5/22/2014

relationship realness: baby talk

strength

Things are about to get real here today. I’m a little nervous writing about this topic, but after a conversation I just had with a close friend I feel it is very important. People often tell me I look young and while I find that flattering, the reality is I am a 34 year old woman who needs to decide if she wants to have a baby. I don’t need to figure it out today, but I need to get the ball rolling in that direction.

My partner wants to have a child at some point in the future. I am not sure if I do. Boom. I wrote it. Already so many feelings are coming up. Sadness. Confusion. Shame. Heartache. Resistance. Guilt. Fear.

It’s so hard to write about this, I feel like I’m a bad person, like something is wrong with me because I don’t have that “mom” gene that many people I know have. I don’t daydream about babies. When I think back to my childhood I don’t remember a time that I dreamed of having a family of my own. And I played with a lot of dolls…. as if that even means anything. Somehow I want it to.

Many friends my age have what they describe as a biological feeling, a deep desire to create a family with a partner and child. They feel is it part of their legacy as women and long for the joys and stability of that kind of family life. I don’t share those desires. Sometimes I feel like I am less of a woman because of it. Our culture celebrates the ideal woman role model as a self-less mother and even if we don’t buy into it, the idea is there, lingering in our subconscious. There is this unspoken expectation that women should want kids and they are cold or detached if they don’t. There is something wrong with them and therefore I think at times there is something wrong with me.

I love what I do for a living. I’ve always been very driven to create, connect and share. In many ways it’s why I feel I was brought into this world. The majority of my life has been about self-expression as a way to support others to grow, find inspiration and heal. This might sound selfish but it is challenging for me to imagine letting go of that for a child. Of course I see and know women that have successful careers and families. It’s isn’t either/or, it’s isn’t black/white.

Underneath all of this is the fear that being a mother won’t bring me as much joy as working with others. And when I follow that fear through I see how transparent it is. I love children. I am really good with them and always have been. What scares me is that I could some how mess up my own child. What scares me is that I haven’t worked through enough of my issues and that they will be passed down to them. What scares me is the depth of the bond is between mother and child and my ability to handle it.

Aside from all of my worries there is a very real question at hand in my relationship: Do I want to have a baby? My entire life that answer has been a firm no. It wasn’t a subject I spent any time thinking about, it was a no and that was the end of the story. In my past relationships it never really even came up. None of the people I was with long-term wanted a family in that way so it wasn’t something I felt I needed to explore since I had already made up my mind.

Today it is a different story. I am in a relationship with someone I love dearly. He would be an amazing father, there are no doubts in my heart about that. We have such an incredible relationship and I can picture myself with him for many years down the road. He wants a child. When we talk he tells me he feels that a child is an expression of love between two people. In a cosmic and spiritual sense it is a tangible product of our love for each other. There is a part of me that loves the sound of that and can see how creating a child in some ways an ultimate form of intimacy. And then the fear kicks in. I wonder how our relationship will change if another life comes into the picture. Mostly I worry if I will even like being a mom. How can I know?

This is such a loaded subject and the conversations have been hard for me and I am sure for him as well. In this moment it doesn’t feel like a firm no and it hasn’t felt like a firm no since we started this conversation last year. While I am not ruling it out of the picture, I am not jumping for joy at the idea either. I am coming to terms with the fact that I have a lot more work to do in this area than I care to admit.

It’s vulnerable to admit I am unsure about having a child. It’s easy to feel like there is something wrong with me because I don’t feel like many of my friends do. While they long for children and family time I dream of writing books, traveling and leading workshops on self-care. It’s that basic rule of compare and despair. We are all different and I have to remember that. Talking with a close friend this morning made me feel so much better because she gets it. She’s in the same boat as I am. It was such a relief to know I am not alone in my uncertainty of being a mother.

