Wednesday, 28 November 2012

The Cost of Kids

Any mother worth her umbilical cord will tell you that having a baby is one of life's most wonderful and fulfilling experiences. To bring another human being into this world and to love them unconditionally for the rest of your life is nature's way of saying "Eve, you did good!" Despite the many life-changing events that follow when exercising one's maternal right, the pros of motherhood always seem to outweigh the cons even though the cons-list is considerably longer. Nausea, stretchmarks, weight gain, a lifetime of worry and concern, not to mention the end of social existence as we know it. It's enough to scare one into sterilisation. Does it take a certain kind of woman to embrace the joys and perils that come with being a mother or are certain sacrifices and penalties to be expected when you're expecting?

My older sister Alli had recently marked the fortieth anniversary of her life and had three beautiful children to show for it. Like most Catholic girls at the tender age of twenty, her first child was an immaculate conception. As glowing as she was, this unexpected arrival had cost her the freedom to experience those reckless self-discovery years that are absolutely vital to one's own personal development. Not wanting to disappoint the patriarchal leaders of our family, she decided to get married and declare baby Mickey a honeymoon blessing that would later be two months premature.

Ten years later, a worn-out Alli welcomed two more additions to our family, a little boy and a little girl. As the years went by, I got to see less and less of my sister who had transformed overnight  into a ball of stress and frustration. Her weeknights were reserved for PTA meetings and extra-curricular school activities while her weekends were spent ironing, cleaning, shopping and tending to sickly children. A day with the girls inevitably turned into a play date at Jimmy's Jungle and everything else had to be planned months in advance. What had happened to my darling sister? Had she sacrificed her own identity for the sake of her children? While I am sure that twenty years of being a mother without a single day off had its rewards, I couldn't help but wonder whether my sister was genuinely happy or in desperate need of some serious "me time"? 

A few weeks ago, I met a fabulous 45 year-old from Zimbabwe. Her name was Carrie and she was a dress-maker, entrepreneur and proud mother of four. Her first pregnancy was an absolute breeze but by the time she had her fourth child, her body had been through some significant changes. She  decided that it was time to have a little nip and tuck, so got on a plane to Cape Town where she met the surgeon of her dreams. His work was flawless. He performed a tummy tuck, some liposuction, a breast reduction, a minor facelift, a couple of fillers and a little bo just to top it all off. R120 000 and eight kilograms later, Carrie was transformed into a brand new woman and she looked great. "As much as I worship the ground my children walk on, the last one really ruined my body for life so I figured it was time to do something about getting my confidence back."    

Kirstin and Rodney were always the life of the party. They were rock stars in every sense and true legends in their own right. Whether they were competing in the nasal Olympics of Colombia or just kicking it back with Johnny, Jose, Jim and Jack, Kirstin and Rodney would always be the last ones standing. I was shocked to hear that Kirstin had managed to fall pregnant and even more shocked to see her maternal side kick in at a recent house party. I watched in utter amazement as Kirstin and Rodney followed their little monkey around everywhere, taking turns to feed him and love him, keep him entertained and more importantly to keep him out of harm's way. And then the unthinkable happened. They left before 7pm.   

Sanity, time, money, identity, lack of social life, sleepless nights and sacrifice, spontaneity, physical and personality lobotomies. These are just a few things to consider when having a child of your own. Don't kid yourself, when that biological clock stops ticking it will change you in every way imaginable. The good news is that it's all apparently worth it. It brings you a different kind of happiness, one that you can only experience when you become a parent yourself. I hear that it happens the moment you hear those tiny little heartbeats beeping back at you from the ultrasound or perhaps it's the first time you get side-kicked by a little ninja-foetus. Whatever the case, the product is always unconditional love combined with an overwhelming sense to protect the mini-you at any cost.  

The cost of child birth: priceless.

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