January 12, 2008

The Stories We Hear

OKAY. I have a WORKING THEORY, everyone.

Long have I puzzled over this: WHY OH WHY do I hear so many new parents saying things such as "No one told me it would be this hard" or "No one ever talks about postpartum depression," when during my pre-parenting days I heard ALMOST NOTHING ELSE? Everywhere I turned, people were EAGER to tell me how crazy their children drove them, how little sleep they got, how painful labor was. In fact, if I hadn't had a "populate the earth" gene that switched on in my early twenties, I might have been talked out of the parenthood thing altogether. And yet not just one person but LOTS of people were saying there was some sort of conspiracy of silence.

While I was doing the dishes tonight (Tessie wants me to tell The Story of How We Don't Have a Dishwasher, but I already read you Goodnight Moon so THAT'S IT for tonight), I had a thought. I was very enthusiastic about having children, but many people are not quite so enthusiastic and maybe GIVE IT A MOMENT'S THOUGHT before springing into a state of life so SATURATED with children they can hardly sit down without squishing one. And what does the general public say, when people worry aloud about parenting? "It's different when it's your own!" "Oh, you can't imagine that kind of love until you experience it!" "Children are such a blessing!" "You forget the pain!"

So my working theory is that the general public is contrary and argumentative: if you think you want children, they will try talk you out of it by telling you the bad things; if you think you don't want children, they will try to talk you into it by telling you the good things. Thus, we get some people saying "No one ever told me I'd be so tired and angry and unhappy and that the baby would cry!" and other people saying "EVERYONE says that ALL THE TIME!"

And now that I have a hypothesis, we need to collect some data. These are the two things I need to know from you:

1) Were you enthusiastic and eager about children, or were you reluctant / conflicted / doubtful?

2) Did you hear mostly about how awful / painful / unhappy it would be and how you'd never sleep again, or did you hear mostly about how children were wonderful little miracles?


Shannon said...

1) Yes.
2) Yes.

In truth, I think that it doesn't matter how many people tell you (or don't tell you) how hard parenting is. Even if you are NOT in complete denial and are willing to hear the things they are trying to tell you I think there is just simply no way for a person to truly TRULY understand it until they do it. At least it was for me. :)

Katie said...

1) Conflicted and doubtful

2) Once I was pregnant, I heard nothing but good things about how they are such a miracle, everything works out, etc. (and, of course, he is and it did)

I think your hypothesis is correct, but I also wonder if maybe we hear what we choose to hear. When I was pregnant, we didn't necessarily want to hear all the stories about how hard it is because, HA HA TOO LATE NOW. Maybe we're focusing on the positive aspect of whatever situation we're in (i.e. good that I'm pregnant because children are amazing miracles or thank god I don't have them because they're a giant pain in the ass.)

Melinda said...

1. Conflicted and doubtful
2. If anyone even STARTS to tell me bad stuff they quickly see the horror on my face and switch to the good.

Mommy Daisy said...

1)enthusiastic and eager
2)wonderful miracles

People always told us how great they were. How sweet babies are. And how natural parenting is and you'll just figure things out.

Mostly that's been true. But even with all the experience I already had with children and babies there were plenty of things that were new to me or I had no idea about. I definitely feel like this first child has been an experiment. We'll see what happens this time...next time we'll get it right. HA!

TZT said...

1) I delayed well enough into my 30s that conflicted and doubtful had long since given way to enthusiastic and eager.

2) I always felt like the larger societal images of having children sided too much on the perfect miracles philosophy, while people I actually knew gave me the impressions of exhaustion and unhappiness (but the notion was strongest among people who chose not to have kids...).


d e v a n said...

1 - I was mostly enthusiastic.
2 - I heard both good and bad.

I heard great things BEFORE I got pg, and then horror stories WHILE pregnant. Nice.

Also, the bad I heard I didn't "get", but that's a totally different story...

Jess said...

Delurking for the second time today.

1- Excited and Eager

2- I had NO IDEA it would be this hard--though I'm the oldest of four and my mother literally went crazy and left our family. In hindsight that really should have been a tipoff.

I come from a very pro-baby culture. No, I take that back. I come from a very pro-lotsandlotsandlots of babies culture. No one ever really talked about the hard and when they did it was in terms of "growth and learning blah blah blah." I really wish I'd had more "it'll kick your ass so consider yourself warned," conversations. ESPECIALLY in terms of post-partum. But whatta you do.

jonniker said...

I don't have children. Do you want to know why?

