The stork may change your life
November 14, 2012 9:47 AM   Subscribe

How did you accept the fact that giving birth would totally change everything you know?

I'm in my 30s and have never been pregnant, but want to have a family when my partner and I are ready - meaning for us, married and stable (financially and emotionally).

However, what I'm currently trying to wrap my head around is the actual birth process and aftermath, and I'm really interested to hear about how your viewpoints may have changed when making the decision to have a family.

I'm having difficulty understanding the seeming imbalance in workload - women seem to really take the majority of what seems to be a sacrifice to everything to give birth - their careers, their identify, their bodies...all of it.

For example, take a c-section. How did you go into pregnancy knowing that you either will plan to or have the risk of receiving a major, major surgery that you will be fully awake for, that you will spend months recovering from? How did you come to terms that your body would never be the same (vaginal or c-section)? How did you come to terms that your career may be at risk of taking a hit? How did you come to terms that your friendships may scatter, you may have to sideline some of your hobbies for a long time (if not, ever), your relationship with your husband would change, and basically become a totally different person in the realm of only 9 months?

Obviously, it's totally impossible to plan for any of these things, but how did you accept all of this? Was it all worth it?
posted by sockorama to Human Relations (53 answers total) 43 users marked this as a favorite
how did you accept all of this?

You don't have to. You're along for the ride.
posted by A Terrible Llama at 9:50 AM on November 14, 2012 [13 favorites]

Your life is changing every minute, with every decision you make. Why do you think that without a baby everything you list is going to stay exactly the same indefinitely?
posted by Rock Steady at 9:53 AM on November 14, 2012 [17 favorites]

The nature of life is change, I think. I wasn't thrilled about having to have a c-section, but I was absolutely thrilled with my daughter. My body changed, but hey, my body changes all the time. I didn't become a different person, I developed different parts of myself, and learned things about myself that I would NEVER have known if I hadn't had kids (for example--I'm more patient than I thought I was, and less willing to insist on perfection from myself and others.)

My career might have taken a hit, but I'm not a corporate type, and as a freelancer, I learned to make the time I have available count for more (ie, upped my day rate.) Hobbies, schmobbies--I got more excited by hanging around with my kids than I ever was about antique roses, which had enthralled me earlier.
posted by Ideefixe at 9:55 AM on November 14, 2012 [6 favorites]

I wanted kids enough that I couldn't really care less if any of the negatives happened for me. They're part of life, and you deal with it, and you move on. My body's not the same, and my sagging boobs are a little depressing, but whatcha gonna do? My marriage is stronger. I lost my job during maternity leave, but you know, it's just a blip in the radar. I do the lion's share of the workload, but what can you do? My kids are pretty friggin' awesome. Even when they're being turds, they're still awesome.

I also do retain my hobbies, and while my friendships have shifted towards momfriends, they're really hilarious, sarcastic, sweary and wine drinkingy momfriends. Having kids for me happened at the same time as a lot of my mid/late 20s friends moved about the country, so facebook is how we still communicate a lot, and it's really no big thang.

The only thing I should have mentally prepped for was SO MANY PEOPLE PEERING INTO THE DARK ABYSS OF MY VAGINA during childbirth. Even my mom. You will lose your dignity and not even give a crap, but afterwards you're like "well, that happened. oh well."
posted by kpht at 9:56 AM on November 14, 2012 [6 favorites]

All of those things will happen whether you have a baby or not.

Well, besides the c-section, but your body will change, you will sustain injury, you will contract illness. Baby or not, you will have division-of-labor discussions, your friendships will change and some will end, you will have things happen in life that take up your free time in ways you'd rather they didn't.

The only thing that's definitely tied to parenthood is the career hit, and that's negotiable too, to an extent. (Illness/relationship/family/financial issues and acts of god can get in the way of the best-laid plans.)
posted by headnsouth at 9:56 AM on November 14, 2012 [2 favorites]

I haven't had children yet, but as regards the trauma of childbirth I plan not to think in detail about it until it is too late to avoid.
posted by chaiminda at 9:56 AM on November 14, 2012 [8 favorites]

Honestly? I didn't really think about all of that before I had kids. I was young, I was crazy in love with my husband, I didn't have a career to consider, I thought this was the next step in life, and I had no goddamn idea what I was taking on. If I did, I would have approached the whole thing differently.

I think this happens to a lot of people. I think often you just don't really grasp how everything changes until you're there and dealing with it. I think having babies is a leap of faith - you just do it and hold your breath and hope it all comes out okay on the other side. If it doesn't, you just handle it, because you have to, because you're there already.

It's good that you're thinking about all this before you have a baby. It's probably worse to deal with it once you're in the midst of it, IMO.

Going into it with an awareness that things are going to change means you can prepare yourself realistically now - and it means you can talk to your husband ahead of time about your concerns, and think together about how you want to approach those situations. You can talk to your mother and your grandmother and ask about their experiences. You can talk to your friends who have already had children and find out what they went through.

It does really help to know other women go through this - and to know what they regret, and what they don't regret, and what they wish they knew before they did it, and what they're glad they did while they did it.
posted by flex at 9:57 AM on November 14, 2012 [6 favorites]

I'll start where you end, it is absolutely worth it.

I don't know that you ever really "accept" this stuff and are totally ready, you learn to deal with them as they come. I remember saying at some point in my pregnancy "It's like a science experiment with my body. It's sort of fascinating to just sit back and watch what happens." I couldn't control all this weird stuff going on in there, but it was ok. I was more and more curious to meet the little person wriggling away in there.

