A blog about babies: the babies I lost, the babies I never had, the baby who made me a Mama.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Perfection; or, Reworking the Fantasy

When we started trying to get pregnant almost 18 months ago, I of course hoped we'd succeed immediately, but I also recognized that getting pregnant that March wouldn't be "perfect." Giving birth in the middle of the academic year--in the middle of my first year teaching, and before I officially finished coursework--would be less than ideal. Plus, December would have been absolute dead last on my list of desired birthday months for my future child-- the same month in which the baby's father, cousin and aunt all have birthdays. But I wanted a baby (and I wanted one right then) more than I wanted things to be perfect, so I still hoped.

Seven months later, when I did get pregnant, it felt like I was being compensated for the frustrations of waiting with a "perfectly" timed pregnancy. We planned to tell our families at Thanksgiving. Perfect! We planned to announce to our friends and on Facebook on Lawyer Guy's birthday. Perfect! I was set to give birth in June-- during my summer break; a month without any other family birthdays; wonderful early summer. Oh so very very perfect!

I don't dream about perfect anymore. I don't care what month the baby is due in or how much time I have to take off. I don't imagine announcing the pregnancy to anyone other than Lawyer Guy. I don't picture strolling with my newborn under a winter sky or a summer sun. When I envision the end of this particular voyage, I picture a hospital room and a baby on my chest, warm and alive. That's all. That's perfect.

I recently read the New York Magazine article on parental dissatisfaction--the same story that took Adele by surprise when it appeared in her mailbox last week. As others have mentioned, it was less disturbing than I feared it would be, though it didn't address many of the questions I have on this subject: Do those who suffered loss or infertility feel happier as parents? Do those long-thwarted desires raise expectations of parenthood that foster disappointment? I don't know if anyone has studied the issue from that angle so I don't know if my instinct--that sadness and loss and longing create grateful and enthusiastic parents--can be supported.

The article did make me think, however, about the expectations we bring to parenting--or any great change in life, really. A few sentences of Senior's in particular stood out:

"This is another brutal reality about children: They expose the gulf between our fantasies about family and its spikier realities."

"This is especially true in middle- and upper-income families, which are far more apt than their working-class counterparts to see their children as projects to be perfected."

I'm certainly as guilty of having unrealistic dreams and fantasies of myself as a mother, of Lawyer Guy as a father, and of my place in our family once we have children. And I'm sure I'm no more immune to the quest for perfect progeny than any other over-educated modern mama. But the hard work that Senior and her sources suggest new parents must perform--the work of remaking expectations to fit realities, of hammering out newer, less brilliant visions of what it tenable or right in family life--I feel like that has been my task these past 16 months.

I'm not going to get "perfect." I don't even want it anymore. I just want a child. If I can remember that and remember these months--or years, however long it takes--of struggling to let go of my fantasies, then I know my future family, however imperfect, will be perfectly suited for me.


  1. Great post--

    I HAVE read that people who have suffered if/loss are happier, more accepting parents than those who got it easily. At least they perceive themselves that way, which is really all that counts.

    In the end I believe you will have your original idea of perfection (minus the innocence)-- I look forward to reading your journey through baby names, nursery decor, birth announcements, and strolls through the park on a summer eve with LG and baby. You will be there soon.

  2. AMEN! So well said. I am pumping my fist in agreement. :) I will take any and all babies at absolutely any inopportune time, thankyouverymuch.

    I went through this same thing before I knew any better. I used to daydream about how it would be "perfect" to have a baby in the spring or summer, when Chicago is thawing out and warming up. How horrible to be stuck inside with a wailing newborn when the world is icy and glacially cold in winter....HA. I was an idiot. It would be "perfect" to have a winter baby. Or a fall baby. Or a spring baby. Or even a summer baby, just as we are probably packing up and moving to a new city. I don't care one fracking bit. I just want the baby.

