Tuesday, April 3, 2012


On the Happiness of Procreation

Remember this? From this morning?

I feel stupid whenever I write anything about having the baby, honestly, because it's the ultimate YMMV situation. So this is definitely a single-player account with little, if any, universal applicability. Also, I only have one kid, and she's just shy of six months old. Okay?

Going in, I was expecting that having a baby would be extremely emotionally transformative, but very little fun, at least for a long time. Because of the exhaustion and the sniping-with-co-parent and the paranoia and the vagina-stitches and the breastfeeding and the crushing existential weight of what you've gone and done. But, again, emotionally transformative, so that you push through the no-fun because you have never experienced such crazy, overwhelming love and devotion and awe.

And it's been ... exactly the converse, for me. She's LOTS of fun, but I ... have not really been emotionally transformed? God, this sounds bad. I love her so much, but I love her like I love my parents, and my husband, and my best friends, and my 15-year-old mixed breed dog. Incredibly! Delightfully! Fiercely! But it's not a whole new feeling. She's like having a really high-needs roommate that you just couldn't picture living without. You know, the kind that would have a chore wheel.

I wonder, sometimes, if I'd be more OH MY GOD THE OVERWHELMING PASSION SHE'S FULL OF STARS about the whole thing if she was a little ... more work? Is it like Stockholm syndrome? Is the CRAZY LOVE something that partially happens because you're up all hours working on your baby's behalf and you need to submerse yourself in her life-force in order to survive? But then, I know other people like myself with easy babies and zero hormonal depression that were absolutely FULL OF STARS.

I'm definitely glad we had her. I want to have more. Maybe two more? And the ethics of the situation are more academically interesting to me than anything else, because ... I don't really care about whether things are Good, often, if I want to do them (haaah, like many of us, hence the horrible state of the planet). But now, having had her, I never say things to people like YOU WILL NEVER EXPERIENCE SUCH LOVE UNLESS YOU HAVE BABIES, because, at least for me, it's just not true.

While I was pregnant, I watched that Louis CK thing about how children shit on your dreams, but how you not only love them immeasurably, they have the power to make you love other people more, and love dead people more, and to tap into some primordial Platonic ideal of love, etc., etc. And I feel as though that's what I was prepared to be hit by.

I can't really say that I'm disappointed that that's not how it worked out, because that sounds almost frightening to me. My cousin used to have a huge crush on kd lang, but said that she figured actually being in a relationship with her would be waaaay too intense, and intense doesn't wear well. I love my baby, I love doing things with my baby, I love watching my husband WITH my baby, I love watching my parents interact with my baby. My mother has been emotionally transformed by my baby. Absolutely. It's an incredible thing to see. It fills me with happiness.

Back when I was thinking about having kids, I had a long talk with my father about it. And he said not to bother. No! Seriously! He said not to bother. Keep in mind, my father is absolutely crazy about my brother and me, and we have tons in common, and have two-hour phone calls about Deadwood, and stuff. And he wanted me to have kids on some level, because he thought it would be neat to meet them, but he also told me I probably shouldn't. Because, he said, people often have kids because they're bored, and I don't seem like the type to get bored, and if he had a do-over, he would not have gotten married and had kids. He's an introvert, he needs hours and hours of alone time and Miles Davis albums and A.E. Housman poems, and the experience of having children can be profoundly unsettling if that's how you interact with the world. And then, the rest of your life, he said, you have this unsatisfiable need for your children to be with you, and your children will never really need you that way in return, which is like being in somewhat unrequited love for the rest of your life. And I completely believe him.

So, what am I trying to say here? First, that I completely believe in Benatar's belief that not-being is perfectly fine. Secondly, that having babies can be really fun, if you have a ton of free time and a lot of money and maybe a partner and definitely a person to come and cook and clean and do laundry for you for a month (thanks, Mom!), and probably under other circumstances as well. Thirdly, that you can have a wonderful life and experience all the possible human emotions just as well with a border collie pup and some kind of Game Meats of the Month Club subscription. Fourthly, that the world is kind of a shitty place, and there's no real reason for anything, so just try to be happy and nice to other existing humans, and maybe you'll want to have a baby with one of them.

And, I guess on a final and MAYBE unrelated point, I have a wonderful friend who's pregnant right now, and she's not keeping it, which is the correct decision for her, and has been for a tremendous number of us, myself included, throughout human history, and it's so important to say that having a baby can be a massive Bad Idea at some points in your life, and a Fantastic Idea later, and that you can enjoy the shit out of your Fantastic Idea baby without being super conflicted about anything that came before in your life. Love you! Have babies, or don't have babies, or don't have babies now, and have one later.

But, you know, you should recycle and stuff.

238 Comments / Post A Comment


I'm kind of relieved that you didn't have the TRANSFORMATIVE LOVE experiece. Because I've never loved anything that way - not parents, husband, dog, friends - and I was getting prepared to someday have kids and never tell anyone that. Phew.


@Ophelia I've had that transformative love experience! But not with a child. I kind of want to father children but I'm worried that it won't take and I'll be distant / resentful, sort of like my father.

When I was younger I think I wanted children because I was desperately lonely and numb and wanted to feel that "lightning bolt" that dads would describe feeling when they met their babes for the first time, that instant clicking into place. I would raise him/her and be good to him/her and I would never be truly tired because I'd be doing things for the right reasons. I always saw myself as a single father, for some reason. I also really wanted a daughter more than a son, because I didn't relate to men at all. Still can't, really.

Man, thinking about children just brings out the nutty sad sack in me.


@Ophelia A friend of mine had her first baby and was kind of freaking out because, like, she would die to protect this baby, but she didn't love the baby like she loved her parents and siblings and husband and etc. And everyone else was kind of like "Duh? The baby's not really manifesting as a person yet. Give it a month or two! Babies need some time out of the hypoxogenic environment that is the womb to catch their brains up a little and start showing their personalities. Then you can cave to the cultural shame that gets pushed on women to never, ever admit to doing anything short of worshiping their babies like false gods and deny any of this ever happened!"


@Ophelia I guess what I was going to say, what I took to long to formulate, is that it's perhaps good that you haven't had that transformative feeling? Maybe you don't need to be transformed by anything. What made my experience so great was that it opened me to the possibility that I could honestly indulge in not being perpetually miserable. Were I are more well-adjusted person I don't think it would have been nearly as overwhelming.


@Ophelia YES. Dear GOD, Nicole, :thank you: for writing this piece. In the last 3-4 years about 30 of my friends/coworkers have had children, and the most in-depth commentary I seem to see on this transformative love of having your own child that people speak of is facebook statuses that say 'Repost if you have a daughter you would kill for because you love her more than everyone you know including people reading this, and anything else on earth or in the universe even' (unwritten tag: post nothing and try not to cry if you want kids but can't have them due to fertility issues/being single).

But then, I've always wondered if maybe I felt a bit differently about this because I've known for a long time that I wouldn't have any trouble loving a child that wasn't biologically my own either. I'm cool with adopting as well as having a biological child.

Also if you don't already, you should read bluemilk: http://bluemilk.wordpress.com.


@sevanetta In my world, people who post things like that to Facebook are just asking to be dropped. De-friended. Un-friended. Whatever.


Nicole, thank you for writing this. Especially that last paragraph. Gosh. You're so ... rational? And sane? And talking about pregnancy and babies? WHERE DID YOU COME FROM


@logan Exactly. Nicole, I am *so glad* you wrote this, and so glad you're a frequent Hairpin contributor. You're terrific!


@logan I am SO GLAD you wrote this, Nicole. Thank you, thank you, thank you. (From someone who is getting sick of the cultural whatever telling her that she will never experience True Love without having a bby)


@logan Just want to say the same thing. This is an issue I've been mildly obsessed with for a while now and reading Nicole's piece was like opening a window and letting the fresh air into a stale room.

How come it seems like no one else in the history of conversation has ever said, "It's ok if you don't have a baby"?


@GoCeilings Seriously. Especially a mom! Most moms I know are 100000% in the "You must do this to be a real human being" camp and that's just...not true? Offensive? Obnoxious? (All of the above.)

Nicole, this is just awesome. Thank you.

fondue with cheddar

@packedsuitcase I was recently pregnant and chose not to have it, and I was a little worried about what my parents might think, especially my dad who made it known that he wanted grandchildren and gently pressured me until my brother had his. But they were awesome! They both understood that having kids wasn't for me and they thought I made the right decision! In fact, my dad was only upset about it because I waited until afterward to tell him. I ended up being hospitalized (I had an imcomplete miscarriage), and he said he would have wanted to be there with me.


@jen325 Awww, what a sweet dad! I don't think I could ever tell my parents if I made that choice, kudos to you guys for having the kind of relationship where you can talk about it. It sounds like you have awesome parents.

fondue with cheddar

@packedsuitcase I do! I feel so bad for doubting them, because they're so loving and supportive. It's just not something I'd ever talked to them about so I had no idea what their thoughts on abortion were (because that's what I was planning until my body decided to end the pregnancy for me). It's the kind of thing people have pretty strong opinions about, so I was hesitant. It's been a couple decades since I moved out on my own, but their approval still matters to me.


@logan I KNOW RIGHT. Seriously. THANK YOU.


Wow, that unrequited love thing makes so much sense. Nicole's dad is pretty wise, yo. I need to go call my parents now...


@britishpetroleum I know! God, my parents are so nice and I'm the worst...


I kind of want to sit on the rug and listen while your dad shares life lessons.


