“The Pregnancy-Industrial Complex” by Laura Tropp
Currently, since I am poor, homeless, and unemployed, my only viable living options are with people-with-kids; mostly baby to toddler aged kids (unless I move to Arizona, then it’s a ten year old). The best option for me is with a couple with a two year old and a newborn (not even two weeks). They live in an area that embraces Public Transportation and has the most job options for someone like me.
Some things I have learned: Kids are tough.
Since I was present for the birth (in the next room listening to everything going on and praying my older nephew didn’t wake up — yeah, home birth) I have had a number of people ask me the following two questions: 1) What was it like/Was is scary? and 2) Does this experience make you want to have kids of your own?
1. No. It wasn’t scary. I knew what was going on. I knew my sister was in labor and I’ve seen enough television and listened to enough women yap about their birthing experiences to know that it sucks and it’s uncomfortable and sometimes all you can do is scream. The midwives and my bro-in-law didn’t seem worried so I didn’t worry (and I am a huge empathetic worrier when it comes to my siblings). Personally, I was more concerned we weren’t going to need the tub and no one was going to tell me and I was going to keep filling it and then we wouldn’t need it. Thankfully they told me before the water was a foot deep and there was less to pump out than there otherwise would have been.
Home birth is one of those things that is heavily portrayed as a hippie-crunchy totally completely out there sort of thing that only nudist, fake Buddhist, pot smoking, pseudo-environmentalists do with only their yoga instructor/tattoo artist/doula to preside (except for, of course, that episode of Judging Amy). But it turns out my sister isn’t totally insane and there are a lot of benefits to home birth. A) you don’t have to worry about taking the kid home. B) No doctors or cold medical staff, pushy nurses, people who view childbirth as business as usual. The midwives might do this for a living, but these women seemed to see each client, each baby, as individual cases that require specialized care and attention. I would want these women to take care of me in any situation, they were so kind and caring and funny. C) While they were down to earth and friendly, they were also extremely professional and clearly knew what they were doing and talking about. If anything had gone wrong I am confident they would have been able to handle it – even if that meant rushing my sister or nephew to the hospital.
2. No. Oh god, no. Someone else having a baby or getting married or going to grad school does not make another person want to do these things too. I can be happy for someone else having a baby, but that by no means makes me want to have one. This experience, being present, listening to my sister give birth, being with the family while they get used to having a newborn, watching my older nephew try to cope with the fact that he’s not the center of attention anymore, has done one thing for me on the children front: reconfirmed that I am not ready.
When my mother was my age she either had three kids or had three kids and was pregnant with her fourth, I’m not sure. That idea blows my mind. I cannot imagine currently being married, let alone having a bunch of kids to care for. I have barely lived a normal “adult” life, the idea of changing that for a kid is unfathomable. I don’t feel badly about this: not everyone is meant to be a parent. And, if they are, they aren’t necessarily meant to be a parent at the same age as another. My sister told me she started really wanting a baby when she was my age now. It took a few years, but she got one — and now she has two! But I am in no rush. I might never have kids! And, right now, I am ok with that.
The linked article above also makes me not want to have children. The obsession with celebrity pregnancies and the pressure to look as good as Katie Holmes or Kym Cardashien or Kate Middleton when they were pregnant is ridiculous. People praise Katie Holmes for being so cute and dressing Suri like an American Girl Doll and turn around and knock Jennifer Garner for having normal looking kids and neither are really important. I see moms stressing over wanting their kid to be the cutest and it’s exhausting. I don’t want to be one of those women. Or, if that is my fate, I don’t want to be one of those women yet.
I am relatively young and have always sort of been a little bit of a late bloomer, comparatively. All my friends had boyfriends in the sixth grade and I turned down my first offer in the seventh grade because I knew I wasn’t ready. I didn’t start thinking about what I want to do with my life until I was in college; most people I knew had their lives planned at fifteen. I live an unstable lifestyle because I get bored and I like to move on. I have never been a career-minded person, therefore I am seeking something, anything, that isn’t my old job simply because I’m ready for a change. I am absolutely still in some sort of exploratory phase of life and have many things I’d like to accomplish before Children are any sort of a reality.
Being present for a birth doesn’t automatically turn on that biological clock metaphor thing.
In her article, Tropp comments that pregnancy used to be a “period of waiting” but medical advances, celebrity and media culture have all contributed to make pregnancy into “another over-hyped, over-romanticized, over-marketed product”. Everyone wants to see pictures of “the bump”, they want to know about your morning sickness, they want to know what color you are going to paint the inside of the baby’s closet; women make molds of their pregnant bodies, they paint their swollen bellies, they have nude photoshoots so they can remember the experience forever (is it really that forgettable?). There are a plethora of (un)necessary products for pregnancy that our grandmothers’ would laugh at, and events during pregnancy that don’t seem all that exciting. Baby showers are one of the worst experiences I’ve ever gone through (followed closely by Bridal showers), I can’t imagine what a “gender reveal party” could possibly entail, but I never want to find out.
(She also makes an interesting comment about how in America we provide all sorts of support and events and attention to a woman while she is pregnant then pretty much leave her alone once the baby is born; other countries, however, she says, focus a bit more on giving the woman support after the baby is born – you know, when she really needs it. As Garfunkel and Oates say “Pregnant women are smug” they don’t need quite as much support as the woman does once she has the crying, pooping, suckling bundle of joy. New moms are a mess; Juno’s stepmom says it very eloquently: “[You look] like a new mom: scared shitless”.)
As a selectively private person, I say this now, I think my pregnancy is one thing I would want to keep to myself. It feels like one of those things that doesn’t really have anything to do with other people. If you’re not the mother or the father, or the grandparents, I suppose, then it’s really none of your business. Then again, as a human being I understand the value of a baby to the community. Babies are, to anyone not the family, symbols of Life and Hope and Goodness; and all communities need to be reminded of that time and again.
For me, children are only on my radar because I am living with people-with-kids. If I were surrounded by people more in my stage of life, they wouldn’t be on my radar at all. I am always loads more comfortable when I am with my childless friends – or, rather, friends who do not constantly talk about their kids. I am not married and I do not have children and neither are likely to happen any time soon. It is important, I think, not to blow off your married friends or your parent friends, but it’s just as important as an unmarried and childless person to seek out the company of others like you. It’s important to have friends in the same phase of life as you. Otherwise things just start looking sad and you get bored and start feeling like you’re never going to get anywhere — at least I tend to.