I came across this essay years ago. I think my mother sent it to me, or maybe I read it in a magazine. I can see it in my mind on a page of print that had been torn out from some publication. It was the kind of thing that you read and know you want to save forever. And then, it disappeared. I was really sad about that, because I really had wanted to save it forever. Then I found it again just the other day – in a Facebook post that floated into my newsfeed the way random things do. I looked for a version I could copy or print and was surprised and happy to find the following from a simple Google search of some of the words I remembered. I’ll save it forever.
Time is running out for my friend.
We are sitting at lunch when she casually mentions that she and her husband are thinking of “starting a family.” What she means is that her biological clock has begun its countdown and she is considering the prospect of motherhood.
“We’re taking a survey,” she says, half jokingly. “Do you think I should have a baby?”
“It will change your life,” I say carefully.
“I know,” she says. “No more sleeping in on Saturdays, no more spontaneous vacations…”
But that is not what I mean at all.
I look at my friend, trying to decide what to tell her. I want her to know what she will never learn in childbirth classes. I want to tell her that the physical wounds of childbirth heal, but that becoming a mother will leave her with an emotional wound so raw that she will be forever vulnerable.
I consider warning her that she will never read a newspaper again without asking “What if that had been my child?” That every plane crash, every fire will haunt her. That when she sees pictures of starving children, she will look at the mothers and wonder if anything could be worse than watching your child die.
I look at her carefully manicured nails and stylish suit and think she should know that no matter how sophisticated she is, becoming a mother will immediately reduce her to the primitive level. That a slightly urgent call of “Mom!” will cause her to drop her best crystal without a moment’s hesitation.
I feel I should warn her that no matter how many years she has invested in her career, she will be professionally derailed by motherhood. She might successfully arrange for child care, but one day she will be waiting to go into an important business meeting, and she will think about her baby’s sweet smell. She will have to use every ounce of discipline to keep from running home, just to make sure he is all right.
I want my friend to know that everyday routine decisions will no longer be routine. That a visit to McDonald’s and a five year old boy’s desire to go to the men’s room rather than the women’s room will become a major dilemma. That right there, in the midst of clattering trays and screaming children, issues of independence and gender identity will be weighed against the prospect that danger may be lurking in the rest room.
I want her to know that however decisive she may be at the office, she will second-guess herself constantly as a mother. Looking at my attractive friend, I want to assure her that eventually she will shed the pounds of pregnancy, but will never feel the same about herself. That her life, now so important, will be of less value to her once she has a child. That she would give it up in a moment to save her offspring, but will also begin to hope for more years, not so much to accomplish her own dreams, but to watch her child accomplish his.
I want her to know that a cesarean scar or stretch marks will become badges of honor.
My friend’s relationship with her husband will change, but not in the ways she thinks. I wish she could understand how much more you can love a man who is always careful to powder the baby or who never hesitates to play with his son. I think she should know that she will fall in love with her husband again for reasons she would never have imagined.
I wish my modern friend could sense the bond she will feel with other women throughout history who have tried desperately to stop war and prejudice and drunk driving.
I want to describe to my friend the exhilaration of seeing your son learn to hit a baseball. I want to capture for her the laugh of a baby who is touching the soft fur of a dog for the first time. I want her to taste the joy that is so real that it hurts.
My friend’s quizzical look makes me realize that tears have formed in my eyes.
“You’ll never regret it,” I say finally.
Dale Hanson Bourke, Chicken Soup for the Woman’s Soul