First of all, watch this video:
Pessimistic, right? Any loving parent would surely disagree, especially one like me whose baby is generally smiley and easy-going, and who has been completely infatuated with her since the moment they put her on my chest?
Yeah, no. They’re right. I have, and occasionally still do, regret having had my baby. In fact, the moments when that happens are the ones when I love her the most.
Maybe this is unique to me. Y’all know I was a nanny, so I’m somewhat more used to dealing with babies screaming for hours on end than your average beginner parent. I know it’ll end at some point, and I’ve developed coping strategies for the meantime. Even on the rare-ish occasions when I’ve had to hand her over to her (far less resistant) father, I knew I just needed a short break to get my head straight and I could go back to comforting her. I know what to do if she doesn’t stop after several hours (the answer is you call the hospital) and though I do get Parent Guilt from time to time, it rarely happens when she’s screaming and I want to throw her out the window because I know that’s a normal feeling to have, and I know what to do when I have it. Even the fact that she’s my child only makes me more patient, despite having nobody to hand her over to at the end of the day.
No, I regret having her when she’s perfect. That time she giggled in her sleep and my heart twisted with love. When I kiss her cheek and then turn my cheek to her face and say “GIMME KISS” and she turns and sort of sucks on it, which is a silly game we play which probably isn’t all that hygienic but never mind that – I regret having her. I regret having my baby when she wakes up in the middle of the night and cries, and then when I go to see what she wants she smiles up at me and starts growling and waving her little arms, wanting to play, and I can’t be mad at her, I have to smile back. I regretted it an hour ago when she was falling asleep in my arms, lifting her soft little hand to my face and then feeling around until she found my mouth, her hand still only I’d kiss her palm.
Being a parent is an anxiety trap. I’m no stranger to anxiety, as you’ll know from past posts, and despite my best efforts, I have a really shitty worldview. I see the world as a dangerous place, and I want to protect her so much but I also don’t want her to grow up with that same worldview, so I can’t just wrap her in cotton wool and lock her up. I want her to be happy, but I know she’ll have to go through so much pain, because life is painful. I dread seeing her upset, bullied in school, lonely, heartbroken, humiliated, distraught for whatever reason life may throw at her. Sometimes I regret becoming a parent because I feel inadequate as a parent, and sometimes I regret it just because I know that no matter how good a parent I am, I won’t be able to protect her from getting hurt forever. Because I already have this paranoid background worry whenever Daddy Diva takes the car without me next to him to point out every potential danger from 50 meters away, and now I have to think about how it would affect her if he died, or if I died, and let’s not even go into her dying because that terrifies me.
And she’s only 3-and-a-half months old. So far my reasons for regretting her birth sound pretty noble, right? I regret having my child – because I love her too much. Believe me, it’s going to get worse. I know this from my own childhood – specifically, from the end of it: when I was between 19 and 20, my dad and I fell out. We only spoke to yell at each other. I was depressed, and he didn’t get it, and he was sad but I interpreted his sadness as anger, and the atmosphere in the house was horrible all year until I went to college. It astonished me that I could hate someone I loved that much. And then I realised that the reason I hated him so much, was because I loved him that much. The rejection I perceived from him felt like the worst form of betrayal.
My dad and I get on fine now, and thank fuck because now I’m the parent I’ll need his help when she hits adolescence. I didn’t know what to do with teenagers even when I was one, so God help me in 13 years when she’s invited to parties and surfing the net without our supervision and I’d better stop thinking about it because Jaysus this is scary shit. I used to be kept up at night by those jumpscares people put up on YouTube that look just like the nightmares I had when I was five; now it’s Baby Diva-turned-Teen Diva crying and screaming “I HATE YOU!!!” at me because I’m not letting her date a 28-year-old at 12. Or something, I dunno what problems teenagers have.
Or crying because a 28-year-old raped her at 12. Or crying because she’s suicidally depressed. Or not crying, not speaking to us, not being ok, and not telling us because she thinks we’ll hate her for it.
Scary shit, indeed. But if this makes sense to you – and I think, if you’re a parent, it will – I don’t regret regretting having her. It means I had her. It means I love her more than life itself, and yet I’ve never been so attached to my life because she needs me. I regret having her sometimes, and some of those times it’s a lovely, horrible, bittersweet conundrum of a feeling that I would never have experienced had I not had children. Other times it’s just terrifying. And that doesn’t make me a bad parent, it just means I worry way too much.
TL;DR: I regret having Baby Diva less than I’d regret not having her.