I also had a very healing and powerful conversation with my mother yesterday that brought me a lot of insight. We talked about my concerns and fears and she reminded me there are things in my past that I need to learn to let go of. And by letting go she meant not allowing my sadness and fear around those situations determine whether or not I want to have a child. That hit me so hard. There is a great deal I need to continue to forgive myself for and this is the first step towards being free enough to make a thoughtful decision. Our conversation also reminded me that our deepest wounds are our greatest sources of strength.

Today I am beginning the process of unpacking all of my feelings around having a child. To be honest I am afraid of what will surface but I trust that this is part of my journey. I know Jason was brought to me for many reasons and this is one of them. I need to do this work for myself and for us. I want to step into this part of my life with as much kindness, compassion and tenderness as I can bring. I will sit in meditation and be brave no matter what feelings arise and I will journal until the answers come. They always do.

xoa

Comments

  • erin {yummy supper}

    Ashley, what a powerful post. You brought tears to my eyes. Motherhood is such a complicated thing and it’s so real and brave of you to face what it means and not just get carried away with the romanticized version of motherhood like so many of us do before we have kids. I was completely starry eyed before I had Otis.
    I have no doubt that motherhood isn’t for everyone. Women can have a full rich life without kids.
    I do have to say, for what it’s worth, that I too never thought I’d have kids until I met Paul. Like you, I was afraid.
    I don’t have one drop of regret. Yes, it is really fucking hard sometimes. Relentless in fact. But that love I feel for my kids is the most powerful and meaningful thing in my life. I’ve grown, healed and learned so much because of my relationship with them. There is no one I can be more real, direct, and more safe with than with my kids. Motherhood more powerful than I had ever imagined. And oh is it humbling, each and every day.
    I can imagine how hard this is for you Ashley. You’re such an inspiration to share your personal experience around something so huge, complicated, and loaded in our culture. I wish you and Jason so much luck, clarity, and peace as you live with the unknown.
    xoxox
    E

    • ashley

      Hi Erin,
      Thank you so much for sharing your experiences and thoughts with me. I really appreciate your honesty and willingness to be part of the conversation. I love that you have grown and healed so much through your relationships with your children. My mom says the same thing about us and it’s great to hear you echo that too. It is huge and complicated subject in our culture and I am just beginning this journey with myself and with Jason.

      Reading your words is bringing me a lot of comfort, just knowing you had fears in the past too is huge for me. You are one of the women I look up to and you continue to show me that so much is possible. You show me that one can commit to a family and keep being super creative and go for their dreams and support the dreams of their family. There is much more to explore and I am grateful to have your support through this. Wishing you a wonderful holiday weekend.
      xoa

  • Tamar

    Beautiful post, Ashley. My husband and I went through this recently. I had always been the one who wanted children and he wasn’t sure. I was freaked out because of my age (I’m 40) and at the same time wanted to give him time and space to figure it out. Ultimately, we took time out from talking about it and having that “pressure” surrounding it. We set a date a year in advance when we’d regroup. I ended up getting pregnant accidentally and then miscarried…and miscarried again a few months later. But bottom line, the time in between when we decided to take a break from needing to resolve it and when I got pregnant was absolutely necessary. It’s a hard place to be, I know – but it sounds like your relationship is very solid and loving and I promise the decision will come to you if you let it.

    • ashley

      Thank you Tamar. I really appreciate you sharing your experiences. I like how you both decided to regroup and take the pressure off of the situation. Also that you were willing to give your husband the space to figure it out. That resonates deeply for me. It is a hard place to be and I am very grateful for the support. I was hesitant to blog about this but I am so glad I trusted my gut. Reading what you have gone through and the ways you and your husband are working though this gives me a lot of hope and strength. I trust what you are saying that the answers will come, thank you. xoa

  • Vicky Huangfu

    Thank you so much for your honesty and willingness to share what is so personal and powerful! I (and a growing number of women, I would argue) am right there with you! I always thought that the day would come when I would wake up and say, “yes. I want children. I am ready now.” That day has yet to come. Ambivalence continues to reign supreme for me on this topic for so many of the reasons you describe. And now I am 38…hear that squeaking? That is the window inching its way towards shut…forever. I wish you the very best on your journey and applaud your self examination, painful and confusing as it can be.

