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Cripes, I just turned 35, the official age at which I will now be referred to by the medical system as a “geriatric mother” (or “advanced maternal age”) if I decide to have kids.

Annnnnd I’m still not much clearer on whether or not I want kids since writing about my indecision a few months back (over here: To Kid or Not to Kid.)

From all the wonderful advice I received, there were three things that stood out.

1. It’s not a rational decision, it’s an emotional decision. So I’m letting my emotions continue to percolate.
2. Whatever I choose, I’ll make the most of my kidded or unkidded life, and while there may be some regrets either way, they’ll only be “moments” of regret, not a lifetime of regret, as I had worried about (See Charlotte’s fabulous advice below)
3. My first ever glimpse into what the “good” side of having a child might FEEL like. (See Bex’s beautiful reply below).

The To Kid or Not to Kid blog was one of my most replied-to posts ever. Your responses, honesty and advice blew me away and really helped move me along the line towards some semblance of clarity.

The decision is still percolating, so I’m considering egg freezing as an insurance policy.

I’m not ready to make the decision (nor am I well enough to have a kid) right now. — I welcome any and all replies about experiences with/ advice/ thoughts on egg freezing!

I’ve had a few people ask if I could share the responses I received about whether or not to have kids, for those of you who are also in a similar predicament to me.

So, here ya go, here are some of the most helpful replies I received! (From those who gave permission for their words to be shared with you). All replies left largely as they were written or edited slightly for relevance. I’ve changed all baby names to “tiny drunk human/ TDH”.

I didn’t receive any “didn’t have kids and am super stoked about it” replies — if you are one such human, I’d love to hear from you!

 

Charlotte, Australia

I went through this exact same thing. I won’t say much about it, as it can be a special kind of horror to have other people sticking their oars in. I’ll only pass on the one piece of considerate, loving advice that a friend gave me and that stuck with me.

It relates to the “regret” arguments around kids, that you might get however many years down the road and regret not doing it, and not being able to go back. My friend said:

“Well, maybe, but they’ll be moments of regret. The rest of the time you’ll be living your life.”

This helped me because I think the regret argument became binary in my head – thinking I’d either be regretting my choices constantly, or happy with them constantly, and that’s never true either way. I know it doesn’t help with these things that are lived experiences and not able to be worked out by thinking … because you have to do them to know what you think (either way) and then you’re committed to what you chose.

But I found it comforting to realise that I wouldn’t be doomed to constant regret whichever way I went.

> Note from Andrea: I found this advice soooo helpful for taking the pressure off making the “right” decision.

 

Agnieszka, Denmark

About having kids: I once told a friend, whose wife and himself felt anxious about having kids, that most people who consider NOT having kids, probably will be doing the most aware parenting.

Because they don’t just follow the norms. They actively consider their values,  strengths and weaknesses when parenting. They don’t get surprised in the same way as others that their world has turned upside down. They also dare to admit their faults and insecurity to their children. They listen, observe and learn from their children.

The world needs that.

(And my friend now has a second child on the way:)

As my 7 year son tells me: if you don’t know which decision will make you happier, either is a good decision.

 

Brianna, Canada

In case it makes you feel better,  I had the exact same problem when it came to deciding about kids.  I would agonize over it pretty much daily for years! All my friends made it seem like torture but I felt so guilty not having them. I decided when I was around 35 or 36 and had my daughter when I was 37.  I definitely don’t regret my decision, she’s my most wonderful amazing little sidekick but I realize I could’ve been happy either way I’m sure, and there was no “right” answer.  It’s just the answer that you are gonna make work, just like every other aspect of your life.

I felt really alone in my indecision about kids at the time so I wanted to make sure you know that other people are the exact same way, and, actually I think it’s really smart to be realistic and aware of the good and bad things about such a huge undertaking.

My two best friends that had kids long before me usually only shared the hard parts which was so scary but now that I’m a mom I see that they just needed to vent and that there were also tons of good things they just didn’t talk about!

 

Amy, Australia

The decision to have kids is a big one – I reached the same point a few years ago and I felt so conflicted, having all the same thoughts as you.

After a lifetime of being indifferent to the idea, what happened to me was I thought I was pregnant but when I went to the doctor to confirm, the blood test results said that I wasn’t pregnant. At this point, I was gutted. I cried and cried.

So I realised that I did want children but it was only when the chance was taken away from me that the truth became clear.

Could you try telling yourself that you can’t have children, and then review how you feel after a month or so? If you can trick yourself into thinking that the decision is taken away from you (suddenly you “can’t” have children) it might reveal the way you really feel.

 

Bex, UK

I’ve always been firmly on the fence about children. My 30s mellowed my sharper edges, (very much helped by completing BGL with you), but I was still very much on the fence about having children and have been in a ‘whatever will be, will be’ zone.

As my friends were buying property, getting married and having children I loved my single, me-myself-and-I status, served with a side of only responsible for one. I liked the simplicity. I still do, mostly.