@JessicaLovejoy I want to listen to Miles Davis and read Houseman with him, but I think he'd rather do that alone...but yes, he sounds cool and wise.

Veronica Lemmons

@Bebe THIS -- "And then, the rest of your life, he said, you have this unsatisfiable need for your children to be with you, and your children will never really need you that way in return, which is like being in somewhat unrequited love for the rest of your life." -- scared the shit out of me. Because that is how my parents act. And I want kids but do not want to feel eternally sprung on them into adulthood and beyond, like the mom in "I Love You Forever" who sneaks into her grown son's house just to rock him to sleep like she used to do when he was a baby?


@Veronica Lemmons Glad I'm not the only one who found that image extremely creepy.


I feel EXACTLY THE SAME WAY. Seems like everyone I know had this big transformative emotional experience when their baby was born, and I mean, I love our little stinker to absolute pieces, but yeah, I just kinda folded him into my existing life. I spend more time doing baby stuff than I used to, but that's about it. And I'm frankly sort of horrified by the number of people I've met who think that this makes me a bad mom.


This seems healthy? And reasonable? And not crazy-making?

And a huge relief!


@Cassy HOW. Tell me how. This is what I want to do and I know no one whose baby has not represented an utter death of the life that came before.

She was a retail whore

@Cassy Are you in Canada? I'm not kidding. My Canadian friends mostly seem to have done this really well. They have kids, they do things with their kids, and their kids are now a welcome addition to their existing lives. So many of my friends here in the US have kids and then the have to get new, kid-centric lives. I'm not saying that the needs of children and reality of having them shouldn't be respected and accommodated, but enough is enough, people! Don't worship your children. That only causes problems for their peers when they grow up thinking that everything is about them.


@She was a retail whore
Like indigo children? *shudder*

She was a retail whore

@JaneDoe Whoa. I had to look that one up. I've never heard the term used before, but if I had to guess what these people believe about their offspring, I think that "indigo children" would most accurately encapsulate the feeling. God help the rest of us.








i would have a chore wheel

whatchoo sayin bout me


@redheaded&crazie oh its always about you isn't it


@redheaded&crazie Wait did you change your name from "Crazy" to "Crazie" or did I purposefully not see that in the past?


@redheaded&crazie I'm gonna say it -- chore wheel roommate is probably more useful than a baby (right now)


@Danzig! I also want to know this!


@Danzig! I need to know also. I noticed that a few days ago and assumed I had somehow not noticed it.


@WaityKatie And...that doesn't make any sense. I'm tired.


oh my god the suspense!

no but ... i don't see any change??? idk what you guys are talking about


they called me crazy! THEY'RE the ones that are crazy!!!!


@Megan Patterson@facebook I am chore wheel roommate. More because I need to be reminded what to do, but also because, you know, making a chore wheel is craft time and not, ummm...chore time. Yay procrastination!


@Megan Patterson@facebook
Yeah, when babies makes the chore wheel you some how keep winding up with "wipe some else's ass" every damn week.


Nicole, if you adopt me and let me pet your pony's nose and read young adult fiction quietly in a corner of your house I promise I promise I promise I will be a Fantastic Idea [30 year old] Baby for you.


@christonacracker Oof, I want to do this. I will babysit (the dog--I can handle dogs. I don't really know what to do with babies?) and cook!

RK Fire

@christonacracker: My husband and I have joked that if we have kids, we should just adopt a med student to check in on a few times a week, buy groceries, etc., with t he expectation that they can take care of us in our old age. Sure, we're currently 3-7 years older than the average med student, but why should that matter?

dj pomegranate



@dj pomegranate Peeking out from THAT LITTLE BABY HOODIE. WITH EARS.

elysian fields

"Is it like Stockholm syndrome?"
My guess: yes. Very likely.
(disclaimer: I've never given birth so I could be wrong here)


(Disclaimer: JOKES FOLLOW)

@elysian fields After reading the jokey articles about how children meet the DSM definition for narcissism (such as it is) and toddlers score high on the sociopath test and all, my theory is that the whole reason humans are predisposed to stockholm syndrome is that it's the same part of the brain used for parenting. Since parenting is basically being held hostage to the whims of a tiny sociopathic narcissist.



*sob* yep. and then you worry that maybe you shouldn't have become a parent in the first place...

thank you for writing this. it makes me feel a little bit better and like maybe I just love them as much as I can and I'm not a sociopath.





I'm so glad Nicole wrote this, and other mama Pinners are chiming in...because it's definitely like this for me too. I think my child's dad is more of the OMG TRANSFORMATIVE LOVE school, and it makes me feel like a cold-hearted mother sometimes that I don't go to that degree. Not to say that I don't love my kiddo more than anything in the world, because I totally do. But it's not my whole universe. And...I don't think that makes me a bad parent. Iceberg, I don't think it makes us bad moms. I think it's ok.


@heyits *hugs* *sobs*


@iceberg Hairpin Group Hug!!!!


@heyits I feel like maybe sometimes that kind of Love is not... always healthy? Like Nicole's dad says, if you do it right your kids up and leave and don't need you in the same way, so hanging all your personality and expectations on them is kind of... smothering. I am projecting a bit from my own terrible mother, but I think leaving your kid room to be their own person is better than needing them to need you forever, because they are your everything.


@Craftastrophies I love my mother to pieces but smothering is exactly what it can be.


@Craftastrophies Yes, this! I am really looking forward to my child graduating high school (12 more years!) because I'm going to be like, ok, fly little birdie, mama's going to the Southern Hemisphere and I don't know when I'll be back. Don't forget to write!


@heyits You can come visit ME!


@Craftastrophies you're in Australia, right? I would definitely go to Australia! It's on my life list.


@heyits Yup! It's great down here, we'd love to see you!

Sometimes my partner says that if his kids don't move out when they're 18, he'll sell the house and go travelling.


Your dad is wise and your baby is cute and do you know if those pink fleeces with the bunny ears come in adult sizes?


@Decca On the weekend I was in target and could not find a single thing that I would wear. Then I went into the kid's section and was like 'would wear that. And that. And that. GOD DAMN IT.'


@Craftastrophies Last summer I wanted a pretty sundress. I searched high and low at H&M--nothing. Then I passed the kids' section, which was chock-a-block with exactly the sundresses I wanted. SOO much rage.


@Decca @Craftastrophies this happened to me yesterday! I was browsing on the Gap website, looking at what's new and I was all "omg, ditsy floral culottes! so cute! need!" and I wondered why all the reviews were saying "I bought these for my daughter and..." thennnn I realized I was looking at girls' clothes.


I'm due with my first baby this week & I seriously cannot stand hearing from other people how much this baby is going to change my life FOREVER. And I'll never want to go back to work. And I won't want to take her to a basement Bobby Bare Jr acoustic set because I'll be too nervous to leave the house with her, among other things. Jesus, what is it with people feeling like they can tell you how everything's gonna be when you're preggo?

Thank you for this moment of sanity, Nicole. Ive loved everything you've written about that adorable baby of yours.

Also, this is hilarious: " She's like having a really high-needs roommate that you just couldn't picture living without."


@flippinmackeral "[you'll] never want to go back to work" I find this sort of comment soooo obnoxious. no one necessarily *wants* to go back to work but there are mouths to feed and bills to pay - not everyone can afford for a stay-at-home parent.


Isn't the not going back to work thing short for, "I will miss the shit out of this baby while I'm at work all day"?

Having their druthers, most people'd druther to say at home, baby or not, right?


@flippinmackeral LOL I was so worried about this, and I actually asked a pregnant friend of mine "Don't you worry about not wanting to go back to work??" And she was like, "Bitch, please! I love my job!" Which honestly made me feel 100x better.


@iceberg Right? Many people would rather NOT go to work than go to work, most of the time that has nothing to do with a baby!


@iceberg I ended my maternity leave early so I could get back to work. So yeah all those people who say that are full of it unless they know the inside of your head. As Nicole says it's the ultimate YMMV experience.


@l'esprit de l'escalier Staying home with a newborn (or older child) can be incredibly hard and boring while work can be rewarding, exciting and self-validating. So yeah, some people - me included!- would rather work than stay at home with a baby. Problem that has no name and all that...


@muddgirl I have no kids, so take my observation with a grain of salt, but everyone I know with kids who said they couldn't wait to go back to work ended up not wanting to, and everyone who said they never wanted to work after the baby was born couldn't get back to work fast enough. I just think that you never know what you are going to want/need until you have the baby.

Carrie Hill Wilner

@Bebe I cannot say how happy I was to go back to work after 1.5 years of school and then part-time. And the thing is, if I'd had to go back full time at the standard 12 weeks (or earlier, ack) I would have had an I can't do this nervous breakdown and been a really miserable, really drunk, really poor stay-at-home-mom. I swear to god, if we had even 6 months maternity leave I bet a lot fewer women would leave the workforce. At 3 months, I was still like "but that person is my stomach, how can I leave it in another room?" Then probably a month later I was all, "Dear infant boarding school, I write to inquire. . ."

The point is, I was wrong about something, so everyone else must be even wronger.


@flippinmackeral So we'll be getting a Baby Mackeral birth announcement on Friday Open Thread?