    • ashley

      Hi Vicky,
      You are very welcome and thank you for stepping into the conversation. Hearing the honest experiences of other women gives me so much insight and strength. I’m in a confusing and painful part of this journey right now and all of your well wishes are received with an open heart. Very grateful for your words. xoa

  • kusanec | baby blog

    I just came across your blog by accident – if there is such a thing as accident…I too was not sure if I wanted to have a baby and did not have the longing to have one. Lots of my friends felt like they had everything but still were missing something. I did not. I was happy with my life as it was. Then I got to the same age you are and realized – just like you – that I just needed to decide. I felt like I am with the right person and we just went for it. Our son did not come to fill any voids yet brought so much pure joy and happiness. I feel like it brought me to another level of understanding life. I physically see the time pass by, which makes me grateful for every day in a much deeper way than before. I still can do what I wanted to do before and more. You can work and travel with babies and they show you things you might not see on your own. On the other hand I still do understand when people decide not to have babies. There are so many wonderful things you can do in this world. So listen to your heart and make the right decision. For you and for your partner. Love from Prague. Radka

    • ashley

      Hi Radka,
      So glad you came across the blog! There are no accidents here. Thank you for taking the time to share your experiences with me. I am very grateful. It brings me comfort to hear your story and that you did not have that longing for a child. Sometimes I think that because I don’t feel that way I shouldn’t be a mother. Reading your words is bringing me relief. I love that you say your son was not there to fill a void and that he has brought you to a new understanding of life. That is incredibly powerful. And thank you for sharing that it is possible to do the things I want to do with a family, it really isn’t an either/or situation, it’s all inclusive ;) So glad you found this post. Wishing you a wonderful weekend. xoa

  • Lotta

    Dear Ashley,
    Like Radka, I stumbled across this blog just recently. I apologize in advance, if my English is not as good, it’s not my mothertongue. What you write about in this post seems familiar to me, not because I have the same worries, but my mother did. I thought you’d maybe enjoy to read about the topic from the perspective of the child.
    My mother always was an independent woman and never really wanted to have children. I think it’s safe to say she couldn’t imagine herself being a good mother. My father on he other hand wanted to have children.
    My mom always tells me, what changed her mind was the thought of growing old. I think, the thought of not only being surrounded by people her age but younger people as well was important for her.
    I know that, when I was born, my mother still carried unresolved things with her and there were some wounds that hadn’t healed. She still had to deal with them, when I was a child and, to be honest, it wasn’t always easy. I surely have picked up some of her insecurities. On the other hand, I have had the opportunity to watch my mother grow and overcome so many things, it’s incredible to see where she is now.
    Like Radkas son, I was not born to fill a void. I was always free to be exactly who I was and always felt loved for it, which I think is rare and wonderful.
    My mother remained very independent and she never was the „typical mom“, the society expects women to be. And even though I sometimes wanted her to be less self-centered and be more like the stay at home moms my frieds had, I am now very greatful that she is the way she is. Being her daughter has given me freedom and an insight on how she became as wise as she is today. Most importantly, I know she loves me and I love her.
    I think either decision you will make will be the right one. A woman doesn’t have to be a mother to be whole. And vice versa one doesn’t need to feel and act as expected to be a great parent. I wish you all the best.

  • Ashley H.

