Unexpected Motherhood

22 Aug

A guest post by ninersgirl.

My friend recently had a baby.  Savannah was born two months early, due to several difficulties that my friend had during her pregnancy.  Mom has gone back to work full-time, and I have become Savannah’s full-time caretaker. Although Savannah was a planned pregnancy, my role in her life was not.  I love this little baby, but I am also feeling very overwhelmed by unexpected “motherhood.”

Savannah is a fairly easy-going baby.  She has no health problems.  She’s generally very predictable (eat, sleep, poop, repeat).  Some days Savannah is crankier than others, and some days I swear she hates me.  But on the whole, she’s a good baby.

I have never wanted to have my own children.  I like sleeping in, I love a tasty cigarette, and I curse like it’s my job.  I’m not what you would call “motherhood material.”  I am totally honest about the fact that I’m selfish, which is a big reason why I have never considered getting knocked up and raising a baby.

My plans have taken a back seat for a while because I’m in a position to help a friend.  She can’t afford full-time daycare, and I want to be supportive.  Compassion aside, I keep asking myself why I said “yes.”  Last week I had a little panic attack when the baby wouldn’t stop screaming.  I got a little dizzy and thought, “I can’t do this.”  Fortunately, my partner was home and could take the baby off my hands for a few minutes.  I don’t know how single women manage to do it.

Full-time care giving has definitely reaffirmed my pro-choice beliefs.  Some women (myself included) aren’t ready to be mothers.  Some women feel overwhelmed by the children they already have.  And some women are stuck in bad relationships.  Whatever their reasons, I support their right to decide when parenting is appropriate for them.

I’m really struggling to be a good friend and a good “aunty” right now.  I love Savannah, but I don’t know that I’m cut out to take care of her full-time.  At least I have the option to walk away – if she were my own baby, I couldn’t shirk the responsibility.

If you’ve ever felt overwhelmed by care giving, how have you managed to deal with your feelings?  Has your own experience with motherhood contributed to your pro-choice beliefs?  I’d love to hear your point of view.

4 Responses to “Unexpected Motherhood”

  1. mkdc August 22, 2011 at 9:53 pm #

    Yep, that’s how I feel. Hi, I’ve been a lurker here for a while. I am a nanny/glorified babysitter, and I care for infants and toddlers. My oldest current “client” just turned 3, and the youngest I have experience with is 3 days postpartum, and I’ve worked with kids as old as 14. I’m also trained as a birth doula and have plans to go to midwifery school.

    I think babies are great. I’ve always been a “baby person” – if you ask my mom she’ll tell you I was one of those kids that was always in love with babies walking by on the street and stuff. I don’t know how to explain it other than to say that it just feels *right* to me to have a baby on my shoulder.

    When I started my chapter as a doula, I wondered if and how my training was going to affect on my life-long pro-choice beliefs. If anything, those beliefs have just reaffirmed and strengthened by what I’ve been studying/learning (as someone who has never given birth).

    There is no one who should be forced to go through with a pregnancy and a birth that doesn’t really really want to. And then, when you’re done with 20 hours of labor, that’s when the rest of it starts! and it doesn’t stop, because you are a parent until the moment you die. If a woman’s not ready for that, she shouldn’t be forced to undertake that kind of lifelong career/commitment/there aren’t words big enough for the job that is parenthood.

    There isn’t a parent out there who hasn’t wanted to smother their child when the kid won’t stop crying. (Any parent who says otherwise is a liar, or doesn’t have a big part in their child’s life. the good news is, it’s usually a fleeting feeling) I know that feeling of “Oh Jesus when will it end,” and I took on that position of caretaking 110% *willingly*. I cannot imagine the despair and hopelessness when a parent is put in that position (baby’s crying forever, bills keep coming in that can’t be paid, sleep depravity, the list goes on), and the parent feels like she/he didn’t have an option but to carry the intense burden that is parenthood.

    Many anti-choicers use the “every baby is a miracle” argument, and yes, I believe that the life-creation/life-giving/child-rearing process is ridiculously awesome. Look! we can make another HUMAN BEING. It’s mind-boggling. But that’s only one layer of the hugely complicated process that is pregnancy, childbirth, and child-rearing. In fact, using “every baby is a miracle” as an anti-choice argument is oversimplifying babies to a huge fault. Just because it’s a miracle doesn’t mean it can buy its own diapers, doesn’t mean it can pay its own hospital bills, doesn’t mean it can’t put the mother’s life in extreme danger during pregnancy and labor/delivery. Pretending that the goodness of the “miracle” will always – every single moment and on the whole – outweigh the intense work and commitment, and potential danger!, is just stupid and in my opinion, seriously undermines the anti-choice argument.

    And that’s why I’m a caregiver for the labor/delivery/postpartum crowd, and why I’m pro-choice. Trust women!

  2. Dee August 24, 2011 at 2:21 pm #

    I was prochoice for as long as I can remember, mostly because the thought of seizing someone’s body for 9 months horrified me to no end.

    Then, as I grew older, I realized that I really, really can’t stand children. I can’t stand the crying, the running, the noise, the expectation that one will clean up one’s language when they’re around, etc. My friends know better than to ask me to babysit. Luckily, most of my friends have as little patience for kids as I do, and they are childless as well. Those few that do have children have seldom asked me to babysit, but when they have, the constant level of alertness that a child requires has proved exhausting to me. I breathe easier the minute they leave. I’ve also had several nasty experiences with children (usually male) who poke/pinch/hurt my pets. Nothing makes me see red like someone who hurts animals, so I pull a Linda Blair when it happens.

    I guess what I’m trying to say is: there is no way in HELL I’d have children. What antichoicers fail to understand is that forcing a woman like me to give birth does not ensure that she will care for the child. I am now prochoice not only because of bodily autonomy, but because I know, deep in my heart, that I will never be a mother, that I will never feel a mothering instinct, and that I will never “get over” this antipathy towards kids. Some people were made to be parents; some were not. Antis can’t conceive that the latter group exists, but we do. I can be a bad, unhappy mother, or I can be childless. I choose to be childless.

  3. ninersgal August 24, 2011 at 11:10 pm #

    @MKDC – Thank you for your really thoughtful comment. I agree with you – any person who claims they love their kids 100% of the time is a liar. Kids can be cute, but they can also be horrible. Most days, Savannah is great. But there are some days when I wonder why she hates me so much – that could be the only reason she won’t stop crying, right?

    @Dee – I’m totally on the same page with you. I’m not a baby person. I really don’t like kids until they’re teenagers and I can have an adult conversation with them. I did volunteer to help care for Savannah – I did it because I love her mother. Things have gotten a bit easier over the past two weeks – mainly because I’ve started to predict when the crying fits are about to start. But I certainly don’t want to have my own baby – Savannah is great because she goes away at the end of the day.

    No one should be saddled with parenting responsibilities against their will. It’s tough business.

    As for the miracle argument – Humans are no miracle – we’re a fucking parasite. Call me a cylon, but the best thing any of us could do is refuse to breed.

  4. Susan August 29, 2011 at 4:01 pm #

    One comment states, “There isn’t a parent out there who hasn’t wanted to smother their child when the kid won’t stop crying. (Any parent who says otherwise is a liar”

    I have NEVER felt like smothering any of my children, and I was a full-time single parent. If you feel this way, you need to get help. What a terrible comment to call everyone a liar that has never felt violent toward their children.

    If you are really struggling being a caregiver, you need to be honest with your friend so she can find a caregiver who she can trust to keep her baby safe.

    Not all caregivers nor parents feel this way.

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