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Monday, July 18, 2011

I Did Not Want Children

Justin Hackworth asked me to write and read something on motherhood for the opening reception of his 2011 30 Strangers exhibit. I was honored by my company: Brooke, Amy, Molly, and Stephanie. I cried a lot, but so did everyone else. A few people who attended asked if I would post what I wrote to my blog and then I did:












I did not want children. 


Who would want children? I am the oldest of four and believe me, handling my little brother and sisters was not just annoying, but constant. I had plans, you see, I had dreams. And everyone knows that kids supplant your dreams with the end of your life. No more midnight walks. No more movies in the middle of the day, lazy weekends spent sleeping in, or marathon novel reading. Traveling to Tahiti, Timbuktu, and Hong Kong, too. Plus, hosting a child inside your body?  Inside your body. They have to get out...somehow. And what happens if you forget about the child once it’s out? People get really upset at that sort of thing. I once kept an ivy plant alive for almost 18 months--I was handing out no guarantees on children.

But something happened one day and I knew I had to have a child. Not in the abstract, “Oh yeah, I’ll be a mom some day” but in the concrete, "I need to start having children." It was a Sunday afternoon and I knew as plain as my then unblemished stomach, we should try to have a baby.


And then I couldn’t have children for a long time. The months, then years, went by and no children came. I read a lot of novels. I slept in a lot. I built the career I thought I always wanted.

In the middle of a pre-Christmas snow storm, my first son came and turned everything I thought I knew from the inside, right side out. I would stare at him in the plastic hospital bin and wonder who he was; it’s a strange feeling to love someone without knowing who they are. During the middle of the night I’d hold him in front of me and look into his dark eyes. This backfired one night when I watched his eyes go cross-eyed, then cock-eyed, sending me into a brief, sleep deprivation-induced panic that I had a demon-possessed baby. I’m pretty sure he wasn’t really possessed. At least not at that time. Ask me about the time that he walked, as a 4-year-old, to LaVell Edwards Stadium by himself so that he could go to the college football game. Or the night I went to close the garage door at 10pm and saw a flash of bare white skin as the long-bedded escapee ran naked around the house.

My second son arrived at the end of March and the beginning of Spring. My Grinch-heart grew another three sizes, maybe even four. It’s a good thing he was so sweet, so loving and affectionate, because no one ever told me how toilet training would literally stink, especially when it took more than a year. A year. The profound, never ending scatological travails of motherhood. The constant dribble, flow, and stream of juice, spit-up, crushed cereal, and bodily fluids. I don’t know if you can even call yourself a parent until you’ve caught vomit in your hands--or down your shirt, pooling in your brassiere.

A daughter arrived on the first day of summer. There’s a moment after you have a baby when you look down and realize, “Hey, that’s MY BABY, I can pick her up whenever I want.” I can hold her all day if I want. I miss her when she’s sleeping. She won’t keep, she’ll grow bigger, stronger, smarter, and push away from me. And based on what I did to my mother when I was a teenager, I have some terrible, but just, things in my future from a tiny bundle, this spirit captured in a wiggling mortal body.

Because it’s true that once you have a baby they are always your baby, even when they are yelling back at you, “I am NOT a BABY!” 


I heard the other day that Late Night talk show host Jimmy Fallon’s mother still calls him “The baby.” The baby is on TV. The baby has a new movie coming out. It doesn’t matter how old he is, he’ll still be the baby. That makes perfect sense to every mother. Because when you look at your child you can still feel their baby weight in your arms, the nights you spent staring into their eyes, the longer nights when you begged them through the most profound exhaustion known to man outside of a POW camp to please, please, please sleep, the days you spent cleaning, wiping, sorting, scrubbing, holding, hugging, feeding, yelling, yelling louder, and answering the never ending chorus of “MOM. mom. mom. mom. mom.”

Who knew? Who knew that you laugh more, cry more, that everything is more when you’re a mother? It’s not that you’re giving up your dreams, it’s that you understand that the dreams you had before were incomplete, a facsimile of a real life. It’s not about you, it’s about what you do, how you serve, how you grow citizens, workers, warriors, and responsible people. That you’re trying, desperately, not to mess up these people, to give them everything they need and not everything they want. So while I didn’t want to be a mother, I don't think I was a real person until I became one.

44 comments:

Hailey said...

Yes. Wish I could have heard it live.

Tiffany said...

Wow. That was beautiful.

Rach said...

Really beautiful - thank you.

sara said...

So lovely.

Julie said...

I was lucky enough to be there with my daughter. We loved it, you were so funny and touching. I loved all the readings, a great night.

the emily said...

Well said. Very well said.

Megling said...

Shut. The front. Door. WOW. I am blown away. This is beautiful and perfect and everything I ever wanted to say only much more beautifully and perfectly.
Oh sister mercy, you had me in tears. Well done you.

Stepper the Mighty said...

"this spirit captured in a wiggling mortal body."

That's the line that undid me.

Heather Bergevin said...

Beautiful, Carina. Just Beautiful.

Anne-Marie said...

