It’s January 22, 2015, and I realize my period is late. Like, a couple of weeks late. It’s happened a hundred times before, so I don’t really think twice about it, but get a pregnancy test “just in case”, like I’ve done a hundred times before. I go through all of the motions, not even thinking about it, but when I look at the results, there is a very, very faint second line.
Uhh… That’s weird. Not sure I like that.
*pulls out phone to Google “faint pink line on pregnancy test”*
The first thing I read is: “If there is a faint second line, then it’s almost guaranteed that you are pregnant, just not very far along. The test is picking up some hormones.” Aww, hell.
My heart is pounding as I walk into the kitchen, where my husband, Chase, is making dinner and talking to his sister on the phone. He sees the look on my face and gets off the phone.
“Don’t freak out,” I say, “but there was a very faint positive reading on the pregnancy test.”
“I’d like to go get another test with the digital results that read ‘pregnant’ or ‘not pregnant’ for idiots like me who can’t read a standard test.”
We get in the car and I chug Gatorade, feeling like Juno, so I can pee on another stick.
“I’m sure it’s nothing, just a false reading,” I say.
“Yeah, nothing to get worked up about,” replies Chase.
We ride to Walgreens, which, mercifully, is just 5 minutes up the road. Our butt cheeks have never been clenched so tight.
Chase runs into Walgreens and gets the test while I sit in the car trying to hold myself together. I think about how I never really even wanted kids. You know how some people are just amazing with kids? That was never me. I’ve always been terrified – not just of being a parent – but of the act of giving birth.
I flash back to playing in the bathtub when I was a kid – maybe 6 years old – and telling my mom I never wanted to have a baby because I didn’t want it to hurt. Looking back now, I have no idea how I knew at that age that giving birth was painful. I didn’t even know how babies were made – much less how they were born – but I knew I didn’t want anything to do with it.
My brain skips forward a couple of years to my aunt’s living room after she had my baby cousin. “I was only in intense pain for maybe 30 minutes,” she says, as my other aunts ooh’d and aah’d over the baby.
That seemed like forever to me. I sunk deeper into the couch, further solidifying my decision to never have a baby.
Now my brain fast forwards about 12 years, and Chase and I have just gotten married. Relatives are asking when we plan on having a baby, and I have to hide my annoyance, not only at their intrusive questions, but also at the shame I feel for not even wanting a child. Doesn’t every woman want a baby? What does it say about me that I’m terrified of giving birth and raising a human? Am I a bad person? What kind of monster of a person doesn’t like children? Doesn’t want a child of her own? Still, I find comfort in the fact that I’m only 20 years old, and really the best, most logical decision is to wait until I’m at least out of school. Plus, we’re newlyweds. We should enjoy a few years kid-free. I’m able to settle into my denial comfortably.
Fast forward 6 more years. I still have absolutely no desire for a child. I’m perfectly content with my marriage and my life the way it is. I love to sleep. I love to get up and go somewhere alone or with Chase. I love not having to consider anyone else other than my dogs if I want to run to the store or go on vacation.
Still, deep down, I feel like something in me is broken for feeling this way. I was supposed to be yearning for a family. I was supposed to have baby fever and to want to jump into the role of motherhood fearlessly and with excitement. I had a couple of close friends who didn’t have kids yet, but their key word was yet. They knew they wanted a baby, but they were waiting for the perfect time. At this point, I wasn’t so sure I ever wanted a baby. Then what? How would Chase feel about that? How would we explain that to our parents, our siblings, our friends, and to the world around us that seemed to be obsessed with the timeline in which we decide to bring another human into this world. Why don’t I want this? Am I the only one?
What is wrong with me?
I blink back to reality as Chase opens the car door and we race back home. I all but sprint back into the bathroom.
3 minutes, that’s all I have to endure.
Lord, please, I’m not ready for this. Don’t let it be positive. I’m scared.
Those minutes inch by. Finally, I pick up the test.
I sit on the toilet and start sobbing, rocking back and forth. “Jesus, Jesus, I’m so scared.”
I couldn’t handle this. I didn’t want this. I didn’t have a choice. I wasn’t meant to be a mom. I’m going to be a mom. I think I’m going to throw up.
After I come down from my panic attack, I feel guilty for being so terrified about being pregnant. There are thousands of women who desperately want a baby. Why do I get one when I didn’t even want one? It hardly seems fair. Why wasn’t I over the moon about this?
What is wrong with me?
After a few more minutes I walk back into the kitchen and hold up the test with shaky hands.
“I’m pregnant.” I bust into sobs again, as Chase hugs me.
“It will be ok,” he says, “I love you.”
“I don’t want to love anything more than I love the dogs,” I reply, stupidly. Seriously, you guys. This was my response to my husband after telling him I was pregnant. I DON’T WANT TO LOVE ANYTHING MORE THAN I LOVE THE DOGS. What?? Even now I’m cackling at that line. Lord have mercy, why did He ever think it was a good idea for me to be a parent?
A few days pass, and I get more used to the idea of being pregnant, but I am still terrified.
Then I have a dream. Have you ever had a dream that you knew was straight from God?
I am sitting in bed, holding a blue-eyed baby boy, and he is the most beautiful thing I’ve ever seen. Ron Lawton West. Ron, which is Chase’s first name. Lawton, which was my dad’s middle name. He’ll go by Law. “I love you, Mommy,” he says, as he puts his little chubby hand on my face.
