I’m terrified about having kids.

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I just spent the holidays with family. I’ve been married a year. I’m approaching my mid-30s. And due to an unrelenting year at work, I’ve gained some weight. So perhaps unsurprisingly, the last few weeks have featured a conversational dance of hinted “are-you-pregnant” questions.

I’ve ignored the hints and laughed off the passing comments about future grandchildren. What I haven’t responded with is my honest answer: I’m terrified about having kids.

Here’s why, from my least to most significant reasons.

I’m uncertain about the marriage consequences.

I love my husband. One reason I married him is because he’s always patient and kind. He can race cars for an hour with a child and never express boredom or frustration. He does not hesitate to get in the dirt with a toddler and stare at crunchy leafs and colorful rocks. It’s endearing. He’ll make an amazing father.

Yet I’ve seen marriages fracture under the stress of children. I don’t want that to happen to us, but I’m not sure how to prevent it.

I’m concerned about the financial consequences.

Kids are expensive. I grew up in a thrifty family. I am familiar with Craigslist furniture, second-hand clothing, Costco groceries, budget activities, and public schools. But despite kibitzing on parenting forums I know I haven’t fully priced in the costs. It’s hard to comprehend that quality childcare costs more per year than college tuition.

Further, my husband is a bankruptcy lawyer. I can’t help but worry about injury or chronic illness. Even with good jobs and health insurance, most American families are one health crisis away from bankruptcy. Adding kids multiplies that risk.

I’m apprehensive about the health consequences.

I have a pretty good sense for how my body operates. But I have no visceral sense of what hosting an alien parasite for nine months will do to it. I suspect pregnancy and childbirth will wreak havoc. Endless diet restrictions, throwing up, swelling, weight gain, strange hormones, torn flesh and resulting stitches, weird leaking fluids, sudden depression, pervasive exhaustion – my sisters and close friends have experienced them all. They sound unpleasant.

And those are the medically best-case-scenarios. They assume my husband and I won’t struggle with infertility. Even if we can conceive easily, miscarriages, stillbirths, and other major health complications are omnipresent risks. The U.S. maternal and infant mortality rates are not great (although far worse for women of color). I know too many families who have experienced devastating loss.

Still, billions of women have survived childbirth before me, and odds are I will too. (Inshallah.)

I’m concerned about the career consequences.

For the first 25 years of my life I never dared dream I would have a career. Now I have one, but I have zero confidence it will survive children.

I’ve worked places that seem professional about maternity leave. But I’ve also been in environments where my spine tingled with awareness that announcing a pregnancy would result in me (or any woman) being sidelined or fired. Maybe jobs exist where “family-friendly” is not a marketing lie? But from what I’ve seen in my field, I doubt it.

Even if my job reacts appropriately, there are still pragmatic consequences. Kids mean I can’t perform at the same level of productivity. I need sleep. My body is happiest when I go to bed at 10pm and wake up at 7am. I can’t get nine hours of sleep when I’m waking up every two hours to cradle a screaming child. I can’t be as alert during the workday when my sleep has been so interrupted. I can’t focus in project-mode, ignore rush hour, and lose track of when kids need to be picked up and fed. I can’t stay in the office until midnight to meet a court deadline. And I doubt I’ll be able to put the kids in bed at 8pm and then do a four-hour “mommy shift” like many of my colleagues — I’ll collapse from exhaustion.

Last year I jetsetted across the country multiple times per month. One reason I accepted those assignments was my foreboding sense that I had one shot to prove I was a hard-working and competent team player before kids ruined everything. Maintaining that schedule will not be possible when my doctor is restricting flight, I’m throwing up daily, or I’m breastfeeding.

I know kids will require me to set stronger work-life boundaries. (Which honestly, will probably be a good thing.) But I’m worried those boundaries will decimate my “billable” hours and destroy my professional reputation. I’ve studied too much capitalism, litigated too many civil rights lawsuits, and read too many internet comments to discount the severity of the threat.

I’m petrified about the spiritual consequences.

The “Eternal Marriage” course manual for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints dedicates an entire chapter to “Mother’s Employment Outside the Home.”

The chapter opens with President Hinckley’s famous pronouncement: “It is well-nigh impossible to be a full-time homemaker and a full-time employee.”

That “impossibility” message is etched onto my soul.

It doesn’t matter how many faithful working mothers I have sought out as role models. It doesn’t matter how many children of working mothers I have seen blossom into happy and confident adults. It doesn’t matter how many academic studies and literary summaries I’ve read about a mother’s education and a mother’s career being one of the top global predictors of child success.   It doesn’t matter how active I am in the Aspiring Mormon Women Facebook group. At my core, I’m terrified the moment I have children is the moment I ruin them with my selfish career.

I’m no longer willing to give up my career.

A decade ago I planned on making that sacrifice. (I’ve written about my “Proverbs 31” struggle before.) I made major life decisions based on a hypothetical future family. I never considered law school until late in college when I was single and my professors made clear that my continuing education was their expectation.

I picked one of my cheapest law school options not to avoid debt for debt’s sake, but because it was “unfair to mortgage my future family for my own selfishness.” Since I wasn’t planning on having a career, I refused to expect a future husband to pay off my debt.

Even when I finished law school and found a job at a law firm, I envisioned it as a temporary gig. I had gotten married in the summer of 2012 while studying for the bar exam. I planned to pay off my minimal loans and “play” at being a lawyer for a few years, before God ordered me to give it all up and get pregnant.

Then my first marriage was a disaster. One temple-marriage faith crisis later, I left my ex. During Thanksgiving 2015 I told my friends “This year I’m most grateful for the feminist movement of the 1970s. Thanks to those women, California has no-fault divorce and I have financial independence.”

I will not cede that independence now. I own my own car, for which I nerdily ordered First Amendment license plates. I own my own home, which I happily decorated in red. I refused to change my name when I remarried last year. I maintain 100% separate financial accounts. Most importantly, I love my career. I love the chess game of litigation. I’m proud my skills have made a positive difference.

But still my mind plays a broken record of every General Conference talk and young women’s lesson on motherhood. My ex-husband weaponized those against me. A small piece of me still believes him. The internal dialogue is pervasive: I’m the problem. I’m the workaholic. My ambition is selfish. My career is a distraction “only to get the means for a little more luxury and a few fancier toys.” My income, which at times has been higher than my husband’s, fails to center him in the primary position of provider.

I remember bristling around age sixteen during a lesson about preparing to support our future husbands. I asked why I wasn’t allowed to have my own career goals. The laurel advisor answered: “Because as a woman your responsibility is to sacrifice your own interests so that your children can have a better future than you.”

I couldn’t help but retort: “You mean so my —sons— can have a better future. My daughters will be expected to sacrifice just like me.”

Then I felt guilty. I chided myself for not accepting my divinely gendered role in life. I shouldn’t be tempted by worldly success. I went home and prayed for forgiveness.

