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PARENTHOOD
From Shuree Jafferally: “I was sitting at lunch with my friend when she casually mentioned that she and her husband are thinking of starting a family. “We’re taking a survey. Do you think we should have a baby?”

“It will change your life,” I say carefully.

“I know,” she says, “No more sleeping in on weekends, no more spontaneous vacations.”

But this is not what I meant at all. I look at my friend, trying to decide what to tell her. I want to tell her that the physical wounds of child bearing will heal, but that becoming a parent will leave her with an emotional wound so raw that she will forever be vulnerable. I consider warning her that she will never again read a newspaper without asking, “What if that had been MY child?” That every plane crash, every house fire will haunt her. That when she sees pictures of starving children, she will wonder if anything could be worse than watching your child die.

I look at her carefully manicured nails and stylish clothes and think that no matter how sophisticated she is, becoming a parent will reduce her to the primitive level of a bear protecting her cub. That an urgent call of “Mom!” will cause her to drop a soufflé or her best crystal without a moment’s hesitation. I feel I should warn her that no matter how many years she has invested in her career, one day she will be going into an important business meeting and she will think of her baby’s sweet smell. She will have to use every ounce of discipline to keep from running home, just to check on her baby.

I want my friend to know that everyday decisions will no longer be routine. That a five-year-old boy’s desire to go to the men’s room rather than the women’s at McDonald’s will become a major dilemma. That right there, in the midst of clattering trays and screaming children, issues of independence and gender identity will be weighed against the prospect that a child molester may be lurking in that restroom. However decisive she may be at the office, she will second-guess herself constantly as a parent.

Looking at my attractive friend, I want to assure her that eventually she will shed the pounds of pregnancy, but she will never feel the same about herself, that she would give up her life in a moment to save her offspring. My friend’s relationship with her husband will change, but not in the way she thinks. I wish she could understand how much more you can love a man who is careful to powder the baby or who never hesitates to play with his child. I think she should know that she will fall in love with him again for reasons she would now find very unromantic.

I wish my friend could sense the bond she will feel with parents throughout history who have tried to stop war, prejudice, and drunk driving. I hope she will understand why I can think rationally about most issues, but become temporarily insane when I discuss the threat of nuclear war to my children’s future.

I want to describe to my friend the exhilaration of seeing your child learn to ride a bike. I want to capture for her the belly laugh of a baby who is touching the soft fur of a dog or a cat for the first time. I want her to taste the joy that is so real it actually hurts.

My friend’s quizzical look makes me realize that tears have formed in my eyes. “You’ll never regret it,“ I finally say. Then I reach across the table, squeeze my friend’s hand, and offer a silent prayer for her, and for me, and for all the mere mortals who stumble their way into this most wonderful of callings.

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