All I hear, and I mean ALLLL, I hear is how bad it is. How miserable I'll be. How my life will be OVER and I'll never shower again again, much less write another word or make another dime. "Do it now!" I hear, "Because your life ENDDDDDSSSSSSS."

I have finally, at 32, come to accept that the truth is somewhere in the middle -- like the rest of life, children are a mixed blessing and -- SURPRISE! -- they aren't like eating a piece of cake while having a foot massage. Can we say "Um, no shit!" together?

And this is touchy, but I kept hearing how the mommyblogging movement opened the eyes of mothers everywhere and GAVE THEM A VOICE to the misery that is motherhood, and how it wasn't all sunshine and roses, and YAY MOMMYBLOGGERS, for speaking about how horrible children were. And while I think there's some truth to that, I think most examples take it to the extreme ...

Which brings me to ...

Honestly? Can I be totally and utterly honest? I think there are many who have crossed the line to the point where complaining becomes their identity, and ... well, the lack of balance totally hoses their credibility and it makes me wonder if they aren't just unhappy people, period. I'm sorry, I know that's wrong, and I, as a childless person, have no room to say that, but half of the ones I first discovered at the beginning of this whole movement were miserable cows with nothing, and I honestly mean NOTHING, positive to say -- not just about their children, but about their lives. And unless they're living in a Turkish prison, there must be SOMETHING good there, or maybe they should get some help.

Sundry and Amalah were the first two (and later, FishBeth and now you) who were balanced -- both acknowledge the sucky part of motherhood without making it seem like an insurmountable burden equal to an iron lung, and frankly, and I'm loathe to say this, but it has to do with who they were before they had kids -- before they had kids, they were balanced, funny, warm people with great perspective. And that's what reflected in them, and was amplified BY them, as they became mothers.

Yes, it sucks, but if it didn't have its moments of reward, why in the christ would anyone do it, ever? I can't believe there aren't good times, I just can't.

jonniker said...

Also want to add that I plan to have them: I have finally gotten over it, and realized that I will still be me -- a person I actually like, and I know that's not cool to say, but dammit, I LIKE MYSELF -- I'll just be someone's mother, too.

aoife said...

1) Both. Depended on the minute.

2) Mostly positive stuff, but from much older people, parental generation. At the age of 27, I was the first in my peer group to procreate. Hell, I'm still the first in my family (this gen) to procreate...

None of my friends had anything to say because they hadn't been there yet.

AndreAnna said...

I was the first of pretty much anyone I knew to have kids, so no one said much of anything to me.

And for some reason, almost 90% of the women in my office department are childless, so while I got no advice from peers because they were too drunk or hungover, I also got none from my colleagues because they didn't know squat either.

Your family doesn't tell you much one way or the other - they kind of let you figure it out on your own. At least my mother did. And I thank her for it.

In the beginning, when I would call her to cry because I was just so damn angry or unbearably sad, she would say "Yes, I know." Or when I would call her to exude joy over a first tooth or a first step, she would say, "Yes, I know."

Maybe the good people in your life - the ones that truly care - are the ones that let you feel things on your own, with a gentle hand on your back, guiding -- but never leading -- you.

AndreAnna said...

Oh, and

1) I was really excited about the first one, but I'd be lying if I said a part of my former self wasn't sad to be losing "freedom" - though of course, you know you'd never trade a second of it once they're here.

With this pregnancy, I alternate between being so excited to have a new little being to love and raise and become a part of our family and being totally terrified that I won't be able to handle it - two babies, barely two years apart - a very deadline-driven career, finances, traveling, my marriage... But, I know we will handle it. I am so grateful for what we do have, despite the hard parts. I know there will be moments of darkness and those of great light.

We are all a lot stronger than we think.

desperate housewife said...

Hmm, what a great topic! I was definitely PRO PRO BABY ME WANT BABIES NOW. Since, like, fifth grade. I think I mostly heard good stuff about having kids, and I'm guessing that's because I'm from a fairly conservative, churchy-type background, and those people tend to be pretty pro-childbearing.
I think I heard the most balance and honesty from my SIL, who has three kids and also works full time AND helps manage the family coffeehouse. And I would watch and think, "If she can still do it and stay sane, I sure as heck can."

laughing mommy said...

All I heard was horror birth stories so I was terrified of labor and delivery.

Both my labor and deliveries were not horrible.

Nobody told me how difficult the transition from long time infertile person to mommy would be. I wish someone would have spoken up!

donna said...

I was very eager and I had heard a mix of good and bad about pregnancy and motherhood.