@everyone talking about work: The thing is, I feel like I have a more optimal work situation than most. My boss is awesome and my job is awesome. I'm going to get to work part time from home all summer, so she'll be 5 months old before I have to really leave her with daycare & go to work. So, the whole "Oh, you'll fall so in love because your uncontrollable hormones are going to ravage the thinking part of your brain and make you a big pile of mush for this baby and you'll want to stay home and keep making more babies and be barefoot in the kitchen" thing is getting very annoying. Not to mention the fact that everyone that tells me this is so SURE about it. I don't recall ever feeling SURE enough about anything in someone else's life that I just straight up tell them how it's going to be for them. Seriously? Who are these people?

That's not to say I won't become a big pile of mush. I just hate being told by people other than me how my life is going to turn out. Especially since they were so wrong about how horrible my pregnancy was going to be and how awesome it has been in return. If anything, I want to be pregnant all the time. My boobs are big. I eat healthier and I haven't been hungover in months! I never had the raw will power to make my boobs big and not drink before.

@Everpresent Wordsnatcher: If Baby Mackeral makes her appearance before Friday, I will def try to make an announcement.

Heat Signature

@iceberg After about a month and a half, I could not WAIT to go back to work. I even went back a couple of week EARLY, that's how much I couldn't wait.

Jen Alien-Spouse@twitter

I'm pregnant with my first (and probably only) child, and just yesterday my husband said "People keep telling me this will change our lives FOREVER, do you think that's true?" and he looked terrified. I told him that I fifty percent believed it.

Also, in the time I've been pregnant, some people at work have been absolutely lovely, but some have been, frankly, nasty. Add that to how difficult it's been to get any information about maternity leave from HR, who act like this is the first time this has ever happened - And I am TOTALLY planning to leave and never come back to this particular job, but I'm clearly going to have to work at some point, you know?


@l'esprit de l'escalier I want to stay home with my dog all day, so yes. Seriously, why can't I stay home with my dog all day? She's MY fur-baby!


@flippinmackeral Don't tell my 8 month old baby (who I love to pieces) that if I get home early I sit in the garage and send work emails on my phone until it's time for the babysitter to leave. Because I love my baby a whole lot, but hanging out with him gets boring really fast and I prefer to do it in small, meaningful, chunks of time where I can be delighted by him...as opposed to longer chunks of time where I'm counting down the minutes to nap time and growing resentful of his inability to self entertain.


This is SO rational-- thank you! It counters all the crazy baby frenzy all over my Facebook feed (which, tbh, I mind a lot less now that one of the babies is my adorable nephew. But still).

This makes me feel like it's totally fine that I don't have kids. WHICH IT IS. But sometimes you forget, you know? Thanks!


@fishiefishfish I feel like that stuff is like any other thing you don't have a stake in - if everyone is talking about how great this band or sport or car that you don't care about is, you're bored and frustrated. If everyone is going 'you guys! I just met this new person that you don't know! Let me tell you about every single thing they do!! Also about their poop!' it's... I don't want to read that. That's fine, but I don't want to read it.

It's much more interesting when it's a person you know (sometimes even their poop is interesting).


@Craftastrophies My poop is ALWAYS interesting.


NICOOOOOLE you're so SMART and WELL SPOKEN. I'm afraid that when I have a baby(/ if I have a baby) my brains will leak out because "AH MAH GAH BABY," this is based on empirical evaluation of my interactions with not-my babies. It might also be why I am super not ready for babies, but, anyway. Nevertheless. Good read. Makes me feel chill-er about eventually maybe having kiddos.


When my husband & I first got married, he wanted to have a baby (or "a baby!" because it was always an exclamatory statement) and I was very much, "uh, later..." I'm a stepparent to a boy and a girl and was very busy getting used to both being married and being a stepparent.
When I hit 30, I wanted a baby, and my husband said "Ok, let's try!" but we were unsuccessful for fertility reasons (his and mine). So then we started the adoption process but it took a very long time for us to even get to the "hey, this country says you're OK to adopt" and by the time we did, our urge to have a baby had gone away. (Or more accurately and messily, his urge went away, and I freaked out with despair and then realized that my reasons for wanting a baby weren't so great, which made me also not want to adopt).
So very long story short, I have mostly made peace with being "only" a stepparent, although I do worry about who will care for me when I'm very old and ready for the home.


@LauraRebecca I worry about this. I am not planning on having kids, and my partner is done - he has two kids who I am definitely NOT a step parent to, but who are in my life. But then, having kids doesn't mean you get taken care of, either. I just work extra hard at my other relationships and on saving that money that would otherwise be spent on kids, who are expensive. Well, sometimes I save that money...

Jolie Kerr

There's nothing wrong with chore wheels, Nicole.

Judith Slutler

@Jolie Kerr I have... literally never lived in a household without a chore wheel, for the last decade?


@Emmanuelle Cunt oh, that's the saddest thing I've ever heard.


@Emmanuelle Cunt I have to admit I'm not exactly sure what a chore wheel is? (there were only two kids in my family)

Kate M.D.

@Emmanuelle Cunt I live alone and I am considering making a chore wheel for myself.


@Emmanuelle Cunt I have never lived in a house with a chore wheel, EVER.


@eoporto Me neither!


@SarahP We don't have a chore wheel at my house, we have a Google calendar app, because my roommates are computer engineers and This Is How They Do Things (and I love it!). We get chore notifications by email!


@Kate M.D. I might do this if I could spin the wheel and that would determine what one chore I do that week.


I felt very much that way until my child was walking and talking, and then the wave hit me. Don't be surprised if you look around in three years (or ten or twenty) and find that it's exactly the way they said.

Neve Garrett

@noReally Ahhh, me toooo! I have a toddler-baby, and for me, the love has totally been exponential. The more my baby becomes *herself*, the more it just about kills me.


@noReally Yeah, same. My big guy's almost four, and when he says things like, "I love you to the SKY, Mommy!" it really ups the ante.

Though I'm still not on the STARS level. My kids are amazing and I love them to pieces, but I love my husband to just as many pieces. I don't get why this is not OK to Say Out Loud.

Heat Signature

@noReally Yes yes and yes. When my son was a baby, I was like "I love you, but also, eh, a little bit." As he grew older, though, and started getting more awesome, I just got bananas about him. Some people aren't baby people, and some people aren't older kid people, and I definitely fall into the former category, which I guess is lucky for me because he will never stop becoming an older kid.


@noReally Apparently when I was an infant, my father told my mother, "She doesn't do much, does she?" I always thought that was a kind of funny but pretty juicebox thing to say, although y'all are casting it in a better light.

Reginal T. Squirge

If you're having any doubts about having a child, just go see We Need To Talk About Kevin, as I did this past weekend and... trust me, your mind will be made up for you.


@ReginalTSquirge@twitter I dunno, if someone told me my baby would turn out to be Tilda Swinton, I'd be solidly in the pro-baby camp.

Reginal T. Squirge

@ReginalTSquirge@twitter Also, don't marry John C. Reilly. Dude is absolutely NO help in the kids department.


@ReginalTSquirge@twitter I was excited about the movie coming out, since I read the book...then I got knocked up. No way I'm going anywhere near that movie now.


@ReginalTSquirge@twitter The kid is fine. I don't know what you're talking about....Maybe it's your problem.


@dk I'm currently carrying a benevolent parasite too, and that preview scared the living poop out of me. It's like the time we saw Marley & Me, about an adorable dog that ruined everyone's furniture and life the week before we got an adorable puppy who ruined out furniture and, temporarily, our lives. I'm panting in terror? He's just a sweet little boy...


@melis You'd want to be careful, in case she's born wearing something with really large, angular shoulders.


@ReginalTSquirge@twitter I know b/c...what WOULD you do if you had a son like that? I mean, seriously. WHAT? Do you just have to wait around waiting for him to inevitably murder someone even though you KNOW something is wrong? AHHHHHH.

...And if once you're done w/ the book/movie, you're still ambivalent, make some time to watch "The Bad Seed."

Judith Slutler

This is great. I sat down with an ex-coworker for some beers a couple weeks ago, and he and his girlfriend just had their first kid 4 months ago, this is about what he said too. They just have a super-chill approach to deciding to conceive, popping out the kid, and child-raising in general, and I was like YOU TWO ARE ROCKSTARS. It was inspiring.


THANK YOU. I am at the half-way point of my pregnancy, and I need to read these things. Also, this is the third time I've been knocked up, but the first time I've chosen to follow through on it, so your last paragraph makes me especially happy.


@dk Yes, it made me so, so happy too.


"And, I guess on a final and MAYBE unrelated point, I have a wonderful friend who's pregnant right now, and she's not keeping it, which is the correct decision for her, and has been for a tremendous number of us, myself included, throughout human history, and it's so important to say that having a baby can be a massive Bad Idea at some points in your life, and a Fantastic Idea later, and that you can enjoy the shit out of your Fantastic Idea baby without being super conflicted about anything that came before in your life."

I know I am going to return to this wonderful run-on sentence many, many times. Thanks for writing this, Nicole.


I cannot even tell you how relieved I am to hear your experience. That "emotional transformation" stuff terrifies the everloving fuck out of me. I don't want that. I do want to have children, because I like them, I like watching them discover the world and find everything endlessly freakin' awesome, and I like the historical continuity of them...but I don't want to do it if I have to become another person, and transcend to a higher plane of emotional something or other, because that sounds so profoundly scary. I am so incredibly relieved that it doesn't have to go that way, because I never, ever hear it this way; I hear a lot of "ZOMG I NEVER KNEW LOVE TILL I HAD MY BABIEEEEZ" from the mommies on my Facebook, and no. No. Thank you so much for this.


