2- Have Children (more than one, less than three)
These two items can be considered as the agenda for any young (middle-class) woman, anywhere the the world. It is true that many will not follow this agenda, willingly or not, however, those who do not will always feel the need to explain, to justify, to feel incomplete, to yearn, to wonder what it would have been like if.
And yet, pregnancy is awful. Childbirth is horrible. Raising children is very, very, very difficult. Listen to the edge of madness you hear cracking in the voices of parents, the glint of despair you see in their eyes. There are many surplus, unwanted children on the planet- the human race is not in danger of becoming extinct any time soon. So why?
“You are such a hypocrite”, somebody (my mother, actually) told me recently. “You married and you have children. But now you go around obssessing about how nobody should do either.”
It’s true. I greet news of marriages and pregnancies with slight shudder. And yet, and yet. This is what I am trying to think through.
My children are the light of my eyes. The beat of my heart. Nothing, but nothing I have ever done will bring me the sheer intensity of feelings I have for them- that heady mixture of delight, anxiety, love, comedy. They define my days, my life. I could not imagine living one day without them. My life before them seems a hazy mishmash of nothingness.
I was lucky, I had “easy” pregnancies. Nothing went wrong- everything was according to plan. And I hated every moment of it. I hated feeling my body was out of control, I hated the queasiness, the feeling that life as I know it is over, knowing that from now on, everything is circumscribed and limited and qualified, the physical vulnerability.
Not that childless people fly to the moon, I keep reminding myself. And I see people- strangers, friends, looking at my children with appreciation and envy. I hear the yearning in my girlfriends’ voices. My chidlren are an absolute good.
And this is what I am trying to reconcile, in my mind. My distrust and loathing of the (social institute of) marriage and the (natural phenomenon of) pregnancy, together with the knowledge that without these two, I wouldn’t have had the children. And the joy and delight I have in my children together with the knowledge that they totally skewed my life. A walking mass of contradictions.