Now I’m furious on behalf of my sixteen-year-old self. Darn it, I can be both a good lawyer AND a loving mother. I can be a bubbly redhead who bakes amazing snickerdoodles, AND facilitates loyal litigation teams, AND attends soccer practice, AND crushes my opponents in court. Anyone who tells me otherwise is a liar!

Unless they’re not lying.

Unless women can’t have it all.

Unless any attempt to try will destroy both my family and my career.

Unless my selfishness “will bring upon individuals, communities, and nations the calamities foretold by ancient and modern prophets.”

I’m scared my career is my damnation and bearing children will accelerate my fall. No other success can compensate for failure in the home.

I’m terrified of being trapped.

Kids are a permanent decision. Permanent decisions who will scream they hate me and destroy my furniture while hitting me. They are little monsters I cannot leave. You can’t divorce your children.

I’m terrified of enduring years of exhaustion and pain for a faint hope that functional adults might emerge in the end.

I know the joy is supposed to outweigh their temper tantrums. I know raising developmentally appropriate children is categorically different than a horrible romantic relationship as an adult. But I’m terrified it won’t feel that way.

I’m terrified I’ll fail to be a loving mother because I will so desperately want to run away. I’m scared my only solution short of Child Protective Services charging me with abandonment and neglect will be to emotionally check out. My soul can’t survive being that numb again.

Sometimes I “joke” there’s no way I can have kids until the panic attacks triggered by my prior marriage stop. It’s been five years. They haven’t stopped.

I’m afraid of fear itself.

I’ve always assumed time would heal (it’s certainly helping). That one day I would wake up and suddenly be baby-hungry.

It hasn’t happened. I’m trying to confront the idea it may never happen.

I love playing with kids, but I don’t crave one of my own. Yes, I imagine I will someday convert my exercise room into a nursery and decorate it with dinosaurs. I delight when dogs, children, and other guests visit my home and fill it with life and joy. I smile when I think about posting “Adorable Dialogue by my Four-Year-Old” on my Facebook feed. I want to want to have kids.

But I’m scared. Feeding on that fear is the awareness that my mid-thirties have launched a biological doomsday clock. If I don’t get over my fears soon, it may be too late. The pressure makes it worse.

Yet I have to make a choice. A choice with consequences I can neither know nor predict, except that they will have eternal significance.

I’m terrified.

Comments

  1. I would love to see you have kids in theory.
    I would hate to see you have kids in practicality.

    Unless you both decide to give up a fourth of your jobs and have the other half taken up by other caretakers for the first 6 years.

  2. Your decision on when or if to have children won’t “bring upon individuals, communities, and nations the calamities foretold by ancient and modern prophets.” The “disintegration of the family” will do that. And disintegration of families is happening for many reasons–including governments tearing children away from parents at the border, preventing families from being together through tyrannical deportations, and country-specific immigration bans. If you’re involved in fighting any of that, you are fighting for families.

  3. I was terrified about becoming a mother. I only agreed to start trying because I felt like I was supposed to and my husband was baby-hungry. It was a huge leap of faith. But then two years of struggling to have a kid made me realize that I really *did* want that opportunity. I don’t have that mystical “mother’s intuition” and my husband is better than I’ll ever be with kids. Being scared that your kids will hate you or that you’ll mess them up in some way is very normal. You aren’t alone in that. It’s not an easy road, but it’s been worth it for me. I can’t presume to know if it’ll be worth it for you. But it took me a long time to accept that I wasn’t broken just because I didn’t have all the maternal traits and desires other women seemed to be born with. I’ve always loved this quote by President Ardeth G. Kapp – “When I was young I thought the noblest thing in this life was to be a mother—I have since learned that the best mission in life is the one the Lord has prepared for me.”

  4. A lot of very fine happy people choose never to have kids.
    If you decide you are one of them you can still make a big difference in the life of a child already here.
    Be a mentor or a big sister or take an interest in a kid that could really use someone.

  5. Yep, yep, and yep. I was terrified of motherhood for many of the same reasons:

    https://zelophehadsdaughters.com/2012/02/26/why-i-am-not-a-mother-yet/

  6. Petra, every word you wrote resonates. And at the time you wrote it I hadn’t even started my first marriage.

  7. Have a baby, don’t have a baby. Work, don’t work, work part-time, parent however feels most natural should you decide to have a child. The bummer thing about this thought exercise is you never know how it truly is to have a child until you actually do have one. Lack of sleep really is rough. So rough until either you get used to it or the baby starts sleeping through the night. Sleep is really sweet bliss. A newborn is a magical, amazing and terrifying being. Babies and kids are the best! And the worst! I am pretty sure I loved my years home with babies and small kids and I know I love these years with kids in school and me going back to school and working and balancing it all happily with a great parenting partner in my husband. It can be done. But you also don’t have to if you come to decide it’s just not for you. You have permission to go either way. Good luck!

  8. “The chapter opens with President Hinckley’s famous pronouncement: “It is well-nigh impossible to be a full-time homemaker and a full-time employee.””

    Now having several families to observe close up, including my own and three adult children with multiple careers, I believe President Hinckley was right that it is well-nigh impossible to have it all, but wrong to put all the burden on the homemaker. As a rule-of-thumb I expect a couple dedicated to work and family have between them 70-80 hours per week to devote to work outside, i.e., for someone other than the immediate family. Maybe more once school begins. There are numerous ways to divide up the 70-80 hours, but except for the boundary case where one person works outside and the other stays home full-time, there also has to be substantial flexibility. Two 9-5 jobs that might work by hour count are very difficult to manage in real practical life.

    Having been there myself, I would suggest that two high-demand legal careers are very difficult to fit into a single budget of 80 hours per week.

  9. Yeah, it’s terrifying.

    I’m a lady lawyer, and I had my children at ages 34, 36 and 38. I am now 47, and those kids are now 9, 11 and 13. Tomorrow, they’re getting themselves off to school because I’m leaving at 6:00 a.m. to get to a breakfast meeting. They do that pretty well.

    My career down-sized with motherhood, but honestly, I was relieved. I wasn’t as ambitious as you seem to be. In my late 20s and early 30s, when I didn’t have children, I resented the assumption that I could work into the evening every day, and work weekends, just because I didn’t have children. I didn’t have the courage to say I wanted some evenings and weekends to myself. Now that I have children, I cheerfully use them as the reason I don’t work evenings and weekends. I got a government job with paid vacation, paid sick days and I leave at 5:00 every evening. I like my job. I also like that my job doesn’t consume my whole life.

    I love my children. I like that motherhood doesn’t consume my whole life. It’s the Church’s rhetoric that this is the be-all and end-all of your existence that causes some of the angst. Petra – I agree with the sentiments in your post. I down-sized my expectations for motherhood. I am not the ideal Mormon mother. For example, we don’t have family dinner. I have a cleaning lady instead of making my children clean the house with me. We also quit going to Church.

    I’m old enough now that I don’t care that I can’t have it all. I don’t want it all.