But I will say for my part that no one I personally knew said anything to me about post-partum depression. Not one word. Sure you read about it in books and stuff but you also read about a zillion other scary things you assume will never happen to you or your baby. I definitely felt there was some sort of code of silence about post-partum depression because everyone wants to seem like supermom and no one wants to admit that they didn't have their shit together and that it wasn't all Hallmark and candy and unicorns from the moment the wee one sprung forth from their loins. My own mother didn't say boo to me about how she'd been through the exact same thing until two weeks after I came out the other side of it.

Since those dark two weeks of my life when I was filled with more shame than I've ever felt before, I really want to make sure that other new moms are prepared. I want them to know that it might happen to them, that it's ok to have that happen to you, that there is help and there should be no shame in it.

janie said...

1. enthusiastic

2. heard mostly good - seems as if bringing up the negatives especially to pregnant women is almost taboo

Blogging gives moms the opportunity and PERMISSION to express the difficult parts of parenthood; and moms get the support that follows when others acknowledge that having kids can be really tough at times.

Sleepynita said...

I was totally eager to have Rito (even though it is SUCH a long story about us having him) but all I heard was the bad crap from all the doomsday naysayers out there. Seriously though it had me prepared for the worst and really it wasn't all that bad. 60 hours of labor no painkillers and sleep deprivationis fun, yes?

Elizabeth said...

1. I was conflicted and doubtful. I'd go so far as to say terrified.
2. I heard over and over how terrible it was going to be and how super super super hard it was. But mostly on blogs, people didn't really say much of that to me, just kept telling me to get lots of sleep. Because you can so stock up on sleep ahead of time. Yeah.

Black Sheeped said...

No childrens yet, but people constantly tell me how awful/stressful it is to have kids, and that I should never have them. Then, when I say, yeah, probably not, we're pretty happy, maybe in five years we'll consider adoption more seriously...people FREAK OUT and say, "No!" They say, "Everyone should experience it! There's nothing like it! You must have a child! I think EVERYONE should!"


Woman with a Hatchet said...

We were conflicted and it took us 5 years before we thought we were ready. I do believe that even with hordes telling you how hard it is/how fabulous it is, just like childbirth (it HURTS!) you have to experience it yourself before you really believe it.

Everyone says labor hurts, but I think all of us look the person telling us that and then decide, "Huh! I'm tougher than SHE is. I can handle the pain!" And then there we are in labor, cursing our hubris and asking for pain killers.

Well, some of us, anyway! (Raises hand.)

Huckdoll said...

I was super stoked to have a baby...then I found out I was having twins.

No one really knew what to say...everyone I knew was in total shock.

moniqueathome said...

Both my children were not planned, but very welcome all the same. I was excited both times, and heard horror stories about raising kids from everyone I knew who had kids except my mom and my boss who both told me I would be fine and I would figure it out and they were there if I needed them. I don't remember any really hard times except the dark days when DD#2 WOULD NOT SLEEP, but otherwise, all seemed good, until now that DD#1 is a teenager and I'm quite sure we will not survive. I know we will, but sometimes. Uhg.

Badness Jones said...

I was excited, I had lots of experience with kids so I KNEW how hard it could be (at least I thought I did!) and I spent both my pregnancies with my head in the toilet or a pail, so much of what was said to me was muffled.

Bunny said...

I was excited, excited. And yeah, people said a lot of those things to me, but being a non-parent they didn't actually mean anything to me. I mean, they wold say "you'll never sleep again" and I would nod, "oh-ho-ho yeah," Not really *getting* it. Oh I *get* it now. Parenthood crosses you over into the crazies of life.

Bunny said...

Oh and PS. There should be some kind of mandatory screening for PPD that does not put the weight of the diagnosis on the suffering mother to speak up and tell somebody. At regular intervals a doctor should be calling and asking key questions about the mothers mental health and stability so that they can be helped. PPD is even more isolating than just being a new mom which is isolating in itself. And most moms I know just chalk it up to being a new mom and not that they actually need help.

Katie said...

I was conflicted and doubtful...married 9 years before even having a child.

And now....well...while it was the greatest blessing/joy/weepycakes, it also the hardest most biggest pain in the ass.

People were mostly telling me good things (maybe because I was so ANTI) and I would roll my eyes. I am 11 years older than my sister and I REMEMBER potty training. I REMEMBER tantrums. I KNEW it was hard as shit. But, I definitely wasn't prepared for how painful labor was!!

Mairzy said...

I think you're right.

