This post is going to be more personal than opinion. It’s just something I’m working through right now. I don’t often hear people’s reasoning to have children. I hear the reasons someone would not like to have children, but choosing to have children often goes unquestioned. You are meant to want to have children, in society’s eyes. I remember once asking my mother why she chose to have a baby. This was when I was a teenager, when I couldn’t really comprehend why anyone would have children on purpose. She told me she just got an urge to. No romanticisation, no expression of the joy she felt for children, no deep desire to become a mother. I respected her answer, although I didn’t understand it at the time.
Today, I want to have a baby. It’s this biological urge that has risen up inside me that made that “someday, maybe” attitude flip to be “now, right now”. The urgency is overwhelming. My body wants to be pregnant. It’s irrational, and is coming from a place deep inside, not from my higher thought processes. In fact my brain isn’t totally on board, but my mouth just blurts out that I want to have a baby. I dream about pregnancy. I dream about holding a tiny infant with the face of my husband. Not in a day-dream kind of way, but in a waking up smiling and cosy with the flashing images of an unborn child swimming across my eyelids in the dark.
I don’t know where the fuck this came from. Having a baby wasn’t that important to me, until suddenly it really, really was. There are lots of very good reasons why I shouldn’t get pregnant right now. I also have a few strong anxieties about having children at all. Yet that urge inside me does not give a fuck. It wants to start trying, right now. It won’t pipe down, and a huge part of me just wants to give in to it.
Here’s what my rational brain is saying to me, on the side of not getting pregnant:
“Your husband could get deported”
“You can’t afford childcare”
“Your husband is on a temporary, unstable work contract”
“You are depressed and fatigued a lot of the time, how can you look after a baby?”
“You will pass on your & your husband’s neurological problems to a child”
“Children are exhausting, you are already exhausted by life”
“You don’t have enough money to be able to give a child all the opportunities you would want it to have”
“You and your husband could live a more comfortable, free-er life without children”
“The stress of caring for a child could lead you to have another mental health breakdown”
Here’s what the rational brain is saying to me, on the side of getting pregnant:
“You have PCOS, you have fertility problems, it could take you years to get pregnant”
“You want to care for a child, to teach a child, to watch a child grow”
“Your eggs aren’t getting any younger”
“Children could be a real joy in your life”
“You are a caring, nurturing person, and would give a child so much love, if not financial stability”
Here’s what my innate, reproductive urge says to me:
“Get pregnant. Have a baby. Then do it again.”
Out of all of those reasons, guess who’s winning? Yep, it’s the one that is not grounded in logic or experience of any kind. When I see my friends and relatives with small children I can see how draining the children are. I don’t get jealous or feel a great joy in spending time with other people’s little ones. It’s not that I dislike children, I’m just not one of those deeply maternal people who can interact with children easily and with confidence. I’m awkward and uncomfortable around them. So why is body telling me to go for it and start a brood of my own?
The financial and deportation threats are serious and very real. My husband is an immigrant in the UK. He is here on a marriage visa, which we have to renew every 2.5 years until he can apply for indefinite leave to remain. When we apply to renew the visa, we have to meet income requirements set by the government. At the moment, if you are a childless couple, the requirement is £18,700 a year. I made more than that when we applied for the first visa, so it wasn’t a problem. Since then I have had a mental health breakdown and had to leave my job. I have recently gained part time low paid work, which I am very grateful for, but I only earn £9,700 a year. I can’t consider trying to find full time work because I am still unwell a lot of the time, I need those days off. My husband has also just managed to find full time work, but it is low paid and a temporary contract. At the moment, between us, we would meet the income threshold. However, we don’t need to apply to renew the visa right now, if he doesn’t get a new job when the contract ends we’d be in a difficult position.
