it’s often when she’s asleep in my arms and not screaming/crying, ha!). Having a baby is crazy. It is the most life changing thing that a person can do. Day to day never looks the same. I often feel too old (at 31) to be having my first baby. And the sleepless nights really are killer. I don’t care what anyone else says (i.e. you get used to it), nah, it sucks.

I hate to sound so cliché, but I wouldn’t change the experience of raising a child for a thing. As a couple, we value experiences. Before having a baby, we traveled a lot. We have amazing memories from those vacations that we will always cherish. And now we are making different memories. Much less glamorous but amazing nonetheless.

I’ll give you one example. In November, on the night of the CMA’s, we fed our daughter her first taste of solid foods (avocado). We have a really great photo of the experience. Just a year prior,  we were AT the CMA award show! Talk about two totally different experiences. Both were glorious and are forever etched in my brain. But the crazy thing is – watching our daughter eat solid foods was just as amazing as going to the CMA’s (for me). It’s a different, more simple existence, but still super special in its own way.

I’m one of those people who for a very long time thought that I’d live out a child free existence (and rock it!). Being a mom was never a “must do” on my list. While we wouldn’t trade those 7 years of being happily child free away, we don’t regret for a second having had a child. It’s hard. It’s such a lifestyle change. But it’s amazing at the same time. I’m grateful for the experience of raising a child. And I’m sooo glad that I can write those words down truthfully (as I feared regretting our decision but doesn’t everyone?). We were happily child free. And now we are happy parents.

What having a newborn is like

I wasn’t one of the those girls who always dreamed of having children. I dreamed of getting married but I didn’t picture a baby carriage shortly after “I do”. For many years, I seriously thought that I’d live out my days as happily child-free. We were married over 5 years before I started to lean towards having a baby. It wasn’t that life felt empty or that there was something missing. No, our lives felt FULL. Our jobs gave us a sense of purpose and fulfillment (as pastor and social worker) and we felt like a real family even though it was just the two of us. We also thoroughly enjoyed focusing on paying off debt, volunteer work, and travel! Life was great, so why rock the boat? I guess initially the decision to have children came down to wanting to live a life with as little regrets as possible. While we loved our life, I felt that I’d regret not experiencing having a child (if we were able to have one).

As you can imagine, I spent a lot of time trying to find personal stories of what having a child is like. I read lots of stories of women who regretted having children. What I couldn’t find very often was an account of what having a child is like from someone who previously seriously considered living child-free. While I’m only 6 weeks in, that’s what I’ll attempt to do here.

Having a newborn is ….

Hard. Sometimes in the middle of the night I feel like I just.can’t get up one more time to feed her.

Exciting. Babies are more wonderful than I pictured. I now get why women get all crazy for babies. I look forward to spending the day with a baby!

Emotional. I’ve cried many tears of joy and appreciation over the last 6 weeks. I’m so thankful for her life.

Rewarding. Even if it never got better than this, I’d always be glad for this chapter in my life.

Joyful. I sing silly songs, kiss chubby cheeks and haven’t felt happier in years.

Daunting. A big responsibility. Never a guarantee that she’ll be healthy/safe or love me in the end.

Having a newborn is tough. It’s hard not feeling productive. Frustrating when simple tasks don’t get done. And lack of sleep is rough. But I’m just like so many parents before me…I wouldn’t trade it. I’m happy to be a mom!

Reproductive gossip and being enough

This August, I’ll be married to my Yankee husband for 7 years. I’m 30 years old, he’ll be 34 in September. I was married at 23 years old, young by today’s norms.

There’s something about being married for 7 years + turning 30 in April that seem to have people talking. Talking about us. When we aren’t around. Talking about when we are going to have kids.

I had a feeling that this was happening (the talking) and recently it has been confirmed. I’ve had a friend tell me that several people have made comments to her re: when we’ll have kids. And earlier this summer, an old acquittance asked me the bomb of a question in a large group setting (after asking how old I am and how long we have been married). The “so when are you going to have a baby?” question came flying out before they had asked me about my job, how my husband was doing, etc.

Sigh. I don’t know which one I’d prefer. Either people talking about our reproductive plans behind our backs or being asked the “when are you going to have kids?” question in a public setting. Can I pick neither?

I’m 30 years old. I’ve been married for 7 years. I love my husband dearly. He’s the best gift I’ve ever received. He’s enough. I’m enough. We are enough whether or not we have children (biologically or via adoption). The talking about us having a baby + asking when we will have one makes me feel as if others view me as not enough, that we as a couple aren’t enough. But we are. We really are.

5 Reasons NOT to ask: “When are you going to have kids?!”

People are nosy.  People are curious. People want to share their thoughts and opinions. I’ve been guilty of this myself. But when it comes to asking a couple without children, “when are you going to have children?”, I’d like to recommend the biting of tongue technique. Here are a few reasons why:

1. Would you go up to a couple with no clue of their financial situation, and ask them:  “when are you going to be debt free?” Likely not. Why? Maybe because finances are private (for whatever reason). Maybe it’s due to the reality that a person can hope and plan to be debt free but cannot control the exact date of when it will happen. Maybe asking the question could discourage the couple due to their current reality. Hmm. But a similar intimate question is asked all the time re: “when are you going to have kids?!” The same reasons why people don’t randomly ask questions about finances could be applied here.

2. The typical question is loaded with assumptions. It’s often phrased as, “WHEN will you have children” vs. “do you plan to have children?”. We would never ask a high school student who we barely know, “when are you going to University?”. Why not? Well, that would assume too much. What if they don’t have the grades to get in? What if they have received rejection letters to each school they applied to? What if they are taking a year off? What if they want to go to college instead?. We may instead ask what their plans are for the fall.