    I’m not projecting onto you. It’s clear from the way you talk about your career that you have dedication and ambition that I didn’t have, not even before I had children. Make the decision that fits your life. You’ll have people who try to guilt trip you no matter what you decide to do. You’ll also have people who will support you no matter what you decide to do.

    Best wishes with the decision.

  10. Your concerns are totally valid. Having said that, you can still be you, and be a mother. But, yes, your life will not be the same afterwards. Different doesn’t have to be bad, just different. I’m pretty sure that your relatives would already say you are a good mother. I know I consider my children’s aunts (single and married) some of the best mother figures they have in their lives.

    Ultimately, it is an act of faith to have a permanent additional family member, but there are so many ways to have a new family member come into your life. Let the Lord know all of your troubles and let Him personally lead you in your journey. There’s more than one way to be a mother. It’s hard to separate religious/cultural expectation from decision making, in fact we often have to be willing to let go of them to find the right answer. It’s seriously nobody else’s business, just yours and Bradley’s.

  11. Lacking an edit button, let me retract my use of “rule-of-thumb.” A regretful and unfortunate reference in any context and this one especially.

  12. Nancy Hong says:

    Hi Caroline, not sure if you remember little me from 10 years ago, but having just gone through much of this, I feel impressed to brainstorm with you.
    Reading through this it seems there’s a core theme of control. Maybe the question becomes, “who has control of my life?”
    Is it you? Your career? The LDS church? That laurel leader? Your ex? Your current (amazingly loving) husband? Is it God?
    Having our child last year and after a series of events, I lost control of everything. Essentially lost my personal time, lost my career, lost flexibility to meet friends, lost the ability to freely give without worry, and now am simply a stay at home mom. Fulfilling that “divine roll” is honestly slightly suffocating right now.
    But at the end of each day I decide to find my identity in God and trust He has control. My perspective changes when I remember that God has given me time. So many examples in the Bible of women not having children until they were older and embracing that time when it came to them. Sarah, Rachel, Hannah, Elizabeth, off the top of my head. My mother-in-law is another beautiful example to me. She’s now pursuing her life goals and her current age makes her no less capable.
    I’ll finish with this last thought that in the same way God crested our female bodies to carry and nourish children, He created children to learn and grow in all circumstances. I’m surprised every day how independent she already is at 1 yr old. After all my daughter doesn’t belong to me, but to God who created her.
    So who do you give control to?

  13. I remember you, and I love this dash of wisdom. Thanks for giving me thoughts to ponder.

  14. Thank you for writing this. I’m in a similar position- been married a few years, settling into my career, and now constantly feeling like I should want to have kids and wondering what’s wrong with me that I’m not quite there yet. I’ve been musing on and agonizing over this for months and I really appreciate knowing that someone else gets it.

  15. Fear makes it so difficult to make good choices.

    Do you think you could work on letting go of the fear – for either decision? Let go of the fear that if you don’t have kids now/ever your life will be ruined. Let go of the fear that if you do have kids now/someday, your life will be ruined.

    I don’t suggest that’s easy and it may take a lot of work and some time. But when I’ve been in similar situations where either option terrifies me I’ve found that addressing the fears first allows me to then identify and follow through with what I really want and what’s right for me and make decisions based on what I do want rather than what I want to avoid.

    I honestly think either way you can live a beautiful life and once you can believe that too you can choose which beautiful life you want to create.

  16. There is this pervasive assumption that little bundles of joy will be developmentally-typical bundles of joy. No where does anyone whisper the genetic odds of Junior needing extra special resources for extra special needs–at least not in the YW lessons that I sat through. And I’m not just talking financial needs–although those can be hefty. The emotional weight of raising special kids, particularly in the LDS community, is crushing. What are the chances that neurologically, physically, or emotionally _extra_ babies are yours to parent and love unconditionally? How will that figure into your planning? Does the picture change when your theoretical middle schooler can only function at a grade school level or a preschool level? What about when your special needs kiddo is a young 20 something and claims to want kids of their own?

    RBG has the best parenting advice I’ve ever come across. That said, parenting can be darker and scarier and crappier than anyone ever tells you. You develop Stockholm syndrome, so whatever. I’d die and eat poo for my kiddos any day. I’d go to the mat for them, and do every darn hour some days. But would I chose to do this now that my eyes are opened? LOL.

    Your concerns are valid, and your list is not exhaustive.

  17. Elisa: that’s part of why I wrote this, to try and work through it. I’m usually not afraid of much and so this paralyzing fear is foreign to me and I’m trying to figure out how to get rid of it. Because I think I DO want kids, if I can get the fear to go away.

  18. Billy Possum says:

    Carolyn,

    I do not envy your choice (and I’m a man, so there’s that). The vivid way you’ve described the perils of both horns of this dilemma reminds me of the way people speak of faith crises. It all feels very “damned if I do, damned if I don’t.” And that is paralyzing and terrifying.

    But no god I can imagine (and certainly not an unconcerned universe, if that’s all there is) would fault you for making the best choice you can, given the information you have at the time and your obvious desire to do the right thing (not just the easy thing). As we’re increasingly coming to realize, doing the right thing is much more complex than resigning one’s will to become a mindless obedience pump. I know nothing I say mollifies you in this choice, but I hope you can recognize when you’re doing the best you can. It sure looks that way to me.

  19. Kevin Barney says:

    I thought the last line of your post was going to be a pregnancy announcement …

    My two children, a man and a woman, are about your age. I strongly suspect neither is inclined to have children. My gift to them is to shut the hell ip about it; it is completely their call.

    There are two female partners on my law office who have recently had children. They’re making it work, but it’s hard. Both have parents either living with them or close by, in addition to day care. But it is still very difficult to make a hard charging legal career work with children. One of my partners told me that her child has taken to screaming whenever she leaves the room. So yeah, it’s doable, but yeah, it’s hard.

  20. Wondering says:

    I hesitate to comment; I have previously sometimes managed to mess up discussions of women’s issues. I don’t want to do that again.
    But some parts of what Carolyn wrote and Amy added to are not issues unique to women. For whatever it’s worth, some men are also terrified of having children. Some even fear marriage — in part because there may be children. I’ve seen the reasons for such male terror include fear of career consequences, fear of financial consequences, fear of spousal relationship consequences, and fearing that “the moment I have children is the moment I ruin them…” by being an inadequate father incapable of meeting their emotional and developmental needs. I cannot confidently generalize from my small observational and experiential sample, but I suspect even such fears as are not unique to women may be more common to women in our society.
    But still, while I don’t think there is any one-size-fits-all way to deal with such fears, I have wondered:
    (a) whether it may be that for some the most effective way to deal with the fear might be to search for and identify his/her deepest desire (whether finding it is attributed to self-examination or to answer to prayer) and whether the possibility of achieving that desire is personally worth the risk that pursuing it will not turn out as hoped (maybe another matter of self-examination or confidence in a perceived answer to prayer); and
    (b) whether the advice Harold B. Lee’s gave a grandson wanting direction about career and marriage choices has any application — by analogy or otherwise:

    “He … said, ‘Alan, I think you worry too much about the future.’ …
    My grandfather would say to me, ‘Don’t live too far into the future. Live for today.’ He would say, ‘Survey large fields and cultivate small ones. Do the good that is right before you.’ ‘Live for today, and let the Spirit guide you to do the good you can today. Don’t live too far into the future.’ …”

  21. I’m sorry you’re facing this dilemma, Carolyn. This is tangential to your main point, but I wish we lived in a world where you didn’t have to work crazy long hours and travel constantly to show that you’re a dependable team player in the first place.

