Deciding to have children

18 August 2015

I have never been a baby person. It’s fairly well known among family and friends that I “don’t like babies,” as I mentioned in our announcement post. I’ll never be the one offering to hold your baby, and I don’t even think all babies are that cute. I even had a pact with a dear (baby loving) friend in high school that she would take any of my future babies from ages 0-2 and I would take hers from 14-16.

Rather than a cold, cold heart, I think this stems from a general uncomfortableness with the littlest among us, since I was never much around babies growing up. I did babysit, but only for kids out of diapers! Babies just seemed very fragile, and they can’t use words to tell you what they need (and I like words).

Perhaps because of this, even coming up on our third anniversary, John and I were never on the receiving end of the stereotypical pressure to have kids. I’m sure I probably would have hated it if we had been, but at some point, I actually started to get paranoid – do people think we aren’t fit to be parents?? This obvious (to me) conversational hole was especially ironic, because that very topic was in almost constant rotation between the two of us and our closest friends.

Screen Shot 2015-08-17 at 7.43.10 PM

18 weeks!

Thinking back, we began having serious conversations about the future of our family at the beginning of 2014. This was my starting point: I can’t really vocalize why, and I’m certainly not convinced that I’m going to love the baby stage, but when I picture my life, there are treasured children in it. For me, that was enough to move forward. I also knew I wanted to be a younger mom, having my first child before 30.

My hunch is that John started from a similar position, but unlike me, he was not willing to move forward without being able to vocalize a more concrete and rational reason that we should do so. To gather ideas, we embarked on a yearlong quest to answer the question, “Why do people have children?”, hoping to find answers that would resonate with us. We posed this question to each other countless times. We did the same to friends with and without kids, those who knew they wanted them and those who were undecided. We researched online. We read books and blog posts. We listened to sermons and podcasts. We prayed.

The problem is this: all of the “negatives” about having children are very real and concrete: they cost a ton of money. They restrict your freedom. They can derail your financial progress and goals. They complicate your schedule. They complicate your travel. They’re messy. They’re needy. They keep you up at night. They don’t know how to use the bathroom.

On the other hand, the positives are generally intangible, and, almost by definition, unable to be understood or experienced before actually having children of your own.

While an interesting exercise and good conversation fodder, this seemingly unending quest was at times frustrating to me – it seemed like there was no possible answer that would convince John, and all I wanted was to move forward since I believed we were ultimately on the same page and kind of just wasting time. Just recently, though, I read something that really helped me understand why this wasn’t possible for him. It’s from his results from the scarily-accurate, Myers-Briggs based 16 Personalities quiz:

INTJs will strive to remain rational no matter how attractive the end goal may be, and every idea, whether generated internally or soaked in from the outside world, must pass the ruthless and ever-present “Is this going to work?” filter. This mechanism is applied at all times, to all things, and all people.

Apply it we did. We heard many perspectives from many people, and generated several ourselves, as to why people might have children. Ultimately, these were the most convincing to us:

Children will crack open a part of your heart that can’t be opened any other way. Not a new idea, but I would say the way Darren Whitehead in particular described this was extremely moving and heartfelt. I don’t want to miss out on an opportunity to learn about love.

Your relationship with your children will teach you more than anything else can about your relationship with God the father. This totally makes sense to me. I know what being a child is like, but even just being pregnant, I can already tell that experiencing the parent half of the equation will be truly eyeopening. I’m so looking forward to this.

You get to rediscover the world as you teach and walk alongside your child. This is the most obviously fun one! Though the magnitude of shepherding a child is not lost on me, I’m also so excited for all of the people, places, things, and ideas I’ll get to introduce our little one to – and experience anew alongside him or her!

Having children is the greatest expression of hope humans can participate in. We believe the best is yet to come. We are not cynical people. Deciding to have children is tantamount to saying we believe the world they will grow up in will be bright and beautiful, and that’s a statement of faith we want to make.

One more reason on my list: my husband is so precious to me — truly one of the best people I know — that it’s hard for me to even imagine getting to parent someone who was made from him, alongside him. Just thinking about that kind of makes me feel like my heart might explode.

