How I decided to become a mom

August 4 2011 | Guest post by Leah Tioxon
Leah and her husband Mark being awesome. Photo by Leah and Mark.
Leah and her husband Mark being awesome. Photo by Leah and Mark.

I think I've always wanted to be a mom — at least from the time my little brother joined our family when I was seven years old. I had never been very interested in dolls, but when my brother arrived I suddenly had a real-life baby to care for. This was much more interesting than a motionless hunk of plastic.

My daily goal became finding ways to make him laugh… or burp (I was seven!). On the weekends, I would get him out of bed before my parents woke up, often before the sun was up. He was still half-asleep most of the time, but I just couldn't wait to start playing with him. I'd change his diaper and fix him a bottle. Sometimes I would take the clothes off of my life-size Raggedy Anne doll and put them on him. Sometimes I would fix up a little wagon with blankets and tuck him in and pull him in circles around the house. Sometimes I would just hold him in my lap and talk to him. I was a proud big sister and mom-in-the-making.

Early into our relationship, my now-husband and I discussed having children. Mark and I were definitely on the same page. The first time I saw him interact with a kiddo, my heart melted. He has this natural, easy way with children. He respects them as individuals, and genuinely enjoys spending time with them.

Fast forward a few years, and we are married. We're starting our own photography business. Baby Fever had me in its crazy-making hold. I was one of those women… the women who linger in the infant section of any store. The women who read birth stories and mommy blogs every week. The women who stare at every baby and pregnant lady they see.

My husband was ready to have kids. We had already picked out names and set aside money for a midwife. I went off the Pill and started charting my cycles. I ovulated with amazing regularity every month. I desperately wanted to become a mom. And yet… something was stopping me.

I was terrified.

I'm the kind of person who gets all kinds of piercings but never tattoos because tattoos are too permanent. I prefer renting to home ownership so that I can move whenever I feel like it with minimal hassle. And here I was on the verge of making the most life-altering decision of my life. Should I choose to become a mom, there was no going back. The decision to become a parent is a permanent one, and would bring with it an enormous lifetime responsibility to guide and nurture another person.

Mark and I had so much going on. We were building our photography business, shooting every weekend. We traveled often. Our lives were awesome, exciting and fun. Did we really want to introduce a child into the mix? I pictured my life screeching to a halt. Career indefinitely on hold. Traveling only once or twice a year, instead of every month. Mark being forced to go back to an office job because I wanted to stay home part-time with our child and for some reason our business stopped being successful and we had no money. Resentment creeping in. Sleepless nights. Crumbling marriage. Unhappiness. Complete loss of self.

My fear-induced vision of parenthood held none of the joy I felt when I pictured myself as a mom. There was a major disconnect between my heart and my head. How was it possible to want something so badly, and yet picture it turning out so horribly? I felt impossibly stuck. I wasn't happy with the idea of NOT being a mom. My heart swelled every time I thought about raising children. But month after month, as my body released egg after precious egg, my brain screamed at me "What are you thinking?! NO NO NO! You are not ready for this!"

And then one day a wise and dear friend said, "It sounds like you think being a mom means giving up everything else. Why is that?"

Why, indeed?

Because when it comes to being a mom, I don't trust myself to be awesome at it like I do with everything else.

Because I don't know how I can be a good mom and still have time for myself and my business and my marriage. Because I can already hear people asking me why I think it's a good idea to travel with a baby. Because I don't really believe my husband when he says we'll figure it out as we go and we'll be great parents. Because when it comes to being a mom, I don't trust myself to be awesome at it like I do with everything else.

So I made a decision. I decided those reasons wouldn't stop me from becoming a mom. Maybe I can't make all the scared, doubting, mistrusting feelings go away. Maybe some of those thoughts would always be lingering in the back of mind, but I didn't have to listen to them. I could listen to my heart instead. Like I did when I decided to go to China by myself without speaking a lick of Mandarin. Like I did when I decided to get married — the one other "permanent" decision I've made in my life. Like I did when Mark said we should start a photography business.

I believe in myself. I believe in my husband. And I know that together we can do — we HAVE done — amazing things. We've overcome challenges. We've knocked down obstacles. We've made a decision day after day to seek out happiness, to act with love, to do scary things and not be afraid of failing.

I'm not going to fail at being a mother. I don't have to give up everything I love to be a good parent.

In February I told Mark I was ready. Let's do this. Let's be parents.