  22. Carolyn, that makes sense. And of course I don’t have any great advice on getting rid of fears other than to sit with them for a while and visualize and accept various outcomes—which this post seems to be doing. Maybe therapy.

    FWIW, I am a mom of four and full-time lawyer and always have been. Every situation is different and there’s no question having children impacts a career but I’ve been quite happy and successful. In fact, a few things that at the time seemed like sacrifices in my career because of family have turned out to be super beneficial—I was interested in going into academia but during the time I should have been pursuing fellowships and in fact was offered one I was in the thick of having babies so I couldn’t turn down the 18 weeks of paid maternity leave. (Now, I could have made it work if I *really* wanted to, but it wasn’t worth it to me at the time). But my career has turned out better than I could have imagined in ways I never could have planned and I’m actually really glad I didn’t switch tracks when I otherwise might have. That said, I won’t deny that parenting is incredibly hard for me and I often wish I had fewer kids (although of course couldn’t pick which ones I’d forego …).

    I’m not going to argue with you about whether your fears are factually accurate because they are your fears (I just wanted to add a bit about the lawyer thing since I feel like there were a lot of scary comments about that piece), and I don’t think that’s what you intended with this post, and I certainly don’t have any interest in influencing your decision. But some on your list are certainly on the worst-case-scenario extreme and not my personal experience.

  23. Becky Valentine says:

    What Amy said. I would advise to not allow fear to drive your life. Meditate, fast, pray… talk to Bradley. Work it out. There is always adoption. There are cleaning ladies. There are nannies. It could be crazy but also crazy good. When you look back on your life what do you want your legacy to be? Only you know this… You do so much good for your clients, for the world, btw.

  24. Its ok to not want to have children, and its ok to actually not have children. Having kids and a career IS as hard as you could imagine, and more, but you don’t have to do both. And yes, daycare costs more than college tuition. I paid it for 6 years. We bought a new car every time a kid left daycare and went to kindergarten. Also, and this is really hard to remember because they don’t present it this way, but the church teaches the “ideal” and for a lot of people, that whole thing just does not work. I was a stay at home mom for 7 years in my first marriage and I was undiagnosed clinically depressed the entire time. When I got divorced, I went back to finish my undergrad and then went to law school as a single mom with 3 kids, which I do not recommend to anyone, but I did it. I then married a non-member whom I met in law school. He is 10 years younger than I am and we have 2 more kids. I go to church, he doesn’t. And nothing in my life fits the “ideal”, but I am happy. Exhausted, but happy. And on a lot of mental health meds, but that is another story. If I could do it all over again and be true to the 16 year old girl I was, I would have not gone on a mission and gone straight from undergrad graduation into law school and then moved to Washington D.C., children very much not a part of the future plans. Feeling guilty about not wanting to have children is absolutely not the right reason to have a kid. No one should be making you feel guilty about not having kids either. Its none of their business. And your life doesn’t have to fit some “mormon mold” to be valid or worthy. Who you are and what you want are ok and good. They are not “less than” simply because they are different than the script we were all inundated with from birth forward. Its really hard to turn that script off too. Plus, you are right about being a lawyer, having kids will kill either your career or you. Its one of the only professions left where it seems to still be common practice to totally discriminate against women who want to work less than 80 hours a week to be home with their family. Its ok to be who you are and what you want.

  25. Ok ok sorry but I just need to repeat it: I am a lawyer with four kids. I worked at a large law firm for almost 10 years and now in-house. I know dozens of women lawyers with children who are happy in their families and their careers. That’s obviously not everyone’s experience and I respect those on the thread who have had different experiences but to say that being a lawyer and a mom will wreck your career and life does not reflect my reality or the reality of many of my friends and is honestly not helpful.

  26. Thanks for being vulnerable. I was you six years ago. My wife was struggling with infertility and we decided to adopt. I was terrified. I worried about how it would impact my career, her career, everything. Then it happened. We adopted a child. I lost my job three months after that and decided to stay at home and watch him. I found another job that allowed me to work from home. Three years later my wife got pregnant from in vitro and we had our second. We made things work as circumstances arose.

    I don’t regret a thing. It has changed my life for the better. It helped me slow down in life, change my perspective on things. Yes there are risks, but it is a risk worth taking. Worst case scenarios that you paint are pretty rare and I haven’t experienced any of them.

  27. I was always afraid I was going to wreck the kid.

  28. This post resonated with me. When I was in law school and newly married, I had no intention of starting a family until I was settled into my career. But when I hit my last semester, both my husband and I felt strongly prompted to start our family. I had to work through a lot of big feelings because having a baby that soon wasn’t part of my plan. But we figured it would take us time to get pregnant because we had both been told by separate doctors that we would struggle with infertility . . . and then we got pregnant right away with a baby that was due smack dab in the middle of my federal clerkship. It was one of the hardest transitions of my life (it didn’t help I only got three weeks of maternity leave). But that baby (now 4) has taught me so much. Since then, I have worked full-time at a law firm and later dropped down to about 25–30 billable hours per week when I had my second. As hard as it has been, I’ve found that for me, balancing parenthood with work is rewarding. Hard, but rewarding.

    Has having kids and dropping down in hours affected my career? Undoubtedly. But I haven’t been written off entirely. Before I dropped down in hours, like you, I worked hard to be super responsive and a go-to person for various partners at my firm (admittedly, I was strategic and tried to work with partners who also primarily work with female attorneys that have children). When I had my second and dropped down in hours, those partners were super supportive. I’ve found that as long as I am responsive and do my best to continue to deliver excellent work product, I still have respect and value at the firm. My career, while on a slower trajectory, hasn’t been decimated. Granted, I’ve also had to work through the feelings of guilt and “failure” associated with that (that is, it seems like in the law, one is failing if they aren’t outworking everyone else). But I have come to realize that slowing down with work has helped me to find greater enjoyment in what I do.

    I wish you the best with this decision. Whatever you choose, you have an infinite capacity to do good no matter what roles you take on in your life.

  29. Everything is hard.
    Having kids is hard. Not having them is hard, just in a different way.
    Having a great career is hard. Not having one is hard too.
    Being married is hard. Not being married is hard.

    Choose which kind of hard you’d like to deal with wisely.
    And don’t fall for the trap that anyone else’s life is easier just because they made a different choice.

