Written by Karen Gellender Friday, 05 October 2012 00:00
Now that I’m an honest woman, as they say, people have started to ask about whether or not my husband and I are planning to have a baby soon. I don’t know the answer to that myself. Sure, I want a baby—babies are so adorable that I turn to mush every time I see anything that looks even remotely like a baby. I coo whenever they show a baby during a commercial, even though I know they’re just trying to sell me overpriced soap.
However, am I ready? First, there are financial concerns. I feel like I should wait until I have money safely invested in a house before I take on the responsibility of caring for another person. At the very least, I don’t think I could safely carry a baby up and down the steps to our two-floor walk-up, so if I had a baby in my current apartment, I would never be able to go outside.
But look at the situation from a biological perspective, and suddenly it’s very different: I’m 30. In a few years, people are going to start making those loathsome “your biological clock is ticking” comments. Apparently once I hit 35, the risk of birth defects goes up, and will continue to rise. If I plan on having a baby at any point, is it irresponsible to put it off, when I’m more likely to give birth to a perfectly healthy baby now?
There’s also the question of whether or not I’m ready emotionally. Becoming a mother means putting a child’s needs above my own constantly, and I don’t know if I’m prepared. Have I gotten enough of my selfish, 20-something dreams out of my system that I’m prepared to spend my time changing diapers? Or is that kind of selflessness something you only truly understand once you have a child, so I’ll never feel ready until it happens?
Pregnancy itself presents many areas of concern. My food cravings can already get pretty out of control; how bad will it be when I’m eating for two? I can just see the headline: “Pregnant Woman Devours Half of Downtown Mineola; claims beige buildings ‘looked like vanilla cake.’” I also frequently enjoy a type of prepackaged snack that my husband tells me rates somewhere between corrugated cardboard and mud on a normal person’s palatability scale; is it fair to inflict that on a defenseless fetus?
Plus, my understanding is that our scientific knowledge of prenatal nutrition is spotty at best. If my child isn’t a genius, will it be because I ate too much pizza during the pregnancy and not enough kale? Come to think of it, even if I’m obsessed with getting my developing fetus vitamins, there’s no right way to do it. I could take supplements, however they say you may absorb vitamins better from actual food. However, if I eat tons of vegetables and fish (for those healthy Omega-3s, of course), I’ll be exposing my child to pesticides and mercury, which could lead to birth defects. Will my every idle snack become a crime against the unborn?
Of course, there’s also the sad fact that not all pregnancies are successful; it’s possible I could have a miscarriage. Considering that I’m the kind of person who bawls uncontrollably at even moderately sad movies, will I be able to handle that kind of emotional blow?
Speaking of which, what if I pass on my emotional volatility to my child? I suppose my son or daughter could inherit my creativity and none of my psychological issues, but what if it’s the opposite? That hardly seems fair.
Or, what if my child has developmental disabilities? I would like to think that I could offer all the support any child of mine would require, but I don’t have any way of knowing that. On some level, rightly or wrongly, I think I expect my son or daughter to be academically inclined like its mother. If my child didn’t appear to be bright, would I come to resent them for it—and could I live with myself if I did?
Finally, even if by some miracle my child is biologically perfect and inherits only my virtues, how will we raise it? My husband and I were raised differently; we’re bound to have some conflicting ideas in regard to childrearing. It could be the source of a lot of marital strife in an otherwise peaceful relationship. Is it fair to a subject a child to parents who fight not necessarily because of them, but primarily over them?
Some people seem to believe that women aren’t qualified to make their own reproductive decisions. I’m willing to go one step further: absolutely no one is qualified to make this kind of decision. And yet, here we are.
Karen Gellender is editor of the Syosset-Jericho Tribune and Plainview-Old Bethpage Herald.