@BadWolf I kind of feel like that 'I never knew love before' is extremely fucking rude to everyone else in your life that you love or has loved you. Like, hey parents, hey friends, hey partner that I have these kids with - my love for you is a pathetic battery operated candle as compared with my love for my own kids. It's fine to feel that intense about your kids, but be tactful and be mindful of other people's feelings when you're discussing it, yeah?



Are you kidding? You're jealous of children?


@Whitney@twitter No, she's angry at people who assume that her emotions are somehow lesser or not as good as their emotions, or presume to know about her internal world. (I assume! Ha) As am I.

Also, often these people include adopted babies in their people you never knew real love for, which I find gross, frankly. And I mean... my sister is 7 years younger than me, and I would literally die for her, and I think I did a lot of her teenaged parenting (guys! It was HARD!) and have a lot of those emotions for her. I admit that it is not the same, as everyone's emotions are different, But the next person to tell me that that's not real mother-like love gets a kick in the teeth.


@BadWolf Yeah, and I think in a lot of cases it's a bit of protesting too much. These people feel insecure or doubtful about their life choices, so they have to over-assert how GREAT AND PERFECT and IRREFUTABLE those choices are, denigrate people who didn't make the exact same choice, pretend there isn't really a choice at all ("everyone must have kids!"), etc.


@Whitney@twitter I had to go back and read my comment when I got the notification about yours, because I had no clue what I might have written this morning that would imply that to anyone or lead them to that conclusion.

No. I'm not jealous of children.

The article and comments discuss how transformative love occurs for some people with children and not others, and that it's privileged in discussions/society (ie people who don't feel it have been wondering about it, feeling bad for not having it etc). I made a related point, in strong language but still related, that people experiencing the transformative love often don't think about how that can come across in a negative way to others.


@sevanetta It's interesting how whenever anyone says anything to imply that having a baby/babies is not the absolute only way to experience joy and fulfillment in life, there will always be someone who jumps in to screech about how that person hates or is jealous of children. Defensive, much?


@Craftastrophies Thankyou!!! I did really want to say 'you really don't know anything about my life that leads to me feeling like this about facebook statuses'! but was sad at being judged that I am jealous of kids :( I like lots of kids!

I hear you on the teenaged parenting. I didn't do that, but it was looking after some younger kids while I was still 18/19/20, back when I didn't really want to have kids at all, that made me realise if I had to look after a child that wasn't biologically my own, I could do it and love them every bit as much as my own bio kid. (And I wasn't doing the fun babysitting kind of looking after, I was doing the school-morning-routine and you-better-eat-your-carrots type looking after.) I think that those of us who feel like that cop it a bit back from some transformative-love proponents - I have heard plenty of people recoil and say with horror, 'Oh no! I could NEVER adopt, I would NEVER feel this way about a child that wasn't related to me'. I don't understand it, but I accept that others feel that way, you know?


@WaityKatie my gosh I know. I mean maybe we all have a capacity for fulfillment and joy and some people get that from raising kids and some people get that from raising bonsai plants??? and isn't that ok?

the other thing I have just loved copping judgement for is being feminist, being single and yet wanting to be partnered and eventually having children. If you're feminist you're apparently supposed to fly the I Love Being Single flag all the time. You're only allowed to want kids or a relationship if you accidentally somehow meet a great partner without trying to. Putting in effort or caring makes you a loser and a traitor to the cause, apparently.

geez! why so much judgement! can we not all just be as we are?


@sevanetta I never got it either, but then I was thinking about whether I really did want to have kids, when I got together with my partner. He's had kids, had the snip, he's Done. But I wouldn't want to solo parent. I could probably sort of finagle a position where he would help me parent, but then I got to the bit where it would never be his bio kid and I just... couldn't. I can see myself raising a kid not my own - I don't know that I'd volunteer, but if my sister had a kid and couldn't care for it, for example, or even my partner's kids, I can see that being ok. But somehow expecting my partner to be invested in MY child wasn't... there are other issues there that make that a reasonable think to balk at, but still. There is something to the biology thing. I just obviously am missing the part that neeeeeds to pass on my biology - see, willingness to not reproduce.

Also, the thing that wiggs me out the most is being the Boss, and the last one on the line of responsibility. It's why I say I'd sign up to be a Dad but not a Mum. (Curse you, society!!) Obviously, if I ended up raising a kid, I would be in charge of them, but somehow it doesn't have that weight of guilt that you have to be everything, and get everything right all the time. Well, hypothetically, obviously.

This is part of why I am currently all about building family without growing it inside of me - I am seriously up for helping care for my friend's and family's children. The fun babysitting bit, sure, but also the boring hard parts where they want to let me in to help with them. Sure, they're boring and hard, but really worthwhile. And I have the bonus of being able to have a sleep in now and then. (The sleep thing is genuinely a deal breaker for me. Don't make me tired. You wouldn't like me when I'm tired...)


@sevanetta I think your language was a little too strong. The fact than anyone would take people's expression of their love for their children (which for many people feels completely different to any other type of emotion thy have experienced) as a slight to themselves seems really self-absorbed.

I am sure you didn't mean it that way, but as much as this article tries to refute the notion that everyone HAS to feel that way about their children, the truth is that many people do. And it's probably evolutionary, if you didn't feel that way about a tiny squalling thing that makes your life somewhat miserable, no one would live more than a month.



I thought it was ridiculous that she implied that people should pipe down with their own honest expressions about how they feel about their children to save the feelings of adults who should know better. If I said 'I never knew love before' about my dog, it doesn't imply anything about YOUR emotions.


@Craftastrophies That's not actually what she said, she said that people should keep their intense emotions about their children to themselves, which is silly. Someone saying they never knew love before does not imply anything about the emotions of someone other than the speaker.


@Whitney@twitter And...it's not ridiculous that you are telling her to pipe down about her feelings? She said that she thought it was disrespectful of other kinds of (non-child) love to denigrate them all by saying "I never knew love before!" w/r/t having a baby. I don't think that's a crazy outlandish thing to say. You can say that you've never known that KIND of love before (mother-child love), but, do you not love your parents, siblings, significant other, friends, etc. etc. etc.? Because that is what "I never knew love before" directly states. And it indirectly states that anyone who doesn't have a baby has never and will never know REAL love. That's great that your world revolves around your baby, but not everyone else's does.






@Whitney@twitter Ah no Whitney, you haven't got it right there, please stop twisting my words and misquoting me - I did not say those things at all. If you reread my original comment you will notice that I said some people could be more tactful and mindful about they way they discuss experiencing that feeling. That's all.

Also, I lolled at the description of being self-absorbed, that was a good one :) Just as I am not jealous, by the way, I'm not self-absorbed either. hahahaha


@sevanetta Clearly you are wrong. Anyone who doesn't have a child is obviously self-absorbed AND jealous of the Pure Love that can only be known by those who have birthed and nurtured a baby (or, preferably, more than one). And, perhaps you have not read the regulations, because unless you have a baby, no one cares about your opinion, either. Fortunately for you, you can fix this by simply having a baby. It's not too late for you. Yours sincerely, Mainstream Opinion.


@WaityKatie I know! I know, I know, I know. It's all my fault. I should have explained all my background, my relationship and child status to begin with, so people would know whether and how to judge me.

You know what the funniest thing is here? Nicole's article is great. It is welcoming, real and respectful for people with and without kids alike. I loved it. Yet here I am in the comments having to endlessly defend one little comment on a related subject just because I expressed my damn opinion.


@sevanetta Actually, reading back I can see how Whitney got that - the actual words were that other people said they never knew love until they had babies.

The problem is that the part I filled in myself, because it is totally my experience, but wasn't actually said. This is where they then project that onto other people, and assume that other people's internal worlds are like theirs, and therefore we don't know love. And that they NEED to have babies, because you neeeed love! I mean, look. When I met my partner, and received real unconditional love in quantities for the first time ever, it super expanded my emotional landscape, and that was wonderful and I want everyone to have that. But that doesn't mean my life beforehand was terrible, or that other people don't already have that love/find it in other places. And then you get that condescending hand-pat and the 'you'll understand when you have babies'.


Also, this thread is getting really antagonistic. Let's all take an icecream break and hug it out.


I remember GRILLING my mom on this "transformative, nothing-like-it-in-the-world love" thing back in the day. She would just be like, sorry to disappoint, but it wasn't really like that for me. And I would be like, But MA-OMMMM, that's horrible, you're obviously like the evil stepmothers in fairy tales which I already suspected because of how little MTV you let me watch. But I eventually figured out she wasn't an evil witch jealous of my princess beauty but instead my awesome, loving mom who is a person in her own right, not some vessel for the revelations of divine earth mother love to collect in.


@leastimportantperson My parents are both in the children-transformed-our-lives camp, but they're also both pretty open about how emotionally broken they were before they had kids. Both were dealing with some pretty major-league traumas, they had kids relatively young, and children were sort of a catalyst for emotional growth that might not have happened until later, if at all. So, good for them! HOWEVER, being the catalyzing agent for two broken people is not an easy ride, and if I ever do decide to parent, I would much rather come at it from a place of reasonable self-awareness and at full emotional capacity, which sounds like the path your mom took.

(Also high-five for a bare-minimum of MTV! So many pop cultural references missing from my lexicon.)


Strictly based on "I have three kids" and not on science. I think this happens after they turn one. Like in the old days infant fatality was high, but if you made it through the first year, chances of survival was higher and this was the way of protecting moms if they lost a baby. I loved my kids as babies, but it was a different love after they were one.