  30. Bro. Jones says:

    I’m terrified of having kids–and I have two. I constantly worry what I’m screwing up, each and every day. I miss my pre-kids body (and I’m a guy), I miss my sleep, I miss flexibility and all kinds of things. This is supposed to be the part where I say “And I wouldn’t trade it for anything!” But really it depends on the moment–ask me after a terrible day and I’ll absolutely consider alternate timelines where things were different.

    But they’re alive and I’m alive and they’re generally pleasant creatures. I’m grateful in a twisted way, and it doesn’t matter anyway because I don’t know how things could be different.

    @Amy: Amen, hugs, love, and recognition. The last time someone at church asked me if my “eternal family was complete” I said, “Yeah, my special needs kid is like having 6 kids at once, so that gives me 7 kids and we’re complete thanks.”

  31. If sacrifice were easy it wouldn’t be sacrifice. Give your life to Christ and he will help shoulder any burden that comes your way.

  32. After a lot of thought and prayer, my wife and I finally made the hard decision not to have kids. We’re going to tell them tonight.

  33. nobody, really says:

    Bryan:
    The Gospel Doctrine class is currently meeting in the Relief Society room, since that’s where the padded seats are. Your smug and superior answers will be better received there.

    (I have a hard time with people who say, explicitly or implicitly, “If you were only as righteous as I am, you wouldn’t have any problems in your life. Who sinned, this person or their parents, that they would have issues?”

  34. nobody, really:
    You misinterpret my message and intent. I am merely sharing some thoughts I think might help.
    Best,
    Bryan

  35. Carolyn: I think something I wrote 7 years ago will resonate with you: http://www.dovesandserpents.org/wp/2013/03/parenthood-juggle-how-i-became-a-mormon-female-executive/

    My own ambivalence about having children was mostly because I didn’t have a lot of experience with kids. I didn’t have good instincts about children. I once babysat for a six pack. I’m not sure if it’s more appalling that I did that or that the parents agreed to it.

    My view on your situation is that your first marriage is stuck in your head, and he used the Church’s (mostly outdated and harmful) views as weapons to control your choices. They make excellent weapons to control women, so that’s not surprising. But your current marriage is nothing like that (nor is mine). I suspect you’ve married one of those actual partners in life, the person willing to meet you and share the burden at every turn, who will make sure your hopes and dreams aren’t ground down in the daily, relentlessness of parenting. He will be right there next to you, co-parenting and helping to ensure the house doesn’t descend into madness.

    Unlike you, perhaps, I did have a career in a company that truly did walk the talk about women. I wasn’t punished for maternity leaves, and people were supportive of parents, but again, that’s because my husband was sharing that burden. They’ve even instituted equal paternity leave now, which is exactly what was needed to quit making it a “woman” problem. To reiterate: it’s utterly impossible to have a successful career (and the financial independence that comes with it) when your husband won’t pony up at home. It’s not fair, and it’s unacceptable in my opinion. If the church could make one change that would radically improve the lives of women, this is the one I’d pick: to preach full marriage equality, not “separate but equal.” But I don’t think you’re in that situation anyway.

    As to the quality of marriage, will these kids cockblock you? Yep. Will they barf, pee and poop on your dry clean only wardrobe? You bet. Will they complain they are bored and that there’s nothing to eat to the point that you become practically homicidal? Probably. They will also make you laugh and bring you and your co-parent closer, even if you are just staring at them with raised eyebrows, shocked that they can still shock you with their weird behavior.

    I have many friends who never had kids and are truly happy with their decision. Whenever it’s early morning seminary, I envy the hell out of them. But your kids are something special, too. They are enough like you that you really understand each other in a way you can’t achieve with other people, but they are different enough that you learn to love people who baffle you, who are familiar but surprising all at once. Careers give you insight, and so does parenting.

  36. Dustin Phelps says:

    It’s interesting to me that so many people see marriage or kids as an oppressive burden. As if the only reason that we were taught to care about kids and marriage is because some old male idiots thought it would keep women occupied so the men could rule the world. How about considering that marriage and kids are the most important thing a person will ever do because no kids means that you are biologically wiped off the face of the Earth. Forget about what God’s opinion may or may not be. Just from an evolutionary perspective, there is literally nothing more important than passing on your DNA and your spirit to a generation that will succeed you. Kids can be tough. They come with consequences for the ultra individualistic fantasy world we’ve grown to love. But there is nothing more fulfilling, than sacrificing so that others may live. There is nothing like engaging in an ancient dance that is the path to biological Eternal Life (to say nothing of the spiritual version). There is nothing like knowing that in your old age you’ll have devoted friends and cute grand kids. So, yeah, all this stuff about how bodies will change, careers will never be the same, etc. is just so divorced from the physical and spiritual realities that were so obvious to humans until the recent era. It’s time for a reality check.

  37. Charlene Ahn says:

    Oh man, a lot of this resonates with me. I agree with a lot of what Angela C wrote. I am lucky enough to have a career in a company that is supportive of my having a family, and my husband is supportive as well. I wouldn’t give up my career for my kids, but no one has asked me to do that. (I do work 75% time, by my own choice.)

    A couple of additional things:

    Marriage is tough with small kids, but once they start doing super cute things it does (as Angela says) bring you and your co-parent closer together, at least that’s how it has worked for me. My sister’s experience was different and their marriage nearly imploded, in large part because their communication skills were… not great, but they were able to recover through marriage therapy. Be aware that marriage therapy is a great option!

    I think it’s absolutely true what President Hinckley says: “It is well-nigh impossible to be a full-time homemaker and a full-time employee.” That’s why we delegate! We have paid nannies, day-care, after-school programs, house cleaner, and/or lawn service companies at different points (and sometimes the same point) in this journey. My children never want to come home from their day-care, which is muuuuuch better at providing enrichment than I would be even if I quit my job. There’s simply no reason one has to try to be a full-time homemaker and a full-time employee, and I’d honestly advise against it (that’s when you start resenting your husband for only doing one of the two).

    I would also advise looking at what the chances are that you will have a kid who has special needs. Some special needs no one can see ahead of time or plan for, but if you have (for example) a lot of spectrum-y people or ADHD people in your families, you should think about the chance that it’ll appear in your children and how you feel about that. My whole family seems to be on the spectrum and half of my husband’s is, too (I probably am, though undiagnosed; he is not) and one of our children is on the spectrum (high-functioning) as well. It’s fine for us but it was a lot of work, particularly when she was younger and had frequent meltdowns. I don’t know how I would have handled a low-functioning child; I don’t know that I would have been a good parent to such a child. (Of course I would like to think I would be, but I don’t know.)

  38. I’m surprised by some of the responses on here, in that many talk of how hard it is to have kids and how Carolyn doesn’t need to choose to have them. This is correct. Kids are hard and of course, if you don’t want to have kids don’t feel obligated. Then there are the responses I was expecting: you need to have kids, it is God’s will, etc.