3. When throwing out the typical question: “when are you going to have kids?”, be prepared that you may make a person cry. They may cry right then and there or afterwards. You never know if a couple could be trying to conceive and it’s not happening. I’ve read about a woman being asked this question while she was physically recovering from yet another miscarriage. A deeply personal question such as “when are you going to have a baby?” could cause a person to sob after you are no longer around. Be warned.

4. Continuing the topic of assuming,  I’ll throw a couple more “what ifs” your way. What if a person decides not to have children because they have a health condition that would make parenting extremely difficult.  What if having a baby would make their already challenging health condition much worse? What if a couple is aware that they have a predisposition of passing on a serious genetic condition and they feel that they can’t do that to their child. What if a couple recognizes that they both came from dysfunctional families and feel strongly that they are likely to repeat the cycle again. What if…. You fill in the blank.

5. Lastly, what if a couple can’t have children. I mean that they really can’t. I read a blog post yesterday of a women who tried for 10 years to get pregnant and even did two rounds of IVF. 10 years. There was nothing obviously wrong with them. They were classified as “unexplained infertility”. They tried everything to get pregnant and it did not work. As you can imagine, they are now totally spent emotionally and financially. They do not wish to get on the adoption roller coaster after all that they have been through. They are done. She is focusing on building a beautiful future as just the two of them. The sad reality is that some who desperately want to be pregnant and have a baby are not able to despite their best efforts. Next time you think of asking, “when will you have a baby”, keep in mind that it may never happen for that couple, ever.

Last week, I became aware that it was National Infertility Week. I’ve learned that as many as 1 in 8 couples struggle with infertility (and there’s such a thing as secondary infertility – an inability to get pregnant despite already having a child). In my life, I’ve been exposed to the heartache of infertility while standing by close friends in their darkest days. My advice would be this: unless you can sit down over coffee and talk to a close friend re: children, don’t spring this question on anyone unexpectedly or jokingly. Think of, “what if…” before asking such question to someone you wouldn’t feel comfortable asking about their finances. Children are wonderful. Babies are precious. Remember that some people won’t experience pregnancy, birth and raising children for whatever reason.  Biting your tongue may prove to be both wise and kind. And if you must ask, please do so 1:1 and not in the middle of a baby shower. For their sake and yours.

Can you add to this list? Thoughts, experiences, suggestions?

Book Review: No Kidding

Hubby and I enjoy going to Chapters (a large book store in Canada). We grab a drink from Starbucks and look at books. A couple months ago, I came across “No Kidding” and it became the one that I browsed through whenever in Chapters. This collection of personal stories are short, easy to read, and thought provoking.

book-review-no-kidding-women-writers-on-bypas-L-NzEZ2vI opened this book expecting to read stories by women who are happy with their choice not to have children. To my surprise,  I didn’t find this book to be all positive re: being child-free. While some of the stories left me feeling neutral or encouraged, there were quite a few stories that left me feeling sad and discouraged. In some cases, I wasn’t convinced the author made the “right” choice to remain child-free. Some woman knew since they were a child that they did not want to raise children. Often, this early “knowing” was a direct result of a troubled childhood OR a mother who complained and/or looked miserable while raising them. Other women in this book placed their career as their “baby” and before they knew it, their possibility to have children biologically was nil as their egg supply was finito. There were others who called themselves “conservative or traditional” who didn’t have children as they held out for marriage and it never happened. These women were not willing to parent without an equally committed partner.

An encouraging theme through out the book was that regardless of the reason for remaining child-free, all of the woman feel that they are living a full life. None of these women are in a deep dark hole as a result of never having children. Some feel that not having children was the best thing they ever did. While others, not sure if it was the best idea, have come to terms with their reality. Even the select few who still experience some longing re: children (but its no longer a possibility) are mostly satisfied with their life. As a result of this book, I’m more aware of the variety of paths that lead a person to live child-free.  And encouraged that these authors are happily living their lives – whether they intended all along to be child-free or not.

On turning 30 and not having children

In April, Lord willing, I will turn 30. In recent months, I have started to think about this. There’s a real panic that sinks in when I remember how close I am to my 30th birthday.  As I dig deeper, the panic seems to stem from the reality that I won’t be a mom by 30 years of age. While I may not have dreamed of having children as a child/teen/young adult, I must have assumed if I did have any that I’d have them by 30. When I compare myself to friends my age or younger than me with children, I feel little. Gosh, they seem to have accomplished so much in their lives and they aren’t yet 30!

What’s interesting is that I have had others (some young moms) compliment me in what I have accomplished thus far in my young adult years. I received my masters and work in my field. Due to not having children early in marriage, we have been able to pay off our student and consumer debt.  We purchased our home 3 years ago and do upgrades when we can afford to. We have traveled to a few of our “bucket list” locations. Of greater significance is that we have had these years to work on our marriage and that has produced much fruit!

Some young mothers can struggle with turning 30 and feeling that they haven’t accomplished a lot while at home raising a young family.  Yet, here I am, turning 30 in April and feeling anxiety when comparing myself to young mothers. I know that “comparison is the thief of joy” – T. Roosevelt but it’s so natural to compare. The preconceived notions on where we need to be in our lives by a certain age aren’t helpful. They only make a non-mom or a mother feel lousy.

I’m mentally preparing myself for 30. Trying not to compare or freak out. I may not be where society might peg me by 30 (a mom), but I don’t want that to take away from the blessings I have to celebrate in my 30 years of existence. Here’s to not panicking, feeling like I’m not enough, or that I’ve accomplished nothing. We’ll see if I can keep this perspective when the dreaded 30 is days and not months away.

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