Yes, yes, yes! Horray for loving and not judging people for their choices and acknowledging we are all different and our experiences are different!

Also, I will admit that my closest experience with transformative love came when I adopted a feral kitten. I've always adopted older kitties, often adults, and while I love them fiercely, I "bonded" with the kitten way more. It helps that he is an awesomely affectionate, hilarious and handsome, but so are the others, and he's the only one I just cannot fathom life without. We rescued him from certain death! He was so little and sick and lost parts to frostbite! He fit in the palms of my hands and slept on my neck and had to learn to meow in frequency we could hear! He was helpless and NEEDED ME, and I loved feeling that. I don't tell my baby having friends, but I do think that was the rumblings of whatever semblance of maternal instinct I ever possessed, and its depth and strength was shocking.


@swirrlygrrl It was like this for me when I got my puppy too - transformative love. Then I had my baby and I love him so much and it just keeps getting better as he gets older, but it's very much like that puppy love. I shocked some people recently by not being sure when they asked if I love my baby or my dog more! But she is my first baby and my love for her is fierce!


"And then, the rest of your life, he said, you have this unsatisfiable need for your children to be with you, and your children will never really need you that way in return, which is like being in somewhat unrequited love for the rest of your life. And I completely believe him."

I cried a little. Thanks for writing this, Nicole. I loved it.


@realtalk I loved this sentence too. I have 2 boys (both actually adults now) and this is how I feel. It expresses it perfectly. I need them now way more than they need me and I spend a lot of time trying to act like I'm cool but inside I'm sooooo not! Its a bit painful. I'm so proud of them too. Its like my heart is outside my body riding a motorbike and going to University and not coming home until 3am - damn that heart! "Transformative" love happened for me but I really think that it was because I actually HAD not known love before (its a long shitty story but my elder son was my first experience of love). Luckily I grew up and felt it again for another grown up which was wonderful (and kind of familiar!)
I also went back to work and University and had a life too so don't worry about that stuff.


@realtalk I cried a little, too. Sweet papa!


thank you so much for this.




@thebestjasmine Yes, her little cheeks really are the best.


@wharrgarbl Also, her facial expression is like Nicole has jut said something hilarious to her and she's all 'ahahah I can't believe you said that out loud you are the best mom!'


@thebestjasmine EYEBROWS, eyebrows all the time.

Reginal T. Squirge

I'd also like to address the whole "having babies so that someone will take care of me when I'm old" thing.

Doesn't this seem extremely selfish?

Also, doesn't this prove my theory that getting old just shouldn't be done at all?


@ReginalTSquirge@twitter Well, there's no guarantee whatsoever that your kids will take care of you, will take care of you competently, or--and this is awful, but it does happen, especially as we push our life-expectancies out further and further--that your kid(s) won't predecease you or precede you into infirmity.

Have kids because you want kids. Having kids as an insurance policy against old age or illness is a risky bet, and typically doesn't result in a great experience on either side of the relationship.

Reginal T. Squirge

@wharrgarbl Word. Also, most people don't like hearing that their entire existence was created so that they could serve another person (WE'VE HAD PROBLEMS WITH THIS BEFORE, WORLD).

And yet, I read it a lot in these comment sections as a valid reason for having kids.


@ReginalTSquirge@twitter what- aren't you completely filled with the holy christ love at the idea of caring for YOUR aged parents?? my parents have taken the initiative to never be a burden to me and my sister and I DO love them for that. I'd like to think I can arrange my own life in the same manner.


@wharrgarbl I think creating a family, which may or may not include having kids, so that you have a community to help maintain your emotional and social life as you age, is a great idea. Creating a whole human to care for your physical needs is a bit gross. There's a crossover there, obviously, but as you say, if physical security is what you want, save your pennies and pay someone else's kids. It's a lot more certain.

I say this with the thought in the back of my mind that one day my horrible mother will be infirm and I will have to deal with that, and it's going to be absolutely terrible for everyone, and I will be doing the absolute minimum amount of caring and visiting that my conscious will allow me, and it will STILL be too much. So, maybe adjust for my bitterness.


@ReginalTSquirge@twitter I'm currently of the mindset that when I get old (and really, fuck getting old), if I cannot take care of myself, I would rather be cared for by someone who felt it was their calling to care for elderly sassy ladies like myself and not my kids who felt obligated to do it. I have met the people who do elder care, and love it, even though it is by all accounts one of the most trying and taxing jobs out there. I would rather be a burden on those who chose to shoulder it, rather than people (my kids) who inherited it. Does that make any sense?

Also, everything everyone in this thread said. You are smart ladies.


@The Everpresent Wordsnatcher This is part of the reason why it makes me so cranky when people assume that me not wanting kids means that I don't like, or am anti-skids. I don't want to make and raise, one, but I find them as a whole to be pretty neat - I mean, I don't really like other humans for extended periods of time, that includes kids, but otherwise they're as delightful as any other person. ANYWAY the point is, from a selfish point of view I would really like my taxes to pay for schools etc, thanks - partly because someone else's paid for mine, so that seems fair. But also because having further generations be happy and educated is in my interest, as a member of a broader society, and as someone who is going to need their care (whether I have my own kids or not) at some point.


@ReginalTSquirge@twitter I find it fascinating that so many people think this, because my own family's experience has left my parents firmly convinced that forcing one's children to care for them in old age is NOT the best option.

Experiences that led them to this conclusion:
- My dad's parents dying the year I was born - my mum and dad had to go through his parents' place, sell the farm, etc etc because dad's older brothers were in the army and unable to.
- My mum's parents both having extended and horrid (multiple!) illnesses, multiple hospital stays/home stays, etc.
- Older neighbour couple who were like grandies to my brother and I, who both got dementia one after the other, and one of their adult daughters got early onset dementia. The old couple did not move into a nursing home until shortly before they passed away (the woman got ill first, then passed away, then it was the man the next year).

After all that, my parents have said repeatedly and firmly: If the house gets to be too much for us, or we get a degenerative illness, for the love of God, put us into proper care. It does no one any good to wear yourself out 24-7 caring for an elder family member; lots of nursing homes have nice social programs; and your children can VISIT and then everyone can go home and relax.

RK Fire

@ReginalTSquirge@twitter: It's also a hugely cultural thing for some of us--I'm 2nd generation Vietnamese American, and my father (who I'm not crazy about, and who I'm not taking care of in old age) was pretty much like "so we are putting all of this effort into raising you, and so you're going to take care of us when we're older!" for most of the time when he was in my life. I know a lot of other bicultural folks who grew up in similar households. At the very least I'll probably be sending money to my mom (she's sort of in forced semi-retirement right now) once she is willing to accept money from me.

That being said, I don't know if I would be willing to ask the same of my own future children. I'd prefer to arrange my life so they wouldn't have to worry about me, I think.

no way

I think a lot of the 'take care of me in old age' stuff boils down to what Craftastrophies said about creating a family or community to help maintain your emotional and social life as you age. It is not necessarily about providing at-home care, but about ensuring emotional support in you final years. Yes, there is no guarantee your child will even care, but the idea of having no one at all as the clock ticks down can be pretty scary.


@no way Although, maybe if we all put our efforts into building stronger communities, instead of isolating into little nuclear-family units, everyone wouldn't have to worry about being cared for in old age? I mean, marriage and the nuclear family is REALLY FULFILLING and NEVER GOES WRONG at all, so I'm probably crazy.

no way

@WaityKatie I'm not saying it's the only solution, or even a good one, just trying to provide a perspective not represented. Pretending these aren't valid concerns and making sweeping statements about building stronger communities ignores the reality of a lot of people.

For the record, I am all for non-traditional communal family structures and more anarchic social structures in general, but I'm not about to claim they are always REALLY FULFILLING and NEVER GO WRONG. Nothing in life is.


@no way Right. Ok, clearly I have become a symbol for everything you hate about people who don't want to have kids, so I will step away. You don't know me or really anything about me, but way to personalize your anger. So go on, have your kids to take care of you when you're old, I hope that works out for you.


@no way Yes, that idea is terrifying, and they're valid concerns - for EVERYONE. But also... I'm watching my grandmother at the moment. All her peers are dead, her sister died last year. Everyone else calls her 'mum' or 'grandma'. There's no one left to whom she is just a person, not a symbol as well. We try, and she loves us, but it looks really hard. There's only so much your kids can really do with that kind of thing - like Nicole's dad said, they don't need you the same way, and that's how it should be.

I think both people with marriages and children, AND without would benefit from a more communal society. Less pressure on the marriages and kids, less pressure the have them if that's not right for you. Frankly, it's ridiculous to expect that you can have all your emotional needs fulfilled by one other person, ie, your partner. Even introverted, self-contained me needs my partner, my workmates, a few very close friends, my social networks, and the hairpin. And that's just to get through regular life, let alone a crisis.


Thanks for writing this. It's great to hear a perspective that should be totally acceptable, but still seems a little controversial considering the ways we tend to fetishize motherhood. I don't have any kids, and I find the whole "having kids will teach you to love in ways you can't understand until you do it" thing baffling and isolating. Not that I don't believe people who say they feel that way - I do. But it makes me feel as though I should feel bad if I have kids and don't feel that way about them - and also like I'm weird if I don't want kids (which right now I don't), because who wouldn't want to experience this lifelong feeling of indescribable joy?

TL;DR Your article made having kids seem doable and like something I can understand. Thank you!

ann aunamis

@allegraringo I enjoyed the article too, but, conversely, this article made it seem like it was OK that I don't ever want to have kids. Something for everyone.


