Life is so busy these days that it barely allows me time to breathe, let alone blog, yet for some days now I've wanted to write an addition to my previous post.
The indecisiveness, the going back and forth and back and forth that is so common these days, does not only apply to getting married. For many young people, it's the same with the choice of a profession. I know so many people who started to study something, spent a year or two at it, only to drop it and flit on to something else. There are also people who spend years upon years without even trying to figure out what they want to do with their life. I'll take this opportunity to say I am not judging individuals; I am observing social trends.
The same attitude is prevalent regarding motherhood. "You must be completely prepared"; "you must have your life at perfect order"; "this isn't a decision you should rush into" - and perhaps you should not, but the fact is that today, many women only start trying for a baby after their peak of fertility has passed. Thus, we have an ironic situation when millions of women spend the best part of their fertile window running in panic from the possibility of having a baby, and in later years frantically try to reclaim their chance at motherhood.
Of course there are some basic requirements to parenthood, such as being married adults and not living under a bridge. But to say that you must have so-and-so in savings, because it takes so-and-so to raise a child (usually people come up with some ridiculous amount of money), or that you must "give your marriage a few years to build it up" - and if you don't do that, you are irresponsible - well, to be very blunt, I don't buy it.
Our first child was a honeymoon baby. I was 23 when I became a mother. Was I "prepared"? No; I most definitely was not. I spent most of my pregnancy wondering, "what am I going to do with a baby?", and then I was overwhelmed. By love, but also by all the demands of motherhood, by the sheer amount of work, and by how much my life changed all at once. There was no trial period, no soft initiation. I was kicked head-first into Mommy Boot Camp.
But guess what? I am beyond sure I would have felt exactly the same way if I had had my first child at 33. There are just some things you can't prepare for theoretically. You have to dive in and experience them.
Our second child, too, wasn't conceived at exactly the "right" moment. For one, I didn't count on such a small age gap. I didn't feel prepared; I needed more time. Then, my husband was unemployed. Money was tight. Tension was running high. Not a great time to have a baby, right? However, everything worked out just fine. My husband found a job and, though having two under two was taxing at the time, now I love having two children close in age who do everything together.
Should we have waited until our marriage was "established" before having children? That is to say, should we have waited to see whether we haven't made a mistake, with the option of a polite goodbye hovering always in the air? Some would say so. Not long ago, I read an article by someone who suggested that the first year of marriage should be a "trial period", during which birth control must be used - and if the marriage doesn't work for some reason, well, that's goodbye then and no harm done. The article was written by a woman who claims to be Orthodox. I cringed while reading it. Marriage means commitment; lifelong commitment - not a year after the wedding, but at the moment the husband and wife are joined together. You want insurance? Sorry, you can't have it. That's life. You dive in and make the best of what you have.
I don't think being married for a long time before having a baby would have made any difference. There was a certain status quo between us, as a couple with no children yet, which would have remained, I think, much the same - regardless of whether we had just one year to ourselves, or five years. This status quo was shaken when our daughter was born; we had to re-adjust, and along the way found completely new aspects to each other. Seeing my husband as a father contributed a new, deep, and very important layer of my getting to know him. It was a turbulent time for both of us, but waiting wouldn't have changed that. It would only have postponed what had to happen anyway.
We are still relatively young, but already I look back on some things we have done - how we scrubbed down the hideously dirty place we lived in for the first 6 months of our marriage; us sleeping on air mattresses all that time; me packing like crazy while being pregnant, preparing for our next house move; it was hard, but we brimmed with confidence. I see young people taking such enormous projects upon themselves - they travel around the world, build houses with their own hands, get married, have children - and all of it without doubting their decisions or their chances every step of the way. Youth has confidence; you'd say it can be a pitfall, but it can be a strength too. New undertakings are harder as we get older. Precisely because we are wiser and know all the many things that could go wrong. But that knowledge doesn't strengthen us, it only makes us more vulnerable because of doubts and fears that don't do much to improve our actual situation.
During my first pregnancy, I was in truth a little ignorant about the many things that could go wrong. I had very vague knowledge about things like breech presentation or postpartum hemorrhage. I just figured that as I'm young and healthy, and am doing all the routine tests, and as I'm going to deliver in a safe place with all the necessary help available, all should be fine. And it was. Since then, I've had a lot of time to educate myself. I know more now, but did it make me healthier? Safer? No; it only made me more fearful.
There really is no such thing as exactly the right time, or being perfectly prepared. All we can do is live life to the best of our ability, and hope for a good outcome. The rest, hopefully, will work out.