    I will add this: having kids is not necessarily as hard as you might think. One is easier than two, two easier than three, and so on and so forth (some say that after three you don’t notice, but I find that hard to believe especially when it comes to the pocketbook). It is possible that you have a special needs kid. If so, you deal with what you have and learn to find joy how you can. I actually find many who have had special needs kids to be incredible people who have amazing perspectives on life and consider the special needs child to be a blessing. But most kids aren’t special needs kids. One thing I noticed after I had kids that I never thought of before was that it enabled me to connect with other mothers and fathers. Much like going to college enables a connection with others who have gone to college that is hard to achieve if you haven’t gone to college and are trying to connect with those who have gone, such it is with parenthood. The thing is, is that most adults are parents. It is just what people do, they have kids. If you choose not to have kids, you’ll find yourself struggling to find connections with other adults in what many regard as one of the important aspects of their lives.

    Now, I think that Carolyn should have a child or two. But if she chooses not to, that is a choice we should respect. Her not choosing to have kids is not going to impact the world population, rest assured. Overpopulation is far more of a challenge right now, and will be for the foreseeable future, than declining population. Of course, some regions of the world are indeed affected by a declining populations, and that isn’t good either. But at least in the US, we have immigrants to help with population replacement. Japan and South Korea are in a much more difficult situation, for their cultures are simply not nearly as accepting of foreign immigrants and naturalization than we are in the US.

  39. For the record, I know a lot of people have interpreted this as saying I don’t want kids. That’s not accurate. I WANT kids, but I’m terrified, and I don’t want to make major life decisions based on terror. In most of my life I’m confident, so this paralyzing fear is really weird.

    What I’m looking for is empathy, others’ wise experiences, and the best tips for getting over fear.

  40. With our belief in the pre-mortal existence of spirits we can all have fun speculating how terrified our kids must be at the prospect of being born into our families. My hunch is that it would be equal to or greater than any terror we might feel at the prospect of having them.

  41. A Turtle Named Mack says:

    Carolyn- Let me just say that I think each of your concerns is quite valid. I have children, and I think you’re right to be terrified. Sometimes these fears are realized, sometimes they turn out to be a non-issue, and usually there are just other things that we should have been worried about but didn’t anticipate. But if you do decide to have children, your thoughtfulness about the pitfalls and consequences of having and parenting children makes me think you would be pretty good at it. It’s the parents who don’t see those things, or who don’t tremble with fear, who often just don’t do it very well.

  42. Michelle Linford says:

    “I WANT kids, but I’m terrified, and I don’t want to make major life decisions based on terror. ” It sounds like you already know what you want. To me, the fear is *hindering* you doing what you want. in other words, the life decision you are making in terror is to not follow that deeper feeling of wanting to take the leap. So if you want to not make decisions based in terror, take that leap. That’s how I am seeing what you are saying, but I could be wrong. “Courage is not the absence of fear, but rather the assessment that something else is more important than fear.” I think there are many of us who didn’t feel suited to motherhood and who feared the future etc. But in reality, you are no less likely to have other major life events that could effect your career, your finances, your marriage, etc. Life stressors have a way of coming whether we plan for them or not.
    It’s scary to plan for having a child where you know it will impact your life. But it will impact your life in ways you can’t imagine. I had no idea the depth of so many things that motherhood would bring and the joy (and struggle, sure) having children would bring.

    I didn’t realize I really could do the mom thing until I did it. And all along the way, things have unfolded to help me also keep my pre-mom self alive, too. God is good at guiding us through each step at a time. You aren’t alone in the fear, and are even less alone in the leap of faith. My babies are launching now and nothing matters to me more than being their mom, even though I was one of those non-natural mother types.

    I’ve said a prayer that you will feel guidance in this decision. Fear is brutal, but sometimes it’s just in moving forward in faith that fear can take more of a back seat, or at least not be driving all the time. :)

  43. Have you considered seeking counseling for your terror? If this is truly your stumbling block then talking it through with a counselor might help.

    My husband used to express similar fears, and when I looked into why he might be having fear, it seemed like counseling might be in order. It all worked out for us since we are infertile.

  44. In my view, having kids is like dropping in on a vert ramp—there’s no way to experience the sensation without doing it, once you commit there’s no turning back, and the odds are high that you will end up flat on your back on the bottom. At least for me, the decision was inherently scary; only stepping back from the coping and climbing down or just going for it and getting used to what was a very unnatural series of movements changed that feeling.

  45. Latam girl says:

    I’m sitting here watching Clone Wars with my two tweens (well obviously I’m not watching it since I’m writing this) and thinking how much I enjoy being a mom, working full-time (40 hour weeks with great benefits and leave options) in a field I love, grateful to share it with my husband who works as well. We’ve had nannies, housekeepers, etc from time to time and it’s made all the difference. Our children are relatively healthy and doing well in their lives. We’ve had normal challenges but nothing heavy. I was terrified as well but we both knew we wanted children so we dove in. You get about nine months to get used to the idea. You figure it out, with prayer and thought and division of labor, it all works out.

  46. Kevin Barney says:

    To me it seems that perhaps the biggest fear is career related. So my thought is this: as you start your new job, keep your eyes open, talk to mothers who work there, get a concrete feel for what it would be like to be a mother there in your practice group. If you can get past that issue, I think the other stuff is probably easier to get deal with.

  47. My friend told me that he was much happier before he became a father, but he wouldn’t want to live in a world without his daughter in it. That sums it up pretty well for me. I was happier before, but I love the little buggers.

    I’m a working mom (75% time, environmental consulting). Daycare is worth every penny, and yes, costs more than our mortgage. I always thought I would have three kids but we decided to stop at two – a trade off my husband and I are making between our family and our careers and our limited budget.

    Best of luck to you, whatever you decide.

  48. Perhaps the writer of this piece has already made her decision. Maybe her fear comes from realizing this. When she called being pregnant, “hosting an alien parasite for nine months,” that closed the case for me. If these are her true feelings about having children, she shouldn’t have any. I have met way to many unhappy Mothers and children to suggest she just try it and see. Accept your feelings and let it go. People agree not everyone is suited personality wise to be a lawyer, a nurse, a mechanic, a teacher, etc. Then why should everyone be parent??

  49. People who aren’t afraid to have children haven’t really thought about it. Best of luck.

  50. Jenny H: I think it’s a bit harsh to write off Carolyn as a mother for rightly describing a pregnancy as parasitic. A fetus is literally a parasite, living off the mother’s body. That’s just scientific fact. I don’t think it means she’s not suited to be a mother, or at least my kids wouldn’t agree that it made me an unfit mother. I said it all the time. I still say it. Some people romanticize pregnancy and babies, and others just have a different temperament. I can love my kids and still identify that they are occasionally a-holes. But I was never able to consider my pregnancies people until they were born. Before that, they felt more like an illness than a human.

  51. Latam girl says:

    Jenny H. I agree with Angela’s comment. Alien means foreign, unknown. And even though I had super easy pregnancies (compared to others I’ve heard about), it still felt foreign, unknown, and my body was no longer my own. Yet I still wanted kids and if I weren’t working full-time and had stated earlier I would have wanted a couple more.