Five weeks later, I peed on a stick and a "Yes" popped up.

We're doing this. And it rocks.

Parents: what led you to decide to become a mama or papa?

  1. i'm so happy for you. this story totally resonates with me, too. i love all the children around me, and i have a great partner, but i'm completely terrified of becoming pregnant. it's so frustrating to have your heart and head in different places. i feel like a crazy person. i've been off the pill for a year because i thought i was ready, but now all we do is have safe (non-baby making) sex. you can't un-do birth!

    i guess i'm glad to see it work out well for someone else!

  2. What a relief! I'm a commitment-phobic yet ironically baby-fevered gal as well. You really nailed it on the head with the fear of resentment downward spiral… that is at the heart of my hesitance. Just opening the lines of communication and acknowledging those fears I think is half the battle-won! Thank you so much for sharing your inspirational story. It was definitely a therapeutic and peacemaking read for me. Sending you a HUGE congratulations and *high five* to you and your hubby on your bun in the oven. 😀

  3. The first part of this totally reminded me of my two older boys, aged 8 & 10, who LOVE playing with the baby. We take advantage of their excitment by letting them 'babysit' on Saturday mornings while we have some quality time together.

  4. I just have to say, this article has made me well up with tears. Because it is EXACTLY how I feel. To the tee. My husband and I are not thinking about having kids for another couple of years…but I know it's in our future. I, too, have been with an off-and-on "I WANT BABIES" feeling. But in my head, and sometimes my heart, I truly doubt if I would be a good parent. Or if I should even BECOME one. I think about things I would have to give up. No more pubs nights every Friday/Saturday, no more travelling to exotic places every 1-2 years for long stretches of time. No more heat-of-the-moment fashion purchases. I could go on and on.

    BUT! Your post has really helped put things into perspective for me. Thank you.

  5. Thanks for this great post. My dude and I are at the point os starting to seriously get information about our kid journey, and I feel exactly the same way you do. Thanks for sharing your story so I feel like less of a crazy person 🙂 Congratulations on your wee little bun!

  6. This post came at the perfect time for me. My beau and I have been doing some serious talking about our future lately, and after eight years together, and coming up on my 30th birthday, I'm starting to feel like we NEED TO GET A MOVE-ON. One thing: I have bipolar II, a sort of "bipolar lite," if you will. I would need to commit to being off medication for over a year (plus any time I decide to breastfeed) in order to be comfortable with becoming pregnant. And then come all the questions… How would that go?? Would I be stable enough to even be able to hold a job for that time period? I can't even take care of myself sometimes… would I feel a new sense of purpose strong enough to propel me through any major depression? For someone who doesn't know me at all, hearing these questions might lead to a strong "No, you should totally not bring any children into this world!!" The thing is, I have dedicated my education and entire career to children. I want to become a mom more than anything in this whole world. And, even though I will undoubtedly have some major struggles, I also know that I will be one hell of an amazing mama, and that the good I have to offer to my future children greatly outweighs the possible struggles. I know that my situation and doubts are different than yours, but the basic point I took from this post is that we need to listen to our true inner voice, trust it, and not make decisions based on fear.

    • As another bipolar II someday mama, I would love to read a post on your journey, should you decide to have a baby. I am terrified of being a mum for those exact reasons you listed, and the internet needs more info and support for mentally ill mamas!

      • Sarah, it is good to hear from someone who is in the same place. This is the path I am planning on taking: Get financially stable by reinventing myself career-wise and creating a career that can sustain me through the down-times, meaning alternative/flexible hours. (Still trying to figure that one out… maintaining a traditional job has not been very successful for long periods of time, but self employment seems to be the beginning of the answer). Heal myself as much as possible through nutritious foods and movement. Get in touch with my spirituality. By waking up to all the areas of help out there (beyond JUST psychiatric and psychological) and seeing myself as a dynamic, whole being, I hope to become as stable as possible. We'll see how that goes. Today I have hope. I stand in solidarity with you. And hopefully someday we won't be forced by the stigma of mental illness to take these conversations, that should be happening out in the open, to semi-hidden corners of the internet. Someday we will be able to be as frank with employers and neighbors as people are about living with any other illness.