I think that the biggest thing that happened to me in terms of really becoming a parent was learning to just let some of the control you feel you have to have in your life go. It starts with your body in pregnancy and honestly keeps going from there. The flip side, though, is that you get these moments of spontaneity and joy that you might not otherwise (e.g. just last night we had a fresh from the bath nudie dance party. Giggling like that is the best, best food for your soul). You also learn that you're pretty capable of handling the curve balls when they come (e.g., whatever happens in labor and after, you deal with it! Your kiddo starts vomiting the night before your big presentation at work, you deal with it!). You learn that the world doesn't crumble and you'll figure a way through. That's not to say it's not hard, and there aren't some tears along the way, but you will hopefully have a great teammate in your partner who will hold your hand and figure it out with you and I swear you will come out with a whole new sense of self and what you are truly capable of. I guess I accepted it by just letting go and jumping in.
posted by goggie at 9:59 AM on November 14, 2012 [3 favorites]

Yeah, in terms of the how-it-changes-your-body thing, the reward is SO HUGE that it becomes a non-issue. Your focus is completely on the baby and not on your body - at least that was my experience.
posted by PorcineWithMe at 10:00 AM on November 14, 2012 [1 favorite]

In a lot of ways, you educate yourself. You read up on pregnancy and birth. You educate yourself on the various common complications of pregnancy (gestational diabetes, preeclampsia, etc.) and you select a care provider you believe will best suit your desires for the outcome you want. And to that end, you research if you want a hospital setting, a birth center setting, a home setting, if you want an OB, a certified-nurse midwife, or certified professional midwife.

And beyond that, you do what you have to do because you have to do it. You can't stay pregnant forever. You may have a child with special needs. You may have twins! There are hundreds of scenarios that you can't plan for when having children -- just as there hundreds of scenarios you can't plan for in other areas of life.

My career is definitely taking a hit because I have kids. It most 100% definitely has. And that does burn a lot. But as the kids get older, I'll be able to get back on track with a career again.

You may surprise yourself, too. You may decide you want to stay home. Your partner may decide that he or she wants to stay home. You may find you want to switch to a different career track that has a better work-home balance. You may decide to stay at the job your in because it works better for your life than you thought it could, or you may be compelled to move on more quickly.

But in the end, you just do what you have to do when you have kids. And they pay you back more than you thought possible.
posted by zizzle at 10:04 AM on November 14, 2012 [2 favorites]

1. Don't try to get your head around it. Seriously, you'll never have kids AND you won't be able to do it justice anyway.

2. I did not prepare myself, in anyway, for the idea that I might have a c-section. I just really didn't think it could happen. After 17 hours of unmediated labor (which btw - not as bad as I thought it would be) followed by 8 hours of hospital w/epidural labor I had to have an emergency C.

I LOST. MY. SHHH. I was hungry and exahusted and emotionally spent and I cried so hard you would have thought something died. 30 minutes later my daughter was fine. 6 hours later I was hobbling around the hospital in moderate pain. 1.5 weeks later I was stiff but not really in pain at all 2.5 weeks out I was fine. Like, not even taking Tylenol fine.

Birth is not that big of a deal. People try to make it a big deal, but most people have the kid and are fine within a week or so, if you have a c-section you will likely be fine within a month or so.

You know what else isn't as hard as people would like you think it is? Having a kid. I'm not going to say it doesn't affect my career, it does- but to some extent that's a choice I make. My SIL has 3 kids and is WAY more successful professionally than I am, she works as hard as my brother does, they're both VP level at fortune 500 companies - it can absolutely be done. I like having a more relaxed career and hanging with my kid, I also have an active social life. I perform improv weekly and go out several times a month with lady friends.

YOU make your life. The only thing you have to wrap your head around is what life you want and then work towards that.
posted by dadici at 10:06 AM on November 14, 2012 [5 favorites]

My body wasn't supermodel "perfect" before I got pregnant. And it's not "perfect" afterwards, either. But I'm still healthy (like dadici, I felt fine a few weeks after birth and I feel great now), and I look about the same, give or take a few pounds and some new clothes that I would have probably bought anyway since I didn't buy anything new during the year my body was dealing with pregnancy (9 months + 3 months pp).
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 10:12 AM on November 14, 2012

Yeah, having kids changes your life. But in my experience, it's mostly been for the better. Your priorities change. And it's fine. It's a never-ending adventure.

My career has not suffered -- my husband is the one staying home with the kid, so in the long run it's probably him that will take the career hit, though we're looking at it as a chance to focus on other things. When he goes back to work when the kid is in school, he'll probably take a stab at starting his own business, which is something that would have been too scary to contemplate in our pre-kid lives. I think probably bigger than the career thing is the money thing -- we live on only one income now rather than two, and we decided to do that because daycare is so expensive that it wasn't worth it for both of us to continue working. So financially, it's a big adjustment.

Regarding c-sections, there are things you can do to minimize your chances of having one, namely finding a good midwife and not giving birth in a hospital. My labor lasted 3 days -- if I had been in the hospital, I would have been pressured into having a c-section, but instead I was able to give birth naturally and my recovery was much quicker and easier. I didn't think it mattered to me at the beginning of my pregnancy, and just planned on a standard OB/hospital birth, and late in my pregnancy I decided it DID matter, and changed my provider and plans. I'm glad I did, I had the birth I wanted... but in the long run, pregnancy and birth are very short, and your kid's life is much, much, longer and more important, so it really, in retrospect, was kind of a blip.

And yeah, your friendships change a bit, I see less of my kidless friends and more of my friends who have kids around the same age as mine, but that's OK, too.
posted by rabbitrabbit at 10:16 AM on November 14, 2012 [2 favorites]

You know what else isn't as hard as people would like you think it is? Having a kid.

This must be a personality/lifestyle thing, because everybody I know thinks it's so much harder than they were even capable of imagining in advance -- that nobody could have adequately prepared them for the unceasingness of it, the nitpickyness, the intermittancy of the pleasures. This is not the same as regret, it's just shock at the way your entire brain is reprogrammed around this new Force of Nature in your life.

But you can't sweat that. You have to decide whether children are something you value, want to have, would regret missing out on. If the answer is yes, then move ahead, and you will scramble and adapt to things as they come -- including the need to give up your sense of control and predictability. Riding the ever-changing waves, baby, that's what you gotta do!
posted by acm at 10:20 AM on November 14, 2012 [8 favorites]

On the drive home from the hospital, with our new son strapped overcarefully into the back seat, we were both of us marveling at how normal and unconcerned everyone around us looked. "But don't they realize that everything is different now!?" It just felt so bizarre that something so earth-shattering and life changing to us was in fact totally normal happens-every-day stuff to everyone else. Our hometown felt like a foreign country.

