I come from a not-very-reproductive family: no siblings, no cousins. As a kid, to hang out with kids, I had to try, and I didn’t try too hard.

As a teenager, I babysat twice. The first time didn’t really count, as my charge slept the entire time. The second time, two toddlers alternated getting exactly what they wanted with screaming exactly what they wanted. I turned to dog-sitting and avoided any child-supervision tasks for the next 20 years.

In those 20 years I don’t think any kids missed out. My interactions with them consisted mostly of eyeing them nervously whilst trying to back away. In contrast, my husband can have a kid in stitches (the good kind) in a blink. We had a kid because of his parenting potential — not mine.

The helpful messaging I received about having a kid was (1) it’s different when they’re yours (+1 for having kids), (2) childless people have time and resources to do nice things like travel (-1 for having kids). Eventually I was getting less excited about (2), so I figured I’d test (1). There was a bit more thought to it than that, mostly revolving around overpopulation, the singularity, global warming, nuclear war, pandemics and in general how many happy years a child born now could have before humanity collapsed.

Being pregnant was not that exciting. When the oppressive malaise of the first trimester finally passed, I could have forgotten about the pregnancy except for having to stay away from things known to the state of California to cause birth defects (i.e. any paints or other toys I liked to play with), having to submit to check-ups, and finding that turning sideways did not help in squeezing through tight spaces.

The quirks passed me by. I did not have any interesting food cravings. I mistook the first N weeks of kicks for intestinal activity. Once I did finally recognize the kicks, I identified this more with “Total Recall” than some miraculous process of creating new life. I thought I’d never experience the things you are supposed to experience, when finally in the last night of pregnancy I got the nesting instinct: after constructing an outdoor storage rack for firewood (no paint applied!) and in the middle of scrubbing the shower at 10pm, I went into labor.

The next day was not the most joyful day of my life. It was highly unpleasant. After, I was holding my son, trying to get the breastfeeding thing figured out, and for lack of a clue was patting my son on the head, because that’s what you’d do if you had, say, a dog or a cat in your lap. The lactation nurse said ‘Stop doing that! You are distracting him.’ It took a few days for my son and me to figure out breastfeeding, but we did. The best thing about breastfeeding is that it wasn’t pumping, though of course you are pumping because you are breastfeeding. In any case, I found myself eagerly awaiting the 6 month mark, only to find out that the probably-pulled-out-of-thin-air guidelines were to breastfeed for a full year. We made it through to 9 months, and when we stopped, neither my son nor I really looked back.

The tabloids are filled with celebs-turned-first-time-parents gushing how being with their baby is the most amazing thing. Yes, the first smiles and other milestones were cute. But having failed to contain our son in a playpen, we were left holding/watching him nonstop instead. It was exhausting, and though at times interesting, most of the time it was not that interesting. Once, when my son was still a wee baby and I had surrendered him to full-time daycare, a colleague at work asked if I thought about my child all the time, and I admitted that no, in fact, I pretty much didn’t think about him while at work. The colleague said I was lucky, because he was never able to put his children out of his mind. I wondered if I was somehow heartless. Trying to get at the extent of my heartlessness, I would ask myself how distraught I would be if something happened to my son. Lest you think that this was some especially macabre train of thought, I have to say that my child’s carseat alone had 5 different tags in yellow and white warning about death or serious injury, followed by his highchair, his stroller, multiple toys, not to mention that things like blankets and plastic bags and blinds and outlets have posed a serious threat to his life throughout. Though I convinced myself I would experience unbearable pain should such a thing occur, my guilty thought was that it would be a waste of insane amounts of effort.

At my son’s 2-year-old doctor’s visit, the doctor cautioned: ‘Never be in a different room than your son. They can easily get hurt at this age. Even just taking a big step, they could break their leg’. I’m still not sure how exactly a kid is supposed to break their leg thus, but we obediently stood watch continuously, just in case. While not witnessing any leg breakage, we did witness ear-busting tantrums. Age 2 is not a time of harmonious joy with one’s child. There is a lot of frustration on the part of the young one who can’t express or understand many things. I tried desperately to occupy the time. We went to all the local zoos, museums, and construction sites many times over. Despite my efforts, my son much preferred his dad who could make any situation fun and silly. My slow progress made me wonder how I was expected to become this very significant person, a “mother”, to my son.

At the ’3 year’ annual visit, the doctor stayed mum about our having to keep watch on our son all the time. Wisely, we did not specifically ask either. Upon returning home, my son did not all of sudden self-entertain in the other room, but I could attempt to do so. Somewhere between age 3 and 4, things got very interesting. We loved making up stories together, exploring, playing, laughing and laughing and laughing. We are friends. It is good. He’s 5 now. He is a delight. If I ever stay late at work or travel, I miss him, genuinely miss him with a physical ache. I finally know what all the hoopla is about with having kids (though I’ve been warned that this phase ends all too soon and then you have a stinky, complicated teenager on your hands).

This does not translate into wanting another. A while ago a friend asked me to hold her baby while she looked for something in her bag. Awkwardly I held the baby in my lap as if I had never held one before.

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