By the end of 2014, we were convinced that children were in our future. However, even armed with that knowledge, we still felt hesitant about jumping in! With our backgrounds, I don’t think either of us would ever have stated that we felt 100% prepared or ready (financially, emotionally, or otherwise) to have a baby. But that’s the beauty of the system – you don’t just decide one day that you’re ready to have a kid, and one arrives on your doorstep the next day.

Once we flipped the switch and actively started trying to get pregnant, it’s kind of crazy how quickly my feelings of hesitation turned to impatience and even anxiety – I wanted to be pregnant immediately! There are so many (really hard and sad) stories of infertility and miscarriage in my circles, and despite the fact that there was no indication in our families or my medical history that either would be a problem, my mind instantly went there. So when we did see PREGNANT show up on the test after just a couple of months, there was relief and joy. No tears :)

We waited a full five weeks to take it, and agreed to look at it together after waiting the obligatory three minutes — but he peeked and saw it first! I know many people find a clever way to share the news with their husbands, but I can’t imagine finding out without John by my side. That didn’t stop us, however, from coming up with creative ways to tell our families and friends – more on that in my next post!

To conclude, one of my biggest fears was that by lingering on The Question for so long, as well as all of the potential negatives of adding a baby to the family, we’d never get out from under them — that even once I was pregnant, John still wouldn’t be excited. However, I needn’t have worried, as that couldn’t be further from our reality now. He is SO excited — probably more excited than me — and clearly already loves this baby so much. (Another gem from 16 Personalities that helps explain this: INTJs trust their rationalism above all else, so when they come to a conclusion, they have no reason to doubt their findings.) People ask us if we’re nervous, and the answer is no – I think we thought through all of our nerves already, and now only joy and peace are left!

Friends, I’d love to hear: have you always felt clearly about having (or not having) children? If you have children or know you want to have them, why? Do any of the conclusions we came to resonate with you?

31 Responses to “Deciding to have children”

  1. I’m so encouraged by this post. As someone who generally enjoys my friends’ babies and occasionally babysitting for them, I still look at the baby stage with a bit of dread. However, it’s been so encouraging for me to talk with friends who also don’t love the baby stage but absolutely love having children. One of the most helpful pieces of advice I read is to think about your life in 10, 15 or 20 years and consider what you want your family to look like (by God’s grace). That’s been a constructive starting point for my husband and me.

  2. Kate

    Thanks for sharing.

  3. Elizabeth

    What a great post. At one point in my life, I didn’t envision children and I was fine with that. I thought I’d just always have dogs. God had a different plan though and at 32 I was pregnant. It was a surprise, but it was also God’s way of telling me my life had a purpose. I got pregnant when I was going through a very difficult time in my life and although I wasn’t suicidal, I could’ve cared less if I lived or died. Having my daughter completely changed my life. She is now 7 and we have a 2 year old as well. I’m an only child and I didn’t want my oldest to grow up without a sibling. Luckily, we got pregnant the first month!The reasons that Darren Whitehead listed are all so true.It sounds so silly now, but I couldn’t imagine loving something more than my dog at the time especially a newborn because they really don’t do much. ha! This probably wasn’t the answer you were looking for or expecting, but it’s my story :).

  4. Diana

    What a beautiful post. I am about to get married, and as I’m already in my late 20s and my fiance is 30, we know we want to start a family soon. I have a lot of anxiety about giving up “my time” but I trust that a baby will teach me about selflessness. I also have a lot of anxiety about how a child will change my relationship with my partner, but I trust I will see a side of him that I will love even more. Scary stuff, though!

  5. I’ve known since I was little that I wanted to be a mother. I truly feel that being a mother is God’s purpose for my life. It was never a question of if, but when. It’s so exciting to be getting to that place with my husband when we’re both ready to have a child. And I totally agree about hearts bursting when picturing your husband as a father. When we talk about it, I could die from cuteness overload.

