Monday, July 25, 2005

Why am I so ambivalent about getting pregnant?

Well, basically I’m scared. I’m *not* scared of the way a baby would change our very comfortable, happy life together. I’m *not* scared that I won’t be a good mom. Those are the things I am looking forward to, the reason I want a child. I am a natural born mother, I swear. If I have a calling, raising children is it. I am great with babies and children. I love them, they love me. I am the oldest child in my family and from the day my first sister was born I considered myself one of the parents (yeah, so what if I was only two). When I was quite young I preferred spending time in the church nursery caring for babies rather than being a student in my own age class. I worked my way through school babysitting and working in a child development center. I have a PhD in human development. Whatever, just take my word for it . . . I am a mother already; I just need a child of my own. And A. is going to be a wonderful father. No doubt about it. No fears there.

So, what am I so afraid of? Well, when it comes to pregnancy I am afraid of horrible health complications. I am a hypochondriac and a worrier to start with, so even when we first started talking about having a baby I had concerns. The longer it takes to get pregnant, the more worried I get. Sometimes I can’t shake the feeling that there is a REASON that I don’t ovulate. That pregnancy might be especially dangerous for me and that my body (or God) is looking out for me, keeping me safe. I imagine that artificially circumventing this protection (of course, if it really is God looking out for me there’s no way to circumvent that so that should ease my mind, right?) might result in many horrible consequences from preeclampsia, to a fatal reaction to anesthesia (for my emergency c-section, of course), to a stillborn or severely congenitally damaged baby that only lives for a very short and painful while. My imagination runs wild with the endless permutations of unhappy possibilities. I am spurred on by things like the segment I saw on the Today show the other week. It was a segment on the possible dangers of the birth control patch which the doctor being interviewed cheerfully concluded with, “Remember, while there are dangers associated with all forms of birth control, you are much more likely to die from a pregnancy than from any birth control method”.

Then why not just adopt? Well, to be honest an inveterate worrier such as myself has absolutely no problems coming up with nightmare adoption scenarios either. These are less about death (except for the ones about dying in a plane crash on the way to pick up our new daughter in China, or worse, on the way home with our new daughter) and more about heartbreak. Birth mothers who change their minds at the last minute. Adopting and falling in love with a baby who turns out to be HIV positive (and suffers, and dies, while I watch). And to be honest, when it comes to adoption I do have some parenting fears. Mostly because I am drawn to international adoption, especially from China. I just don’t know if I have what it takes to prepare a child for life in this country as a minority. It hurts to think of my child suffering from the effects of bigotry, and I don’t know if it is possible for A. and me, very white & middle class & living in a small town where almost everyone else is also very white & middle class, to empower a child to face the challenges of being different from everyone else. I’m not saying it can’t be done, that it shouldn’t be done, or that I personally am not up to it, just that it is a whole minefield of worries and fears.

It seems that after five years of trying I don’t have a child because I am a coward.

So then why not just call the whole thing off? Just enjoy our small (very small) amount of disposable income and our time together and travel and collect cats. Because I know this much about myself: I will never be happy without a family of my own. It’s time to pick my poison. Which is less scary, pregnancy or adoption? I don’t know. This seems to be where I get stuck.

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