1. Way much, overdose

2. Some, in passing

I got a hearty serving of the first one because of the circles I grew up in. It was the Children Are A Blessing So Try To Have As Many Children As Possible crowd. So I heard all about how children are wonderful miracles, and how staying at home with them is the only fulfilling calling in life. Anyone who said otherwise was worldly, didn't like children, or rebellious.

Most of the negatives I heard were from people who were described as above, so of course I had to discount what they said.

So wasn't it a fun surprise when I was hundreds of miles away from my family, still only a couple of years married with two very small children, and a mild case of post-partum depression? Nothing like experience to refine your opinions.

Fortunately, I always wanted children, and God turned out to be different from the rather skewed view I'd grown up with, so things are happy now. Plus I escape to coffee shops on a regular basis.

Katie said...

And, P.S. Weepycakes: I also was totally unprepared for the huge amount of love and the strength and power of maternal feelings. The minute she was born it is like something clicked with me about generations and family and blah blah blah. Not prepared for that, but I was glad it happened! (Okay. Y'all can quit barfing now)

bubandpie said...

I was conflicted and doubtful, and I do think I had friends who were honest about how hard it was: one friend of mine had a baby who screamed all day every day for four months. She didn't need to SAY anything - the deer-in-headlights look in her eyes was enough.

And yet. When I had Bub, I was crushed by guilt because when he fell asleep I ran to the computer, giddy with relief, instead of gazing adoringly at his little sleeping face. Huh? Somehow this unrealistic ideal of motherly joy and devotion still managed to live in my brain and make me feel bad about myself. (Now I'm like - of COURSE I want a break for a few minutes... the baby's ASLEEP!)

I think I am one of those horror-story purveyers, but I do it because I want to normalize the things that I felt so horrible about myself for. Absolutely, there are times when you're consumed by sleep-deprived rage. Absolutely, there are times when you're bored out of your mind. But if those stories have any value for others, it will be because they're in the context of my being an okay, just-about-good-enough, reasonably happy mother.

mpotter said...

funny, now that i'm pregnant, i'm blogging about this subject myself. i have 2 posts about my lack of desire. and i'm working on the whole story

yes. i heard all those wonderful things from everyone. exactly how you said it, too!!!
but as a teacher (and an aunt to a 28) i saw all the negative as well.
and as someone who is logical, i can't believe anyone who says there is no pain/you forget the pain/ it's not that bad..... um... don't lie to me.

and what about that pain that's not physical???? the pain of worry, fear, helplessness for your baby, child, teen, adult?

it's been a long road for me to come to being pregnant. but an important one.

Swistle said...

Bunny- I TOTALLY AGREE. I AGREE SO MUCH, I HAD TO PUT ON CAPS LOCK TO SHOW IT. Because the thing is, even when I've thought I might need some Help, what I can't get over is the hurdle of calling. I can't call. I don't have a reason for that; I just can't. If someone called ME, though--I could tell them.

Anna said...

I think people just tell you what they think you want to hear, because although we like to think we are a truthful species, in all actuality, we just want to find someone who agrees with what we think and believe. Before I was pregnant, I heard the horror stories because friends knew I wasn't sure I even wanted children. After I was pregnant, I heard all the good things, because friends knew the baby was coming and there was no turning back!

Jess said...

I'm not pregnant yet, so I'm still there, and I would say yes to both questions. Reading Jonniker's comment actually makes me feel better; how you deal with the difficulties of parenting has a lot to do with how you are as a person and how you deal with difficulties in general. I think that makes sense and it makes me think that I'll be able to deal reasonably well.

Also, I think it's totally right that the general public always wants to warn people that what they're thinking may not be right. Exactly because they don't want people saying, "Nobody ever told me that." They assume that if you feel one way, it's because somebody told you it would be that way, so it's their job to balance you out by telling you about the other way.

Erica said...

I was apprehensive about having children. My biological clock told me it was time, but I felt too selfish to be ready. I like sleeping in and doing what I wanted when I wanted to. And, most importantly, I really didn't like kids all that much. Other people's kids were always sticky and loud.

I got a lot of "it's different when it's your own!" Mostly, I think it was all positive stuff. I can't recall ever hearing horror stories, but I'm sure I did.

I find myself telling other women that it's different when it's your own and I feel so dumb. There's no way they're going to understand that until they're a mother. I know I sure didn't.

Chez Bacon said...

I heard lots about how hard it was, over and over. It was actually a pleasant surprise after my baby was born how much FUN I was having.
I agree with Jonniker, that there are some mommybloggers who seem to find NOTHING positive to say about parenthood, and yes, it's hard and my house gets messy and I get tired and there are Cheerios in my hair...but still. It's not like I'm working in a coal mine over here, you know? I'm at home all day with my baby who I love with all my heart. Life is pretty good.