    • You can do it. I'm a mama with bipolar II, 18 weeks pregnant with my 2nd. I go to weekly therapy and they monitor how I am doing closely, but we're doing okay. It's scary–heck, my current pregnancy was a surprise and I had to get off new meds I had just started with a quickness. There are days when it's harder than others, but every time my 3 year old tells me she loves or sings me a song and every time this baby kicks, I know it was absolutely worth the struggles. And I'm getting more and more time to just be ME now too–with my first I almost felt like I couldn't, like everything had to be centered around the baby. Now, I'm happy and healthy (most of the time 🙂 ) and so are my kids. Good luck, miranda!

    • I'm in exactly the same place as you, Miranda, with Bipolar II and a big dilemma.
      I think I should..
      I think I want to..
      I think I have a lot to offer a hypothetical child…

      but terrified that it could all go wrong and not sure if I should even chance it.

      The idea of going without medication is scariest for me. I've spent 10 years getting to a point where I finally have the right drugs in the right combination, right dosage, etc. I'm finally able to do basic things like clean my house or go to school without cracking under the pressure. A baby.. plus no medication, I don't know if I could do it.

      But I hope you can. I hope you do. I hope I read about you doing it when you write some fabulous article about how you kicked bipolar's butt and had an awesome baby.. and then maybe I can do it too.

      • Johanna, your response brought tears to my eyes. I am so happy to hear that you are stable now… sounds like you're in a much better place than myself, in fact. I hope that I get this all figured out, and I really hope you do too.

  7. Wow, this resonated with me so hard. I can make most decisions very quickly, unless I see them as permanent. Kids are permanent. Thanks for sharing this.

  8. I was the opposite I was so sure I was ready and I am but now that I am pregnant I have moments of panic. I have a career where kids can have iffy effect on your career it's either fine or over, I don't want it to be over so I panic when I think how I'm going to be able to travel with baby when hubby job prohibits him from coming w me all the time. I know it'll be ok but it is scary. But I wouldn't give the little monster growing in my belly for anything.

    • Me too! I've been one of "those women" for years and was 500% that I wanted to get pregnant. I finally got the Hubs on-board and here we are pregnant and my 500% has dropped. Maybe it's at 100% now, because, like you said, I wouldn't give up this little jumping bean for anything. But man, hormones are funny aren't they? They get you to do impulsive things and all of a sudden your brain resurfaces and is like "What have we gotten ourselves into?!" Thank heavens that my husband is soooooo excited that he keeps me from getting too serious.

  9. Although I didn't know that I wanted a baby form a very young age as you did, I experienced so many of the same feelings. Especially the fear of permanence. Oh god, the fear of permanence! I knew that I wanted a baby. I knew that it was the perfect time to have a baby. I was even able to forget about the fact that I was no longer on the pill when we got busy. But every month that I took a pregnancy test and got a negative, I was filled with this mysterious mix of disappointment and relief. A feeling of "nothing has to change yet." Fortunately, when we got that positive a couple of months later, I felt only elation and no regret. I think it's the journey there that's the most treacherous. Then the fears about miscarriage and birth defects can take over our phobic minds. Ah well.

  10. Thanks so much for this! I was 8 when my baby brother was born (he's a grown up 19 year old now) and I was exactly the same with him. My mum has videos that she secretly made of me dressing and playing with him when he was a few days old.

    I am exactly the same, all my adult life I have felt like a mother without a child. I couldn't wait for the 'time to be right'. But it never was, life actually turned out to be so exciting that I was scared to give it up. My husband is also a photographer and I am a self employed wedding dress designer as well as a teacher.

    So we decided, let's go for it, time will never be right. I was scared, asked myself a million questions like you. For us the journey was quite different, it took us 17 months to finally get that positive pregnancy test and I cannot wait to bring a beautiful baby into our lives!

  11. I like what someone else above said about you see what you will give up and what you keep. I decided that I will keep the baby close when I'm done with work for the day and when she's older I'll loose the baby weight by going to the gym all the time like I thought I would do but the time between work and bed is too precious…that's the one thing I noticed about feeling like my life has TOTALLY changed-and it really does take longer to get out of the house. I like your ideas about traveling with the baby. You can totally do that. I know a sucessful musician who's taken her baby on tour to Europe many times and around the country too. People do it. Best of luck to you! And to the rest of you who are pregnant and freaking out-I was there too but remember it will all end so shortly. You'll soon be the one posting from the other side.