You have such a talent with expressing the words that we wish we could ourselves. I also, did not dream of being a Mother, like many of my friends. But, I became a Mother and it really did transform me. And yes, we certainly do laugh and CRY more.
This was beautiful Carina. Post-partum hormones sure do you good.

Tera said...

LOVE IT!

Mrs JP Chaos said...

I got all choked up with that. And part of it is because my time of my kid belonging only to me is speeding by.

This was beautiful.

Justin Hackworth said...

Carina, I am honored that you read this on Friday for us. I want to become a great writer like you, just so I can appropriately thank you for being such a great writer.

La Yen said...

I felt the same way. But just because I love them now does not mean I am not going to boot them out when they turn 18 and hit the road on my Cheese Tour of Europe. You still coming?

Alice Wills Gold said...

Beautiful. I wish I would have went to see it in person, but I needed to be home with my babies.

Tiffany UnTwisted said...

i think i crushed another soul Saturday night when a woman was gushing over how i was such a cute pregnant girl, and i said "being pregnant sucks." and i think i also somewhere in that conversation said "i wish they all came out around the age of 3-4. babies are awful."

promise i'm a good mom though! :)

Mrs. Organic said...

Beautifully written. Lovely.

I wanted to become a mother--couldn't wait, in fact. I started early, and I thought I was really good at it. Then they became teenagers.

I probably call my mother and apologize once a week for how awful I was.

Kalli said...

That was a winner.

So are you.

*golf clap

Anonymous said...

oh so true. *applause*

Hilary said...

Carina, that was beautiful.
Sometimes I look at moms making the leap into motherhood and I wonder if they know what awaits them, how they will have a transformation of gigantic proportions.
THey don't.
But They will.

Melanie Jacobson said...

LOVE.

Vern said...

Well played!

Geo said...

Wonderful.
I wish I'd been able to hear you read this in person, but I do hear your voice. I close my eyes and imagine you there, sharing with that room full of lucky listeners. I know it was a beautiful moment.
Just wonderful.

Anonymous said...

I would have to say you just put into words everything that ran through me! I am also the oldest of four and swore up and down for years I was never having kids. What did I end up doing? Having four of my own!

jeri said...

Lovely. Just lovely.

Adrian's Crazy Life said...

Great post! I felt the same way. I didn't want kids anyway, anyhow when I first married, but thankfully I decided to see what everyone else was so excited about and I'm SO glad I did. Had some problems too, so now I will have one in each decade next year - 30's, 20's, and teens - yikes! But they're still my babies!

Emily said...

Beautiful and witty.

Wanna be farm girl said...

AAHHHHHH...After a rough night with my newborn and 2 year old twins that are teething...and well being...two....and teenagers that go to bed late and have to be pulled out of bed early....this was an awesome reminder that it is all good....thank you!!

lisa said...

I wish I could think of something more original to say than "lovely".

I really can't.

But it really is.

Lani said...

Love this.

Gombojav Tribe said...

Yep. That about says it all.

:-)

Angelica said...

I'm so glad that I stumbled upon this post. I never wanted children. I am the oldest of 5 and the only girl. Things have changed for me as they did for you. Thank you for this post. I'm happy to know I haven't gone completely mad.

Kimberly O. said...

Even those of us who knew we wanted to be moms feel this way.

After reading this, I had to go sneak a peek at my two girls (5 and 10months) who are playing quietly in the playroom...and sometimes I want to cry because they will *always* be my babies...but they are ever so slowly slipping away from me. And that makes me sad.

This was truly beautiful.

amy smart said...

I am SO glad you posted this. I loved hearing you read it - captured so perfectly motherhood for me. I am so happy now to be able to reread and share with others.

Best wishes with your new bundle/prop. :)

Holly said...

Even though I totally washed Inez's mouth out with soap today, I love being a mother.

nana said...

I dropped my law career for 20 years to stay home with my babies. No regrets. At all. I didn't try to juggle it all. There's lots of time to be a lawyer now.

Chi-townRawlins said...

Good heavens. I just loved that.

Bryn said...

So beautiful and true!

Rynell said...

Amen.

Anonymous said...

not a REAL person?
ouch :(

TheFeministBreeder said...

I was just scrolling through the VOTY nominations on BlogHer selfishly looking for my own, and spotted this. You made me a bit teary. I so, so, so know what you mean. I did NOT want kids either. NOT NOT NOT NOT NOT. I spent my first three months pregnant PRAYING for a miscarriage (yeah, sounds bad now, but at the time it made sense to me.) And then, he came out, and I had a lobotomy. Figuratively. Sort of. You know. My whole brain chemistry changed, and I LOVED HIM. I loved him so hard I was positive he would die and leave me a broken shell of the human I never knew I could be.

But I'm not allowed to say a lot of this on my blog. I don't want people to think that I hate childless folks. But for real? I did NOT know what love was before these babies - and I really don't think a person can. Everything changes. EVERYTHING.

Anonymous said...

Same. Ouch.

Anonymous said...

Did she say, "YOU aren't a real person until you have children"? NO, she said that SHE wasn't a real person before she had children. Grow some critical thinking skills. Everyone's journey is different, and just because something was true for her, doesn't mean it will be true for you. YMMV.

Bryn said...

Amen! So beautiful!