  6. Brooke

    Great post, Emily! Thanks for sharing! I just finished reading a new collection of essays titled “Selfish, Shallow, and Self-Absorbed: Sixteen Writers on the Decision Not to Have Kids,” which you may enjoy since you’ve thought so carefully and thoroughly about the issue. I’m fairly certain that I’d like to have children, but I was equally interested in why people choose not to and found the essays very interesting. Congratulations! : )

  7. Your analysis + thorough decision-making about having children reminds me very much of Elizabeth Gilbert (author of Eat, Pray, Love) in her non-fiction book, Committed. I think you’d enjoy this read (it’s quite different than Eat, Pray, Love). It’s really fascinating to see the in-depth thought process you and John took to arrive at a place where you both wanted to have a child, and I really thank you for being so transparent about it. I love babies, and I’m so thankful many of my dearest friends have adorable babies, but it’s also incredibly hard for me to visualize having my own children at the moment. When I look back at my life, I assume I would have children and grandchildren, but it seems like such a far-off notion at the moment that I honestly can’t wrap my head it.

    Also! The Myers-Briggs test is always scarily accurate, and I love it for that! What’s your personality type, I’m wondering?!

  8. Em

    @Abigail That’s exactly the thought process I used – in 10, 15, 20 years, I always pictured myself with children, so it was pretty obvious to me!

    @Brooke I have heard of that book and I’d be very interested to read it!

    @Stephanie I’ve also heard about Committed, but didn’t know it had much to do with children – would be interested to read it! I am an ISFJ :) Interestingly, in 16 Personalities, the ISFJ type is very focused on family – which seems fitting, but I had never really thought about it that way. If you know your type, I’d recommend reading their description of it!

    Thanks for sharing, everyone!!

  9. Emily

    Hi Em!

    Congratulations!

    I love this post and the fact that you took us through your thinking! Can you share some of the books and resources you turned to once you were actively trying? And also what you’re reading now and planning to read? One of the things I love most about your blog is how thoughtful and purposeful you are. You are an amazing resource!

    Did you have John by your side each month when you took the test?

    I can’t wait to hear how you told your family!

    Thank you!!

  10. Lindy

    Thanks for sharing… so fascinating! Very happy for y’all! My husband and I always knew we wanted kids… it really wasn’t even a question. Now that we have two (1 and 3 years old), we actually wonder why people wouldn’t have children! They just bring so much joy to your life!

    It really saddens me that what parents often talk about is the negatives- you lose sleep, kids cost $, your social life changes, etc and don’t talk about all the wonderful ways your life changes! You have a tiny person who thinks you are the BEST EVER. You get to dance around and make silly faces without anyone judging you. The giggles! Oh, the giggles. And the cuddles. And the quotes? Truly hilarious to hear how little minds work and hear their questions and opinions. You get to see the world through a child’s eyes and are reminded that bubbles truly can bring JOY! Kids just make you stop and realize what’s important in life (stuff that as adults we miss in the busyness and stress of meeting deadlines, work, getting to that next stage, etc).

    Enjoy it all!! Can’t wait to hear more about your journey!

  11. louise

    What a great post, loved reading this! “Having children is the greatest expression of hope humans can participate in”, that so resonated with me. I never dreamed of having children or being a parent, if anything I was known for claiming that “I don’t like kids” and “I don’t want to have kids for AT LEAST 10 years” while in college. Now that I’m 30 that equation starts to become problematic … but somehow through the years I (and my partner, for that matter) began to more and more have the realization that we DO want our future to involve a child.

    Looking forward to hopefully hearing more of your thoughts around the journey to parenthood!

  12. I love how thoughtful you and John are! I think all the reasons you listed for having a baby are spot on and so far have been true for us! And isn’t funny how you go from not wanting to wanting to be pregnant so quickly? I was the same way!

  13. Em

    @Emily Yes, I will definitely do a post about books soon – I have read or am planning to read a lot of them! As for pregnancy tests, we actually only took one, ever! My cycle is (was) very regular, so it was obvious when there was no need to take a test!

  14. I still don’t really like babies, but, like you, the vision I have for my life definitely involves having 2-3 children. As I’ve gotten older, I’ve often struggled with that, especially listening to people complain about how their lives are over now that they’ve had kids. But now, I think it will be wonderful to have them and to fit them into my world, obviously while adjusting, but I have every intention of taking them on vacations and doing the things I enjoy doing now, just with kids.