That feeling fades roughly when the sleep deprivation starts to wear off 3-6 months later; after that you just go on living, but with an extra member of the family. You don't become totally different people; you're still you. Only with a kid.
posted by ook at 10:21 AM on November 14, 2012 [16 favorites]

How did you come to terms that your friendships may scatter, you may have to sideline some of your hobbies for a long time (if not, ever), your relationship with your husband would change, and basically become a totally different person in the realm of only 9 months?

Your life changes, but you don't become a totally different person. Over the months and years after you give birth you will be forced to become a more patient, tougher, kinder version of yourself. But you're still you.
posted by chickenmagazine at 10:22 AM on November 14, 2012 [3 favorites]

Was it all worth it? Hell yeah. My 1 year old makes me happier than I ever thought anything could make me.

I understand that all the stuff that surrounds pregnancy, childhood, and parenthood can seem overwhelming, especially when you haven't experienced it yet. I know I certainly obsessed about some of it. But I got to the point where I wanted a child so intensely that the other stuff, the stuff that freaked me out before, just didn't seem freaky enough to stop me.

There was something about pregnancy that mellowed me out. I know that runs counter to the whole idea that pregnant women are hormonally insane (and I'm sure I had my moments). but I have never felt more able to let go of the worries and just zen my way through things as I did when I was pregnant. So much of the experience is waiting and hoping and not really knowing stuff for sure that I learned fast to not let my obsessive nature take over. I ended up having a somewhat complicated pregnancy, so I had lots of practice at keeping my cool. I focused on doing everything I *could* do to keep my baby healthy and safe. I read books and sought out information on pregnancy and childbirth and how to deal with the early months of infancy so that I felt more prepared - and it helped so much. I read pregnancy forums, there is such a wide range of experiences out there that it can be really educational. Don't be afraid to seek out support, even if you don't personally know anyone who has been pregnant and you have to go online! When I was at the hospital with nurses telling me "you aren't leaving this hospital without a baby", and with pre-eclampsia, and facing the possibility of a c-section....I honestly wasn't scared. Nervous, yes, but I was so focused on the baby that I didn't have time to freak out about a c-section. (I ended up not needing one, fortunately.)

As for how your life changes afterwards - you just can't be ready for that. You can think about it and surmise, but you just have to take things day by day. Some of the major changes I take in stride, because right now nothing is more important to me than the well-being of my child and my relationship with my husband. Friends will scatter, but you may be so busy and focused that it might not be as hard as you think. Your relationship with your partner will now take more work - knowing this beforehand is half the battle. The other half is being flexible; I made all sorts of plans before the birth about what we would do to keep our relationship the same as before, and that just wasn't possible. SO we reassessed and figured out what would work for us.

Also, don't assume you have to give up all your hobbies. With a supportive partner and some preparation, there's a lot of stuff you can do. I just finished a 6 week yoga workshop - I had never done yoga in my life until I did some prenatal yoga (hiiiighly recommended, by the way), and I knew I wanted to continue. My husband was really supportive of it and took care of our son while I took my classes.

It is life changing, earth shattering stuff to have a baby - I won't lie. Focus on the positive and educate yourself so that you feel prepared to deal with the worries and fears as they arise, is my advice. You can totally handle it!
posted by DrGirlfriend at 10:25 AM on November 14, 2012

Disclaimer: I am not a parent, I have never been pregnant.

But - my life already has gone through dramatic changes where everything was completely different and "the new normal" was permanent. A sampling:

* I have been laid off 4 times.
* I had emergency OB/GYN surgery.
* 9/11.
* I've been dumped 3 times.
* I graduated college.
* I graduated high school.

And you also have gone through big life-altering changes of your own already. We all do. The only difference between those other ones and this one are: you know in advance that this one's coming. Well, you also knew you were graduating high school and college, but you weren't the only one going through that.

So - think of a few other big huge changes that happened to you where you were taken totally by surprise. You got through them, right?

Right. And you'll get through this. Becuase this is no different than those other changes that you managed to get through just fine.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 10:29 AM on November 14, 2012 [2 favorites]

My wife and I are a year out now from having a kid (her at 33, me at 39) and we regularly muse on how little our lives have really changed compared to our fears and expectations. Yeah, we've lost a few friends, gained a few more, can't easily go out late, etc. But we've done better than we hoped at dividing responsibilities, maintaining our career trajectories, making time for exercise and dates, etc. Sleep is back to normal, we go to restaurants, etc. I realize things would be different if our baby had health problems or we were in financial trouble, etc., but in our case, knock on wood, the change in our lives at this point has been pretty negligible. If I were you, I'd try not to worry about it and enjoy life as it comes.
posted by M.C. Lo-Carb! at 10:33 AM on November 14, 2012

I gave birth on Sept. 28th. It really wasn't a big deal. I went into it knowing that whatever was going to happen I couldn't prevent, and I just went with it. I quickly got over random people looking into/putting their fingers or hands into my vagina. It was all for the sake of the baby. At a certain point, you have to move past the "how will this affect me?" mind-set and realize that it's for the baby. After I gave birth, I had a lot of trouble getting the hang of breastfeeding because the nurse showing me really didn't know what she was talking about. It was bad for about two weeks, and now it's fine. Everything is back to normal. Sure, I don't get to knit any more and I haven't slept for more than 4 hours since my son was born, but these things are temporary. My son is growing and is healthy and happy and playful and that's all that really matters.

Also, a note on the "I'm waiting to be ready emotionally and financially" part: you will never be ready financially, and emotionally it won't really hit you until you hear your baby crying for the first time after delivery, so there's no point in waiting (unless you are truly in financial/emotional dire straits, then obviously don't proceed with pregnancy). If you wait for your finances to line up with your dreams of having a child/children, you will die before it happens. My husband and I both work full-time, have a house, two cars, 4 pets, and now a baby, and it's all expensive. But that's life. I'd rather scrape by for the time being (and probably for a long time, what with the economy how it is currently) and have a son who is more amazing than I ever could have hoped for than wait for the unknowable amount of money you think it takes to raise a child.