Side note, I'm ALWAYS surprised when I hear people say "no one told me breastfeeding was hard" because I honestly felt like I heard nothing else during my first pregnancy. From books, magazines, other parents, my OB, everyone. I had almost talked myself out of trying it because it was supposed to be this insurmountable battle (it wasn't).

Someone Being Me said...

We were very eager to get pregnant. People did tell me how hard it was but they also said it is different when it is your own. I heard the good and the bad about equally. I think things have turned out pretty much how I expected. I knew it would be expensive, tiring, hard to go anywhere but rewarding and wonderful. Parenting is an oxymoron.

She Likes Purple said...

My husband and I are in the process of trying to get pregnant and we're surrounded by friends and family who have or are having babies. So we hear quite a lot. A lot of really wonderful, "keep at it, it'll happen for you" sentiments and a lot of well-intentioned, "oh, enjoy this time as it's SO hard once the baby comes and here, watch mine so you know what you're REALLY getting into." More than anything we mention only wanting one and we hear a PLETHORA of comments ranging from, "WHY????" to "That's the biggest parenting mistake you'll ever make."

Everyone has an opinion when you're open about trying to get knocked up and it's all very conflicting.

We've learned to nod and smile through gritted teeth very well because every now and then someone tells me I'm going to be such a great motner and that it was hard for them when trying too and that makes all the other crap worth it.

d e v a n said...

Bunny - YES! YES! YES!!!!

Melanie said...

I guess I always knew I'd have kids eventually, but I have never been one of those people who has baby lust. Unfortunately, I'll have to say:

1) I have to add Terrified to reluctant/conflicted/doubtful because I started the whole babymaking process with 2 miscarriages.

2) Everyone had something to say once they found out we were having twins. If I heard, "Oh, Oh. Double trouble!" one more time, I was going to scream.

Laura said...

Truth be told, Goodnight Moon is more of a run on sentence than a story, so you owe us the dishwasher story.
I was pretty enthusiastic about having my children, but doubtful they would actually appear, if that makes any sense. And most of my pre-baby, talk about babies, life was filled with labor horror stories and admonishments to "get some sleep because, once the baby comes, it is all over for you.

Pregnantly Plump said...

I was very excited. Most people would say congratulations and then send me every single sad baby, pregnancy story they could find on the internet. They also liked to forward me those crazy email spam stories about little boys and carjackers.
Apparently, my life was a lot more endangered when I was pregnant, and apparently little boys like to string cats up to fans and splatter paint around the living room.

Nowheymama said...

YES, Donna and Bunny.

Also, we need some kind of corollary or something because so far the number of kids I'm one away from is apparently the HARDEST NUMBER EVER. "Whoo, going from one to two is SO HARD!" "Now you're going to have three? You'll really have your hands full!! Three is the HARDEST." Etc. Does it ever stop?

Mairzy said...

I wondered why everybody else answered the questions wrong, until finally I went back and realized I'd read it wrong. My answer (since everyone cares so deeply) should read:

1. Yes, we both wanted children very much.

(and as commented before) 2. Heard an overdose of GOOD GOOD GOOD and the only bad I heard was from pre-discredited sources.

There. *I* feel better, anyway.

Swistle said...

Nowheymama- I noticed a BIG drop-off in that kind of thing when I went from 4 to 5. VERY FEW PEOPLE LEFT at that point.

Welcome to our World said...

1.) I was probably in the reluctant catergory since ours was unplanned and my hubby and I had long ago talked about never having kids. Though once I found I was pregnant I was happy about (I just had to add that because people assume that because it was a surprised AND I never really wanted kiddos that I must have resented having child... this is not so. I was just not like OH wow I need to have babies to complete my world.) Sigh, I am very defensive about this topic...

2.) You know we hardly knew anyone who had kids because we were fairly close to being "alone" in the world. I mean our friends were all childless at the time. Our siblings are all kind of odd. And really most people were upbeat with us and some were not. I guess I just assumed I was a strong enough person to handle it all but I learned that in some cases I am not and I am also learning my limits but I never felt like I was told a fairy tale about kiddos nor was fed a OMG this is going to make you a deranged lunatic. I do feel like I wish the books or articles were a BIT more honest in things. That is why I love books like Waiting for Birdy b/c she does not BS around things. It is what it is. For most people it is hard whether they are have clock ticking away saying OH YEAH or a head full of "what ifs".

