Photo: Courtesy of Jessi Cruickshank
“SOMEONE’S READY TO POP!” exclaimed a complete stranger standing next to me in line at Starbucks. “Um… thanks?” I replied quietly, feigning sudden interest in a cheese and fruit box. “When are you due??!!” she practically shouted, “uh… soon,” I whispered, averting my gaze and studying the nutritional information like my life depended on it. That didn’t deter her. “You must be exciiiiteeed!!!” I thought about it for a moment, put down the box and looked her straight in the eye, “I’m not actually. I’m not excited,” I said definitively. “I’m terrified.”
This poor stranger stared at me like I had spat in her face whilst simultaneously beating a puppy. Clearly horrified, she managed to force an awkward smile before turning around to order her Frappucino.
While I would like to apologize for traumatizing this innocent woman, I would not like to retract my statement: I. AM. TERRIFIED. And the more people ask me if I’m excited, the less excited I feel. And the less excited I feel, the more I wonder if I’m a terrible person.
There seems to be a cultural expectation that the moment a woman’s water breaks, she skips to the hospital in blissful anticipation of the glorious new life that awaits. In fact, I’m not sure we’re supposed to feel any other way. It’s widely assumed that we’ll give birth and then seamlessly transition into a completely different lifestyle with nothing but joy and bliss; a concept that comes about as naturally to me as wearing maternity jeans. So in hopes of hearing from other moms who may have had similarly shameful thoughts to mine, I’ve decided to share them right here, just like I did with that stranger at Starbucks.
Let me be clear: I’m not a 15-year-old on Teen Mom OG who accidentally got knocked up in a gas station parking lot—I am an adult woman with a loving and supportive partner who made the choice to have children and is thrilled and grateful and all of the other wonderful feelings that should go along with being an expectant parent. But that’s the first thing terrifies me: “parent.”
For my entire adult life, I’ve been blissfully going about my business with no one to take care of but me. I do what I love to do, live where I want to live, travel where I want to go… I stopped buying plants because they were too much responsibility. And yet, in a matter of weeks, I will be responsible for two human beings whom I already happen to love more than anything in the world. Their health and happiness, safety and well-being, education and opportunities will be in my hands. Sure, they’ve been in my womb, and I’ve done everything in my power to take care of them in there… but I can’t help thinking that the moment they come out, I’ll have 18 years to screw it all up.
Of course people say, “You’ll figure it out!”or “You’ll be a natural!” or my mother’s personal favourite, “The universe doesn’t give you anything you can’t handle!” Fair enough. But the universe also doesn’t give you a nanny. Or college funds. Or even instructions on what the hell a “Woombie” is and why I supposedly need one.
But perhaps the most shameful thing that terrifies me about being an “expectant parent” is the “expectant” part. I am expecting two children, and along with them, I expect the lifestyle I’ve come to know and love to abruptly end the moment my water breaks.
And so, as my belly grows bigger and my due date grows nearer, I wake up each morning thinking, Is this it? Is this the end? Is today the last day I sleep until 9 a.m.? Or take a 10-minute shower? Or enjoy a leisurely coffee? Is today the last day my childless friends call me? Or I get an exciting job opportunity? Or my husband looks at me like the fun-loving girl he fell in love with? IS TODAY THE DAY I START WEARING PRACTICAL FOOTWEAR AND SWEATPANTS OUT TO DINNER!?” I’m sorry, I take that last one back. I won’t be going out to dinner ever again.
These are the totally lucid thoughts that woke me up at 3:40 a.m. last week in a hot, sweaty panic. I frantically rolled over, peeled the giant pregnancy pillow off my clammy bump and shook my husband awake. “Psst honey….. “ my whispers quickly turning into heaving sobs, “HONNNEYYY!” I cried, “WAKE UP! WE’VE MADE A TERRIBLE. MISTAKE.” He peeled his eyes open as I hysterically admitted to my shameful fears, my inability to find the illusive “excitement” about having our babies and my overwhelming feeling that the day I give birth will be the end of life as I know it. He listened, smiled, then calmly replied: And that is exactly why we decided to do this in the first place.
I took a deep breath, dried my tears on my XXL shirt and realized he was right. I decided to have children because I am ready for life as I know it to change. Because I have experienced the pleasures of the world without responsibility, I’m now ready to experience the joys of life with it. Because I have grown from the adventures that I’ve had as an individual, now I get to grow from the ones I’ll have as a parent. Because I have been given wisdom and love, now I get to pass it along and gain even more in return. And ultimately because the best things in my life have always been born of the things that terrify me the most.
So the next time a stranger at Starbucks asks if I’m “exciiiiiiiited!?!?!” I’ll put down that cheese box, look her straight in the eye and reply definitively, “I am, actually. I’m terrified… but I am also truly, genuinely, deeply excited.” Then I’ll order my coffee, savour each leisurely sip and enjoy every last moment of life as I know it.