I wake up, and I feel for the first time that things might actually be okay.
I had a mostly normal pregnancy, up until late in my third trimester when I was diagnosed with polyhydramnios – a condition in which the pregnant woman has too much amniotic fluid. I was measuring at around 42 weeks when I was 38 weeks, so as you can imagine, I had a hard time sleeping and fitting through doorways. Polyhydramnios happens kind of randomly, only affects about 1-2% of pregnant women, and doctors aren’t always sure what causes it, but it does pose the risk of a gigantic elephant baby, placental abruption, hemorrhaging after birth, umbilical cord prolapse, and stillbirth. So. You know. No big deal. Especially to someone with an anxiety disorder, and I wasn’t even taking meds at this point in my life. *que maniacal laughter*
Even with all of this, I was able to think back to my dream of holding this baby in my arms, and find just a little bit of peace in between the panic.
My OB will tell you that I had a relatively normal, uneventful labor and delivery. I, however, will tell you that it fucking sucked. It was every bit as terrifying and painful as I always feared it would be. I know that I should probably insert a joke in here to take the edge off, but I’m serious as a heart attack. I was ready to succumb to the sweet release of death. My epidural quit working from my hips down and when I tell you I FELT EVERYTHING. I kept telling the OB I was feeling everything, but I’m sure she hears that a million times a day from women just talking out of their ass, so she didn’t believe me until she was stitching up the portal to this world that Law just barreled through like the damn Juggernaut.
“OWW!!” I yelled.
“Oh, you feel that?” She said.
The only thing that kept me from kicking her teeth into her throat at that very moment was how exhausted I was. I hadn’t slept in 48 hours and I was starving. I remember in that moment saying to myself, remember this. Remember this if you start thinking you want to ever have another baby. Remember how shitty this was. Honestly, LOL at me for thinking I’d want another child when the first one was thrust upon me by God… Anyway.
Now, 6 and a half years after taking that pregnancy test, I have the kindest, funniest little boy. I could not have possibly dreamed that I was capable of loving a child this much. (I mean, I never even liked kids, so this was a surprise for me too.) He loves me and his daddy both fiercely, but is a mama’s boy through and through. I wouldn’t trade all of the anxiety and pain and weight gain and thyroid function in the world for him. I may not have asked God for this boy, but he knew I needed him anyway.
And yet. Being a mom is still not my main identity. I know how taboo that is, especially in the South. We are supposed to be fruitful and multiply. We are supposed to sacrifice our entire identities to that of Mother. And I just simply refuse to do it.
Yes, I am a mom, and I love being a mom to Law more and more every single day. Raising Law is maybe the highest calling I’ve ever received, and I take it incredibly seriously. Our relationship is a miracle and it is precious and sacred. Chase and I are almost completely responsible for not just the health and wellbeing of a human, but also for the impact that that human will have on others throughout his life. That is terrifying, do you hear me?! I’ve never taken anything more seriously.
But was I born strictly to give birth? Was I put on earth solely to be a mother?
No. I wasn’t.
I am also a wife, a friend, a daughter, a sister, an artist, a lover of life. I am here to fill my home with rescue dogs and plants and art and music. I am here to travel and be kind and make things and help others. I am here to continuously move closer to the divine and to walk with others through the fire.
Would I have ever had a child if it was left up to me and Chase? If we had any say in it? Honestly? Probably not. Do I regret having Law? Absolutely not. It’s okay for both of these things to be true. They are not mutually exclusive.
Now people are asking when we’re going to give Law a brother or sister. And for a while, I considered it, even though deep down in my bones I knew I never wanted to be pregnant again. I don’t want another child. I have no desire (outside of societal and familial pressure) to add another human to this family. I have a family that includes my husband, our 5 year old son, and 3 dogs, and I feel absolutely complete.
I can’t tell you the amount of shame I’ve felt for that. For not wanting a child in the first place, yes, but even now for not wanting more children. So much shame. Even now, I hesitate to speak this truth. I worry about what you’ll think. I worry that you’ll receive these words differently than I mean them, and you’ll think I don’t love my child. I worry that you’ll see through me and discover that something fundamental inside me actually is broken. But if I can connect with even one other woman who feels as alone in her shame as I did, it will be worth it.
Now, I want to make it perfectly clear that being a mom is the desire of many women’s hearts, and that is absolutely okay. Wonderful even. Many, many women want to stay at home and raise children, and oh my goodness, GO FORTH SISTER. You do you, boo boo. That is absolutely amazing and I respect the shit out of you. But you are not just a mom either. You have many, many identities. Please, I beg of you, don’t let them all fall away simply because you feel like self-sacrifice is a requirement of motherhood.
I am also keenly aware that many women pray and pray for a child, and these women have the same reaction to another negative pregnancy test that I had to my positive one. I may not share that same desire, but I send you my love all the same.
There are also many women who don’t want even one child, and that’s perfectly okay too. I know it’s hard to fight the stigma of being childless. You’re doing great. Whether or not you bear children is not your identity. You’re free to embrace life with open arms too.
What is not okay is living an inauthentic life simply because it’s what’s deemed “normal” in our society. What is not okay is sacrificing all that you are for one single title. We are miraculous, wild, holy, worthy, powerful humans and so much more than one identity. Denying ourselves in this way is a tragedy.
None of us are born to only do one thing, no matter how sacred that thing is. No one is an island and we don’t live in a vacuum.
Was I born to be a mother? No. But neither were you.