My thoughts about having children of my own have covered most areas, from “But what about what it does to your body?!” (several of my friends are living with life altering injuries from childbirth), to “There are already so many children without parents, I’ll adopt.” to “What about the environmental impact of having a child and aren’t there already too many of us on the planet? Maybe the human race can do without me adding to it.” to “What if I’m a shit parent and pass on all of my terrible traits? Will I still love my child if they’re ugly – is mother nature really that good?!” Through to, “If or when I feel ready I’ll think about it. If by the time that happens I can’t have children of my own, I’ll cross that bridge if I come to it. Or if I meet someone and they really want children I’d probably do it.”

And that’s just the tip of the child shaped iceberg.

Now I’m in my late 30’s and I’m starting to feel pangs of, “Do I want children? What if I do want kids of my own? What if I am missing out?” Nine times out of 10, these days, seeing my friends also means seeing my friends with their kids, (and also their partners). Whilst I love their kids and significant others (thank god), at the same time I also really just miss my friends. It’s both selfish and completely rational.

Don’t get me wrong, when I hear one of their kids call me Aunty Bex it feels like sunshine on my face and I actively love going to the array of classes that exist for children now days, Monkey Music, sensory play, the learning how to swim sessions and the ballet lessons, the occasional school run and watching their endless curiosity is a genuine treat. The privilege of seeing my friends’ children grow up is a joy I wouldn’t change for anything. I’m really very lucky that I get to witness all of this without any of the responsibility or the sleep deprivation.

I have watched my, sometimes fairly clueless friends, become these, well quite frankly, superhero humans – seeing sides to them as parents that I would never have otherwise seen. It’s amazing. I know people who have had children before they were ready, those who have settled with someone because they want children. Others who have decided to have children by themselves, or co-parent with a friend. Others who went into parenthood as a couple only to find themselves a single parent further down the road and those of us who decide not to have children.

The jury is very much out, both sides make convincing arguments so for now I’m allowing myself to be content with where I am and what I have.

 

Georgia, UK

Note from Andrea – the below emails from Georgia finally helped me get a glimpse into what the “good” side of having a child might possibly FEEL like, perhaps for the first time ever. I emailed Georgia back after her initial reply to ask if she’d mind sharing more details on how she’s found having a child, since I’ve coached 1:1 with Georgia and know her well. Here is her generous, honest, hilarious and beautifully articulated reply, I hope you enjoy reading it as much as I did:

I have this reaction frequently when reading your blog, but this one – WERE YOU IN MY ACTUAL HEAD THINKING MY THOUGHTS?! Anyway, people with children are insufferable about how wonderful it is. (Annoyingly, it is wonderful).

But I did google ‘are people who regret having children monsters?!’ more times than I’m proud to admit in the early postpartum months.

Spoiler alert – yes, annoyingly it really is that wonderful, even with the sleep deprivation and life-upturning chaos and MESS.

I’ve been thinking often about how to articulate what, I finally realised, just can’t really be articulated. I think. Or at least, not by me. So instead, here are a few fumbled thoughts. First a bit of context. Our tiny drunk human (TDH) is 10 months, so we’re through the worst of it (I think?! I hope!). The first few months were a total haze. I had a difficult recovery, then got walloped with postnatal depression which knocked me sideways for a few months. I think it’s quite hard to see the ‘magic’ of parenthood when body and mind both take such a beating. BUT, now that I’m through the other side of it, I’m actually grateful for it all. I’m a different person because of it, my health feels hard won and I don’t take it for granted any more (or at least, I try not to!).

Second bit of context – My partner and I were totally on the fence about having kids, and we discussed it ad nauseam, for years. It was constantly on my mind- should we? Shouldn’t we? Will I regret it if we don’t? Will I regret it if we DO? Hence your blog resonating so much with me!

Anyway, in lockdown, all the things that made our life family-unfriendly (travel, eating out, socialising, etc.) vanished, POOF, so we kind of ran out of reasons not to, and I suddenly got nervous about what if we wanted to later, but couldn’t. So, for not very good reasons, we started trying. I got pregnant really fast then had a miscarriage, which clarified my thinking – I was so sad I realised a part of me really must want it. I was lucky to get pregnant again soon after, and that was that.

Some people enjoy pregnancy I think – it’s not for me, but thankfully also not forever!

That’s enough background, but just to say – I REALLY understand the doubt and the questioning. People do not talk about it enough, and the regret thing is incredibly unhelpful. We were really happy together, loved our lives, and were fine about not having kids. BUT, I’m incredibly and shockingly delighted about having TDH, so I’ll try to make sense of my reasons.

1.              Connection and camaraderie – the shared understanding among new mums, and really any parent – is powerfully connecting, and I’ve been amazed by the close friendships I’ve built that started over discussing perineal tears without even knowing someone’s name!
2.              Community – I feel involved in local life in a way I never have despite our best intentions to be neighbourly. I can’t quite explain why, but I guess your radius does shrink at first – I’m fully back in the world now, but in the early weeks and months it’s so nice to be local and just go for coffees / walks with people in the area. Knowing TDH will go to the local nursery and then the local school makes me feel much more embedded in the community than I did before.

