a garden in riotous bloom
Beautiful. Damn hard. Increasingly useful.
1 April 2017 
rosefox: Batman feeds a baby while saying "We'll both be just fine" (baby-yay)
A thing I just wrote elsenet in response to someone who's ambivalent about parenthood and wanted to know how other people went from "no kids" to "yes kids":

I have a kid and I still don't know whether I would have, abstractly, in the absence of all other input, wanted kids. But no one lives abstractly, in the absence of all other input.

In my case, my partner X (who didn't live with me and J at the time) was very firm about having a kid and the only question for me and J was how involved to get. I felt very awkward around babies and was uncomfortable around kids in the abstract, though, like you, I had started to realize how much I enjoyed the company of my friends' and relatives' individual kids and was sort of rethinking that whole "not fond of kids" idea. I had absolute body horror around the idea of being pregnant, so I was never going to produce a child of my own. J and I certainly liked being double-income-no-kids and traveling internationally and doing a lot of evening and weekend social events, and we could have decided we liked it so much that we wanted to keep doing it while X single-parented. But when X crashed on our couch for a couple of months, we all liked living together and being a family so much that we decided to keep doing it, baby and all.

And now the three of us are all parents to an amazing 15-month-old and just yesterday a friend said that in every photo of me cuddling the baby, I have a huge smile that says "I GET TO CUDDLE A BABY". I could not have predicted this in one million billion years. I thought I was going to be uncomfortable and distant around the baby until they were able to speak coherent English. But nope, turns out that I am totally besotted by this baby. When they're sad and they crawl into my lap and bury their face in my shoulder and cry and fall asleep, that communicates love in ways that don't need words, and I'm genuinely honored to be so trusted by someone so small and vulnerable. There's something absolutely pure about our relationship right now, because they're too young to have emotional baggage. They just drench us in love (and drool). And I really get babies now, in a way that I didn't at all before, and am much more comfortable around other people's kids, though I'm still not going to leap to volunteer to babysit a baby. (Teenagers are different. Teenagers are amazing. Send all your teenagers to meeeeee.)

So if you're concerned that being ambivalent about parenthood means you will be ambivalent about your particular kid if you choose to have one, I am living proof that you can be uncertain right up to the moment of birth and even after—I spent most of Kit's first two weeks frantic because I hadn't bonded with the baby yet—and then fall madly in love and be ready to fight anyone who tries to get between you and your child.

I'm eager to get back to international travel and am entirely capable of discussing things that aren't bottles and diapers. I remember very clearly what it's like to not be a kid person, and I never inflict baby photos or anecdotes on people who'd really rather talk about anything else. But I'm 110% a my kid person, in ways that absolutely astonish me.

Parenthood should, in an ideal world, be a deliberate decision, but it's okay if you make that decision without feeling super-eagerly committed to it. You can say "Okay, I think having kids will be better than not having kids, probably, so let's do it and hope for the best" and that's a deliberate decision. A lot of people make the decision that way. There's nothing wrong with you for feeling like that about it.

I do workshops for struggling writers, and at the last one, someone asked, "How do I know whether to commit to being a writer?" I said that the question is not "Do I become a writer?" but "How am I a writer?". So perhaps a good question for you is, how would you be a parent? How would parenthood fit into your life, what would it mean to you, what would it give you and demand from you? What you imagine as you try to envision your possible parenthood life will help you see how it might work out for you, or not. When we were talking about having a child, I kept thinking of one-on-one bonding time with a small kid—making cookies, walking in the park and pointing out cool leaves and birds, explaining how plumbing works—and those visions filled me with joy. That hoped-for connection was my compass and was at the heart of why I said yes to being a parent. And I was right; bonding with my child, one on one, is the best part of parenthood for me. You know yourself and what you want from relationships—and parenthood is absolutely a relationship, first and foremost—so harness that knowledge to your imagination and see where it goes.
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