@ann aunamis I'm with you on this! And I think that's part of why this article is so good.


I felt the same way you do when my daughter was 6 mos old, Nicole. Now that she is 3 I have a lot more feelings for her. I think these transformative emotions for some of us grow gradually and steadily rather than bursting forth in a flash of blinding, ecstatic motherlove. And personally for me it was more comfortable for the experience to be incremental. Having a child was unbalancing enough without also having some kind of fierce emotion ripping through my heart the minute the baby was born. I tell new mothers who are struggling with these feelings that for the first couple of months I didn't even like the baby much. I mean, I loved her and wanted to care for her, but she was such a taker! But as she grew my love for her grew - just like any relationship with someone significant in my life. As you said, it's the ultimate YMMV experience...


@scully My experience has been similar. At first it felt like I was just tending to this little blob. Now that my guy's 3, and his personality is in full effect (...for better and worse), my love feels deeper. I mean, as much as I relish the downtime once he's in bed, I do often lay there thinking, "I can't wait until he wakes up so I can hang out with him again." When he was tiny, I was much more interested in him getting LOTS of sleep because I knew the time together would be very intense, and now it's just more relaxed and fun and he's now just a part of the family unit rather than The Baby that everything orbited around. And *for me*, that's translated into a stronger feeling of love over time.

Agreed on the YMMV though - as long as the love translates to some reasonable baseline of care, there's no "right" way to feel.


I absolutely loved this, Nicole.


Thanks so much for this, Nicole! I had kind of a shitty childhood with a horrible mother and I'm terrified of the "transformative love" thing. When (obnoxious) people say, "Having a baby will change your definition of love/you've never known real love till you've given birth/it will knock you out and transform your life," after I fight the urge to punch them in the face, I get really scared. I can't really imagine what that stuff means: I already have really, really strong love for people and animals in my life, who is anyone to say that because it's not love for a child, it's invalid or not "real love"? For example, I love my silly little cat in such an intense, miss-him-all-day way I'm afraid that my friends think I'm weird. What if I someday give birth and don't have some weird sweeping wind of "transformative life changing love?" I'm scared I'll then blame myself for being a terrible mother. Also, my own mother is a terrible parent and makes it clear that she hates me, so I have problems understanding parental love in the first place, which might be where this all stems from.

Also, ranty side note: What the fuck is with people who won't leave you the fuck alone about having kids? Literally twenty minutes after I got engaged, a family member asked when we were planning to have kids. When I say, "I'm not sure if we want them," people freak out. The thing is, I'm NOT sure if I want them! They're so cute, but I'm a huge introvert like Nicole's dad and I'm scared I'll be annoyed with the "Mom-Mom-Mom-Mom-Mommy-Momma-Mom-Mooooom" aspect of children. And sometimes I see shitty little obnoxious, rude, nasty twelve year olds and think, "If that's what my cute little baby turns into someday, I'll pass."


@Bonnie_Irene HUG.


@Bonnie_Irene I teach 12/13 year olds. I regularly tell my boyfriend that if we ever get married and have kids, I am passing over all interaction with them to him during years 11-14.


@Bonnie_Irene Internet hugs for you.

My own mother does not understand boundaries and is selfish and needy, and I spent all my childhood giving myself over to her. I am DONE making myself emotionally available 24/7 to someone who can't regulate their own emotions, and that includes children. By the time I had processed enough of my own issues to be an acceptable parent, I had discovered this whole emotional autonomy thing, and man it's great. I'm not willing to give that up for from 18 years to forever. That may or may not be selfish, depending on how you look at it, but I'm ok with that. I figure it's less selfish than only having kids so that I can project my needs onto them, like my own mother did.


@MissMushkila See, I actually think kids just start getting interesting around that age, so you can pass yours over to me for a couple years around then if you want. It's babies and toddlers that I find totally intolerable.


@WaityKatie Babies are nice for cuddles, toddlers are ok and adorable, but I like the about 8-14 year olds. When I was teaching in China, those were the year levels I was really good at. They're great! So smart and funny and clued in, but not too cynical or worried about looking cool in front of girls/boys, yet. I just missed my partner's kids at that age, which I think is good because I can basically interact with them as adults-in-training rather than kids.


@WaityKatie Hairpin baby swap HAIRPIN BABY SWAP. Pop 'em in an envelope and send 'em to each other. Foolproof, right? ...right?


@Bonnie_Irene I totally agree about the introvert thing! I LOOOOOOOVE my alone time, and I'm definitely scared if I had a kid, I would just resent them for always eating into my alone time. Like,"ugh, you want something again?!"


@Bonnie_Irene The only reasonable response to "When are you planning to have kids?" is to look at your watch, then look the person in the eye and say, "Well, my husband/wife and I planned to have vigorous, repeated sex in about 15 minutes, but instead I'm stuck here talking to you." Then stare at them until they grow uncomfortable and sidle away.


This whole piece is fantastic.


I love this and am in agreement. Can I add though that things can change? I totally loved my baby in a family love way. Sure! He was great! But once he started to talk and have a personality and say hilarious things, well, now that he's a fun person my love has increased so much I now have the OMGLOVE! love I thought I would have at the moment of birth. Also, I've retroactively applied that feeling so now I DID have it at birht? But, honestly, it just kept growing and it got there on its own time. ??? Anyone else???

Neve Garrett

@Stickynee Yes yes just wrote this above and now will write it again! YES me too YES. I definitely loved my baby when she was born, though it was also all so bewildering: who is this funny little person? (Plus bigtime ow). But now I feel like I'm really getting to know her, and she's spunky and wild and giggly-silly and... I'm just a goner.



Thirded. It was a gradual slide into the "I could cry just thinking about how much I love her" stage... it definitely was not before the 6 month period, for me.

I have told this to a LOT of moms who have confided about feeling like a terrible parent because they didn't get the "lightning bolt" experience from the get-go. It's pretty ridiculous, if you think about it: Just because SOME people fall in love with their partners at first sight doesn't mean that everyone should. Or that their relationships are less "right" if it took more than a glance across a crowded room on an enchanted evening. Why should parental love not have multiple ways of manifesting itself as well?

Oh, squiggles

Love. Ugh, so much sane rationality! So nice :)


loved it. my mom had me, but then gave me to my grandparents for raising. i've always heard about this, "HOLY SHIT once you have a baby you'll never want to be away from it!" and it made me feel like i was not the awesome baby i should have been. or something. but she would have been awful at it, and i had a great life with my nana and pappa. good looks, ma.


I have not yet read the rest of the comments but I just had to come here and say, I loved this article. Thank you so much, Nicole.

Why does having a baby/getting married/whatever have to be the Most Important Thing in our lives to be important? It can be AS important as your degree or overseas holiday or dog or alone time, without being unimportant.

So nice to have careful, rational conversations about this.


@Craftastrophies I wholeheartedly agree with this. Over thinking even an important decision does no one any favors. And for me, deciding who to marry was much easier than any grad school related decisions (which, in hindsight were almost all wrong).


@finguns Yes, same here! Choosing a man was super-easy; choosing a grad school was tricky and I think I probably chose the wrong one (it worked out OK, though; I had some good times and am more or less employed in my field).

It does help that I didn't have to apply for a bunch of husbands at the same time.


So I did get TRANSFORMATIVE LOVE for the big girl but I think I kinda needed it? Because it was reflexive and it was yes, unconditional, and I sort of suddenly realized that my mother with whom I had had a somewhat rocky relationship at times actually felt this exact unconditional love for me, and I was all OH MY GOD MOTHER YOU ARE IN FACT AWESOME. And we've been good ever since. So what you are reminding me of is my Completely Hypothetical Friend who can't be bothered taking ecstasy any more because she doesn't feel any different, and we all realized it's not that the drugs aren't good, it's that she feels full of love and connected with the universe all the damn time! Your relationship with your mom and dad has always been so completely awesome that the baby just came along and fit into a life that was already in that particular groove? That's how I felt when little girl came along, anyway, it was more sort of "Here you are at last! Good! Let's get on with things!"



Such an interesting idea that the "transformative" part is actually in relation to your own parents. I had the gradual climb (and am now completely blotto-crazy about my 8 year old and my 4 year old) but it has actually had a worsening effect on my relationship with my parents. I feel like I'm actually more critical of things that, prior to having kids, were just "things my quirky parents did" and now actually feel really short-sighted and make me feel angry on behalf of my younger self. When really, my rational self knows that my parents were just doing the best they could with very few skills, and a lot of other baggage.

Dr Clownius

i saw the title of this post and my first thought was "i hope it's by nicole!" and it was. and it was awesome. thank you.


Thank you much for this. This is absolutely how I expected to feel and how I felt about my daughter. I always want to post something like this in response to all the OMG BABIES SUCK RUN FOR YOUR LIVES posts on Jezebel lately.

(Though to continues the YMMV theme, my experience with my son was different. He was even easier, but my husband and I were in a different place and the feelings, they were slightly more complicated.)


I would just like to say that your baby is very lucky to have you as a mom.


Thank you for writing this, Nicole. My first baby is due in about a month, and I'm anxious about what will happen with FEELINGS after he arrives. This made me feel a lot more calm about the whole thing.


You make me feel a lot better about ever doing The Child Thing in the far, far future. It's always been put to me as this transformative, amazing experience... and it weirded me out? You sound like you'll be a super-rational mom, which is usually awesome.


