In my early twenties I had absolutely no interest in babies. I didn’t find them cute, or interesting, or cuddly. When friends or classmates were showing off their babies, I would of course say Oh your baby is so adorable, but I actually thought they were ugly and noisy and smelly. I certainly didn’t want to have one of my own.
Then in 1977 my sister had a baby. I was still not all that excited, until I went to visit. When I saw my little niece, by then about four months old, for the first time, I had such an overwhelming feeling of love, like nothing I had ever felt before. This baby was so beautiful, and I was ready to do anything for her.
So at age 26, I decided that having a baby was an appealing idea, assuming I could find the right person to do it with. That was an obstacle for quite a while. I had women friends who went the sperm bank route, or the get-pregnant-on-purpose-and-don’t-tell-the-guy route, but I didn’t think I wanted to do it that way. When I was 29, I met someone who wanted children too, and two years later we got married, and two years after that (and after one miscarriage), we had a baby.
She was two weeks late to be born, and had grown very large — 9 pounds, 8 1/2 ounces, as it turned out. I was in labor for many, many hours, and they kept lying to me, saying the baby was coming, just a few more contractions. . . . Finally the doctor said the baby isn’t coming out, and I recommend having a Cesarian, but I know this is a big decision so I will give you some time to think about it. As he started to walk out, I grabbed my husband’s arm and said Don’t let him leave. Let’s do it RIGHT NOW! So they gave me something that made my midsection completely numb, and that was the most wonderful feeling (or lack of feeling) I think I have ever experienced!
Sabrina was a joy. I was so in love with her from the moment she was born. Everything was new with her, and I was fascinated by each milestone she reached. She started talking early, and had such interesting things to say. She had a puzzle of the United States, and she learned the name and shape of each state. She seemed like a baby genius! I nursed her until she was three years old, when she lost interest and weaned herself. I was pregnant again by then, and apparently pregnancy makes the milk taste different. Here she is, in a swing at a neighbor’s house, just shy of two years old.
I wondered if I could love a second child as much as I loved her. It seemed impossible. And yet when Ben was born, I felt that same overwhelming sense of love and connection as I had with Sabrina. He was a scheduled Cesarian, so we just showed up at the hospital at the appointed time with a suitcase, like checking into a hotel. Easy peasy. He was a little more challenging than Sabrina, but that was due, at least in part, to there being two of them, both wanting attention at the same time. I nursed him until the age of three also, but the third year was a little problematic, because my husband and I split up a couple of months after his second birthday, and then he was spending weekends with his father. Here he is, also just shy of two, wearing the t-shirt of his future alma mater.
I had my third child, Molly, when the other two were eleven and eight. I had to be talked into having another one, because I was already over forty and much less energetic than I had been in my thirties. Also, it turns out that it’s much harder to get pregnant in your forties, probably because nature thinks you are supposed to be done with that sort of thing by then. I went through fertility treatments, but only ended up getting pregnant after I had stopped the treatments and given up trying. Ironic. She was also a scheduled Cesarian, so off to the hospital with my little suitcase, someone else took the kids to school where they proudly told their teachers that their mother was having a baby that day. When school was over, they came to the hospital to see Molly and me, and we have Polaroid pictures of each of them holding her. They thought she was the best new toy we could have gotten them! Here she is at eighteen months.
Each child has been a joy and a challenge, in wholly different ways. I kept thinking that I was learning from my mistakes, and that I was getting wiser with experience. Turns out that what works with one child will almost certainly not be right with another. They have grown up into three such different people, it’s hard to believe that they are products of (mostly) the same heredity and environment. They are all wonderful, and I am very glad I had them. I cannot imagine my life without them, so I am thankful that my sister’s baby convinced me all those years ago that having children was something I wanted to do.
Loved reading about your story. As the mother of three also, I related to the joys and challenges that are different with each kid. Now mine are all grown with kids of their own, and I love seeing the world through the eyes of little ones all over again.
Thanks for your comment, Risa. Mine are all grown now too, but I’m not sure whether there will be any grandchildren. I’ve saved all my favorite children’s books just in case, but who knows..
Really loved your story, Suzy, especially as I think its themes, told through your own experiences, resonate with so many of us. Not really interested in babies; really want to have a baby. Over the moon with the first baby. How very different each of our children turns out to be despite ostensibly same background. Can’t imagine life without my children.
So, too, is your somewhat wistful reply to Risa about your current hope for grandchildren. It makes one realize that it is not just sex that makes us all want to keep procreating. Thank you, Suzy!
Thanks John. It’s nice to hear that these themes resonate with you too.
Suzy, I love how your ideas about procreation changed from your early twenties to your late twenties (and the different routes some of your friends took). I agree, long labors are the pits, but I admire your long nursing. I thought I was noble for nursing a year! The photos you provide are adorable and add so much to the narrative. My kids are now 32 and 29. When people ask if I have any grandchildren, I, also, don’t really see them on the horizon. Who knows? For both of us, time will tell.
Thanks for your comment, Betsy. Maybe we should try to fix up your oldest with my oldest, they both live in Europe and they are about the same age. 🙂
Where does she live? Right now, David has a girlfriend (and he is 5’6″). My guess is Sabrina is taller (since you are MUCH taller than I am), but the kids might enjoy each other. Usually any suggestion from Mom is the kiss of death!
She lives in Spain. You’re right, she is tall, about 5’9″, and I don’t know if height is important to her or not. Being in different countries seems like more of an obstacle, plus that fact that he has a GF. Just a whimsical idea.
I love the way you were guided by your feelings of overwhelming love, first for your niece, then for your daughter. And I can relate to the increased challenge of having a second child. When I was doing my doctoral research on distracted parenting, we brought a parent and their child into the lab and distracted the parent, but couldn’t see any parenting differences. It was only when we brought a parent and TWO children into the lab that the parenting differences jumped out at us. Great photos, too!
Wow, John, you never cease to amaze me. Doctoral research on distracted parenting, how great is that! Thanks for your comment.
I loved your opening line! Absolutely no interest… didn’t find them cuddly. Then you followed with that lovely paean to independence. What a great turnaround in strategic thought: Well, maybe they’re okay after all, these kids. So hmmmm… looks around… I need one of those guy people. I don’t see any right now, but I’ll keep my eye out. Now that’s what I call options! Very sweet, very funny estimation.
You also reminded me how exciting it is to watch kids develop from those tiny things to those fascinating human sponges who soak everything in!
I loved the pics, too, certainly illustrating the diverse world of offspring. I haven’t heard anyone yet say anything about watching them grow out of difficult periods in their lives… that weary query: will this EVER change?
Difficult periods in their lives? Why the very idea! Of course my kids were always perfect and there were never difficult periods. Or at least that’s the story that I’m telling now. Truth? Fiction? Who knows!