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 (a bit) more progressive, warming up to the idea that not every woman is somehow required to bear children — and that it’s a perfectly valid choice to put yourself/your career first and just say “no” to spawn. 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 all off: I’m terrified that becoming a mother would make me want to kill myself.
OK, brutal — I know. Let’s unpack this, because I didn’t always feel 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 real joys of pregnancy and being a mom — feeling that first kick, that joyous moment of seeing and holding your 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: Moms 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 do 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. And aside from the part when a woman goes into labor, I thought movies and TV made motherhood look so fun. I didn’t know women can still actually die during childbirth, or that mothers can develop mood disorders after giving birth. I was living in a 7th Heaven kind of imaginary world.
And as I get older and learn more and more about what a mother actually has to go through, and what I already know about myself, I don’t know if I could do it. It’s left me wondering: How the hell are people my age becoming parents when I could barely get out of bed this morning?
Not to mention I have so. many. questions. What if I got pregnant — could I still take my antidepressants? 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 4 pm when I have a child to support. My fear is that having a baby will push my depression over 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 being who deserves all the love and care possible — but I’m unsure if I am worthy enough to be their mother.
And that’s the thing with depression: Everything could be completely fine; I could be an excellent mom. But depression makes me still see 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 while on the street. I love babies. But I don’t know if I’m mentally prepared to raise one — not like I used to think I 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.
Of course, time will be a huge factor, as well as my ongoing state of mind, in determining whether or not I will ever have children. Maybe one day, I will truly see things in a different light; maybe one day, 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.