Erin said...

1) Excited and ready.
2) Mostly about how hard it is, and also how inconvenient the world is when it comes to families. And how I'll totally QUIT MY JOB once the baby is born (I'm still working).

I think this is a valid theory. When I talk about how working full-time outside the house is HARD, people tell me how great it is that I have a little time with adults and I get to eat one meal a day on my own (all true). But then when I talk about how there are some really GREAT things about working, people tell me how fast my kids grow up and isn't it HARD to be away from them all the time? (all true.)

It makes my head hurt.

Amie said...

I had four younger siblings (the youngest being 13 years younger), my mom babysat to earn money, and I was a live-in nanny for my nephew for four months one summer so I KNEW what babies were like and I waited until I was ready for that. If I hadn't had that experience, I think I would of had them sooner and been unpleasantly surprised at the amount of work they are.

I will say that once I was pregnant, OMG the birth horror stories that came out of the woodwork!

Amy said...

1. I was 90% excited, and 10% "holy shit, what have I done, my life will never be the same.

2. I got "children are a blessing" and "it is really, really hard" in equal measure. In my mind I knew it was going to be very hard, but I don't think you can ever wrap your brain around that until you are living it. One of life's lessons.

Feener said...

totally excited
everyone told me to get my sleep b/c once you have kids you never do
i got a lot of how hard it was to have kids. it was bothersome.
just last night at a 40th bday party for a friend, folks who had a third were telling us (we have 2) don't have the third, you are outnumbered. it was a bit annoying after the 5th time. let us do what we want. for all they knew i could have been prego with my third.

Melissa H said...

I was conflicted/doubtful and heard few stories at all because up until we told folks we were pregnant (6 wks along or so) I had been telling everyone I did not want any children. Once I was pregnant I got a mixed bag of stories. Sorry to not be more helpful to your research

Emblita said...

Well, I worked in a daycare, as an au pair and have two much younger siblings. So I knew all of it- the good, the bad, long before I started contemplating procreating myself. What did freak me out were the really terrifying birth stories that I heard (and keep hearing!). But as the end of my pregnancy approached I stopped worrying so much about the birth- I figured the kid would get out one way or another- and at least there would be painkillers. (Yay! epidural!)

Banana said...

I can't wait to have children and I hear all of the above. "It's impossible", "it's such a joy", "you'll never sleep", "you'll be so in love you won't even notice." I've worked in daycares, summer camps and as a nanny and I've heard it from all sides from all kinds of parents.

My theory is that people only listen to (really listen to) the things they most relate to. If you're laid back and not off the charts excited about having kids, maybe you don't really hear the "you'll never sleep" part... but you also don't completely hear the "it'll be the greatest joy of your life" part either. You just sort of go with the flow thinking you'll know what to do when it's time to do it.

On the other hand, if you're really, really excited about having kids you are more likely to really listen to all mom stories - the good the bad and the ugly. Just like if you're really into, say cars, you're more likely to hear and understand all of the things there are know about cars (of which I have no knowledge, so this may not be the best metaphor for me).

Anyhow, that's what I think. :)

Tess said...

I was recently talking to someone at work about starting to try this year and mentioned that I wanted five total (yes, planned, thank you) and another women overheard and tried to talk me out to even having one. She had one and she said that was enough. She said I was too young (I am 24, and will be 25+ by the time our first child comes) and to wait for a couple of years. This is not the first time I have had such a reaction when telling people I want 5, or want to start now. I agree with you, Swistle.

the new girl said...

Good questions, Swistle.

I was reluctant and getting o-l-d-e-r by the minute and everyone was CLAMORING for me to reproduce.

What I got a lot of, therefore, was 'you'll be SUCH A GREAT MOM, you HAVE to have kids. It's a LOVE LIKE NO OTHER and your LIFE WILL NOT BE COMPLETE.'

I, though, KNEW it would be drastically difficult for me in the very beginning because I SUCK without sleep and knew that it would be hard for me to not 'know what was wrong.' Both of which were--uh, ARE true, in my case.

I agree about the contrary nature of human beings, though. Good post.

Melissa said...

1. I could NOT WAIT to have kids. I knew all my life that is what I was meant to do.
2. And once I was pregnant everyone I spoke to told my what at blessing and a miracle children were.

I was the first one of my friends to have kids, so i really did not know how hard it was and how big of a life change. I wouldnt trade it for the world!!

Omaha Mama said...