Just have a child (again, don't if you are truly in dire straits financially and emotionally). You'll soon realize that everything else just isn't as important as the greatest accomplishment of your life. My son is all of my hopes and dreams made manifest. It's all peanuts compared to him.
posted by ThaBombShelterSmith at 10:35 AM on November 14, 2012 [1 favorite]

I'm having difficulty understanding the seeming imbalance in workload - women seem to really take the majority of what seems to be a sacrifice to everything to give birth - their careers, their identify, their bodies...all of it.

In return you'll get a particularly unique bond with your child, one that your particular will never have. That doesn't make said bond better or worse, but definitely different.

Having a baby isn't all about loss. You gain a ton of priceless moments and experiences.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 10:37 AM on November 14, 2012 [2 favorites]

I'm a new dad, with a 3 month old who I love very much. I agree with everyone here who says that there is only so much you can really do to prepare, and that many of the things you're worried about are things that might be not that bad, or might change anyway. My wife had an unplanned C-section and was up and about pretty quickly, and she feels no pain or lasting effects three months out. On the other hand, she has other aches and pains (her wrist from supporting her boob during nursing, her back from picking up the baby, etc.), that are likely the type of things that she would get from any new activity.

I will say that I feel like my life has radically changed, and as much as I like and love my kid, it's more than a little tough. I'm very much an introvert, my ways of understanding the world and processing my experience are mostly solitary. My personality and many of the things I care about as activities and pursuits are structured around time alone. I no longer have any time alone. That is a tough change, and one that will take quite a bit of time and attention to come to terms with.
posted by OmieWise at 10:38 AM on November 14, 2012 [1 favorite]

Beforehand, I wasn't sure I really wanted kids and giving up being selfish - meaning that it wouldn't be all about me & my husband anymore. Then I decided that it was the right thing to do somehow, and I had this picture in my head of how it was going to work, and how I thought I was going to feel about everything. Then we had this kid, and it was nothing like I thought it was going to be or feel like. Maybe it's hormones altering my brain, but I just wanted to give up my whole life for this kid. Everything just automatically shifted & re-aligned with the new center of the universe, my kid. I really like what Ook said. Ditto that! My life is totally different - but totally right.
posted by molasses at 10:38 AM on November 14, 2012

"How did you go into pregnancy knowing that you either will plan to or have the risk of receiving a major, major surgery that you will be fully awake for, that you will spend months recovering from?"

It's a hell of a time to be pregnant, considering the alternatives before the 20th century!

Also not months. A few extra weeks, but not months.

You sound like me. I found it horrifying that they'd do abdominal surgery on you while you're awake. And then I found out I had to have a C-section at 38 weeks and I only had a week to mentally prepare. I was crying in surgery prep because I was so scared. And you know what, it's not that bad. They took good care of me and made it not that scary and it was a hell of a lot better than dying in childbirth.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 10:52 AM on November 14, 2012 [1 favorite]

When I was pregnant, I realized that nothing would be spur of the moment again, for quite some time. I made sure right then and there I would just go, anywhere, whenever. The grocery store, the movies, out to eat, as much as I could until the kiddo got there. It took 18 years before I could do that again, lol.
After the kiddo was born, the idea that I could love something sooooo much, was overwhelming. My husband, my parents, my animals, pshttt, nothing compaired to the kiddo.
My body had been a mess for a while so I didn't care. Breastfeeding helped things get back to normal faster. Had a c-section. After hearing horror stories about episiotomies and hemmoroids(sp?) I was surprised how much pain I didn't have. When I sat down, I could sit down. Stairs and the process of sitting and getting up was touchy for about a week. However to this day I still have belly flap from the extra skin. Don't like it, but not springing $30,000 to have it fixed.
Work was no biggie. The workplace at the time was family friendly. Daycare is expensive but thats what a budget is for. The rest was easy.
As a friend of mine said, if you wait until you have enough time or money, you'll never have kids, just do it.
posted by PJMoore at 10:53 AM on November 14, 2012 [1 favorite]

It's a hell of a time to be pregnant, considering the alternatives before the 20th century!

Oh man, agreed. Like I said previously, I had a few complications: high blood pressure, gestational diabetes, and my baby was diagnosed with a lung issue in utero. Many times I marveled at how even one of those issues would have been vastly more dangerous throughout most of history. It was reassuring to think about.
posted by DrGirlfriend at 10:57 AM on November 14, 2012 [1 favorite]

I had many of the same fears as you before having a baby. My son is now a few months old, and it's very different from what I expected. Here's the thing: you can prepare for a lot of this, more than you might think. You can decide what's important to you, and figure out how to make it happen. Here are some examples of what I did.

For example, take a c-section. How did you go into pregnancy knowing that you either will plan to or have the risk of receiving a major, major surgery that you will be fully awake for, that you will spend months recovering from?

I was very concerned about having a C section, and about birth trauma in general. Vaginal birth is not such a gentle experience, after all. Some studies claim that 1/3 of women have PTSD symptoms after birth. I decided to do what I could to make my birth the best experience possible, both to minimize any potential trauma and because a good birth experience is associated with lower rates of post-partum depression. I made exercise a high priority during pregnancy, because exercise is associate with reduced risk of cesaerean birth. I took a hypnobabies course to prepare for managing the intensity of childbirth (one of the best things I did, it worked incredibly well.) I hate hospitals and the loss of power of having a doctor pressure you to make decisions you're not comfortable with, so I met with a therapist who is also a doula to talk through all the possible interventions, what was scary about them, and how to manage those fears. By the time of the birth, I knew that if I did have to have an emergency C section it would be because it was truly an emergency, and that it would be my choice. I was ready for that. I found an OB who would tell me the reasons for all her decisions, and who was fine with skipping things that aren't supported by data. For example, I was concerned that the weight gain during pregnancy would bring up some disordered eating tendencies that I've had in the past - so I asked my doctor if she would be OK with not weighing me. There's no real evidence that weight monitoring improves pregnancy outcomes, so she was fine with that. I didn't weight myself during my pregnancy.

How did you come to terms that your body would never be the same (vaginal or c-section)?

