There is a lot to question about being pregnant/giving birth/having a baby/raising a human as a 20-something. Have questions? Email Jessica, who will enthusiastically answer them in an upcoming column!
Did you consider having an abortion?
Um, I was a 24-year-old writer with a truly impressive track record of being shitty at sticking with anything – relationships, jobs, apartments, haircuts – so the idea of terminating the pregnancy wasn’t just on the table, it was the table. And I was lying face down on that table, clinging to it, asking it desperately to save me from the newest whore-ibly irresponsible error I had just made by getting pregnant.
I found out I was packing fetus pretty early in the game – I was only about 4 weeks pregnant, which is sooner than most people even know they’re brewing a boo. So I had time on my side, which when you’re weighing what is arguably the biggest decision of your life, is a fantastic luxury. My immediate impulse was “Fuck no, we’re not doing this at all! Where is phone? Hello SIRI, GET ME THE NEAREST ABORSH PROVIDER!” But then a weird thing happened: I made, showed up for, and bailed out of 3 abortion appointments. I sat in the waiting rooms (each time at a different place, because I was too ashamed to keep showing up to the same clinic after chickening out); I even got so far as to be physically in the procedure room, in a gown, on the table. And then I left. I still can’t tell you why I did that, or what concrete reasons lead to my ultimate decision to see the pregnancy to completion, but I will say this: I wasn’t sure I didn’t want it. I wasn’t 100%, completely, undoubtedly sure. And for me, personally, in that moment, that little bit of doubt was enough. That’s how it is: Sometimes figuring out what you want is really about figuring out what you don’t want.
Do you have a lot of money?
You caught the part where I was a 24-year-old writer, right? Fucking no. I did not have a lot of money, nor did I have loaded parents. What I did have was an effectively working brain and 9 months to learn everything I had previously neglected to learn about being fiscally responsible. You don’t have to be rich to have a kid, but you do have to handle your money game better than ever before. It’s one of many ways I ended up being grateful to my kid; if that bundle of cells had never taken up residence in my ladyspace, I might have wallowed miserably in financial messiness for years. And life is way easier, and way better once you get smart about your money.
What is the biggest way your social life has changed since having a baby?
Obviously, a lot of how your social life functions, and how you view your relationships, changes when you have a kid. It just does. There’s no way it won’t. The specifics are drastically different for everyone, so I won’t even attempt to pretend I know how it would be in your actual life, although I do talk about it in my own life here. But the biggest really new thing to happen socially since popping out Junior Blankenship: I have mom friends now. Ugh, that makes it sound like they’re these women, and it’s not like that. They’re brilliant, interesting, hot, and we go out and get drunk and do all the shit I do with my other friends, except when they wake up in the morning, they’re amazing parents. If you have a kid, especially when you’re youngish and most of your friends are not even about that life yet, finding at least one or two people who have kids and get what you’re going through is invaluable. It’s a must.
Yes, it’s very possible to keep a lot of your social life intact, and maintain your relationships with kid-free friends – you can and should do all of that. But when you have a kid, everything you do exists in a completely new context; you don’t get to sleep in until noon if you’re hungover, and you might’ve spent 20 minutes hooked up to a breast pump right before you went to a party. Having people on your team who understand that, who can sympathize and make you feel less alone in your experience, who can give you all kinds of insight and advice, and actually get it when you’re having a day where you’re feeling overwhelmed – you need these people. I have them, and I want to barf with the immense power of my gratitude at having them in my life.
Did you have a natural birth?
Usually when people ask this, they want to know if you let them shoot you up with the good shit so you got gloriously numb when things got real. It’s kinda of this weird, passively judgmental way of trying to figure out if you’re a badass or a pussy. Let me say one thing and then I’ll give you a real answer: Anyone who has ever gotten a baby out of their body is a fucking champion. Whether you had a short, drug-free home birth, a hospital birth with all the epidural they would give ya, or a c-section, there is no “easy” way to have a baby. It’s hard. It rocks your body. This weird pastime of quantifying different ways of giving birth is mega bullshit.
My experience: I went nearly 3 weeks past my due date, which is longer than most people are even “allowed” (don’t get me started) to go before being induced, meaning that’s when they use various medical magic to kick-start your labor. I was pretty committed to an unmedicated birth, for a lot of reasons, so we tried a few non-drug methods first. They did fuck all to get anything started. The entire story of my birth involves 61 hours of labor, 3 different induction methods, 30+ hours on a heinous, painful drug called Pitocin, 4 hours with an epidural so I could get some sleep, and 1.5 hours of unmedicated pushing before delivering what felt like a minor dinosaur.
If you ever want to hear the long version of the story, ask and I’ll tell, but the point is this: I never doubted for a minute that I would have a completely drug-free water birth. It’s what I planned for, took a class to get certified for, and wanted. But the thing is, you never know what kind of birth you’re going to have until you’re in the middle of it, so the best thing you can do is research your ass off, go in armed with all the information about every possible thing that could happen, pick a team of doctors/midwives/doulas/whoever who you really trust to advocate for your best, safest birth possible, and don’t get too hung up if shit doesn’t go exactly as you plan. Because it rarely does, which as it turns out, is also true of every other part of parenthood.