Adapted from a recent online discussion.
Dear Carolyn: I have always wanted to have a family one day, and I think I still do. I love my husband and I love the idea of making people that have a little bit of both of us. But all I can envision is uncomfortable pregnancy, painful childbirth, and how kids would totally cramp my lifestyle and bank account. Will my perspective on this naturally change?
Carolyn says: I have no idea. And telling women they're going to change their minds about having kids is so patronizing I won't even touch it.
I also think making decisions based on the expectation of a mind change is a great way to create misery.
So here are some thoughts on your thoughts:
Pregnancy and childbirth are serious business, but opting out of kids just to avoid temporary pain and discomfort seems shortsighted, assuming you otherwise really want kids.
That kids will totally cramp your lifestyle and bank account is maybe understating it. They will empty your bank account and rewrite your whole lifestyle.
But, for some people, that's great — that's what they want to spend their money on and life with kids is their idea of fun. For others, it's resentment or anxiety, and what-ifs.
There are (at least) two other things you don't mention. First, long after the squeamishness issues are behind you, pregnancy can really do a number on a body, in ways that don't always improve with time. It can age you, rearrange you, widen you, stretch you out in places you don't want stretched, mess with your back, even change what you like to eat.
Second, the lifestyle change isn't the biggest transformation. It's a phenomenon often referred to as having "your heart outside your body," meaning, you have a constant love and concern and fear and responsibility for and attachment to someone not you.
This means you sleep less; worry more; face more challenges that would otherwise never occur to you; face criticism more, since we can't seem to stop judging each other (I laughed a little too hard at the movie "Bad Moms"); feel gutted more by more failures and disappointments, since you don't just feel your own, but also your kids'.
Non-parents have all of these weights and feelings, of course — the issue is the "more." And when you're a parent, you're on the hook for it all, at least in the early years and arguably for life in some ways. You're where the buck stops on ev-ry-thing.
So, if you're not sure, don't. And if you stay unsure, stay don't.
But do talk to your husband about these thoughts you're having. It's not fair to present yourself as one thing and then not mention it when you're possibly transforming into another.
Maternal mortality is rising in this country. Women's pain, questions and fears are routinely dismissed. Pregnancy is a potentially life-threatening condition for even the healthiest. Writer, if you become pregnant, find health care providers who will be your advocates. Your life may depend on it.
Carolyn says: Yes, pregnancy is routine until it is not. And there are serious, unacceptable, well-documented disparities in maternal care. Thanks for speaking up.
E-mail Carolyn Hax at email@example.com.