Actually, your body can be the same, more or less. I was also super worried about this. But I've had other medical problems that required surgery which messed me up much more than childbirth did. Bodies can heal really well. It takes time, but it happens if you let it. And it can be surprising. I was very afraid of not being able to lose weight after birth, but it turns out that I haven't had a huge appetite while breastfeeding and the weight is just falling off. If it weren't I would figure out another plan.

How did you come to terms that your career may be at risk of taking a hit? How did you come to terms that your friendships may scatter, you may have to sideline some of your hobbies for a long time (if not, ever), your relationship with your husband would change, and basically become a totally different person in the realm of only 9 months?

I don't feel like I've become a totally different person. I feel like I was before, only now with a cute baby! In the first couple months things were really disorienting and I did wonder if I'd lost myself. But my partner and I had prepared for this, too. It is very important to me that I not become the primary caregiver, I wanted to split things equally with my partner. In the beginning that is really hard if you breastfeed. But we're doing it. I nurse the baby and my partner does basically everything else when we're at home: shopping, some cooking, cleaning, laundry, diaper changes. We hired a house cleaner, and we're using a grocery delivery service. We're getting all the help that we can to try to make it easier. My work is important to me, so we looked around for a good daycare and started part-time daycare so I would have time to work. I love my time with my son and it's sometimes hard to leave him (I had to delay his start at daycare by several weeks because I couldn't handle leaving him there at first), but I also value my adult time and my work identity. Obviously this will work differently if you want to be a stay-at-home mom, but that's OK. You can still think about it and do what you can to prepare.

On preview, what other people are saying is also correct: life changes all the time, in good and bad ways. But I just wanted to point out that you can prepare for these changes more than you might think.
posted by medusa at 10:57 AM on November 14, 2012 [5 favorites]

Pregnancy and birth actually made me feel great about my body! I was fortunate to have an easy, active pregnancy and a fast, natural birth. I love thinking back about my birth experience because I feel like a superwoman! A lot of this was luck (and genetics maybe?), but I also put a lot of work and time into planning for and preparing for the kind of birth that I wanted.

For me, the hard part began after the baby was here. As with any major life change, there's a transition period. Life does start to feel "normal" again - it just takes a while.
posted by jrichards at 11:02 AM on November 14, 2012 [1 favorite]

Your body changes anyway. Your life changes anyway. Your career path is never a straight line to CEO. Your friends change and grow and scatter and some come back.

I waited until I was 35 to have my first child. I spent a lot of time (years) overthinking and analyzing and angstifying and pre-resenting the potential change. As others have said above, the simple fact is, you roll with it. Even I, a classic paralysis by overanalysis procrastinator, have learned to do this. And for me, it's all turned out for the better. The emergency C-section healed within weeks. The sleep deprivation eventually ends. Toddler J gives me kisses everyday and we finally got him to start saying "I love you, Mommy."

I don't see it as a tradeoff, i.e. his presence making up for...whatever, loss of personal time, the ability to eat pizza for dinner five days a week without guilt. It's just the next stage in my life.
posted by sillymama at 11:05 AM on November 14, 2012 [1 favorite]

The biggest myth I've encountered is you never get to be spontaneous again. That's simply not true. Yes, it takes a few years before you stop having to plan a night out down to the minute (babysitters, money, timing, etc.) but it really does end eventually. I have a 15-year-old son and a 12-year-old daughter and I cannot remember the last time we had to plan a night out like we did when they were little. Now, some of that ease-of-going-out comes from having prepared them to be independent. They can both cook and they can both take care of themselves without us hovering over them. I know some kids of the same ages who simply cannot, because it's never been expected of them.

My life is richer now than it was before kids because so many things changed. But things changed for the better and the really hard, physically exhausting stuff is just a faded memory now.
posted by cooker girl at 11:10 AM on November 14, 2012 [2 favorites]

As an aside, you're not necessarily going to be awake during a c-section. The day I was admitted to give birth, it was discovered that my platelet count was below the threshold to receive any sort of spinal anesthesia, so when I ended up in the OR later that day, I was given general anesthesia and was unconscious for the entire ordeal.
posted by chiababe at 11:26 AM on November 14, 2012

This must be a personality/lifestyle thing, because everybody I know thinks it's so much harder than they were even capable of imagining in advance -- that nobody could have adequately prepared them for the unceasingness of it, the nitpickyness, the intermittancy of the pleasures. This is not the same as regret, it's just shock at the way your entire brain is reprogrammed around this new Force of Nature in your life.

Interesting. All those things are there for me yes, but I don't consider most of that to be "hard" per se so much as "boring" and "mundane".

Aside from the physical stuff, I would say the most important thing to prepare yourself for is trying to keep a personal life. For the first 4-6 months that may not be practical/doable with your lifestyle. But as soon as you can, and definitely by a year I would encourage you to make sure you taking time to do somethings, either on your own, or with girlfriends. And make sure that your husband is getting some time too. My daughter is 5.5, 2.5 years ago I did think parenting was very hard and very demanding and I was frankly, getting pretty upset about it. So we started doing things, I got a hobby, and we support each other so that we have time to have a night out. I probably need more nights out than some people do, I am always out at least once a week and I really need/want that for myself.

But this is what I mean by its not "hard" you have to be willing to observe what's happening with your child and believe what you're seeing. Some people feel that they have to be on top of their kids all the time to raise them properly. I look at my daughter, who is a joy - she's smart, scoring/doing very well in school, has plenty of friends and is happy/affectionate most of the time. She's also independent and confident, and I think that has to do with the fact that we do let her do her own things. We'll trade babysitting with friends, we hire babysitters if we need to, or we just trade off with the two of us, but the point is that I think the people who think things are "hard" are the ones who aren't able (usually emotionally, but sure financially or situationally) to make time to remember that they were people before they had kids.

I believe that I am very important in my daughters life, I know that she loves me very much, and I am confident that by demonstrating that I can raise a daughter and have a life I'm setting her up to know that having a child doesn't mean the end of you as a person.
posted by dadici at 11:33 AM on November 14, 2012 [2 favorites]

I understand how you feel. My daughter is just over a year old now, and I used to have the same fears and apprehensions as you.