  15. Jenny

    Congratulations! I love how rational you guys were about this decision. I was the same in some ways and opposite in others. I never actively wanted children when I was younger – I didn’t NOT want them, it just wasn’t something I thought about much – even though I was pretty good with kids and babysat all the time. However, as soon as I got married I wanted them. Like, right away. Within months. I knew it was super important to my husband and if I was going to be a mom I wanted to be a young mom (I was 23 at the time) so I said we should go for it. And we did and I love my kids so much. They totally complete me and I feel grateful for how they helped shape me into who I am. We had both of our kids (and knew that we were good with 2) before we turned 30 and, yes, there were tough times with the budget and whatnot but we have had a lot of fun. We travel with them now and have lots of plans to travel just the two of us when they are older because we will still be young enough to enjoy each other then and will probably have more money at our disposal to do so! Many of our friends are just now starting to have babies and it’s nice to be on the other side of it.

    The funny thing is that I feel less like a kid person now than ever before. Maybe I’ve just gotten it out of my system but I’m not the one asking to hold someone’s baby or volunteering to babysit. I’m awesome at showers – I know all the right gifts to give! – and I have some pretty solid advice for anyone who needs it but I find myself less enamored of other people’s children than I was when I was younger.

    I can’t wait to see how you guys enjoy having your little one around. Thanks for being so open and sharing with all of us!

  16. Laura

    You and I are the opposite, I’ve always been a baby person. But when it comes to toddlers, I’d rather watch them from afar :) One thing you said that really resonated with me is how being a parent brings in a whole other aspect with your relationship to God. Since having our son 2 months ago, that is definitely something that I have thought about. Not only realizing how much God loves us as His children, but realizing how much He loves us as sinners that he would sacrifice His son. That’s something that my husband and I have talked about; how unfathomable it would be to sacrifice our child. Being a parent has helped us understand on an even deeper level the love that God has for us.

    I am so excited for you and can’t wait to read more about your pregnancy journey. By being so intentional and thoughtful, I think it will help you during those inevitable times of uncertainty and exhaustion. How blessed we are to be given this gift and responsibility from God.

  17. Mary

    Congratulations! I always enjoy reading your blog and the practical way you and John approach things. While I have always been the baby person, it also took us quite a while to take the actual leap into parenthood. We didn’t do quite as much research as you guys ;), but we did give a lot of thought to what we wanted our family to look like in the future and what we needed to do to get there. I wasn’t sure if we would ever leap, but one day it just kind of clicked for both of us, and here we are! I’m just a few weeks behind you actually!

  18. Elizabeth

    Gosh, I went back and read what I wrote and I hate that I didn’t come across as loving my dog more than a child. I meant to say I couldn’t imagine loving something more than my dog, because at the time my love for my dog was so deep. Now it just seems silly! I love my girls more than life!!

  19. Em

    @Elizabeth I TOTALLY understand what you mean – no worries! :)

  20. Rachael

    Emily, I just wanted to say that I read your first two paragraphs and thought I was reading something I might have written myself 12 years ago. I don’t like babies. I don’t like little kids. I hate babysitting. Just not into it. I always felt a little guilty for feeling that way, but it’s just the way I am – and it’s why I teach high school! But, as you would expect, nothing gives me more joy than my two boys. Anyway, I’m so glad to hear your news – glad for you and John, but mostly glad because the world needs more children being raised by people like you.

  21. This photo! How adorable are you, Em? This was a very interesting post for me to read, but mostly, I just enjoy the fact that when you picture your life/future, children were always a part of it. I love that and am very excited for the two of you.

  22. I love this post. I am getting married at the end of October and we’re already getting so many questions about having children. My fiancé and I have been very vocal about not wanting kids for a while; we’ve got careers, debt, heck we don’t know what we want to do when we grow up! I’m right there with you on not liking babies, I’m just not comfortable holding them and I think that’s where my dislike comes from. I love children but you’re right, that age from 0-2 I am not desiring anytime soon. But give me a sassy 4 year old and I would be the happiest parent!