I somehow found myself this morning running a singing group at the community centre singing nursery rhymes and playing the ukulele – what?!

3.              Birth & PND gave me appreciation for a working body and mind like no amount of gratitude practice alone could do.
4.              I’m learning to really take care of myself, again, in a way I don’t think I could have learned to do before TDH. In lockdown I started doing lots of ‘self-care’ (meditation, yoga etc), really recognising my needs and soothing myself. Learning to soothe a crying baby has unlocked a part of myself, or developed a part of myself, that just wasn’t there before – a softer, more nurturing, gentler part.
5.              Similarly, I’ve had to / been able to develop new sides of myself. I’ve always been conscientious, ambitious, super-organised, efficient, driven, self-critical, all the traits that definitely help in work contexts, but are NOT useful with a baby! I’m learning to let go of my perfectionism and be ok with being ‘good enough’, because that’s all there is!

I realise now how many bits of myself just never got water or light, and I was missing so much!

I feel more playful, patient, I rest, I value non-productivity, fun, joy…busyness has no currency with a baby. We laugh ALL the time, I’m SILLY. I was never silly before, and I didn’t think I knew how to be, but I love it! I haven’t lost my drive at all, or my curiosity, if anything, it’s all just there alongside the other stuff.
6.              Matrescence – I dug into all the literature I could on this. The transition to being a mum dredged up a LOT of stuff from childhood which probably / maybe contributed to the PND, but was, I only realise now, running my life, completely beneath my conscious awareness. Anyway, it’s now coming into view, I found a great therapist, and I’m probably in the best place I’ve ever been in terms of understanding myself and being ok with who / what I am.
7.              I don’t have to spend hours worrying about whether or not to have kids – it frees up SO much time and mental energy! Even when it’s really tough, there’s no going back, so it’s not a preoccupation at all.
8.              SLEEP – the sleep deprivation is truly awful, there’s no doubt. But, you get used to it, and you just somehow cope. And there’s great camaraderie in it. And people whose babies sleep just lie, so everyone thinks no babies sleep. TDH sleeps 11-12 hours at night, 1.5-2 hours in the morning and 2 hours at lunchtime, but I lie (by omission) to all my mum friends because I don’t want them to hate me! We just did a lot of research on building good sleep habits and have been very lucky too.
9.              The awful bits are really bad. But they pass, and they’re SO outweighed by the good bits. I think this is what I couldn’t understand before. The bad bits (exhaustion, birth, social life taking a beating, crying baby, gross nappies etc) are tangible,

whereas the good bits are completely intangible and indescribable. And that’s what’s so impossible about the decision.

People tell you how ‘amazing’ and ‘magical’ and ‘wonderful’ it is, but the words are just so inadequate. When I look at TDH and he beams at me, the closest thing I can compare it to is the feeling of finishing a great concert – standing on stage totally high on endorphins and the audience clapping and just feeling great. You get that, but just from a big smile, or when they put their pudgy hands up so you’ll pick them up for a cuddle. Or they laugh for the first time. It is the best sound in the world, no competition. I guess that’s why people have more kids, despite the terrible bits – the feeling I get from TDH smiling at me, or hearing him laugh, or cuddling him, or seeing him learn to do something for the first time – it’s just unadulterated, indescribable joy, and, fullness. Everything feels ok in those moments.

Overall – my life is probably harder but unimaginably better than it was before. And it’s funny how perspective changes – My partner and I love to travel, and I was dreading the end of our adventures. But, we’re going to Greece soon – in the past, that would have been long days on the beach, reading or just doing nothing, swimming, eating ice cream, leisurely boozy dinners, some exploring, sleeping…I didn’t want to give any of it up. But now, I genuinely can’t wait to see TDH’s little toes in the sand, or watch him lick his first ice cream, or build his first sand castle, or splash in the waves, or eat souvlaki…I’m sure there will be moments where I’ll wish I was fast asleep on a sun lounger, or drinking wine into the early hours, but I wouldn’t swap it for anything.

Describing the experience of parenting is like describing a colour without being allowed to list objects that are that colour!

I think there’s no right and no wrong…if we hadn’t taken the leap into the unknown I think we’d have had a great life – adventures travelling the world, great meals, time to exercise and sleep, late nights out with friends – all of it! And I wouldn’t miss TDH’s smile if I’d never seen it.

 


After publishing this article, a few people wrote in with a couple of other articles they’d found helpful:

“I’m not ‘ready’ for kids. Here’s why I’m choosing to have them anyway.”

I help people decide if they want to have kids. Here’s my advice.

If you’ve been thinking of doing the much loved Bloody Good Life program, this is your last chance. BGL will be closing its doors from July this year.

Learn to tame your overthinking mind and get clear on your direction (plus a handful of other benefits you won't expect).

→ Put your name on the Bloody Good Life waitlist here.

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