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Welcoming Change

Lesa O'Daniel
Los Angeles CA USA
From NEW BEGINNINGS, Vol. 23 No 4, July-August 2006, pp. 159-160.

There was a recent discussion among my local La Leche League friends about dads and whether "good dads" were born that way or had learned or otherwise grew to be good dads. It sparked something in me to respond, although not about my husband. That's because there has never been a question about his fathering instinct. He is a wonderful, involved dad and extremely supportive husband, but this story is not about him. It's about how I grew to become a good mother, despite my own expectations.

My husband, Josh, has always known he wanted children and it was just a matter of finding the right time in our relationship to have them. When we moved to Los Angeles, California, USA from New York City, USA, I knew that it was a move in our relationship, too. It was moving toward settling down into a home and a city where we would stay for many, many years to come. It was also moving into another chapter of our lives and I would need to seriously start thinking about having children.

The problem was, though, I never wanted children. I couldn't really stand them and never thought I could spend more than 10 minutes in a room with them without running out of things to talk about. My mother had three children -- all of us were "surprises." I, her first, was born when she was 19 and she had two more all within two years of each other (three children by age 23!). Although my mom did breastfeed us each for about a year, she had a mother who was not very nurturing (and did not breastfeed -- it was during the height of the formula era in 1952). I think this, coupled with her bad marriage to our father, is why my mother really disliked being a mother. It's not that she didn't love her children, because I truly believe she would walk to the end of the earth for any one of us. It's more that she found every waking moment of motherhood a huge chore (and it showed) and never took the time to enjoy the fun times or take time out to be playful with us. I always remember her yelling, being sad, or being frustrated.

After coming out to Los Angeles, I thought long and hard about having a child. My husband and I were secure in our relationship -- something I wanted before considering having a child -- we had been happily married for 10 years. We were also secure in our careers and finances. The only thing missing was whether I was emotionally ready. About four months after moving, I just decided to throw caution to the wind and try to get pregnant.

When I told my mother I was pregnant she howled, "No, no, no, no, no, no, no!" (You may think this is exaggerated, but I have her reaction on video.) Of all the reactions I considered, this was not one of them! I knew she never wanted me to get married because she told me never to get married, so I eloped at 21. She never wanted me to have children because she always told me how important career and money were for a good life. Since I was 31 years old when I got pregnant, I was more surprised by her reaction than hurt.

The point is that I ended up totally being changed by a beautiful birth experience, a wonderful husband as a support system at home, and by plugging in to different networks of women. This is something my mother never did and she really should have. I had to force myself to and am glad I did. Strangely enough, I even ended up quitting my job and being a stay-at-home mother who teaches natural childbirth on the side. And I've never run out of things to talk about with my son. If somebody had told me before that this would be my future in my 30s, perhaps at one time in my life I would have howled, "No, no, no, no, no, no, no!"

Life is funny that way -- I believe that great experiences can change a history of behavior patterns, even those passed down through generations.

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