Having babies is just something that people in my "world" do. It's not really a thought out thing, everyone just does. We planned our first and were very pleased when after six months of trying, were preggers. That being said, people do say strange things. I found that the closer I got to labor, the more graphic the birthing stories got (preface with, "but you forget it all."). Women also said lots about get ready for your life to change and get ready to never go out again. But I didn't really care, because I never went out before! Now that we are "done" having kids (on purpose), people ask a lot when we'll have another and when we'll have our third. Your topic is fascinating, will you be aggregating the results of your comments and sharing your data???

Omaha Mama said...

I didn't follow the rules very well and gave you much too much narrative.

1) Enthusiastic and Eager
2) Awful, Painful, Never to sleep again. Also never to have sex again. Never to get my body again. And never to have a moment alone again. (pretty much all true and totally worth it)

Misty said...

1. I was very excited about having my babies and
2. Really. No one ever harped on about PPD or labor pains or nuthin'. Good thing I lead a charmed life or I would be one of those folks whining...but why didn't anyone tell meeeee!

Because, they didn't, you know.

The Mommy Years said...

1. Both
2. Both

I wanted kids so much that I cried over my period for months. Then I got the positive & cried in fear for 9 months! LOL I wanted them but I was terrified of the unknown.

I am the last of my friends to have my first child so I heard all the horror stories for years. And I saw all the great parts & heard the love stories for just as long.

I think we knew what we were in for, but you never really know until you're there ykwim? You hear the horror stories but they don't REALLY know until you're in it. You hear the love stories & the incredible moments ~ but you have no clue how deep the love runs until it's your heart & your child.

Kim said...

Hi There!

I was 21 when I got pregnant and the answer to #1 is No. I just didn't want any children - that is until my Doctor told me I had exactly one year to try and have one if I wanted one because I had to have a hysterectomy. Oh and I had a 1% chance of carrying a baby to term... :(

The moment my doctor said that, I changed my mind and I am glad I did because I can't imagine what my life would be without her.

The answer to #2 is: I heard nothing but what a blessing they were and that's probably because I had a difficult pregnancy and was sick allot as well as on bed rest for 1/2 of it and then had to deliver early via emergency c-section. I guess everyone figured I had enough issues and didn't need anymore stress.

Shelly Overlook said...

1.) Eager and excited
2.) Mostly heard horror stories

You are brilliant!

el-e-e said...

We were a bit hesitant, although in theory we wanted kids.

And we heard the "miracle," "joy of your life" stories.

I was NOT warned about the hard stuff.

I think your theory holds water, swistle.

And I love love love jonniker's response.

Kristin H said...

Add me to the list of people who were excited, and heard only about how tired I would be. From EVERYONE, including my own mother. I have tried my best to only emphasize how great kids are to my pregnant friends.

Tessie said...

Great topic; great comments.

I relate to Jonniker's comment. She is the pre-baby me. Except more articulate. Also, with better hair.

I was scared shitless to have kids. I am a total INFORMATION WHORE, and have been all my life, to my peril. I'm sure I read the same blogs that she did and got the same message: DON'T DO IT.

But I was surprised to find how well-suited I am to parenthood after all. I agree that this has a lot to do with my essential nature in addition to my expectations going in. There WAS and IS a lot of doom-and-gloom in the mommyblogosphere, but I prefer THAT to the alternative, which is barfy and misleading and also BARFY.

js said...

I mostly heard the good things. My SIL usually lays things down pretty straight, but I just got the "oh, it'll hurt a bit". This from the woman who had two easy-breezy pregnancies and SUPER easy child births. No one explained to me that while being pregnant is truly an amazing wonderful gift, it also can suck. Hardcore. I developed pre-eclampsia and was on bedrest for the last FOUR MONTHS. I gained 100lbs. I was induced early and ended up in labor for 48hrs, 36min, 48sec to end up with a C-SECTION! I suffered through post partum depression hardcore also. And, I still have my moments where I feel like a failure as a mother.

My sister is now 24 and approaching that age where she is thinking about having children. I am nothing but honest with her. She was there through my pregnancy, so she knew how much I suffered, but she doesn't know how much I adored it as well. The first time the baby moves, the first time you hear the heartbeat. But I tell her everything. She's mad that I can't explain the contractions. All I can tell her is "they. hurt. like. hell." I told her I will never lie about it to her. Everyone needs to know that the good and the bad come hand in hand. But the end result? The baby? Totally worth it.

Constance the Fourth said...

I've wanted a baby since I was, I don't know, 9 years old? In fact, I saw a HBO movie once as a kid and in it a group of young kids FOUND a baby and proceeded to care for it. I routinely searched my neighborhood after that, hoping to find a real live baby of my very own.

