Sunday, October 05, 2003

It will change your life, etc.

Anyone who is expecting children has to listen to waaaaayyyy too many people universalize about their own experiences. OK, we all have. People are incredibly preachy and boringly didactic when they talk about procreation. I never paid much attention to it, actually. People would say the most uncanny and absurd things. Such as: Everything you do has to be for them. Oh, and the preachiness. You have to breastfeed. They should sleep in the bed with you. They should not sleep in the bed with you. Pick them up. "Look at the baby! Look at the baby!"

It's getting to me these days. I tuned it out before but it gets a bit harder when it (I'm sure mistakenly) seems relevant.

There seem to be several dominant themes in the: 'what procreation does to you' genre. Among these are 'it's really hard.' And 'it will change your life.' There is also the: It 'saves your life' theme. And the 'it gives you perspective' theme. Not to mention the 'it gives your life meaning' theme.

Because my family is very, very close I already know what it's like to love people intensely and to love them much more than I love myself. I've made sacrifices for other people (not recently, I guess). I think I have the relevant data to imagine certain types of emotional intensity and commitment, etc., etc. And I suppose the rest will be a bit of a surprise but is not so far afield of normal human emotion that I will be unbelievably shocked by it even if it will not be what I expect.

I've cared for infants. It was easy when I was young. I know that I don't have the patience I had then and even then the boredom got to me. So I'm assuming already it's going to be a big pain.

I would be extremely surprised, actually, if my experience perfect fits the platitudes that I've been hearing for years--although more vociferously lately since my friends started having children. I'm weird and people are always telling me that things will turn out a certain way at a particular age and I will feel a certain way when I reach some life milestone and I never seem to.

I try to avoid the temptation of this other platitude I hear-- to think that having a child will transform my character in some total way--e.g., that flaky me will become a responsible adult. That I just don't find plausible.

I have only to look at my own parents as examples of people who have not complied with any of the parent prescriptions.

I'm not sure why I wrote this exceedingly long preamble but there is this one thing I am curious about: What will it do with the freaky angst I've always had?

It's the sort of thing one doesn't admit in mixed company (and should definitely avoid telling medical professionals) but I've always been unable to shake the deep seated belief that life is a bit more trouble than it's worth. I've had a passive wish for death that goes back into early childhood. I'm conscientious and overly concerned with how things turn out for me and I am simultaneously disengaged, disenchanted and hoping to get out of the trouble of existence.

But if you are a mommy you just don't get to die. Mommies have to stay alive. So when I'm in a plane now I often think: 'Gosh, if this plane crashed I'm sure I'd be quite afraid as we were going down in flames but it sure would save me a whole lot of bother collecting my luggage and getting to work and all the rest.' I've always thought there is an upside to death. I'm not unafraid. I do understand the idea that you want a certain allotment of time, that there is the unknown to contend with and the like. It's simply that I know that life inevitably brings some suffering and I can't help but be seduced by the idea of avoiding suffering even when I also miss out on 'the good things'. I'm a slacker--I hate the pressure. I had the fun, I had the youth, I had the travels. Now I want to get out while the going is good.

So that's what I'm curious about--what am I going to think in those situations now? Already I take a very different attitude toward any harm that might come to me. I've become this baby-vessel...I worry about myself the way an investment banker worries about his new Jag. I'm not sure where that will go when I'm not the vessel anymore. Will I actually embrace life? Or become resigned to the probable 30-50 more years I have left? Will my selfish desire to avoid discomfort, sadness, deprivation, humiliation and loss by non-existence be transformed by the utter dependence of another person upon me? Or will I still crave escape on a regular basis?

I guess I'll see.

Still, I promise I won't go around boring you with the anecdote of how my baby transformed my death wish...No, really. I won't add to the slag heap of child-related conversation.

Click here for a totally cliche-free account of childbirth...or as she calls it 'poppin' sprog'...Warning: Not for the squeamish.


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