All I can tell you is... you will be amazed at how flexible you can be. When it comes to the actual birth and aftermath, I went through hell and back. Then breastfeeding was difficult. The first few months are very, very hard. But... it is SO worth it.

It's hard to describe exactly. But I just feel like I've become a better, more flexible person. More patient, more accepting. I have a better relationship with my husband, despite everything. I've actually added a new hobby since the birth, which takes up a lot of my time, but it's just a matter of planning and making time for the stuff that's important to you.

And that's not even mentioning all the fun that you get to experience by having a little person in your life! It makes every day a new adventure. You'll be amazed at how you can be having an awful day, so stressed out...and then you get a laugh from your kid, and everything else just disappears.

That being said, it is incredibly important to have a strong, equal relationship with your partner before making the decision to procreate. You have to both want to be equal parents going into this - it's not going to just magically happen unless you have explicitly made that choice, together.
posted by barnoley at 11:42 AM on November 14, 2012 [1 favorite]

Don't overthink it. You will adapt and learn, it is not that hard. Mostly of us love our kids so much that we consider any extra work totally worth it. I trully believe that being a parent is the way you really get to know the meaning of unconditional love.
Also, I had a C-Section and by no means it took me months to recover, I was totally fine a week later.
My husband takes pretty much 50% of our responsibilities on every single sense when it comes to our family, however when I decide to become a mom I was certain that I could handles this on my own if I needed to... think about it. You never know what may happen and you can't make this decision counting on someone else...
posted by 3dd at 12:13 PM on November 14, 2012 [1 favorite]

> How did you accept the fact that giving birth would totally change everything you know?

It didn't. I remember thinking, right after my first kid was born, "There you are! What took you so long?" but I never have felt "Everything is different now."

Obviously my life is different than it would be if I hadn't had children, but my life is also different than if I hadn't moved, hadn't married Mr Corpse, had picked this school over that one, etc. It's just one (well, two now) factor in making me who I am at this minute.
posted by The corpse in the library at 12:18 PM on November 14, 2012 [1 favorite]

There are some things that you cannot prepare for. You just have to trust yourself to be strong enough to handle it. Humor is essential.

A decade of being a daycare teacher did not prepare me for being a mother. My willingness to laugh at the worst of it did. My kids love it when I tell them of the time that my son, age 4, crawled to the top of the stairs and, instead of turning into the bathroom, leaned over the rail to call for me, and puked all down the wall, behind the piano, and into the heat vent. He then turned around and projectile vomited on the bathroom door. I'm laughing as I write this. It was so awful! I had his infant sister also sick at the time and I had serious gag reflex issues as well. I called his dad to come home and clean up the mess and then laughed and cried the rest of the evening.

There is nothing I could have done to prepare myself for that experience. Still laughing.
posted by myselfasme at 12:25 PM on November 14, 2012 [2 favorites]

I just want to chime in again on the birth aspect of this. Birth is as safe as life gets, which is to say sometimes it's not all that safe.

Some people have speedy and easy recoveries from vaginal births. Some people do not. Some people have speedy and easy recoveries from c-sections. Some people do not.

The one unfortunate part is you don't know which category you'll fall into until you do, and the even worst part? It could all completely change if you have a second child.

I had a really difficult first everything with my oldest. It was awful. I would never ever wish I went through on anyone again --- including myself that I was determined not to have any more children. I love my son, but we had a really long and very rocky road for two years. Then my daughter had other plans --- surprise! And I spent all my time being prepared for all the same awful things to happen all over again and had a ton of anxiety around my pregnancy regarding that the day I went into labor, I was crying my eyes out in the car on the way to the grocery store. I was so sure at that point, being terribly overdue and uncomfortable and with no impending signs of labor, that I was headed down the same path as I had been on with my son.

And I couldn't have been more wrong. Everything --- ABSOLUTELY everything --- from the labor, to the birth, to the breastfeeding, to the support I had after she was born was lightyears better than it was with my son. And it wasn't all due to just having some experience. A lot of it did have to do with luck.

And that some amount of all of this has to do with luck kinda sucks. But it's that way with the rest of life, too. You don't know what kind of kid you're going to have until he or she is here.
posted by zizzle at 12:58 PM on November 14, 2012 [2 favorites]

If it wasn't worth it, people would have stopped doing it by now.
posted by GhostintheMachine at 1:03 PM on November 14, 2012

Oh, and just to chime in one more time--early infancy is scary and I frequently felt like I was making it up as I went along, but those days aren't nearly as terrifying as when your kid gets a driver's license.
posted by Ideefixe at 1:15 PM on November 14, 2012

Go with the flow.

The first thought that went through my head when we found out we were having three, not one, was "there goes my vision of natural childbirth/cool stroller/breastfeeding." I'm not just saying that to warn you that anyone can have triplets (but trust me, anyone can) but that you can't rely on anything you expect to be happen the way you think it will.

But the c-section, the giant strollers, the formula, it was all no big deal. It is what it is. You just do it. One day at a time. One hour at a time. etc, etc, etc.
posted by pyjammy at 1:31 PM on November 14, 2012

Also, I often thought of the whole pregnancy thing as a roller coaster. Like, the pregnancy is just a big uphill journey, and you can't do anything about the childbirth part. That hill is going to crest, and it's terrifying, but you can't stay at the top of the hill and you can't keep the baby inside forever. It's gotta get out somehow. So however it happens, it WILL happen. You can't change that. So you just have to accept it.
posted by pyjammy at 1:34 PM on November 14, 2012

Your question put into words everything that has been floating around in my head for the past few years. I'm also married, early 30's, stable relationship and career, finally bought a house this year. We have just started trying to get pregnant about a month ago. I have had several conversations with other girlfriends about this stuff, but I am still terrified of childbirth and being a parent while at the same time wanting it. I think the anxiety side of it is almost easier for women who accidentally get pregnant, they just deal with it. Rather than us who have tried for over a decade NOT to get pregnant, and worrying about all this stuff for the future. I'm trying to save money and be "ready" but everyone around me tells me thats silly, you can never be ready, just do it already. But I wanted a house first and a stable career, and to be ready in every way I could mentally. Surely that's not silly? I am definitely feeling more ready lately as we have thrown out the birth control for the first time in our 13 year relationship, and for the first time taking a pregnancy test last month I actually was a bit sad to see it come up negative, so that must be a good sign that I really do want this and stop worrying about all the details!
I really have no advice for you only wanted to add that I feel exactly the same way :) Also, I am almost in tears after reading all the responses, I think talking about this helps, and we will get through this next phase of our lives :)
posted by photoexplorer at 1:56 PM on November 14, 2012 [3 favorites]

