1) You're redefining happiness
A couple of weeks ago, a friend of mine and I were talking about a study she’d just read, which concluded that people without children were happier than people with children; or, to put it more precisely, despite what conventional wisdom holds, the study found that having children did not increase anyone’s happiness.
At which all I could do was burst out laughing. Because, well. Duh.
Only an academic would undertake a study like this, defining happiness as something along the lines of “satisfaction with life” and “feeling rewarded by your work.” If there’s an occupation more likely to make you feel incompetent and unrewarded than being a parent, I have never heard of it.
If you weren’t an academic, you might define happiness as the experience of being fully alive. To know grace, and despair, and the kind of hardness you have to learn to stand against; to watch your family fail you when you need them the most, and have your ex-husband look around, shrug his shoulders, and hold out his hand to help you up again.
Right. Your ex-husband, so that you can learn a bit of gratitude, just enough to appreciate him, which you didn’t manage the first time around.
These are things you’d never know if you hadn’t had your daughter. Things you wouldn’t have had to know, and learn the hard way, bitterly.
If the medical resident hadn’t sat down while you held your baby girl in the neonatal intensive care unit and said, “Your daughter’s brain is massively deformed.”
The daughter you loved even before she was born. When she was an abstraction, a positive sign on a pregnancy test, before she kicked you in the ribs, long before she ever drew her first breath. Love you did not know you were capable of feeling, primal and angry and powerful, you would kill ten men and Satan if you had to.
But the universe doesn’t ask that from you.