I’m very sad right now. I feel I should warn you.
I love my daughter so much it hurts. I think she is the funniest chick I know and I want to grow up and be her. I literally would die for her and she represents everything in this world that is beyond words. She makes me love myself, my life, and my husband more than I ever thought possible. This is not going to be a piece about how hard she is, (VERY), or how tired I am, (VERY), or how lucky I am, (you know the chorus, sing along….VERY). I love my daughter and am happy I have her. But see, I wanted her.
I have recently become aware of a weird cultural war going on between those who have children and those who choose not to. For some reason, individuals in the former camp are making it their mission to convert those in the latter. “Have children!” they are championing. “It’s the best decision you can make! You’re selfish if you don’t! It will complete your life! HAVE A FUCKING KID!” I am here to tell you, don’t have a child if you don’t want a child. Don’t. It will destroy you as you know you, and if you don’t want one, the sacrifice won’t be worth it.
Aha! I bet you think you know where I’m going NOW, don’t you? You think I”m going to talk about the freedom you have and how the truly selfish choice is to bring a life into this world to fill some need that isn’t a baby-shaped hole in your heart but rather an esteem issue in your ego. Or to make your mother in law shut the hell up. You think I’m gonna talk about Jeannie, who would make the BEST mom in the whole world. She is funny and beautiful, smart and patient, and travels the world saving animals. She has the kind of soul that elephants recognize and run to so they can stroke her lovingly with their trunks. And she doesn’t want children, so I’m gonna tell her that her light is better spread shining on all of creation’s children in its fullness than being dimmed for one. Well now I have, so I can get on with it.
Having a child will destroy you because every child becomes yours, or you must destroy the feeling of empathy in yourself. At least, that’s been my experience.
I used to be merely a dog advocate. Cats too. I cried big tears and turned off the television every time ASPCA ads came on, (which is why I am doing them now, by the way. I have karma to make up for.) But I was cool when Sally Struthers showed me pictures of children with flies in their eyes. They were like little aliens that I felt stirrings about, but could stay separate from. The naked babies with the big heads and exposed ribs were disturbing but not upsetting. The school shootings were the same. I related from an intellectual place of, “Wow. That sucks,” and moved on. I wasn’t calloused, I wasn’t immune, it just didn’t resonate with me.
Then I had a child. That fucked me up well and good.
Right now there are tears in my eyes thinking about the children killed in Newtown. And I mean ALL of the children. I am weeping for the broken, damaged child who was hurting so badly he had to take those tiny little lives in an attempt to purge his pain as well as the babies who died in fear and confusion. Oh, I’m fully crying now, thinking of parents holding bodies that are cold and empty. Then my brain goes to the little girl who hung herself, unable to bear the pain of classmates publishing evidence of her rape any more. A mother cut her down and then, three days later, had to turn off the machine that kept her breathing. And it really fucking hurts. I don’t know ANY of these people, but I know it hurts. And it wouldn’t hurt like this if I didn’t have a child.
I see mothers who hate their children and it aches, primally and viscerally. A mother who sold her child for sex so she could have money to get high. A mother who kicked her daughter and then kicked her again to make her stop crying. A mother who tied her daughter to the toilet so she would learn to use it instead of her pants. It hurts for the children who look for the spark of God and unconditional love a mother can feed them and it hurts for the mothers, so angry and destroyed that they can’t find any trace of it in themselves. This shit would suck if I didn’t have a kid, but it is AGONY.
I know there are people who function perfectly fine as parents. They order bombs dropped on other people’s children, knowing it’s clearly a vital and important act. There are parents who define little bodies as “acceptable losses”. There are parents who are not psychopaths who don’t care when little hands reach out for food, often only one to a child because the other hand is clutching desperately to whatever person is next to them, terrified of losing a fellow soul in the sea of life. I’m not talking about the crazy mothers who hold classmates down so they can be beaten. That’s some batshit stuff. I’m talking about people who had children and the switch didn’t flip in their lives like mine did. So it’s possible. You could technically have a child and still be fine, functioning in this world as if nothing had changed.
But I’m telling ya, it’s doubtful. So don’t have a child. Look at how my mind works. I have to consciously tear myself away from increasing the pain and grieving a monster who would bomb innocent people in Boston because he, himself is a child. I have to look at my daughter, screaming in happiness and throwing the ball for the dog again, wearing her Rapunzel dress and rain boots, and insist that is what must occupy my mind. It’s hard work, because now that she’s here, there seems to be a piece of her in every set of eyes I see.
And that fucked me up.