I read a fantastic book last month called "Great With Child" by Beth Ann Fennelly. It really helped me to calm down and have some more long term insight into the mental preparation for this big life change. I would definitely recommend it to anyone in a similar position. She faced a lot of topics head on: how difficult it is to share equal responsibility and how our generation is having to re-define that when it comes to working outside of the home, gift giving, accepting hormones and choosing to not medicate them away, balancing time, the importance of language and vocabulary for a child to develop memories, not judging yourself or other mothers for doing something differently, making time and energy for yourself, leaving the planet better for our children than it is now, how worrying changes with every phase of your child's life (but never stops). I absolutely loved it and would definitely recommend it to anyone in this phase of life.
Two more things that she touched on that really connected with me.
Insight #1Here's a snippet from the book:
My best piece of maternal advice, “The best thing you can do for your child is have a happy marriage.”She spent the whole book giving all sorts of advice and then ended with this as the best piece she could give. I've already internally known this, but it was a good to have another reminder. We've had some challenges this year that have stretched our communication habits. With the purchase of our house and coming to terms with our budgets and life goals, we've had to figure out better communication tactics about things that are typically hard to talk about. We've been listening to podcasts together about financial planning and then we read a marriage communication book together that has really made a difference! Reading it at the same time meant we could discuss each chapter and the new things we learned and want to try. We tried to carve out more time for little trips together, including our baby moon, that involved lots of just driving around and talking. We're hopeful that some of these new habits and routines we've made will help us sustain the difficulties we'll be facing ahead.
Insight #2Treating non-mothers with kindness. I'm not very old, but in my lifetime of friendship circles most of my friends have had children earlier than I have. Many of them got married before I did. When you're single, you want to maintain those friendships but it gets difficult when priorities change and you can't relate to each other about all aspects of your life. As more of my friends got married and had children, I tried to make it a priority to maintain our friendships. I remember a particular baby shower I was at while I was in college. I hadn't really wanted to go but it was a nice gal who didn't have a lot of friends in the area and I felt she would appreciate my efforts to support her. I looked up her registry, bought a gift (which can be difficult with a part-time job in college), and headed to her shower. When I got there, I was grateful I had made the effort because there weren't a lot of people there. However, of the few people who were there, they were all married and expecting children or already mothers.
We were catching up and I was asking questions about their lives, and then the conversation pointed to me for a split second. I could tell they didn't really know what types of questions to even ask me because my life looked so different than there's. We got talking about my lack of dating and then one of them blurted out, "Well when are you going to move on with your life? Do you even WANT to get married?"
I was shocked and really hurt. Of course I wanted to get married. What girl in their young 20s wouldn't want a guy to love her and think she's the best thing and put a diamond ring on her hand? Especially in a time of being surrounded by all my friends getting married, of course marriage was on my mind and something I had always hoped for myself, but unfortunately, it's not one of those things I could just "set my mind to and make it happen."
I felt the same way about longing to be a mother. It's not something that you can just go get just because you want it, which makes it hard and difficult. And it's really unfair when people assume that you don't want that thing just because it hasn't happened.
Here is a little snippet from the book I was reading:
I started thinking about how poorly childless women are sometimes treated. Because I was thirty before I had Claire, I got occasional doses of the bland arrogance, the if-you-aint-got-kids-you-aint-got-nothing types, women who seemed to speak in code to other mothers, who look down on childless women. Once at a baby shower when I was handing my gift to the mother-to-be, my fingernail snapped off.
“Rats,” I announced to the room full of mothers, “I broke a nail.”
“I remembered when I cared about stuff like that,” said one mother, and the room broke up in laughter. I chuckled along but understood that my life seemed trivial to these women who were trading the names of babysitters like stock tips. The other day, a student who’s 33 said that she hates to go home for Thanksgiving because she still has to sit at the kids’ table. If she doesn’t have a child, she must be one. Let’s swear never to treat childless women this way.
I connected so much with this passage. I hope to never get so caught up in my new priorities of motherhood that I would say anything that makes someone else's life and situation less important than my own.