I’ve been reading an incredible amount in the past few weeks. Breastfeeding up to 14 hours a day provides plenty of time for it. All topics related to baby-dom and motherhood tend to be the focus, from care and sleeping to feeding and burping. And now that the internet has figured out I’m a new mother through its sophisticated algorithms, I’m being shown additional content I can relate to, about parenting, life, and all that comes with it. My online world, thanks to internet cookies and browsing habits, has an almost singular focus.
Today I was shown an article that touched on the difficult topic of fertility and the choice to pursue pregnancy. A slight misfire in the algorithm, for sure, since I am not the target for this story any longer. However, I’m reading just about anything put in front of me with fresh perspective.
A lot of women struggle with decisions related to having children. The article pointed out that women may have regrets no matter what they choose–it is a no-win proposition. If you choose to not have children, you’ll regret it in your later years, as you wistfully see your friends have grandchildren and their families expand even further. Should you choose to try to conceive, and succeed, there may be moments of regret, especially in those early what-have-I-done weeks. This is especially true if two babies start crying simultaneously while you’re looking at photos of someone’s recent trip to a tropical paradise.
If you choose to try to have children and are not successful in conceiving, you’ll then have I-should-have-tried-sooner regrets, among a host of other difficult emotions. And of course, there’s the regret you might have with an unwanted pregnancy.
I’m left wondering, after thinking through all of these possible outcomes, is there a woman who doesn’t have–or never had–regrets about her choices?
In my experience, mothers will tell you they’d never undo their decision to have children. They love their little ones. They love them more than they could have ever imagined loving something, and they and can’t imagine life without them. But those same moms, if in the right setting and being fully honest, will also tell you they miss their “before” life. They miss margaritas on a random Tuesday, they miss weekends away at the spur of the moment. And they definitely miss wearing their old skinny jeans.
Of course, with all of this emotional complication and feelings of regret comes the other big one: guilt. If you feel even momentary regret about having children, the kind you have in the wee, desperate hours of the morning, it will certainly be followed by an incredible amount of guilt. You’ll feel guilt for thinking regretful thoughts for even a single moment.
Giving birth and the immediate time that follows creates a whole new well of guilt to draw from. And there’s more guilt to come down the road too; a laundry list of questions over decisions made and approaches chosen. Is breast best or should I use formula? How quickly should I go back to work? French immersion or not? I presume at some point I’ll feel guilty for saying no to buying a dress for my daughter I find too mature for her age.
It seems no article can prepare a new parent for these aspects of the role. You can read about breastfeeding and colic all day and find some reasonable advice. But all of the articles in the world don’t undo the overwhelming emotions that come along with the responsibility of caring for tiny brand-new humans and trying to get it right. Now, if only an internet algorithm could find and serve up that article, I’d click for sure.