  52. You’ll be happier if you have children and you’ll never wish that they didn’t exist. It’s almost certain that far “worse” parents (in terms of temperament, health, wealth, etc) than you raised children who were happy to be alive and owe their very existence to their seemingly ‘unfit’ parents.

    If you truly don’t think so, best not to expose you pathologies to another generation.

    But I’m guessing you’ll not only be fine but your entire family and future children will be better for it. The primary purpose of your biology and that of your husband is to procreate. Not to blog, or to work, recreate, or to appreciate nature (whose own primary purpose is to reproduce after it’s own kind).

    Consider the harsh realities of innumerable barren planets devoid of life across the galaxy and our own, teeming with life, every generation of it reproducing unto the next.

    Plants and animals endure all the harshness of the natural world, seemingly bent on both their destruction and sustenance. Predators, genetic ‘defects’, invasive species, harsh winters, famines, etc. Wars, disease, malevolence, and so on. And yet life continuing through reproductive procreation is what makes this world glorious.

    Rise up to your nature and take on the burdens that you acknowledged with your eyes open to the incomprehensibly beautiful, yet fallen state of this world. You are up to the challenge, because you are here. This world is a miraculous gift and life is so much what you imagine as personal or professional fulfillment now.

  53. Angela C, I ignored the parasite comment as indicative of intellectual sophistry meets lack of wisdom and maturity. But most of all it’s just stupid, misplaced, poetic hyperbole.

    That you defend it as accurate, is just ignorant. The human body is designed to reproduce. It’s virtually one of, if not the core functions. Right down to the cellular level. When a mother reproduces another human within the womb, that’s not a foreign parasite. It’s bone of her bone and flesh of her flesh.

    The only thing parasitic about it is the twisted pathology that latches onto the intellect and propagates through sophomoric, pseudo-intellectual argument to persuade man or woman to act contrary to their primary purpose.

  54. I think Carolyn should have kids because we need more people like her on this planet.

  55. Aww thanks Angela.

    Also, I know tone is hard to come through in writing from people who don’t know me, but the “alien parasite” was meant in a wry tongue-in-cheek-but-also-kinda-true tone.

  56. I second Angela. Carolyn sounds like a very conscientious person who is looking out for the best in others. That’s why she’s nervous about having kids. She’d make an excellent mother and we need more mothers like her.

  57. I think if you’re that worried about ruining a child you are the best candidate to be a parent. So many people behave as if it’s a non-decision and aren’t thoughtful at all about parenting or the needs of their child. I’ve dealt with them in primary for the last 30 years and it isn’t very pleasant.

    And viewing a fetus as a parasite is silly and wry and also rather true.

  58. Put me also firmly in the Carolyn should have kids camp. Is it easy? No. But she knows that already.

    It is, without question, the most fun I’ve ever had. (It’s the most a-lot-of-other-things too.)

    Carolyn, you’re going into this with clearer eyes and more wisdom than most. I predict it would be a big net win for the marriage, too. Was for mine.

    Whatever you decide, I’m a fan.

  59. It’s a tough world to have kids in, this modern society we’ve created. It is designed to create the very fears you have. I’m not belittling them, they are real. I had kids late… my wife and I were both in our late 30s when we had two, one via IVF. It has been the hardest thing I’ve ever done. It has been very disruptive to my career, and certainly my wife’s, but we’ve had the financial means to be ok. But, I’ve never experienced so much joy as I have in raising my kids. I’ve never thought that anything else I could be doing would be as important. I love them and having them. I’ve had too many people die in my life to not undo some of that the only way I know how, to raise good children.

    I like snowboarding, but curiously, I am afraid of being up at the top of a tall, steep run. It’s terrifying. But then I muster the ability to go down and I’m like “nailed it!”. It will never not be terrifying to go down a harder hill. Having kids is that next, harder, terrifying hill in life. It’s made me a better person, closer to God, closer to other family, and despite the complications, I believe it’s made me better professionally.

    Beyond that I don’t know what else to say.

  60. Karly Mather says:

    I love you Carolyn. I’ve learned through my life that Heavenly Father has a different plan for each of us. He loves you and he loves that you are using your gifts to constantly fight for families. Your passion for what you do is something I’ve always looked up to. The decision is between you, your husband, and God, not your laurel adviser, any church leader, or phantoms from the past. My cousin decided to be a stay at home dad because his wife was in a similar career situation as you. Their kids are almost teenagers now and I believe their family is living Heavenly Father’s plan for them just as you will be regardless of what you decide. Live close to the spirit and you will make the right choice.

    Thanks for posting this, I’m sure many women can relate and are happy to hear they aren’t alone in their struggles.

    P.S. If you do have kids, they would be brilliant, and be raised by some of the most compassionate, levelheaded, experienced, and wonderful people I know!

  61. Thanks, Carolyn for your honesty and vulnerability. I have two small children and was terrified to bring both of them in the world. Thanks to a supportive husband, the gospel, and years of therapy, my fears have slightly diminished but are still there.

    Also, the parasite comment makes sense to me and it doesn’t end when they’re born. In infancy, they painfully latch (or don’t) and leave you chapped and sometimes bitten.

  62. You sound very selfish. Selflessness is the key to your issues. No one knows how things are going to be with marriage or children, but you trust in the Lord and do the best you can. I had a child pass away 4 and a half years ago, she was supposed to be our last child. We didn’t know she was going to die in our arms before she born. I fully trust in the Lord in taking her from us. There was a purpose for it. My wife and I decided to try have another child after her passing and we were blessed with another child. I love my kids more than anything and I wouldn’t trade anything not to have them. Humble yourself and good luck to you.

  63. Californian says:

    Aaron – the irony of your rude comment about Carolyn being “selfish” blows my mind. Every pregnancy, labor, delivery, and post-partum recovery puts a woman’s life at risk. Women die all over this planet due to childbirth complications. If you read the OP carefully, you would have seen Carolyn is well aware of the U.S. maternal and infant mortality rates.

    We don’t know which wife will die in her husband’s arms while trying to bring a child into this world. All women and their partners should be terrified of what could happen. This is the very real risk your wife took again to have another baby after your child passed on. Males don’t ever have to put their lives on the line to grow a new life in their bodies and then birth the baby and “recover” . Why don’t you think what it would mean for you if you were female? Humble yourself and try to comprehend the life-threatening commitment required by all mothers.

  64. But Californian–Can’t you see that Aaron’s comment is coming from a place of great pain and loss? For someone who has lost a child, or who wanted children desperately, went through perhaps years of effort and sacrifice to have one (or maybe never was able to have one) and is still grieving, a post like this and many of the comments can be be very triggering. Yes, his comment is very rough and harsh, but extending a hand of compassion and extra patience knowing what he’s been through, rather than coming back at him just as harshly, would go a long way IMO.

