One of the things that has been eating at me lately is how to determine what emotions are "real" and which emotions are simply highly evolved coping mechanisms, developed over years of unsuccessful treatments. I was going to say I'm not sure which of my feelings are "genuine" but I believe that all of my emotions are genuine. I just don't know if I'm protecting myself or if I've really changed how I feel. Here is a concrete example to illustrate my ramblings . . .
At this point in my life, I am no longer certain whether I want to have to children, or if I simply want to prove to myself (and others) that I'm not broken. It's like when a child begs and pleads for a toy insistently and when the parent finally relents the child realizes that they really have no interest in the toy. They thought they wanted it, and having it withheld from them increased it's allure and desirability, but in the end they didn't really want the toy. In truth, they just didn't like being told no. In some ways that's how I feel about having a baby now. I'm not certain that I really want one, or if I simply don't like being told no.
There was a time in my life where I was certain that I wanted children. I looked forward to the challenges, victories and defeats of child rearing. But over the last six months or so, maybe even year, I feel like a tide is turning. I've been reading lots of articles about the challenges of work-life balance for parents, but mothers in particular and I think about how much I'm looking forward to developing my career when Zac retires. A couple of weeks ago, as I read up on how much it costs to raise a child, I could feel myself dreading cutting back on contributing to my retirement account in order to fund diapers and college funds. I was getting ready for bed the other night and sadly recognized that if I had a child, my sleep patterns would not be my own, possibly for a long, long time. I was on a terribly turbulent flight last week and I thought to myself, "This would utterly suck if I had a kid in tow." (The feeling was reinforced when I was running down an airport hallway trying to make the third leg of a flight, exhausted from hours of traveling and weighted down by a heavy backpack.)
I was surrounded by kids last week at Zac's cousin's wedding. Almost a dozen kids belonging to Zac's various cousins - infants up to 10 years old. And while I enjoyed the kids, at no point did I have any sort of yearning to have one. I felt no sense of loss. No feeling of missing something. Instead I was grateful that Zac and I were able to stay later into the evening, free from a responsibility of getting kids back to the hotel to get to bed at a somewhat normal time.
I find myself more and more happy that I don't have a child, and dreading the idea of having one. However, I can not for the life of me figure out if 1). It's because I really, truly, no longer want to have children, or 2.) I've developed such a strong defense mechanism against the disappointment that I've convinced myself that I feel this way. Am I continuing with fertility treatments because I am that petulant child that hates to be told no? Or do I really still want to have kids?
I don't have the luxury of time to take a break for a couple of years to reexamine what I truly want. I'll be 36 soon, and perhaps the one and only thing that I am certain of is that I do not want to be 40 and having a child. If we get pregnant, I am sure I'll come around to the idea of being a mother. I just hope that's what I want.