@Nicole: I felt the same way. At first. I remember feeling AWFUL just after my daughter came out for not feeling an overwhelming rush of love for her. Honestly, I felt kind of "eh" and I wondered if something was wrong with me. A couple of months later, my cousin (who has 4 kids) told me she didn't feel like she *really* loved any of them until they hit about 6 months. A couple of times, it wasn't until after they got super sick. I'm can't remember how long it took for me, but yeah... I had the "Transformative Love" thing happen. It sort of crept up on me. One day, I realized that if I had to die for my daughter, I would do it... no questions asked (OK, I'd ask questions. "Why do I have to die for her again now?")
My husband & I were just talking about how for at least the first 9 months or so, we would have the "Uh oh. I think we've made a big mistake. I love her... but..." feelings every once in a while. That has gone away.
I don't know. I don't think anyone expects to have *true deep love* with a mate after only 6 months. Why a kid?
I don't think it happens to everyone, though. I have to admit, I was relieved when it finally happened to me.


I swear I read an article just this morning about how you shouldn't have kids at all? Or something. So confusing, the Hairpin.


(Mine are 7 and 5.) It took me a good year before I actually felt like a parent. I loved the kid but I didn't get that "omg he is my everything" feeling either. When I gave birth the first time I was in many ways more excited about getting to shower afterwards than my kid. And then later with #2? I remember having guilt about feeling like if a car was coming and I couldn't save both my kids I was pretty sure the baby was going to be the one to go. I was more of a "mom" with my second right from the start though because I think a lot of the emotional shift had already happened. Bonds aren't instant, my love for my kids is different from my love for my parents/husband but it is something that has taken time to develop.


What a great post. For ages when my daughter was born I thought, "I love you but I would't die for you. I thought that was supposed to happen..." And then to be honest it did happen - she's now 5 and I would die for her (but hopefully won't have to). I think it makes sense though - why would I die for you when I hardly know you? Now I fully love her because I fully know her.

Also thanks for the bit at the end about your friend. It gives the lie to all the pro life crapola about how if you've carried a baby you can't then be ok with abortion (Nadine Dorries, I'm talking about you, lady). Actually here's one fully loving mum who's ok with it every day of the week. Babies are in the eye of the beholder I think. Or to put it in modern parlance, babies - YMMV.


@dontannoyme My abortion feelings have shifted a bit since having kids I'll admit. I was totally in the "It's not a baby yet!" camp when I was younger but now I more fully get where my mother was coming from when she would say "What do you think is going to come out at the end, a kitten?". I think my feelings on it got a little stronger after having my second and seeing how crazily different they can be. Each kid is their own special mix of stuff that you have little to no control over and there are no do-overs. I'm still pro-choice though. Sometimes a decision can be hard and potentially life changing but still the right thing to do, either way.


Thank you so much for writing this. I am now 47 and have raised a fairly normal daughter who will be 26 this September and is getting married in October. I never considered her the center of my universe. I simply incorporated her little self into my very busy exciting, nomadic life. It grates me to hear people romanticize child birth and child-rearing. I mean, how do they all think they got here and can EVERYONE be the center of the universe? In the end kids are a pain in the ass, but they hopefully turn out to be good drinking buddies.

Lady Humungus

Ok, so this whole having someone stay with you post baby thing... I know my MIL is going to offer, and I really don't want her to. We get along fine, but I don't want her up in my grill for a month. Do you really need that? It seems like a lot of new moms have their mom or MIL stay with them. But I'd be on maternity leave. And the kid is immobile, right? Like if I want to take a shower, she's just going to have to lay in the bassinette and wait for me to finish, right? Ughhh I really don't want my MIL staying with us :(

Heat Signature

@Lady Humungus Although it seems unlikely, newborn babies are an incredible amount of work (especially if you're breastfeeding), and, combined with sleep-deprivation and the huge life adjustments you'll be making, along with recovering from labor, it makes it nigh on impossible to get much else done besides take care of the baby. At least that's how it was for me and lots of other women I know, and having someone around for the first month(mother, MIL, partner, etc.) that can help out is, well, helpful. Do you have someone else who can stay with you? Have you considered hiring a doula (if that's affordable for you)?

Lady Humungus

@Heat Signature I don't know if Lord Humungus will get paternity leave... but I guess on hearing that I'll see if he can push for it!

On an quasi-unrelated note, apparently Erykah Badu is a doula, and my friends and I really think it would be awesome to hire her. If only I lived in LA...

Mrs. PotatoHead

@Lady Humungus I felt the same way you do, and one thing that helped was to ask all "helpers" to leave us alone (other than short visits) for the first few days home from the birthing center so that my husband and I could begin to sort things out ourselves first. It really was good to have someone around for at least for a few hours after that, though. And def. go for the paternity leave if it's available... my husband took 2 weeks and it went by so, so quickly!


@Mrs. PotatoHead I'm due in about four weeks and I'm feeling you, Lady Humungus. I'm a private person by nature and my main impulse right now is to make the tightest possible circle of the ol' wagons, leaving me, my man, and my baby in the middle and everyone else out. Fortunately, MLibrarian is going to be able to take about four weeks off and I have the whole summer, so I think that will help. I've been doing a bit of reading about the first few weeks of having a baby and I've come across some suggestions that strike me as helpful. Here they are -

1. Like Mrs. PotatoHead wrote, draw some lines before the baby even arrives. I keep reading that piece of advice and it strikes me as very, very sane. If your mother or mother-in-law think they're being helpful by showing up unannounced and you disagree, make that known.

2. Plan ahead. Buy multiples of home products from the store. We are going to acquire the biggest package of paper towels known to man. It's going to be awesome.

3. If you do have guests coming over, do not change out of your pajamas, clean, or otherwise make things pretty. They will leave faster this way. Hell, one book I've really enjoyed (Your Baby & Child, by Penelope Leach) suggests "going" on a Babymoon and taking to your bed for about two weeks with your partner and your new infant. No room for houseguests in there, right?

4. If it is financially possible, hire someone to come tidy your house once or twice in the first four weeks. Who feels compelled to make tea for the cleaning crew, no matter how nice they might be?

Nicole, this piece was great. Thank you for sharing it.


@MmeLibrarian I would add to all that, as quickly as possible, like the next day if you can, dress, do your hair and makeup exactly as you would have in the olden times in the morning. You get yourself back by taking yourself back, proactively. ASAP, and you'll feel normal so much more quickly. Oh yes and very soon you will be able to see your feet. Sheer joy.


@barnhouse Great advice. I'm still going to dress like a slob when people come over, though, just to get them to go away. Kind of like a wacky teen comedy where the heroine has a nice dress on under her frumpy bathrobe.


@Mrs. PotatoHead @Lady Humungus I don't have kids, but I have a friend who had cancer (wait, no, this IS going somewhere useful) and had the same convergence of well-meaning but annoying friends. She found it helpful to appoint one person to make a list of things that needed doing/would be helpful/were luxuries, then coordinate who did what and at what time. Maybe if MIL wants to Be There For You, she could be given the task of coordination?


Hi Nicole,
I just wanted to say thank you for writing this. You sound like such a healthy person, who will no doubt raise a very healthy baby, and it's good to hear the perspective of someone who seems so normal. This makes me feel better about my choice of not-not-not wanting children right now, but who knows in the future. No big deal! Thanks again--I really appreciated this piece! Glad to know there are people like you out there.


This is so wonderful to hear. I'm all for parenting, and I plan on becoming one myself, but I agree. No good can come from being unrealistic with people before they become parents (or during). And no one should feel pressured into parenthood, enough people become parents who shouldn't as is. Oh, and my father once told me "He doesn't recommend having children." <3 you Nicole.


"...it's so important to say that having a baby can be a massive Bad Idea at some points in your life, and a Fantastic Idea later, and that you can enjoy the shit out of your Fantastic Idea baby without being super conflicted about anything that came before in your life." <--THIS! thank you.


I really liked this line "the world is kind of a shitty place, and there's no real reason for anything, so just try to be happy and nice to other existing humans"


WOW. Thanks for keeping it real. I loved reading this. Keep writing about life with a baby. We like reading it!!


I realize just how shallow a reason this is, but whenever my husband and I would talk about the idea of not having kids, we always came back to the feeling that there was something a bit depressing about couples in their fifties that don't have kids. They are a little too attached to their pets, or they no longer live the jet set lives of their younger years when they decided not to have children so they are always talking about their past exploits like a has-been rock star. I know, this is not a universal truth by any means, but we honestly thought we'd rather suffer through diapers than risk being that couple.

I warned you it was a shallow reason.

Luckily, it turned out we kinda love being parents, so this may all just be a case of confirmation bias.


@Lisa_RedRowFarm I hear you on this. I commented below that I was certainly transformed by having children. However, when they both have playdates and are tearing around our house and the music is on and the dogs are barking, my husband and I both say, well what else would we be doing? It's lovely, in all its messy chaotic glory. It helped us get over ourselves.


@Lisa_RedRowFarm I guess you've never met any couples with (grown) kids who are like this? Because I certainly have! Not really in their 50's though, is that considered one-foot-in-the-grave now? Yikes.


@WaityKatie Totally valid. Plenty of folks with kids are depressing, too. It is no guarantee to future happiness, but for me, I thought the odds were better. I think the real trick is to get to the grandparent stage. Dude, my mother and father are like whole new people with a grandson to dote on. Maybe it's a nice distraction from the whole slow trudge towards death thing. That or buying toys is just pleasurable.


