Pressure: The Greatest Thirtyhood Dilemma

One of the greatest pressures I’m feeling lately is one I believe many women can relate to.  At least I hope they can, otherwise, I’m basically more of a creep with selfish overthinking tendencies than I thought.

Pressure is a normal part of life, but parenting pressure is something else. Like many other mothers navigating the Thirtyhood, I’ve got to the stage of parenting where I feel reasonably normal again. Reasonably.

My child is now four and so I’ve made it through the early wilderness years of “OK, what the hell do I do with this?” we all feel when we have a baby. Anyone who says that they didn’t ask that question at least 30 times a day after they had their first child is just full of shit.

However, this newfound sense of having my life back together seems unable to last. Do you know why? Because no sooner do I start to feel like I’m on top of things again than I start hearing this kind of inescapable bollocks from people:

So, when are you having another one then? Have you got anything to tell me?

Well, now you come to mention it Susan, I was thinking of having a sit down meeting with you to discuss the inner workings of my ovaries, yes. How’s next Thursday looking for you? I’m probably going to be ovulating like crazy by then, so you’d better prepare yourself for some heated discussion about my cycle and an opportunity to make notes with your latest sperm-tracking app.

For fuck’s sake.

Now, annoying as this is, I’m not going to rant about why Susan and her many, many co-conspirators should really just shut up and not ask such personal questions. We all know why.

Instead, I’m going to rant about the effects of this absolutely vile behaviour…because it really does have a detrimental knock-on. It’s one thing to inadvertently (or purposely) pressure someone with your stupid questions, but another thing entirely when that person starts to turn that pressure around, onto themselves.

Internal pressure

I had a frightening time when I had my daughter. Pregnancy and birth were both pretty scary experiences for me. I’m not going to bang on about it too much, because I love Small-Me to bits and I don’t want her to think she caused me any pain, but it took me a long time to get over the trauma of having a baby, as I hope many other women will understand.

There’s an almost implied, unspoken narrative about motherhood; that “it was all worth it”, and if you say anything to the contrary you’ll be judged or misunderstood. Actually, though, there’s nothing wrong with saying that it was hard. That parts of it were really, really physically unexpected. That you had little to no control over your own bodily functions and that was a truly fucked up thing to deal with.

Birth leaves you feeling exposed, in more ways than one. I know many women will have had lovely, positive experiences, and that’s wonderful, but there’s no denying that the physical, primal changes that your body and mind undergoes when you bring a human life into this world are complex and challenging.

Relinquishing control of your own physicality to another is difficult; you’re responsible for the growth of a tiny creature, entirely dependent on you, and everything else takes an absolute back seat to that.

“You don’t really feel that way, do you?”

I’ve tried to explain the pressure of becoming a mother, the internal conflict I had about it, but no matter how I tried, I felt like I sounded ungrateful. As though I didn’t appreciate the blessing of having a child. That pisses me off because it’s not true at all.

But it’s not healthy to keep feelings of fear, confusion and guilt inside either. And yet I have, because it’s almost the ultimate parenting taboo to express regrets or confusion or sadness about the early days of having a baby.

Now, four years on, I find I’m having this debate within myself. Should I do it again? Do I have to? Do I owe it to my child to provide siblings? Should I get on with it before I get any older?

Then the more selfish concerns creep in. What about my own life? What about my sleep? What about my fitness? What if I end up almost dying again – will it be worth it?

“It’s all worth it”

The ultimate dilemma

I’m not getting any younger. If I’m going to do it, I should probably do it now. And yet, I’m scared. Genuinely scared. I don’t really think I did a great job the first time around, and I’ve no idea how I’d deal with it again.

Guilt and decisions

It might be better, second time around. Lots of people have told me that. Honestly though, I just don’t know. I don’t want Small-Me to be alone in this world when I’m gone, so I’ll probably have to suck it up and go through it all again…but I know that’s not an ideal mindset for having another child either.

I love my daughter more than anything in this world. I feel like I would love to have more children. But do I want to feel as scared and helpless about it as I did last time? Absolutely not. How do you overcome a hurdle like that, when you feel like you’re being selfish for even questioning it?

I often feel guilty for even broaching this when there are women who I love in my life who I know have struggled to have children, and some who are unable to have them at all. To these incredible ladies, I apologise. But as a human being, I’d like to think I’m allowed to feel these things, even if discussing them aloud isn’t the done thing.

This is a hard fucking decision. I cannot be the only person who feels this kind of pressure within themselves.

Can I?

Let me know if you’ve got any thoughts on this here, or you can tweet me too.

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