*Background* My husband and I eventually conceived our oldest daughter after just over 4 years of trying to conceive and with our 4th round of IVF. We have since been able to have 2 more children without fertility treatments. I am acutely aware that every fertility story is unique and many have a different outcome than ours. Nevertheless, amidst a crowd of my fertile, complaining, peers, I used to spend a lot of time panicking about whether or not I wanted to a mom, and whether I’d like it or even be good at it (I’m not very good at it, but I do like it…) This letter is what I wish someone had told me 8 years ago.
Dear Infertile Camber,
If parents are good at anything it’s telling horror stories about parenting. They relish horror stories. They try to outdo each other’s horror stories. 10 minutes in a room full of mothers is all the birth control anyone needs.
Having kids is about as hard as you think it will be. Of course it’s hard. Things that ACTUALLY matter are always hard.
It’s true that most of the things you hear parents griping about will be part of your reality as a mother. Tantrums in public. Messes. Expensive things getting broken. Sticky floors. Sticky chairs. Sticky door handles. Sticky EVERYTHING. Body fluids of all types. Sleep deprivation. Desserts you no longer get to yourself. Being late to everything.
But none of this surprises you. You probably feel depressed about it. “Why spend thousands of dollars to bring a miniature dictator into my life?” you ask yourself. And, “WHY does anyone have more than one child?” (The answer is free babysitting in 12 years).
Love will surprise you.
It’s real. It’s better than you think it will be.
When the screaming child is YOUR screaming child, it feels different. You know why she’s throwing a fit. You know she’s not always like that (unless she’s 3. Then she’s always like that. But really, stay calm). An hour ago she probably threw her arms around your neck and gave you a big wet kiss. Tonight you’ll check on her and she’ll look strangely angelic in her sleep (is this the same kid?)
You will find yourself savoring the little moments because they completely DWARF the bad ones. Like kids snuggled up on your lap to read books, kisses goodbye when you leave, a baby crying for you when you leave because they want YOU. Other people’s babies may seem a tad uninteresting, but you’ll find yourself happy to hold your own baby for hours at a time. Just looking at them. Just feeling their warm weight against you. Just staring at their face.
Being a mom is nothing like babysitting. Put all previous (and sometimes traumatizing) babysitting experiences out of your mind, because the truth is you don’t have to like babysitting to like motherhood. Frankly, you don’t actually have to like kids to like motherhood. Motherhood isn’t about other people’s kids. It’s about YOUR kids. Your kids, which, did I mention, you love more than your own life? More than your sleep or a decent sit-down meal or a whole dessert all to yourself? Motherhood isn’t like teaching kindergarten. Your kids will be different ages and you will love and dislike different things about each age. And they will be YOURS.
Obviously you’ll have to give things up. Forget reading a book for fun in the afternoon or sleeping in on a Saturday. Long, expensive vacations will be put on hold indefinitely. Hot dates become takeout and a cheap movie that’s over by 9PM.
So what? You’re making another HUMAN BEING. You teach them how to walk across a room, how to eat grapes, how to sing ABCs, how to start a movie by themselves or get their own cheese sticks out of the fridge. You will hear your voice in their voices because they will mimic everything you do (except picking up. They hate that. Probably because they know you hate it too.)
Keep on. Keep on trying. Keep on hoping. All of this lousy infertility nonsense--the temping and clomid and embarrassing procedures and mounds of negative pregnancy tests and feeling awkward in a room full of pregnant women and mood swings and painful shots and MONEY--all of it will fade away with those first moments holding your baby. It’s cliche, but there’s no other way to put it. It’s worth it. All this nonsense is worth it. In the end you will find that infertility gives you a present: perspective. Remember the infertility years on the hard days. Remember and be grateful.