As long as you like kids and want to have kids, it's almost guaranteed that your life will be much richer after you have kids. You will never look back. Every sacrifice you make will be totally worth it because your days will be full of wonder and joy. You will feel amazingly fulfilled. You will be in for the biggest treat of your life. I don't buy the "your life will never be the same" scary words that people always say. Your life will be much better!
posted by Dansaman at 2:34 PM on November 14, 2012 [1 favorite]

How did you accept the fact that giving birth would totally change everything you know?

It doesn't. And I had a pregnancy complication (my waters ruptured) that put me in hospital for nearly six weeks before my six week premature daughter was born. And then she spent two and a half weeks in the Special Care Nursery so all up, that's over two months of my life being turned upside down and outside of my control. As I sit here my beautiful nine week old daughter is nuzzled into my chest, squeaking in her sleep and it all seems irrelevant None of it changed me in any but positive ways - lying in hospital I had to accept that I couldn't control the situation but had to work with what I had. This lesson has served me well now I'm a parent. Really, I have two things to tell you:

Labour sounds terrifying because people tend to only talk about the horror stories and what can go wrong. Reading about it freaked me out so I stopped; I also didn't go to pre natal classes. I ended up having a very easy labour of under four hours drug free, of which only about 20 minutes was very, very unpleasant. And I was walking around and having a shower within half an hour. Trust your body - you may not know what you're doing but it sure does.

The gender inequality thing is really frustrating and if you obsess about it like I did before I got pregnant, can really make you angry. But the way I see it now is, it's my turn. I'm on maternity leave and do all the feeding, cleaning, changing, doctor's appointments etc. while my partner comes home and plays with her for a couple of hours. It won't always be like this though and I'm enjoying it. Later, as she gets older, he'll be responsible for taking her to sports and teaching her science & maths. If you have the right co-parent it will all even out in the end.
posted by Wantok at 4:11 PM on November 14, 2012

I am a man, so you may not be as interested in my opinion, but I am a father and while I've never given birth, I've been with my wife while she has.

The actual birth experience may be scary, but it's a lot less life-changing than the child-rearing part. The birth lasts a couple of days at most. The child-rearing lasts decades. And seriously, what's going to have a bigger impact on your life, the fact that your boobs are slightly sagger now, or the fact that you haven't been able to go out to dinner in over a year?

Don't worry about how you're going to give birth. Women are good at that, they're engineered for it, and you'll have doctors or midwives ready to help if anything goes wrong.

Think a lot more about what your going to be doing in six months or a year or five or ten years. Giving birth is an experience, but raising children is a huge lifestyle change.

But if you decide to do it, it doesn't matter how accepting or prepared you are. At that point you're committed and you'll figure it out. It's both incredibly difficult, in terms of the sacrifice required, the time invested, the frustration involved. Etc, and incredibly easy because there's nothing you can do put participate.
posted by tylerkaraszewski at 6:30 PM on November 14, 2012 [1 favorite]

I am you and am struggling with these questions as well. My friends are divided pretty evenly between those who have children and those who never will. Both sets are doing great, and the only thing I've observed about the people with kids is that their lives really seem richer.

After a while people without kids settle into lovely and tranquil patterns of work, friends, punctuated with travel, wine, adult conversations and many lovely lifestyle perks. And eventualy that tranquil life still gets shattered by life changing events, usually from the outside in. And it's a lovely life that I've already had for fifteen adult years, and I'm not sure if I need another thirty or forty of.

The people with kids deal with the absurdities of raising kids, the good and bad, the messy and chaotic richness and vividness of life. And they have fun doing things that from the outside in only look like they could be fun with your own offspring. And the mutual teachings of things and fun and silliness and traditions are neat to observe. (Some people can hang out with nieces and nephews and get their fix, but many can't until they have their own.)

I'm still on the fence myself, and I can really go either way, but I've only met one person that has seriously regretted having a child, so it can't be that bad once it's there and all.

As far as losing your body to pregnancy - seriously, if you have time before kids, work out like a mofo. The women that recovered the bestest were either really young, or really fit. If you spend a year lifting weights 2x/week and build serious strength, your body will only thank you when faced with the demands of pregnancy and childbirth.
posted by tatiana131 at 7:09 PM on November 14, 2012 [1 favorite]

How did I come to terms with all that stuff? Not to be flip, but the way I [thought] I had it figured, women have been dealing with those issues since the beginning of time, and most had been dealing with them pretty successfully (hence the continuing existence of the human race). So I figured, if all of them could do it, why couldn't I?

Also, I had NO EARTHLY IDEA about all the horrible things that would happen to my body. (Really, body? Peeing myself just because I SNEEZED???) So perhaps there was some naivete involved as well.
posted by SuperSquirrel at 8:42 PM on November 14, 2012

It is seriously weird how large the whole realm of pregnancy and childbirth looms when it is ahead and how tiny it appears once your child is there.

I think it's disproportionate because it's so wholly unknown, and then once you know - oh, this is what happened during the birth (which is different than anyone else's experience) and *this* is the person I was waiting to meet and who is now the center of my world - all the other stuff just kind of falls away.

If you'd told me this three months ago, when I was heading to the hospital to have my son, I would not have believed you. Many things about my life are very different now, and many things are not so different. Most of the things I was scared about (c-section, post-partum depression, months of sleepless misery) didn't happen. Some of the things I was scared about or didn't even think about did happen, and I managed better than I expected to. But mostly: the parts I hoped would be good are even more wonderful than I could have imagined.
posted by judith at 9:03 PM on November 14, 2012 [3 favorites]

So, I'm three and a half months pregnant now, and I struggled with a lot of the same fears you had before we conceived. I obviously haven't been through childbirth yet, but I do feel like I've learnt some things about myself that might help you.