    Ashley,
    What a beautiful post. Funny that you wrote about this topic because I, too, have been wrestling with this myself. (I was even mulling over writing a blog post about it!) And despite the repeated wrestling, I still don’t know. And no closer to knowing than before.
    When I was younger, I thought I would just “know.” I even told myself to make a decision by the age of 30…and then 30 came and went and the issue still wasn’t settled in my heart. So now I’ve told myself that I need to make a decision by 35…
    I like my life the way it is. I like it just being me and my husband and our pets. But, I also love being with my nephews and watching my sister with them. And sometimes, when I hold them, it creates a longing in me that is surprising. But, I just don’t know if I want to give up this life I have right now. My boss told me once that people who tell you that you can’t do “those things” (travel, hike, etc.) with children don’t really want to. He told me that all those things you want to happen can still happen. But, part of me is resistant to a male telling me this – because I see amazing fathers all around me, but no matter how good a father is, or how much he is “there”…if we were all being really, truly, gut-wrenching honest…the majority of the burden falls on the woman. Especially in the early years. And sometimes I feel too selfish to be that unselfish. I like time alone (in fact, I NEED it), I like going on runs by myself, I like reading for hours at a time uninterrupted. How in the world would I balance time for me and time for children??
    I really like what other commenters have said – that children should never fill a void. I believe that wholeheartedly. (I don’t think anyone, for that matter, should ever fill a void. The goal for me is to work towards wholeness in every avenue of my life.) And I know that I need to let the issue go. Let go, let go, let go.
    Also, I don’t know if this will be helpful to you, but there’s a post about this very thing in Cheryl Strayed’s book, Tiny Beautiful Things under a post called, “The Ghost Ship That Didn’t Carry Us.” It’s heart-wrenchingly beautiful. I haven’t been able to make myself sit down and do the writing she suggests, but I know it will help me decide the right path when it’s time for me to sit down and write.
    Thank you for being brave enough to post this. It gives me great comfort that I am not alone in this struggle and that other women feel as I do. Nothing is as alienating as being the only woman in your group of acquaintances that does NOT have children or isn’t currently trying to get pregnant.
    Thank you again. Your post was definitely meant to be and a healing salve for those of us in the same position. Sometimes I really wish you lived in the Phoenix area so we could meet over a cup of tea!
    Blessings,
    Ashley

    • ashley

      Hi Ashley!
      I just loved reading this and hearing from you. Thank you for taking the time to write and share your experiences. It is so helpful to read them. I am right there with you. I’ve always thought I would just “know”. I felt the same way about relationships too and that when I met my life partner I would “know” they were the one. I’ve heard so many stories like that and I have to keep reminding myself that we are all different. I have amazing intuition about a lot of things but this is an area where it feels like a void.

      Thank you for that post suggestion, I look forward to reading that today. I am doing a lot of personal writing about this and would love a few more writing prompts. I’m also committing to doing a prenatal yoga training this winter. I know it’s still a ways from now but I wanted to do it this past winter and was too busy for it. I went ahead and blocked it out in my calendar. I feel very called to the training and have a sense it will help me a great deal with this.

      I really like that your boss said, that makes so much sense to me. I am right there with you too, I love my life right now, spending many of my hours just as I want to. It’s clear that would change with children and I am not ready for that right now. I’m grateful to see now that I don’t have to decide anything today or even next month. There is time and my job is to just show up and do the writing and personal work I need to do in order to allow the answer to come forward.

      Thank you so much for writing. It’s great to connect around this topic and I too wish we lived closer!! It would be amazing to hangout! Wishing you a beautiful Sunday. xoa

  • topa

    Hi Ashley, I am an “Alien” too. And I don’t know what feels more uncomfy, the on-going questions by family and friends, that are a real pressure, or the why I have no answer for. The most confusing fact is that I always wanted to have four kids, I am working with kids of any age since I was a teenager and have a 10 year old goddaughter, that I love like my own one. Plus I am in the best relationship ever since 14 years. But here is this fear and that why. I have no doubts that I can travel and work and live liike I want to with kids, cause life is always a compromise, starting with your partner, family and clients. So actually I don’t know what I really worry about and why I can’t come to a clear decision. I guess I need to give myself some extra time. A friend of mine had her first child a few weeks ago at the age of 42, that gives me hope. ;-) So all the best to you!