I'm not even kidding.

So, I was SOOOO eager to be a mom, that I don't think I listened to much of what anyone said.

I like you're working theory though, and I think it's accurate... I haven't read your comments to know, I'm off to do that next....

Saly said...

I heard many horror stories about pregnancy and child birth, as in you will bleed, tear, and probably poop on the delivery table. Yeah.

But I also heard that it was all worht it in the end.

rosie said...

1. I'm at 31 weeks with my first right now. At the age of 38, I'm way past ready--I've wanted this for years and years.

2. I'm hearing mostly the good stuff. At a holiday party this weekend, a (drunk) coworker's wife spent considerably time trying to convince me that I was going to me all right, despite my protests that "I agree!" I'm very relaxed and laid back about the pregnancy and what's coming, and can't figure out why people keep assuring me that I'll be okay. I know that!

Sylvie said...

I second the request for the dishwasher story. I am all for a dishwasher, and don't even have kids! So I'll put reluctant/questioning as the answer to that question.

jennifer said...

1. Both, but mostly couldn't wait to be a mom.
2. Both

I just had NO idea how I would handle going from being just me to adding this whole new, life changing version known as MOM. Nothing anybody could have said would have prepared me. It's something you don't truly GET until you are riding the wave.

After reading Jonniker's comment, I understand what she means by the whole mommyblogger movement giving us a voice. I guess I don't really read anybody who ONLY talks about the bad stuff, but I do love that I realize that I'm not the only person who doesn't LOVE every single minute of motherhood, that I struggle with my new identity, and that I love my kids something fierce.

McWriter said...

I don't have any children, but I would really, really like to have some one day.

1) eager and excited

2) negative, fun-sponge-y kind of info

I'm always shocked when I hear celebrities GUSH about how AMAZING motherhood is when all I really hear from friends and family with kids is the diapers and stomach flu stuff, not the picking buttercups in the fields with perfectly quiet and coiffed kids.

Hmm ... I think I'll give it a try anyway!

Jeninacide said...

1. I was enthusiastic and eager

2. All I ever heard was "Wait until the baby comes then you'll NEVER _______ again..."

Insert: Sleep, Eat in a nice restaurant, party, see my friends, wear high heels, fit in my jeans, laugh, etc...

So yeah, I got a lot of negative comments...

jonniker said...


I think you know this, but just in case: To clarify, I don't mean at all that the genre (mommyblogging) is invalid by ANY stretch -- on the contrary, for I think that those who can articulate it in a balanced, realistic way do others and themselves a great service. As I understand it, it can be very isolating and having that community is wonderful and, frankly, necessary. It's NICE to be able to bitch about how hard it is to a bunch of people who understand, oh yes, I certainly do.

What I meant was that there were (and still are) a fair amount of mommybloggers who do little other than complain complain OMFG COMPLAIN about the miseries of it all without balancing it with the good stuff -- the way they write, sometimes I wonder if they realize that having children was a choice they made, on some level, and not a disease inflicted on them by drinking tainted water in a third-world country. I'm sure they don't mean it (although in some cases, I think they do), and I'm sure there are good things in their lives, but hearing nothing (NOTHING) but woe-is-me, I am parented gets ... well, it makes me tune it out, and next thing you know, I'll be expecting my kid to shoot out of the birth canal with his own unicorn and personal butler.

Not that anyone has a responsibility or an obligation to accurately portray motherhood to anyone, least of all me, but I am absolutely drawn to those who take a more balanced approach.

Honestly, I take the same view to any blogger. Life is, by definition, hard and motherhood is one of the very hardest (if not THE hardest) things anyone can go through. But without a sense of humor and some sort of perspective -- and most of all, finding a little bit of good in every day -- it's off-putting and more than a little terrifying, at best.

Shelly said...

You have five children and no dishwasher? That is a crime!

Natalie said...

1. I was conflicted - mostly because of situation, not for lack of want. I knew I wanted kids. (Mine was a happy SURPRISE! pregnancy).

2. I pretty much knew what I was getting into and there is very little that surprised me.

Even with all of the information, I still don't feel like I was prepared. It's a whole new ballgame once that little miracle arrives.

I think your theory is probably 90 percent true, but I also think people choose to hear what they want to hear.

The only thing I don't think I was prepared for is all of the self-doubt. My goodness that is probably the hardest part of parenting. Oh and the guilt. The guilt that you feel when you snap at your child and think they will need serious psychological help for it.