It’s hard to believe now, but for a large portion of my life I didn’t want to have kids. True story. It wasn’t because I didn’t like children or babies – I’ve always adored tiny humans. Procreating just wasn’t something I thought I needed or desired in life. I had different plans. I was, after all, going to be a pediatric cardiologist, and I would spend what little free time I had from my lucrative practice volunteering to perform open heart surgeries on needy children in third world countries. It wouldn’t be fair to put my own offspring on the backburner while I prioritized the success of my work and helped needy orphans in India (because apparently they have heart defects AND no parents? – yeeesh). If that didn’t pan out, then I would probably fall back on being a photojournalist for National Geographic. This would require frequent and extended travel to obscure locales with limited communication, and what if I contracted Dengue Fever or Hepatitis A from residing with the locals? How selfish would I be to put my own health in such jeopardy when I should be focused on the health of another? And if THAT plan didn’t work out, then…well…you get the idea. I had an ongoing list of illustrious and adventurous career choices that were neither conducive to nor favorable for childbearing.
I remember telling Nathan in our early days of courtship (do people still say ‘courtship’? Probably not…) that it was too bad I liked him so much because marriage and kids just weren’t in the cards for me. He smiled smugly, responded with something overly confident like “Oh, we’ll see about that,” I rolled my eyes and we went about our dating ways.
But along the way – obviously – something changed. Maybe it was the overwhelming love we shared for our nieces and nephews. Maybe it was seeing friends and family around us having babies and seeming, surprisingly, both happy and successful. Whatever it was, after several years of marriage, multiple moves, completing my education and a couple blissful years of being D.I.N.K.’s, Nathan and I came to the intelligent conclusion, “Why not?” and thought we’d give baby-making a go.
We had miraculous, fortunate – and faster than expected – success. I’m ashamed to admit our initial reaction to the pink plus sign on the first pee stick – and the 6 that followed – were words of the four letter variety. It wasn’t because we weren’t happy, excited, or grateful, but I’d be lying if I said we weren’t overwhelmed. We couldn’t help but feel denial with a side of panic. What were we thinking? Clearly, we were idiots. Why did we think we were qualified to create, sustain and nourish a life? Did we have the credentials? Who were we to put this poor, innocent child through the burden of having us as parents?
But shock and denial quickly turned to bliss and gratitude and anticipation, and before we knew it, parenthood became an overwhelming reality. Along the way, I presume the physical and emotional changes of procreation took over our feeble minds. I am convinced nature does a brainwashing of sorts – the changes in hormones, neurotransmitters, electrical impulses change not only your desires and priorities, but your overall thoughts, personalities, demands, circadian rhythm, conscience and even consciousness. Since Hazel arrived the last day of November, 2011, Nathan and I’s lives have never been – and, of course, never will be – the same.
I haven’t had a full night’s sleep in over 2 years. I can count on one hand how many movies I’ve seen in the theater. I can count on that SAME hand how many times I’ve left the state. We haven’t taken any extravagant vacations, haven’t been on an airplane, and haven’t left the country. Our DVR queue is filled with movies and shows I am certain I will never see. With the exception of fashionable maternity necessities, I can’t remember the last time I shopped for myself. In 24 months, I haven’t tried any exotic new foods, learned any new languages, taken on any new hobbies or expanded our social network. And you know what?
I wouldn’t change it for the world.
Because despite the sleeplessness, homeliness, reclusion and overall loss of freedom, I am more happy, appreciative and patient than I ever thought possible in my previous 27-ish years of life. I have given and felt more love than I deserve. I like to think I had a big heart before procreating, but in my sophisticated mind, I often liken the changes of parenthood to the Grinch. “And what happened, then? Well, in Whoville they say – that the Grinch’s small heart grew three sizes that day!” This cheesy, Christmas-y, childhood story quote seems – to me – to so accurately describe what happens the first time you see your child. I in no way want to convey or insinuate that true happiness and love only occur when you have kids. That’s not true. I am confident Nathan and I would be very happy even if we had decided not to remove the goalie (his affectionate term) and make babies. There’s no question we’d be a lot wealthier, healthier and sociable if we hadn’t. But since having Hazel 2 years ago, it’s as though another dimension of happiness has been opened to us and we have a much greater appreciation for life, health, family and time. Our previous goals and driving forces have been replaced with whatever allows us to spend the most time together and with our beautiful daughter.
Hazel, in 2 incredibly fast years, has amazed me and taught us what truly matters in life. I have laughed, smiled, snuggled, and hugged more than one should merit in a lifetime. I have cried and worried more, as well. Mama bear instinct has kicked in and I’m more protective than I ever thought I was capable of. When someone relates they would take a bullet for another, or risk their own life for someone they love, you agree. And with your own child, you know there is no hesitation. If someone offered me a life of poverty, pain and destitution to guarantee our babies would never endure heartbreak, illness or suffering – I would leap at the opportunity. I spend perhaps too many free moments wondering how I can keep her safe, happy and untainted by the world. I occasionally find myself daydreaming of giant bubbles (Crazy? Yes.)
Per usual, I have gotten carried away with this post. I blame my fingers and the sticky, crumby keyboard (Apple Larabar remnants?) beneath their tips. I could go on and on – more than I already have – about how much we love and adore Hazel. My inadequate words don’t do justice, but we are indescribably grateful for our sweet daughter and the 2 years of utter happiness she has provided us. I can sense the eyerolls and fake gagging of the few people who have stuck on to read this far and will try and bring this solilioquy to a necessary close. We are anxious and excited for the what the future brings, we hope and pray we can provide our sweet, healthy, smart, funny and affectionate little girl the life she deserves, and are filled with even more anticipation to see how bringing a baby brother in the mix will alter – and augment – our lives.
And with that, feast your eyes on a barrage of birthday pics.
I’m sure I’ll be back to my cynical self in the next post.