Confession: I’ve never taken care of anyone beside myself (and saying I take care of myself well, is a stretch). I’m a 20-something-year-old with no children, pets, nieces or nephews, and I grew up an only child. I never babysat or looked after anyone. The only thing I’ve mommed in my life is a Tamagotchi. And spoiler alert: It died.
I’m not a mom, and frankly I do not know if I ever want to be one. Sure it’s 2019 and as a society, we’re becoming more and more progressive, warming up to the idea that not every woman has to bear children, and that it’s alright to put your career first and hold off on having children. The list of reasons women are postponing motherhood, or just taking it off the agenda completely, is growing. And I have a new reason to top it off: I’m terrified AF that becoming a mother would make me want to kill myself.
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OK, brutal — I know. Let’s unpack this — because it wasn’t always like this. As a little girl, I grew up believing that I would get married and have two kids — a son, Liam, and a daughter a few years later, Harper — and we’d live happily ever after. And of course that could still be a possibility, but I have a lot of feelings that have changed.
I currently work on the social media team for a parenting magazine, and it has exposed me to the many realities of pregnancy and being a mom — feeling first that kick, that joyous moment of seeing and holding Baby for the first time, watching your kids grow into these little people who say and do the most ridiculous things. And of course, the cruel realities of pregnancy and motherhood — Hyperemesis gravidarum, preeclampsia, postpartum disorders, and, well, being mom-shamed for literally everything. Side note: women are strong as hell.
My job requires me to read a lot of content. It’s the personal essays from moms feeling alone and lost after having a baby, the research-based articles with the facts staring right at me — one in seven women experience some type of postpartum mood disorder — that really widens my eyes and makes me wonder if I could ever be as strong or as brave. And the reports of moms actually losing their battles to PPD by taking their own lives.
I don’t even have a child and I already experience feelings of loneliness and helplessness. I was diagnosed with depression a few years back, and while it ebbs and flows, and I experience periods of pure bliss, I always find myself coming back to a dark place — shedding tears just because I’m alive. Depression never leaves me completely, no matter what medication or treatments I try. And while I think back to college, when my mental health was at its worst and scary thoughts cluttered my head, I wonder: Could I really take care of a child if I couldn’t even handle a few classes without completely losing my shit? Like college, motherhood is a huge life transition, and so far, I haven’t had the best track record of handling significant life changes.
When I was growing up and planned my ideal family in my head, I didn’t even know what depression was. Besides the part when a woman goes into labor, movies and TV made motherhood look so fun. I didn’t know women actually died during childbirth, or that women could go into develop mood disorders after giving birth. I was living in a 7th Heaven kind of world. And as I continue to grow, and learn more and more about what a mother actually has to go through, and what I already know about myself, I don’t even know if I could do it. It’s left me wondering how the hell are people my age becoming parents if I could barely get out of bed this morning. I have so many questions. What if I got pregnant — could I still take my antidepressants, or could those harm Baby? What if I had a child — would I be able to hold myself together to raise it? Would my regular depression heighten? Stay the same?
All I know is that depression makes you selfish. You ignore text messages, you isolate yourself from loved ones, and you often come off as rude and unfriendly. And I can’t be hiding away taking a depression nap at 4pm when I have a child to support. My fear is that having a baby will push my depression off the edge. I picture myself in a room alone with a crying baby and I’m also crying because I don’t know if I’m doing anything right. I’m doubting myself as a mother and feeling guilty because here is this beautiful precious new angel in the world who deserves all the love and care possible — but I’m unsure if I am worthy enough to be his or her mother. And that’s the thing with depression, everything could be completely fine, I could be an excellent mom, but I’m still seeing everything through this darkened “you’re worthless” distorted depression lens. What if my depression escalates and makes me want to self-harm? How could I take care of a child if I can barely take care of myself?
Don’t get me wrong; I think babies are adorable. I smile and make funny faces at them whenever I see those chubby little cheeks the street. I love babies. But I don’t know if I’m mentally prepared to raise one. I don’t know if it’s the cards for me like I used to think it was.
I think of the articles I’ve read about moms losing their battle to PPD, and taking their own lives. It’s heartbreaking. I don’t ever want to risk putting myself or a precious little soul in a position like that. Time will be a huge factor as well as my state of mind in determining whether or not I will have children. Maybe one day I will truly see things in a different light and it won’t rain negativity in my head anymore.
But until I figure that out, I’m sorry world, I will not be a mother.