Ask Pajiba (Almost) Anything: If Having A Baby Doesn't Scare The Sh*t Out Of You, You're Doing It Wrong
Parenthood, amirite? Has any other biological imperative ever been such a giant fucking pain in the ass? Almost every other instinct we have is rooted in our own selfish survival, but reproduction serves the survival of our species into a future that has basically nothing to do with us. And in turn, we serve the survival of our newly-minted mewling progeny. It’s a tough job, and a long one, and it will require constantly balancing your rational self with your emotional self and those gut instincts that no longer are for your own personal benefit. It is, quite simply, a mindfuck — one that nothing else in life can really prepare you for.
I mean, I assume. I don’t have a kid or anything, and I’m certainly not pregnant (I don’t think…?). And yet I also feel like I’m the person who wrote this week’s question.
[Reminder: you too can confound my sense of reality with just a single, relatable question! Send your electronic mails to [email protected] and test whether I know that you’re not actually me.]
Dear Pajiban Brain Trust,
I am 6 weeks pregnant. It was planned. It happened very quickly. And now I’m freaking out because I hate almost all the kids that I know… what the geebus have I got myself into?
My feelings of doom and gloom are not helped by the fact that so far, pregnancy SUCKS. Like, harder than Pitch Perfect 2.
I know I should feel grateful, but all I feel is sick — sick with worry that something will go wrong with the pregnancy and harm the baby (this terrifies me on a daily basis), sick with actual morning sickness (and let me tell you, that name is fake news — that shit lasts all day), sick with doubt that we’ve made the wrong decision by getting pregnant, and sick with worry that I won’t enjoy being a parent (and won’t like my kid).
Don’t Call Me Mommy
Dear Don’t Call Me Mommy,
You don’t really seem to have a specific question, so the Overlords took your letter as more of a call for general reassurance. Which was actually pretty great, because we have a LOT of thoughts on making babies, having babies, taking care of babies, and being afraid of making, having, and taking care of babies. Like, A LOT. But first and foremost, we all agreed — if you were pregnant and somehow miraculously NOT scared at all, we’d be more worried about you. Everything you expressed in your letter is normal, and rational, and honestly only the tip of the iceberg in terms of shit to be freaked out about. Pregnancy isn’t just some serious Cronenberg body-horror type shit — it’s also a venture into a vast unknown. You don’t know what giving birth will feel like. You don’t know what the kid will be like. You don’t know what YOU will be like, as a parent. You can only begin to imagine the surprising everyday things that could be dangerous to a child, and you don’t know what the world your kid is growing up in will be like in 5, 10, or 30 years. Shit is messed up — but recognizing that fact at least means that you’re relatively sane and well-adjusted.
And more than that? The fact that you’re thinking this much, and worrying this much, about your child and about being a mother is a pretty good indication that you’ll be FINE. It means you’re already aware of some of the bigger areas of concern and can prepare yourself, somewhat, so at least you won’t be caught entirely off-guard.
So, let’s talk preparation. On the one hand, it’s basically impossible. But that doesn’t mean you can’t give yourself a feeling of control before the poopy diapers hit the fan. Dustin (who knows a thing or two about scary pregnancies) recommends going all-in on research. Find articles, and books, and chat boards, and even download those pregnancy/parenting apps that give you task lists that you can complete. “The apps and nothing you will read will matter one fucking bit once the baby is born, but for the next 34 weeks, it will help give you the illusion of control, and there is something very comforting about that illusion. You may have no control over the pregnancy or the birth, but BY GOD, you have control over those apps.”
I would also recommend talking to your friends and family, and hear as many first-hand experiences in pregnancy and parenting as you can so you don’t feel like you’re reinventing the wheel here. Every mother goes through this, but also — pregnancies and kids can be VERY different, so hearing how parents have coped can yield some surprising insights.
(And that includes thinking seriously about your own childhood, and analyzing what worked or didn’t work when you were growing up. Genevieve and I both come from parents who didn’t want to raise kids the way they’d been raised, and it worked out pretty well for us!)
But be careful — people who have kids also often have a LOT of opinions about raising them, and they’ll want to share those opinions. Mommy-shaming is a real thing, from the breastfeeding vs. formula debate all the way through bedtimes, snack foods, and play strategies. Part of it likely has to do with the fact that parents HAVE done so much research, and worked to coalesce all the various bits of knowledge into their own parenting plan — and getting others to follow suit is a sort of justification of all that hard work. “If parents listen to my advice, it means that I’m parenting better than other parents who parent. And if they do what I do, it means I must be right!” Don’t fall into that fucking trap. Listen to everyone, but ultimately you need to be the type of parent that YOU think is best — and raise your child in a way that’s right for THEM.
Same goes for the doctors and nurses you encounter during your pregnancy, and as your child grows up. I tend to fall on the side of “trust your doctor” because they’ve gone through like a decade of schooling and training to get to this point, but sometimes they do make mistakes. Serena Williams famously had to request her own CT scans to diagnose blood clots that had formed after her emergency C-section. Point is: Don’t be afraid to speak up or to get a second opinion. Even if their bedside manner is just shitty, don’t put up with it. Jodi mentioned that she had a mean nurse after her child was born, so she spoke up to another nurse and guess what? Everyone got a lot more pleasant after that. Pregnancy is stressful enough as it is. Wondering if you’re getting the right care for you and your baby shouldn’t be an additional worry.
And the thing about borderline hating kids? Well, that’s fair. Kids are annoying! But that’s also beside the point. As Emily pointed out, you can not want a dog and still fall in love with one once you’re taking care of it. And that’s even MORE true when it’s a child that you carried around for the better part of a year, suffered for, and have all kinds of weird hormonal reactions to. Another Overlord mentioned not wanting or planning to have kids until “one slipped past the goalie” — and now they love being a parent. So while I don’t fully understand the mechanism that makes us fall in love with our own babies, I do think its a real thing. Of course, that doesn’t mean your kid won’t annoy you or piss you off or be a dumbass sometimes. It just means that you’ll STILL love them anyway — even when they piss on you or somehow get covered in their own poop from their neck to their toes. It’s just another one of those weird unknowable things that seems scary right now, but you’ll have to trust will make perfect sense once you experience it yourself.
Let’s see, what else? Oh! Kids are hardy little bastards. They fall over, get bonked in the head, get super sick — and they pull through it in the end! So don’t beat yourself up over every little thing that befalls your child. After all — they usually did it to themselves. Keep an eye on your blood pressure. Don’t drive yourself nuts. And most of all, focus on enjoying that little human being you’ve made once it’s out in the world. Being a parent is hard and scary and exhausting, but it can also be an enormous amount of fun. Don’t miss that fun, because the fun times will make everything else more bearable.
And finally, we’d like to leave you with two thoughts that may help put things in proper perspective:
Remember — once you do have the baby, you’ll be almost too tired to be scared shitless anyway.
And ultimately, everything will be fine as long as you or your child doesn’t end up on fire or in a bear trap. That’s right — FINALLY there’s a situation where fire +/- bear trap is NOT the answer to everything! BUT WE STILL FIT IT IN! Yeah, OK fine. This last bit was more for our benefit than yours, but we have a status quo to maintain in this column and by god, we’re not gonna let an opportunity to reference a bear trap escape our bear trap. Also, fire.
Good luck on an easy pregnancy, a healthy family, and please — do us all a favor and don’t raise a fucking asshole. The world’s got plenty of those as it is.
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