  12. I experienced a surprise pregnancy and had all those feelings about all the things a baby would take away from my life. My son is six and half weeks old, and, yes, things have changed. But things are also really good. The first four weeks were hard, but they get easier every day. My husband and I have less time together, but on the other hand it is great to see him in this new light as a dad. I love my son so much, and I know things will keep getting better and better.

  13. Oh this is such perfect timing! I was just talking with my sister yesterday about how I keep feeling like right now is THE time… but it's still not the time for us as a couple since my love is going to be jobless in two weeks 🙁 I keep see-sawing in between wanting to wait because that's what's best for us as a family and not wanting to wait becacuse what if I don't ever get the the-time-is-now feeling that I have right now back?

  14. Wow! It is like you read my mind! My hubby and I are about to have our first any day now! I think those things all the time. I was just like you, i knew I wanted to be a mom, but was it the right time? And here is what I hav learned in all my research and interviewing and over thinking of it all…

    There never is a right or perfect time. Not in planning. Life throws you obstacles and you learn how to fce and get over them. That is part of the fun and the ride of living. When I found out we were pregnant, I was so confused. I was happy and terrified. So you know what I did? I cried. They were happy tears for sure, but along with them fear that I couldn't do this alone. And though I wasn't and has a wonderful supporting man who was beyond excited, it was learning how to trust and let go.

    I still am learning this lesson. The lack of control really had me spinning for a while. I always pictured myself being spontaneous and going with the flow. Ha! Turns out I am just beginning that part of my life.

    Many blessings to you and your growing family!

  15. All I can say is YAY!

    My hubby was so sure and ready. It took me a year to come to the same conclusion you did… sometimes, if everything else is right, you've just got to do it.

    Thanks so much for sharing… I wish I had this article a year ago!

  16. I *loved* this! I'm going through the same exact feelings/fears at the moment. Everyone keeps saying your life is over when you have kids and I heard it so much that I started to believe it. Ya know what though? You may feel that way but I'm not going to let having a baby keep me from doing the things I love. Thank you so much for your story!

  17. Ya!! I love this, I have been doing this to myself for years. I want a family but all I can picture is the ruins of my life and all of the things that *could* happen. I don't know why because most of the time I think I would be a good mom and I know my husband and I can handle anything and really want too. I'm so glad to know I'm not the only one.

  18. I just wanted to say how happy I am for you both! This article is so close to how I've felt about being a mom. Thank you so much for sharing, it's brightened up my day in ways you can't imagine. 🙂 x

  19. I love this post!

    I too am afraid of commitment, yet the one thing I have never questioned committing to is having a child. I've actually told my fiancé at one point "Well, I'm not sure if I'm ready to get married yet, but I am definitely ready to start trying for a baby."

    I knew this made no logical sense, but I know in my heart without a doubt that I want to be a mother as soon as possible. I've seen so many failed marriages in my life that I am very, very afraid of that commitment, but I know the real reason that I'm afraid is that I'm scared I'm going to mess it up.

    I've got this maternal thing down, but when it comes to being a fiancé, I clam up and always worry too much.

    It's getting better though, and I CANNOT wait to get married to this man, no matter how terrified I am of the "what if's" of marriage. And don't even get me started on how excited I am for our first honeybee (which we have less than a year left before we can start TTC!) :D!

    Congratulations on your pregnancy and mamahood. 🙂

  20. Yes! Yes! Yes! Leah, you are so thoughtful and insightful. Thank you so much for sharing your journey with us. I can't wait to hear how you and Mark take your awesomeness to the next level with your little one.

  21. Thank you, thank you, thank you! I can see from how much your post has resonated with me and the other commenters that you must have voiced some internal, unvoiced conflict that is really very common. I appreciate the opportunity to make the connection that not only am I not alone, but I am definately understood. I worked as a nanny for years and was happily fulfilled by that job. I just KNEW that I was meant to be a mother. My journey to motherhood has been bumpy, to say the least. I've had a miscarriage, hormone imbalances and lack of insurance. But by far the biggest obstacle has been my deep fear that I will fail…as a pregnant woman, as a mother, as a wife. I just recently began to own and work through those feelings. I decided that no matter how much I feared failure, I trust my intuition that I will be fulfilled by motherhood and will be a capable parent. Which is good enough for me. Well, guess what…today I got a postitive result on a pregnancy test. I'm about 6 weeks along. I am terrified but hopeful. And so very grateful to all of you for sharing your experiences so I don't feel like somehow it's all going wrong.

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