I'd never been a baby person or had the drive to be a mother, so I was never sure I wanted kids.
Though my husband and I went back and forth, we decided to quit contraception to see what happened.
After a miscarriage, I realized I wanted kids and had a son. I still don't love kids but love mine.
On the day my son was born, I felt like any other new parent probably would: Cosseted amid the hospital blue curtains in the ward, my husband and I stared at him, and then one another, in exhilarated awe.
We'd made this tiny being who was now yelling from a bassinet, with his shock of dark hair, long lashes, and minute fingernails.
It was an experience we previously didn't think we would have. Neither of us ever really liked kids — let alone wanted one.
I wasn't sure I wanted to be a parent, but I wasn't sure I didn't want to be one, either
Nobody would have ever mistaken me for a "baby" person. When my friends offered up their newborns for a cuddle, I was always at the back of the line. On a plane, I'd roll my eyes when a distant child started to fuss. Interacting with kids always made me feel like a fraud behind my singsong voice and forced cheer.
As millennials living in London, my husband and I had always prioritized experiences and careers over starting a family. We'd spent five years living as expats in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates, enjoying the spontaneity of throwing clothes into a backpack, jumping on a flight, and eating fancy food.
We liked living our life on our terms. We were blithely sailing past our mid-30s and married for almost a decade. People had stopped asking us when we were going to have a kid. It was a conversation we'd been avoiding for a long time, the unspoken weight of it lurking in the shadows of our marriage. While I've always been a decisive person, I just wasn't sure that I wanted to be a parent. But I wasn't sure I didn't want to be one, either.
Then, another friend announced their pregnancy, and I found myself having another wobble about whether I should want kids, too.
"Wouldn't it be gut-wrenching to find out we couldn't have kids in a few years' time if we changed our minds?" my husband said in the middle of a midnight heart-to-heart.
A miscarriage gave us perspective on what we wanted
The uncertainty was enough to make us try something different from our status quo. If I couldn't get pregnant, we reasoned, at least the decision would be made for us. So we stopped not trying to have a baby and quit using contraception entirely.
A month after that, I got pregnant for the first time.
There was a brief moment of surprise that, biologically speaking, everything worked, even despite the fact that I was 35 years old and in the dubious medical territory of becoming a "geriatric mother."
Then I had a miscarriage.
Just 10 days after I'd seen the two blue lines on the test, while we were still wrapping our brains around the news, we were ushered into a small side room at our local hospital, where a kindly nurse made sympathetic eyes at me from behind a blue hospital mask.
The embryo had made it four and a half weeks. I carried it for six.
The thing that no one tells you is that miscarriages aren't something you experience and then get over quickly. They're drawn out over weeks, and the waiting — for the emotional and physical pain to end — is excruciating.
Two weeks later, when my pain had finally ebbed, something fundamental shifted. Even though the experience was painful, we found a silver lining in it all; from the loss sprang a glimmer of possibility. Even though we'd started without knowing for sure what we wanted, we found ourselves wanting to try again.
I still don't love kids — except for mine
For most of my life, I'd never felt that drive to be a mother. When I got pregnant again two months later, it still didn't kick in. I never cooed over someone else's baby, and during our ultrasound scans, I remained dry-eyed.
But then I saw my son for the first time. It wasn't that I instantly started loving kids — but I loved this kid. I loved the way he was quiet in the hospital, assessing his surroundings while the other babies cried. I loved his little feet that he refused to have covered with a blanket. I loved his silly mullet that curled at his nape.
"Our baby is everything. Other babies are just Ken," I quipped, referencing the tagline from the recent "Barbie" movie as we walked out of the hospital heading for home as a trio.
A few weeks later, it still feels true. In my first few weeks of being a parent, I can see, for the first time, the shades of gray between wanting and not wanting kids.
As our lives shrink from overpriced small-plate dinners and last-minute plane rides to feedings, naps, and bath times, I still feel a pang for the life we left behind. I have a new understanding of people still deciding whether they want to have children, fielding intrusive questions while they weigh their options or wait for the perfect moment.
As my son cries inconsolably at 3 a.m., I feel this overwhelming fear that I'm going to mess this up. But when he gazes up at me with curious eyes, grasping my little finger in his tiny fist, I feel some unforeseen piece of me click into place. There's this intrinsic completeness to me that I didn't know was there before.
Even after having a child of my own, the reality is that I'll probably never really love other people's kids. But I'll be more sympathetic when a child cries on a flight from now on.
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