    Thinking of you my friend. xo

  3. I can relate to this post so much! When we first started trying, we used to think about when the baby would be due if we got pregnant that month. We desperately wanted a spring or summer baby since most of our immediate family has birthdays in the fall. Silly, right? Now, I'd take a baby on any day of the year. In fact, we plan on doing IVF in February, which would put our baby's due day in November: right smack in the middle of everyone else's birthday. And I don't care!!! I don't care anymore. I just want a baby in my arms.


  4. I completely know what you mean!
    I remember having conversations with friends before I was even trying to get pregnant about how I "would hate to have a baby in the winter and how miserable I would be" and I'm "really hoping for a boy first."

    All of those concerns are so frivolous now. I actually am embarrassed that I thought that way. I just want a baby ... I don't care about anything else anymore.

    But it is funny how those not dealing with IF still consider these HUGE problems. I overheard someone say this weekend at a BBQ that they would just die if they had a boy first. Really? Having a healthy, baby boy would kill you??? They are so lucky to be living in that fertile bubble.

  5. Isn't it funny how your perspective completely changes! I was so that person who didn't want a baby around the holidays, for all the obvious reasons. And now my due dates have twice fallen around then, and both times the minute I got my bfp I realized an xmas baby was perfect, because any baby at all no matter when or how its born will be perfect. Such a great post SS!!

  6. OMG, this article nearly produced the proverbial pants poopage. UGH. Awful. I read it this morning over breakfast, and I haven't been able to shake it since! :( I think I need to read Adele's post and the subsequent comments... GAH.

    I did read about a study about infertile parenting in a book called Inconceivable where the researchers questioned if IF moms--who were anxious worriers during TTC--were these cloying and anxious types of moms after conceiving/birthing. The study found that IF moms WEREN'T crazy wet blankets draped ontheir children at all. Instead, they were the appropriate amount of the opposite.

    I really want to know more about the tools used to measure a parent's happiness or life satisfaction in parenting. Because happiness is so so subjective--as are those expectations. I just don't feel like you can lump infertiles in...because it seems to me that, in general, their expectations can be vastly different, skewed even. Sigh.

    Anyway, super thought provoking!

  7. Well put. I used to dream about those perfect scenarios as well, for timing and gender and what-not. Now, if I'd get pregnant and the baby would arrive in the middle of something important? Well, that'd be perfect.

  8. Wonderful posts and like you, I gave up picturing my childs future birthdays in the month they were born and instead dream over the minute I hear our baby cry for the first time and feel the weight of him or her on my chest and look into DH's eyes and cry with joy with him. That is my photo finish right now. I will deal with whatever crosses my path, gets in my way or trips me if it means I get to live out that dream.

  9. Wonderful post!

    I've often wondered the same thing-- does all of this trying and loss make for a more fulfilled parent? Or does it create such a buildup that one's inevitably let down?

    Of course, I tend to agree with your conclusion--I'm not looking for perfection. I'm just looking for a family.

  10. Such a great post, Sloper. Very eloquent and well said. I've wondered the same things recently whether this waiting will put parenthood up on a pedestal which will never be obtained or if it will cause us to enjoy every single minute when we get there. Because we know what the alternative is and 100% certain that parenthood is what we wanted so we're too thankful to be there that we're more likely not to complain?

    I hope someday soon we'll both be writing a post with real life experiences of parenthood after the struggle. Very, very soon.


  11. ugh, right when we started trying, i told dh he wouldn't be able to go to his company's offsite meeting the next year (in scotland) bc i'd be 9 months pregnant. this, bc i was "certain" we'd get knocked up right away. i dunno what crazy person thinks this, esp one who doesn't ovulate regularly, if at all!

    i used to dream about my perfect little family as well. now, i just want healthy kids and have bargained away saintly, well-behaved kids already.


  12. I haven't read the article yet, as it's currently buried under a few papers for my summer class. But alas, my take is that by doing treatments or experiencing infertility, we're a little more prepared for the loss of control over situations that fertile parents seem to deal with once the new bundle arrives (at least, so I've been told).

    As for the timing, I just recently endured a "don't plan a pregnancy for the summer for your next baby!" from a local mommy on a board I tentatively joined. Right. I'll get right on that.