Maternal Ambivalence….A Baby Story

A reader sent this link to me and was curious to know my thoughts on the subject.  Please take a moment to read the article before reading my thoughts.

http://www.parentdish.com/2010/12/10/maternal-ambivalence-dr-barbara-almond-discusses-the-hidden-s/?a_dgi=aolshare_email

Growing up, I knew I wanted to be a Mommy.  There was no greater thing to be than to be a Mommy.  I looked forward to getting married and having children (in that order) but I was more excited about having children.  I remember riding in the car with my mom and my siblings, telling her about how many children I wanted to have.  I said I wanted to have twins, triplets, quadruplets, and quintuplets and then I was going to adopt some too!

But that changed.  It changed when my friend (who later became my husband) told me he was going to be a father again.  When we married, I was completely against having a baby.  I remember telling our pastor during pre-marital counseling that I was not having any babies.  He already had a boy and a girl.  I couldn’t improve upon that.  I didn’t think there was anything left for me to do.

Some family members would ask if we were going to have a child.  I would quickly answer no.  I had no desire WHATSOEVER to have a baby.  How did that happen?  I had fears.  I was afraid that our child wouldn’t be as special to him or to his family.  I was afraid that our child would be mistreated because s/he was mine.  I was afraid that I would be treated as the “third in line to have Brian’s baby”; that my child’s birth would be like watching a movie on repeat instead of a special event.

Those were my main fears due to my position as an bonus mom.  I also had other Mommyhood fears.

I was afraid of losing sleep.  (I love a good nap at a moments notice).  I was afraid of having to raise a child past infancy.  I wanted to be “ready” to have a child.  I wanted to get the that place where wanting a child was more important to me than being able to get up and go see a movie whenever I wanted to.  My husband and I have rather strong opinions about parenting.  I was afraid that, if I became a parent, I wouldn’t be able to walk the talk.  I was afraid of making our child an idol; placing more importance on the child than God.

Then, something happened.  I don’t remember what it was but I began to desire a child.  Looking back on it now, I think I still deeply wanted a child even when I was in my I-don’t-want-a-baby-ever-in-life mode.  I was just too afraid to admit it.  The desire was so deep.  I think I was more afraid of having such a strong desire and never being able to have a child either because of physical difficulty or financial ability.

That’s my story. I often wonder what other women’s stories are.  What happened?  There is always a story.  There is always a reason even if we haven’t dug deep enough to figure it out.  I knew a few women never thought they would have a child so as a way of protecting their feelings, they decided to adopt a feeling of ambivalence.  I know other women who, because they had no experience with babies, didn’t desire to have a child because they would be novices at it when they currently were professionals in their careers.

There are a myriad of reasons for maternal ambivalence.  I think the bottom line is, do you trust God enough?  Do you trust him with your vulnerabilities, known weaknesses, and fears?  Do you trust him enough to know that He knows your strengths?  Do you trust Him enough to know that He never makes mistakes (although at times, to our human eye, it seems like He does make mistakes)?  Those questions take a lifetime to answer.  Each situation and circumstance, comes with an opportunity to bring you into a deeper level of trust in Him.

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2 thoughts on “Maternal Ambivalence….A Baby Story

  1. Like the author, I happen to believe that ambivalence is a normal human phenomenon.

    The issue of ambivalence is inclusive of the decision to have children altogether. There are societal pressures and cultural conditioning that may provoke guilt in a woman who does not want to have children for what ever reason. But is seems to me that it takes a more mature person to admit that they are not prepared to undertake the ministry of motherhood, than to succumb to the expectation and carry out one’s duties under a cloud of resentment. Not all woman are wired for motherhood!

    That said, it didn’t seem that the focus of the article was on ambivalence about becoming a mother, as much as it was about experiencing ambivalence in the role of mother. I think that the main point the author was trying to address is that because women have not given themselves “permission” to feel this ambivalence in their role as mothers, they often get bogged down in feelings of guilt and /or anger, both of which are self and other-destructive.

    She explained it this way: “that when you love someone or need them or care about them, you can’t help not being aware that you might lose them in one way or another. You might lose their love, they might grow up and leave you, they might run off with another woman, there are all kinds of threats… you can’t help feeling some ambivalence toward anything that is very important to you, that is, you both love it and hate it because it’s so important to you.”

    Beyond that, I just think it’s very normal to have ambivalent feelings in all human relationships. We are far too complex to feel all good or all bad about any one person or relationship. We love our husbands and enjoy being married, but every honest wife will tell you that there are times when she doesn’t ‘like’ her husband and has longed for a return to the single state.

    Likewise that are times when our children will evoke the same sentiments. And it doesn’t even have to be anything about them personally. As human beings in a fallen state, we are inherently selfish beings. So anyone/thing who requires sacrifice from us can cause the negative aspects of ambivalence to emerge — ESPECIALLY, when you feel that that sacrifice is not being reciprocated or appreciated, or you don’t experience the rewards you expected.

    People that have fortune and fame surely have ambivalence because there is a cost to pay for all of it. I can petition the Lord for some blessing (husband, children, higher education, a home) and when I receive it, I am happy and grateful. But when I have to experience some downside to the blessing (annoying habit, loss of personal freedom, maintenance/repair costs), I might certainly find myself quoting the familiar saying, “be careful what you ask for, you just might get it!”

    We can know that God has called us to a thing and still entertain feelings of ambivalence at times because of what it requires — usually the crucifying of our flesh! Why should the call of motherhood be any different? And the bottom line is, nobody is perfect. Nobody can give 100% to a relationship 100% of the time. And that’s OK. Because if we could find all of our needs met in a human relationship, we wouldn’t need God!

    Valerie D

    • Thank you for your comment Valerie!

      While I agree that ambivalence of all kinds is a normal human phenomenon, I think It is listed under the bigger phenomenon. Fear. Fear is broken down into many categories covering a wide variety of subjects. It think categorizing fear is helpful in identifying what the root cause of a fear is.

      I do not believe that having maternal ambivalence negates Gods command in Genesis 1:28 telling us to be fruitful and multiply. I don’t agree that not all women are wired for motherhood. I don’t believe that is a biblical statement. A woman admitting that they might not be prepared for motherhood is not the same as saying that they are not wired for it. God equips you to be in any ministry He places you in which includes motherhood.

      I think women must give themselves “permission” to feel ambivalence regarding motherhood. I don’t think woman, Christian women in particular, have a safe place to share those feelings without being attacked. Not that the commands of God would change based on their feelings but expressing ones feelings and getting a loving and gentle response is important as well.

      I am a Mommy who has had maternal ambivalence on both sides (before and after baby). There have been many, more than I thought I would ever have, times when I would, but for a moment, wish that my baby were still in two separate entities. But God. He got me through (Phil. 4:12-14). I’ve had other “return to sender” moments with other parts of my life as well but He has gotten me through.

      You are correct. No person (husband, child, other family, friend, etc) or thing (career) for that matter could meet all of our needs because we do need God.

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