  65. Thank you for sharing Carolyn. I’m at a transition point in my life and struggling to let go of ideas about motherhood that I should have let go of years ago that were planted in my mind from well meaning, but very wrong YW leaders and other loving people in my life. It is tricky. I see echoes of this struggle in what you write and appreciate your perspective.

    Children have an amazing ability to adapt, and frankly all of us do, no matter our age. I find a lot of comfort in that.

  66. Fear of child birthing and child rearing is natural, but I’m reminded of the scripture “if you are prepared, ye shall not fear.” I know that’s a broad sentiment, but I think it’s good doctrine. If we’re prepared — to die in case of child birth, of sacrifice and mistakes in case of child rearing — then our fears will hopefully subside and we’ll confidently accept whatever the Lord’s got in store for us. There is no doubt we’re made to reproduce, it’s the natural order of things, part of the plan of salvation, etc. I would lean towards child birthing/rearing as long as mother and father are physically and mentally healthy. This kind of issue falls along the lines of “is the gospel for everyone?” Of course it is, but there will be some exceptions. I can’t say when one put’s too much thought into these kinds of things, because as often occurs, you can get analysis paralysis. After you’ve studied it out in your mind and made it a matter of prayer, then move confidently forward with whatever decision you make.

  67. Parenting really isn’t that tough. You just have to remember that every person that gives advice on this issue is likely wrong… including me.

  68. Other considerations are of course whether it is morally sound to bring a child into this world. No matter how supportive and nurturing your parenting is, your child will suffer – perhaps unbearably. Why risk the chance that your child will live a miserable and painful life? Or inflict misery and pain onto others? There are many many depressed and anxious children and it is becoming worse.

  69. Carolyn, to feel paralyzed by uncertainty and fear is, indeed, disconcerting, especially in someone for whom it has been a rare experience. For what it’s worth, it seems to me that the decision whether to have children merits this kind of hesitation if anything does. Nothing, not even marriage, changed my life as much as having children. So I guess your hesitation is a sign that your priorities are right, and probably a sign that you know yourself pretty well. My best wishes and my prayers are with you as you work out how to solve this question.

  70. I don’t think not having children is selfish or wrong. That being said, I feel like I am reading between the lines that you want children, but you are afraid. I ready a quote recently in one of thos sappy internet stories about an older woman counseling a girl “Be afraid! but do it anyway”. That doesn’t have to be your answer, but sometimes we have to just jump in the deep end and hope. Having a child is the greatest act of faith a person can do. You are promising to love someone you can’t see, you can’t know their struggles, but you do it anyway. I have rolled that dice a few times and got results I couldn’t predict, but I would never take back.

    I think the fact that you are worried about the life you can give a child means you’ll be a great mother. There’s also absolutely nothing wrong with getting a nanny and a housekeeper. Dual income families do it all the time and have great children who love their parents.

  71. April: I get that fear, but I have seen people in unbelievably painful life experiences who still very much want to live.

    Suffering is something we all go through to various extents, but life is beautiful. Not for everyone certainly, but there has never been a better time to be a child. Child poverty is down, child illness is down, children are kidnapped and molested at a lower rate than ever recorded in history. Anxiety is up because kids are so safe they don’t have a chance to develop resilience in the same way their ancestors had to develop it. It’s something we as a society need to work on, but it’s possible.

  72. it's a series of tubes says:

    No matter how supportive and nurturing your parenting is, your child will suffer – perhaps unbearably. Why risk the chance that your child will live a miserable and painful life? Or inflict misery and pain onto others?

    Boy, this sure sounds like the argument put forth in a certain musical of my youth. I think the lines that preceded it were “Let me take care of you! If you follow me, I promise that not one soul will be lost…. I promise you peace, happiness, all of you. I will see to it personally that you are all taken care of and returned here without difficulty!”

  73. Having kids is absolutely terrifying. I’m a man, and my wife stayed home full time with the kids for the first 10 years or so, so I didn’t even bear the brunt of it, and it’s still daunting. Paradoxically, nothing has made me happier and more fulfilled and more scared and guilty angry and frustrated and occasionally depressed than being a father. Nothing has strengthened or stretched our marriage like raising kids. You guys would be awesome parents and I really hope you do have kids, but you’re right to be scared.

  74. melodynew says:

    You’re courageous and articulate: two qualities of a good parent. If your fear is an invitation toward deeper self-reflection, you’ve responded beautifully. Thanks for being so honest and vulnerable here.

    Also, I’ve had a long and satisfying career — rearing three children mostly as a single parent, while working long hours and often being on-call. We all survived and ultimately thrived. (Disclaimer: I’m decidedly pro-parenthood because little humans who grow into big humans are among my favorite things. And not because of church dogma, but because of experiential knowledge.) Everything will work out. Eventually. Good luck as you move forward on your journey.

  75. The learning curve is indeed steep. You’ve observed well. But the steep part is relatively short in most cases. If you end up having children, your gifts will serve you well as the learning curve beats you into shape. The early part is the hardest, though there will be plateaus of relative calm amid the recurring learning curves.

    In hindsight, I think it resembles running a river at high water, sometimes you’ll have calm waters, and sometimes the only way out is through formidable whitewater that you’d be wise to scout thoroughly beforehand. It’s intense high adventure, and the possibility of capsizing is very, very real. If you choose to do this, it would be wise to take advantage of youthful energy, before it wanes.

    My disclaimer: the river-running metaphor will break down at some point. But in reality, the returns received, over time, of having these people in your life are unforeseeable and kind of incalculable.

    Maybe a gambling metaphor would serve here.

  76. A Turtle Named Mack says:

    Carolyn – Maybe not now, but at some point, I would love for you to follow up and let us know if this discussion has been helpful in any way. More/less terrified? Did it help in some areas? Were there comments that made you want to throw things? Not asking what the ultimate decision will be, because that need not be anyone else’s business. I’m just reading through these comments, wondering what I would be thinking if I were in your position.

  77. Carolyn, a somewhat separate and side note. One hour ago my daughter-in-law, whom you have met, delivered a baby boy. 2000 miles from me, quite near you. One hour ago I fell in love again. Like an unstoppable wave of emotion. There isn’t perfect logic to this whole process, but it’s pretty great.

  78. No matter what choices you make, you will need to learn to face fears. If you have children some fears will come true. Some things far worse that you never considered will come true.
    If you do not have children you will face fears of being ill and alone when you are old. You may face fears of loneliness or the realization that all those client concerns you gave your life to seem small and ridiculous with the lack of meaningful human relationships they cost you.
    I will give you the advice Heavenly Father gave me: make a list of everything you are afraid to do and one by one, do them unless they are illegal or immoral. It is not given to us to see the future, just to face forward and step into it. And I promise you will look back on a life filled with good and bad experiences and find yourself doing things that will astonish everyone around you.

  79. There is no fear in love; but perfect love casts out fear, because fear involves torment. But he who fears has not been made perfect in love. (1 John 4:18)

    Thy will be done.

    I won’t preach the sermon that goes with the scripture, but it’s a scripture I’ve been thinking about a lot the past month.