Here’s What Happened When I Started Becoming Terrified of Motherhood… in My 30s
From as far back as I can remember I thought about what kind of family I would have. I knew I wanted to get married, I knew I wanted a wedding, and I knew that with those things came babies. Society had already left its mark on me. Motherhood was a given.
I assumed that by the age of 30 I would have the husband and babies I’d always expected. But as time went on and I had many different relationships throughout high school and college — all of them high stress, all of them intense, and all of them toxic in some way — a wedding and motherhood seemed further and further away.
Right after college, my childhood friends started getting engaged and married, and soon after that, they started having babies. While I left the country on a soul-searching, party fest to Cancun at the age of 24, my friends were putting down roots. Meanwhile I had a substance use problem that was keeping me from pursuing my dreams.
They were planning their lives, starting 401Ks, saving money for their future children, and buying houses. I was avoiding so-called “real life,” trying to find jobs that weren’t 9 to 5, and fleeing from any sense of responsibility. At that time in my life, I wasn’t sure if I even wanted kids anymore. I certainly didn’t feel like I would ever be able to take care of another human being.
Then, in Cancun, I met Fernando and got sober. After five years of dating, we were married, and I’ve never doubted that I want to have a family with him. But throughout our relationship, my worry about running out of time to have a baby has competed with my fears about having one in the first place.
When I turned 30, all I could think about was my biological clock, the fact that I wasn’t married, and how old I would be when I finally starting having babies. When Fernando and I finally did marry last year I was 31, and a few months ago I turned 32. I love the life we’ve built together.
Many of my friends are now on their second, and even third, babies. My sister had her first baby over a year and a half ago, and I’ve enjoyed becoming an aunt more than I can express — seeing my nephew take his first breath changed me. And yet, I can’t help but admit that, lately, I am still terrified of becoming a mom.
On the surface, my fear doesn’t seem to make sense. I am 32 and married and I feel like I should want to start procreating ASAP, and I thought I would by now. Instead, I’ve hit a wall of fear. Suddenly it doesn’t matter to me that my biological clock is ticking. Suddenly it doesn’t matter that I might be considered “old” in the world of becoming a mom.
First things first: I don’t feel ready to give up my body to grow a human being. But mostly I’m just plain scared.
I am scared of birth defects, chromosomal abnormalities, learning disabilities, accidents, tragedies, physical and emotional pain. There are so many factors out of my control, so many things that could go wrong.
Part of me believes I have no business trying to raise and guide another human being. Part of me doesn’t even want to try. I feel like I have so much self-development to do and freedom to enjoy that bringing a child into the world doesn’t seem right.
I am also afraid that it could destroy me. Being sober means learning new coping mechanisms that don’t involve drugs and alcohol — learning how to sit with my emotions and not run from the pain — can be described as complicated at best, and overwhelming at worst. How will it affect me as a parent? Will I spend all my motherhood days terrified of what might go wrong, or of how I might screw up my child?
One day I plan to grapple with these questions. But for now, I’m making peace with the idea that it’s not the right time. There are still so many things I am striving to achieve: a thriving career, finishing my book, paying off debts, and traveling. Sleepless nights and poopy diapers terrify me.
I didn’t expect to feel this way at 32, but like with all things that I’ve experienced over these last few years, I will allow myself some grace to embrace the future and the unknown, and to accept that it’s okay to change my mind. It’s my body and my choice and all I need to know at this moment in time is that there’s still time — when I decide that I’m ready.
Do you deal with motherhood ambivalence? Tell us @britandco.
(Photos via Getty)