    Congratulations though to you and your husband, I’m sure you will be terrific first time parents! Can’t wait to follow your journey.

    Thanks for sharing!
    Cynthia
    http://www.darlingdownsouth.com

  23. Zoe

    Thank you. This is such an inspiring and honest post. My husband I have always known there are children in our future and knowing the love we have to give to them has always been at heart of why. Your ‘one more reason’ resonates so strongly with me. Beautiful.

  24. mary

    I think you totally got it right with you said “..I don’t think either of us would ever have stated that we felt 100% prepared or ready (financially, emotionally, or otherwise) to have a baby. But that’s the beauty of the system – you don’t just decide one day that you’re ready to have a kid, and one arrives on your doorstep the next day.” I don’t think you can ever be totally ready to have a baby, but that’s ok! It is will be an adjustment with challenges, but what new phase of life doesn’t have it’s challenges?

  25. I never wanted children when I was growing up. I never pictured myself being a parent and it never sounded appealing to me to have my freedoms restricted and certain life goals put on hold. It wasn’t until I was about 20 or 21 that I decided I wanted to be a parent someday. I became a toddler teacher that year and fell in love with all my students. I loved being around children and seeing them learn and grow. I then got married at 21 and now, 2 years later, we’re trying for a baby. I now couldn’t imagine myself not having my own little family someday.

  26. Kensington

    Wow..what an incredible post! I’m several years away from having children, but can definitely relate to your thinking. Your posts always leave me feeling more educated, and encouraged as you always work through things so rationally and intentionally and write about them beautifully. Congrats on this new journey!

  27. Megan

    Thank you so much for sharing! I’m a newly-newlywed (3 weeks!) and throughout our dating and engaged life, my husband (still so fun/weird to type!) and I always openly discussed our future thoughts and plans for children. We would still like a couple of years of just us, but I must say, having the discussion as a married couple now feels especially exciting. I LOVED what you said about “getting to parent someone who was made from him, alongside him.” Amen!

  28. Marget

    I appreciate the clarity of the micro steps in your decision making! And Seth and I could not be happier your journey brought you here! One of the first things Seth and I said to each other on our first date was that family was our most treasured value. For me, I think the main reasons I have always wanted to parent, is that I loved my family growing up so much, and I wanted to create more of that. I always pictured myself as part of my grandparents’ and parents’ life stories, and I didn’t see myself as the end to their tales, those traditions. Having John as the most adorable and lovable little brother definitely helped teach me how enjoyable it is to spend time with people with fewer years under their belt. I also just absolutely love life, have few attachments to how it should be (we still travel with baby Wes, it’s just different), and I truly find people to be worthwhile, incredible, and the most interesting part of getting to explore the world. So if we were blessed to bring a new person to life, the answer was yes. I didn’t contemplate too much what we would lose, because there are cons associated with any commitment, and I knew the pros were far more closely associated with my values. Simple!

  29. Marget

    Oh, and I believe you will be WONDERFUL parents.

  30. Laura B.

    Emily,
    I just loved reading this post and am overjoyed for you and John as you embark on this next chapter. (And selfishly thrilled to be able to continue to read your blog posts and follow your journey through pregnancy and parenthood.) Lots of love! ~Laura

  31. You know I can relate to this post :). Yet now, I’m sitting here eating lunch, and I had to put my hummus wrap down because I started to cry. Em, I’m only 4 months in, and I wish I could show you how true and vibrant and real your reasons are. Yes, intangible before having a baby, but more real and tangible than you’d ever imagine after. You’re beginning to experience them while pregnant, but I want you to promise to go back to this post and read it again when your baby is 4 months old. (Set an appointment in your calendar now!) I have the feeling that you might cry, too, when you stop and really think about how your baby has opened your eyes to God’s extravagant love in a new way, what a miracle it is to watch your baby see the world and recognize you as her mama, how her resemblance to John makes you melt (she’s totally going to have those asian features! I’m calling it!), and how it really is an expression of deep hope to have children. Just wait – your heart really is going to crack wide open in the best possible way.

    You and John are going to be wonderful, wonderful parents. Babies are going to look a lot different to you after this!