For one thing, I realized shortly after I became pregnant that one of my big unacknowledged issues with even just getting pregnant was that I felt like the "moms" I knew were not people I wanted to become, in general. I mean, I can think of a few exceptions, but for the most part I couldn't imagine my personality transforming to become like these women, and it scared me to think that I would become a "mom" and therefore be this totally other person. Once I was pregnant, I realized that before, I didn't really fit in with non-"mom" women either, so there was nothing that was going to force me to suddenly start fitting in with my peer group just because it's a different peer group. I've never fit in before, and I am unlikely to start. It's not as though when I was a Girl Scout I suddenly acted like all the other Girl Scouts, after all. It was a big relief for me to realize that, yes, I may be losing my lithe young body, but I don't have to stop being myself. It would be pretty pathetic to feel I was entirely defined by my uber-flat stomach. I mean, sigh, I will miss that stomach...but I'm a grown-ass woman and these are the concerns of an idiot child. Please. Cosmetic details and minor dysfunctions are just not that important, and anything major can be medically corrected.

Also, since I became pregnant, I've read a LOT of birth stories. Some of them are scary, some fill me with envy because I'm sure mine won't be that easy, some women feel everything went according to plan, others are plotting malpractice lawsuits. There's a huge range of birth experiences and there's no way you can really predict (barring known medical issues) what yours will be until you get there. So there's no sense fretting overmuch about it.

Ultimately I think the experience of pregnancy and childbirth is a bit of a crucible for a lot of women; it prepares them for the fact that they may not always be in control, that things may not go their way all the time, but that there are missions coming up that have to continue on whether they're entirely on board or not. I think our bodies come up with a pretty heavy dose of hormones to try and help convince us that all this is acceptable.
posted by town of cats at 10:05 PM on November 14, 2012

To help accept the changes, I would imagine my son as a young man, and me telling him stories about everything that happened, or how I thought it was going to happen, like writing a letter to him in my head. Believe it or not, having these "talks" with him in my head made it all a lot easier, and made me want to be proud of the sacrifices and decisions I made. Don't know if it'll help you.

He's 16 now, and I'll tell you: It's worth it, but don't take any one person's advice to heart. Their experiences will be different from yours, their child will be different from yours and they'll have different parental baggage than you do. Take the information and advice that's useful and jettison the rest. As you spend more time with your child, you'll hone your own instincts and learn your own lessons.

What I wish someone had told me:
(1) Despite your best intentions, they get their very own personalities, quirks, habits and fears. Don't go into it thinking you know exactly the kind of child you will get; you'll be wrong.
(2) You don't actually have to start hanging out with a bunch of other moms unless it makes you happy.
(3) Their reaction to their environment will mirror YOUR reaction to the environment. If you're freaked, so are they. If you're calm, they'll follow your lead. They're only like that for the first 11 years or so. Treasure it.
(4) Sometimes your kid(s) won't like you very much and sometimes you won't like them very much, either. There will be bad moments. What helps me in those moments is to imagine the story they will tell about THIS CONVERSATION 20 years from now, and try to make that story funnier, or at least not as awful. It's kept me from losing my cool.
posted by dean winchester at 10:30 PM on November 14, 2012 [2 favorites]

I am not a parent. But i am concerned with all the parents who are telling you (to paraphrase) "oh don't worry, it is all worth it, even if things change, and besides, things don't really change THAT much".

I approached the decision to have a baby the same way i approach a lot of decisions: with a methodology of research into the pros and cons and risk. Risk management plans are important! Here are some of the risks for permanent life changes that you may not have thought about yet:

-you could die in pregnancy from complications in the pregnancy
-you could die in childbirth
-your baby could be born with significant mental or physical impairment that stretches "active" caregiving parenthood from the expected 18 years to the rest of your life.
-your baby could be born and you fail to form an emotional attachment or bond and regret the pregnancy and birth
-your baby could be born and grow into a person that makes choices that turn them toward evil and a life of crime regardless of how well you raised them.
-likewise your baby could grow into a person that isn't kind to you or others and cannot reciprocate the love you give them

I am NOT saying you shouldn't have children, i AM saying that you need to be fully aware of ALL of these risks and then decide whether you are willing to become a mother despite these risks and think about your risk mitigation plans in case any of these risks come to pass.

My best friend gave birth and was particularly concerned she might not bond with baby as she doesn't like children. but she was aware of the risks and decided that for the benefit of her husband who really wanted children that she wanted to take the chance. luckily after the baby was born she transformed into the kind of person who loves kids so that was great. but it could just have easily gone the other way.
posted by TestamentToGrace at 8:34 AM on November 15, 2012 [1 favorite]

Looking past the "having a kid changes lots of things" issue since you seem to defiantly want to have at least one ...

You can have a family without giving birth. You can adopt.
posted by Brian Puccio at 1:44 PM on November 15, 2012

I went into pregnancy knowing that birth would be unpredictable, and I was anxious about that. I prepared myself by researching methods to avoid c-sections: having a doula, having a midwife, being able to move and use water during labor, staying at home as long as possible, and trying to use intermittent monitoring and avoid epidural. I didn't think much about my body changing- I had epidural-free natural births with both my girls and recovered very easily. I wasn't in great shape before the pregnancies so I have more to do now, but all of my mom friends who were in good shape before had no problem bouncing back.
I absolutely did not become a totally different person in 9 months- I retained all of my friends and was able to do all of my hobbies after my kids were born. Communicating with your spouse about your expectations for these things before or during the pregnancy really helps. It's a give and take- I completely trust my husband to care for my kids when I need free time.
My relationship with my husband is better-it took some adjustment during the first six months, but we really bonded over the experience of taking care of our little one, and it made us even stronger.
It is so worth it- I cannot imagine my life without my girls. For me, life gets easier when they're capable of feeding themselves and communicating more, (my 4.5 year old is much easier than my 1 year old) but I wouldn't trade any of it.
posted by percor at 5:11 PM on November 15, 2012

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