    • ashley

      Hi! So great to hear from you. Thank you for this thoughtful response. It sounds like you are in an amazing relationship and can imagine a life with children. I agree with you, there are always compromises. I see now that one can be part of a family and still participate in life the way you want to. I am sure things will become clear to you with more time. I too know some women in their early 40s that have just had children. I always have to remind myself that there is still plenty of time and to just be patient. Sending you lots of love today! xoa

  • thia

    A,

    I just read this – and my goodness, I wish I read it more close to when you wrote it. This is an incredible and IMPORTANT piece. So brave. SO brave. Do you know how many times I have sat down tried to write the EXACT SAME THING and froze? I never made it more than 1 paragraph before freaking out / deleting it / refusing to finish. Mainly out of fear for being judged. I swear, it’s like you took the thoughts, feelings and shames from my own mouth and onto your website. for realsies.

    The part that struck me most was your NOT feeling biological pulls for a child and the feeling of that making you less of a woman. I relate on so many levels. I feel like there’s something wrong with me. i have SEARCHED for those biological feelings and am saddened that I don’t have them – especially because I have a partner who (in theory) i would LOVE to have kids with (if i wanted kids, that is) because we work so well together / are such good partners / he would be an amazing dad. I feel guilty and and hate myself for it.

    We need MORE women talking about this – deciding not to have a child is a huge decision and just as life-changing as announcing a pregnancy. yet, the former is not celebrated. there’s no anti-baby shower. nobody is buying that woman gifts. nobody is shouting ‘CONGRATULATIONS!!! WE ARE SO HAPPY FOR YOU!!!’. instead, it’s considered ‘weird’. in fact, i’ve had some people thing i’m being RUDE when i say i don’t particularly want to be a mom. everyone takes it so goddamn personally…

    the point is, i’m really proud of you. i’m proud of you for putting this – YOU! – out there into an unknown realm. i’m proud of you for doing something i’ve been unable (or unwilling?) to talk / write about in a public forum even though i’ve yearned to do so for years. thank you. i love you.

    PS. i read your follow up to this post as well. isn’t it interesting that the answers become a bit clearer the more we open up and talk about things? it frees us. it really does. <3 u 4 eva

    • ashley

      Thia! Loved reading this! I am so glad to hear you have experienced all of this too and are in the same boat. That biological feeling stuff has honestly been one of the most challenging aspects to all of this. I’ve thought I was broken, like there is something deeply wrong. The answers do become clearer little by little when we open up and talk about it. Your response and everyone else’s affirmed this needs to be talked about in public as so many women relate. One of the most healing conversations I had with my Mom she shared that she wasn’t 100% excited about having children. I was shocked to be honest. It seems like she is just supposed to be a Mom. It’s fun to think that she had a life before my brother and I even though it is super hard to imagine at times! I was like wait, you didn’t always dream of baby me?! That brought be a huge amount of relief, I was like okay…there isn’t just one way to feel or make a decision about this. Thank you for being brave and sharing your feelings on this important topic. I am very grateful for you and that we are moving through this together. Sending you lots of love. And who knows maybe in a few years we will be Moms or we won’t! Either way I know we will be chasing our dreams and loving life. xoa

  • Jane M

    Hey Ashley,

    You are not alone in this. In fact, if you look around at the women you know who do not have children and are over 40, you’ll see that every single one of them, including me, struggled through this period.

    I came to the conclusion for me that the struggle was between what I wanted (not to have children) and what was the cultural and biological norm (to breed). It’s hard to unravel what your feelings are versus what marketing, mothers, and the rest of the world have been telling us we should do since we were tiny girls. It is societal brainwashing at its most powerful, and modern women struggle with it because we have been struggling to break out of those norms our whole lives.