This is relevant to my pregnancy dilemma in three ways. The first is if we have a child, the income threshold automatically rises to £22,500. It then goes up by £2000 for each additional child. If we happened to have twins it would be £24,500. It could end up more than we can afford. On our current salaries, we could between us reach the one child threshold, but not the two. The second is that if I happen to be on maternity leave when we have to apply for the visa, my pay will be even lower, meaning we might not reach the required income. The third reason is, my husband may not get another job, he may end up deported anyway, then I would end up with a child but alone without second parent support and desperately trying to find full time well paid work that I am not fit to do with my current mental health so that I can earn enough to bring my husband back. That is a nightmare situation that my brain can’t help but keep bringing up.
The sensible thing to do here is to wait until my husband is on a permanent contract, with a salary that when combined with mine exceeds the income threshold. However, it took us a long time to land the jobs we do have. Plus, more and more companies are only offering temporary contracts. It could be years before he finds something permanent, or it could happen in 6 months. We do not know for sure. Which brings me on to my rational reason for trying to conceive right away; fertility.
I have recently been diagnosed with polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS). I should have received this diagnosis many years ago, but to be honest the diagnosis doesn’t change much in my life, other than a having a name for all my hormonal problems. One major issue with having PCOS is it affects your fertility. Not everyone with PCOS is the same, but I am one of those unfortunate souls who doesn’t ovulate very often. Where most young women get 12 shots at becoming pregnant a year, I get maybe 4 if I’m lucky. I can ask for fertility treatment, but not until I have been actively trying (and failing) to conceive for a year.
So although I know that I should wait until we are financially secure, I worry that I won’t be able to get pregnant without years of trying. It is also easier to get pregnant the younger (in adulthood) you are, and when a doctor has already told you you will have fertility problems, it makes that clock seem to tick even louder.
However, I have my doubts about having children at all. My anxiety about my own mental health is constant. I worry about my depression and how it would affect my parenting. I worried about the fatigue and how much hard work young children are. I said that I was worried I would be a depressed mother to my husband. He said the best thing in response, and that’s why I love him so much. He said I would be a depressed mum, but that that was okay. He has never acted negatively towards my depression, he patiently and kindly supports me through my dark patches, accepting that this is part of me. I think that statement came from a place of love. Rather than deny that my depression exists, he recognised it, and told me that it would be okay. I can be depressed and still be a good parent. With his support I truly believe that we will be able to parent well. When these anxieties rear up, I have to remember that there are two of us entering in to a conscious choice to have a child, and that he has the energy to make up for my lack of it when I need him to.
The financial worries I’m sure plague every parent and expectant parent. I’m not sure they ever go away, except perhaps for the privileged few. I know we would make it work, the way so many families do. I can be frugal and go without. I also understand that we would be more financially comfortably without children, and perhaps feel less stressed because of this. That’s a “what if” thought experiment that we will never know the answer to.
I do want to nurture and love a child and to see myself and my husband reflected in their looks and mannerisms, even if it means losing my freedom,. I want to teach them things, and encourage them and watch them grow into adults. If they end up with the same neurological diagnoses as my husband and I, we have the life skills and tools to be able to guide them. We have the experience to help them develop ways of dealing with challenges. I wouldn’t take away my own genetic drawbacks, they make me who I am.
My dyslexia means I read slowly, I misspell and mispronounce, and I can’t do sums in my head. It also means I see the big picture and grasp meaning quicker than other people, because I’m not distracted by the details. I make connections that other people don’t see, and my imagination can be incredible. My depression can leave me unable to move or feel pleasure or joy. It also means I have great insight into my own emotions, and that I can empathise quickly with others. I’m quick to identify emotion in the people around me, and it makes me a better, more supportive friend. I also cherish the good times all the more strongly. I don’t worry about a child being like me, I only worry about how they learn to cope with it.
So here I am. My body urging me to have a baby, and my brain panicking about it. At the end of this long post you’d think I’d have come to some sort of decision. Alas, I am still torn between my concern and my hope. I don’t want to wait until nature takes the choice away from me. It might have already, so much is unknown and uncertain. All I know is that the reasons for waiting are just as strong as the reasons for trying, and that urge doesn’t appear to be going away any time soon.
If you’d like to share with me you reasons for having children, I’d like to hear them. Drop me a comment below.