Also, I wouldn't say I had a transformative moment when my son was born, but I did have a distinct feeling that things were as they should be. Not overwhelming love, more a sense of calm (unlike the sense of dread that was my entire pregnancy). To the point where I remember thinking "I could do this again."


I want 4 kids when I'm late middle aged. But right now in my early 30s I find the one (baby) I have a little overwhelming. Plus the idea of being pregnant again is horrifying (yes, of course, adoption is possible, but not "easy"). So how do I get to the point where I have a bunch of semi-adult and then adult kids that I have functional relationships with? How do I skip this part where I balance my career and not knowing whether or not I love my baby enough and how i'm going to screw him up? You know ?


I just wanted to say that this was a fantastic article, and I'm really glad you decided to write about having the baby. It's really great to hear from someone who didn't have that magical transformative love moment and yet also is not writing things about her child that it will grow up and be devastated by someday. Personally, I'm super ambivalent about whether or not I want kids one day, and this article helped me to breathe a sigh of relief that either way, it will not be OMG The Biggest Mistake Of My Life. And thank you for writing something about having a kid that did not come off totally judgmental and self-righteous. Seriously, thank you!


I am so happy that everyone is able to be honest and share all of this. I actually did experience a transformative thing, and it gives me goosebumps to this day. My kids are "old" 4 & 8, but growing and meeting them was transforming, and all for the better. Saying that, I would never feel that this is the way all new parents have to feel. How stupid would that be??


And yes, Nicole, please keep writing about life with Baby. We all love it. Your writing is honest and wonderful.


My bio clock is ticking like crazy. But I know I'm a loner and never wanted kids before. Thus, we are paralyzed by indecision. Everyone I know who has them thinks we should do it asap. Which is funny to me for some reason.


Thank you for sharing this.

I have this theory, right? It is that all new moms go into New Mom Town expecting a red carpet, unicorns, sunbeams pouring down over them and their newborn sparkling with infinite love and the unwavering knowledge that they are good and have Done The Right Thing. Then they arrive at New Mom Town and discover it's full of dead ends, traffic circles, and screaming. There's uncertainty, there's confusion, and there's no where to sleep! It's nothing like what they envisioned, and what they were told to expect! So they think maybe they weren't meant to move to this town. They're not cut out for the rough streets of New Mom Town. They feel like they've failed. So they do what many people do when they thought one thing and then discovered something else was the truth. They lie. Most often, they lie to other New Moms. They perpetuate this false idea of what being a new mom is like to each other, and then other new moms also feel like failures. WHY CAN'T WE JUST BE HONEST? With ourselves, and each other.

I'm a mom. I met my son for the first time and I thought "Hey, there you are. Nice to meet you. Your head is shaped funny, and it's friggin HUGE. Please be good at latching on because if this nurse grabs my boob one more time I'm going to lose my shit." Seriously. I didn't gaze at him in wonder. I wasn't overwhelmed with anything except the sudden crushing responsibility. I loved him and I felt deeply responsible for him, but I wasn't IN LOVE with him. I can honestly say I didn't really fall in love with him until I had spent a few weeks with him, and even then I sometimes wondered what the hell I was thinking when I let his dad do that to me. It took me a long time to accept that this was real, and it was OKAY to feel that way, and a lot of my trouble was due to other moms reinforcing the idea that I should have felt magical, transformational love. Can we please just start being honest with each other? We'll all be better off, and likely be better, healthier mommies.


@breccalynn I should clarify that I know New Mom Town can be red carpets and unicorns for some moms. I don't mean to imply that it's the same for all new moms at all. My experience, after digging deep with some Mommy Friends of mine, is that almost all of them felt the way I did, and also felt pressured to feel something transformative mostly from other moms. I guess we should all just be honest about what it was like for US, and accepting of the fact that it won't necessarily be that way for others.


Everything - EVERYTHING - about this post is extraordinary.


I think the emotional transformation thing takes time. Think of it like your relationship with your significant other -- yeah you're super buzzed and happy to be around them in the first stages of your relationship, but in my experience, the intense, overwhelming love and devotion comes after you've gone through some Real Shit together. Also, I love what your dad said. My daughter just turned 12 and I'm starting to get those desperate, trying to grasp on to anything I can type feelings as she's in the beginning stages of carving out a life for herself in which I am not the conductor. It's made me a better daughter to my own mother.


@klaus THIS.

Also, I really think the main thing is that if you listen to how other people want you to feel, you maybe won't hear how you DO feel, which is quite often VERY SURPRISING.


That transformative moment came years later for me, when I realized I was about to literally punch my sister-in-law for letting her troll son bash my kid in the face with a bucket and then scolding my daughter for getting in his way. It hit me that I probably would never call out anyone else for anything except for wronging my offspring (legitmate wronging; i know when my kid is being a bitch). I think it takes time for some and maybe never comes for others. I don't buy into the whole "kids are SO HARD but worth it" thing. My life is pretty easy and I still have tons of time to be me and do things that I liked to do pre-baby. I like what you said, though, because every mother I knew told me how wonderful I would feel and how different it would be and it just wasn't. And that can be a horrible feeling to think you are not feeling the right kind of love for someone. For me, that love took a few years to show up and I am surprised at the person I was during her first 3 years. I am not that person anymore. I always loved her but it is different now. I hope you continue to check in with this stuff, perhaps my feelings were due to depression? Maybe this will be how you always feel, which is awesome.

vernon hardapple

This article was like a big sigh of relief to my brain and uterus, who are both looking forward to / ambivalent about being invaded by a stranger of my own creation one day. Registered [finally!] just to say thanks :)


This was GREAT and also I want to hear what you have to say in like, five years' time, because you haven't really cranked this mf up quite yet, I would say.

Whitney Elizabeth Walton@facebook

I'll echo what everyone else is saying: Fantasically written, and thank-you for writing it. Looking back, I'm so glad that my mom didn't make her life all about mine. She worked, she volunteered, she helped other people and did stuff on her own. As a child, I remember being upset that she didn't spend more time with me - and I still feel a little conflicted about it, quite honestly. As an adult feminist with "helicopter parent" friends, though, I'm like, "Yeah, go Mom!"

Harriet Welch

whoah, this makes my dad make SOO much sense. He is another super introvert. He always says he hates people that he didn't make or marry. He just wants me around all the time. Not even talking or doing anything. He was disappointed when I finally got a washer and dryer in my dwelling. He was all sad that I wouldn't spend three straight days a month napping on the couch, watching crime documentaries and eating their food. I always thought it was a little weird and needy. Now I feel bad for not napping on adjacent couches more or spending hours not talking to each other in the same room.


at the risk of repeating another comment (sorry I didn't scan first), I'm not convinced you've given this enough time. 6 mos? that baby has barely grown a face let alone a personality. but your perspective does keep the hysterical mythology in check and that's cool. keep 'em coming. loved the bit about your dad. I'm really not looking forward to a lifetime of unrequited love. but it does sound inevitable. f***.


Yes! I am with you all the way on this one (except for the Game Meats of the Month Club part...).

And is it weird that I actually teared up a little while reading it? I guess it's just rare for someone to say, "Any and all feelings you have on this topic are relevant and okay and good." Feels nice.

Frankie's Girl

I just read this to my husband, as he is still kind of scared about having a kid and how it's going to turn our world upside down.

I like the idea that while having a child definitely is a life changer, it's not always going to change it in the profound ways that everyone says. (and bonus points for the "FULL OF STARS" reference - I giggled at that)

Thing is, we're infertile. We started trying back in 2004, diagnosed with male-factor infertility and tried a few of the lower tech assisted repro methods, gave up for a while and tried to start living life as a childless couple.

But I experience real sorrow over the idea that this is it for us, so we're stepping up to IVF in the next couple of months, and husband and I are both wishing we were okay with not having so the can't have wouldn't be so hard to live with. I am not looking forward to being a human pincushion on the chance of having a child, but it's something that at a primal level, I have to try. (he does definitely want one too, but our infertility is male-factor, so he has the additional guilt of putting me through all the crap and needles and hormones too, so big scary time)

I always knew I wanted kids, so not having at least one is a seriously sad thing for me (like depressed and bitter and angry ALL THE TIME - just try watching TV or going OUTSIDE without seeing a baby or pregnant woman or something slapping you in the face).

But if you always knew you didn't want one, or were seriously not looking forward to having one, then KNOW YOURSELF and stop listening to what everyone says you should or should not be doing with your girly bits. It's your choice and you and your partner (if you have one) are the only interested parties that should have a voice in the matter. (and discuss that shit BEFORE you commit to the long-term/ring thing - and make SURE you're both being honest)

Same thing goes for what those people say you should or should not be experiencing if you do have a kidlet. I love that the author's love for her kid is a strong one, but still a familiar one. That's beautiful.

Michaela D@twitter

Thank you for that last paragraph. *eyes mist up*


I'm really glad you wrote this post. I am an infertile woman who went through IVF, unsuccessfully. I went through that uncomfortable but not hideous process so that i would know I gave everything I had to become a mother. When it failed I grieved deeply but was also able to make the decision to live with my loss rather than make my life completely about my loss. That said, I have always thought there was an essential experience I had missed out on. I redirected my mother love into social service, which has been very rewarding, but still felt incomplete. Two weeks ago I met my first grandnephew, adored him, admired what great parents he has and found a great measure of peace that my life is as it should be and your post has helped to reinforce this new belief.


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