    I also came to the conclusion that the decision is not as important as we make it out to be. I know, controversial, since it will change the course of your entire life. But what I mean is, you will be happy and strong and follow your path, whether you have a kid or not. No one regrets having a kid after they already have it – the love you feel for your child overwhelms any regret – that is biology at work. Similarly, I doubt you will regret not having a child if that is your choice. You will still make your life into something great!

    This is why the decision is so hard, I think, because it doesn’t really make any difference whether you do or you don’t. You will still be you.

    • ashley

      Hi Jane,

      It’s wonderful to hear from you, especially on this topic. I agree that it is hard to unravel all of the feelings around this for the exact reasons you mentioned. I love what you wrote. It’s just what I needed to read today and makes so much sense. All of this has felt heavy but the more I write about it and connect with other women the lighter I feel. Teasing out what is my stuff and what is our societies stuff is making this more clear and light as well. What you wrote reminded me that there are so many decisions we make in our lives that change our course and a baby is just one – not the only one! It feels huge right now but your point really resonates with me, that I will still be me no matter what. Thank you Jane. xoa

  • mari

    first time commenter, long time recipe tester and appreciator of your blog : )

    I could have written almost every word of your post and more. I haven’t talked about it with more than one person because I am scared to even bring it up and make myself face my own questions. I appreciate your honesty and curiosity of yourself, I’ve read both baby posts now and it’s helped me to set some intentions around these new feelings I’m having, ideas and permission to ask questions, seek guidance, and not be ashamed of my conflicted feelings around the baby idea. You shifted this whole dilemma for me.

    Thank you for that and I send you energy as you are figuring out your journey too.

    *Mari

    • ashley

      Hi Mari!
      So wonderful to hear from you. It has been so healing to connect with other women going through the same thing. I am glad you are finding the posts helpful and that they are supporting your process. The fact that the dilemma shifted for you is a clear sign you are open to exploring all of this and really digging deep to sort out your feelings. I am grateful to be part of your journey and that you are now part of mine.
      Wishing you a wonderful rest of the week. Sending lots of love your way.
      xoa

  • Anna G

    Dear Ashley, I write this to you as my third child now 4 months old sleeps beside me. Thank you for sharing your conflict with your readers. I too when I was younger never thought I would have children, I was not one of those girls who grew up dreaming of motherhood as most of friends did. My mom was not a great mother and admitted that having children in no uncertain terms had kept her from many of her dreams.

    I was not planning on following in her foot steps with dreams of an acting career, travelling all over the world making movies.
    I do not know when I decided I wanted children, I felt my ovaries vibrate once while holding a baby and promptly handed the baby back to my friend. There was no inciting aha that made me decide.
    Somehow my children decided to come to me and I then assumed that role.
    I have never looked back.
    And since having children I have written two books, travelled the world twice over and have shared those experience with my children. I am not encouraging you either way to have children or not. Imagine if every person was called to parenthood, the world would be more populated than it already is. Inshort, try not to beat yourself up. In time you will know what is right for you.

    • ashley

      Hi Anna,
      Thank you for taking the time to share. I really appreciate your honesty and openness. I also love reading about your experiences and how you have been able to offer so much to your children. I am deeply moved and inspired by your journey.
      Wishing you a beautiful weekend.
      xoa

  • Lindsay

    Ashely – thank you so very much for sharing this post with the world so that I could (very happily) stumble across it. Your experience and truthful words resonate deeply with so any women and certainly do with me. As I constantly make intention to feel connected our shared female ancestors, I often wonder how many millions of women lingered on these thoughts too, and it gives me more hope and self confidence that the similar conclusions I have are valid and….enough. You’re a beautiful soul. Thank you so much for sharing your work.

    • ashley

      Hello Lindsay, thank you for your kind words and thoughtful comments. It felt like such an important experience to share and I am still amazed at how much community was created around it. Grateful to know that you can relate, I love those reminders that we really are all connected. Looking forward to checking out your blog! Wishing you a beautiful week. xoa

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