I was scared to death of having children. Here’s what changed.

For as long as I can remember, the thought of being a mom completely freaked me out.

I’m not talking about just since I got married, I’m talking like, since I was 10 years old.

And no, I wasn’t scarred by something in my childhood.
My growing up years were wonderful! I was one of 7 kids with affirming, loving parents. We grew up on a farm, my mom was an amazing stay at home mom who loved being there, and my siblings were my best friends. I have no regrets from my childhood.

But I never liked babies. I never had a babysitting job in my life, was never the kind of person who had to get a “baby fix” or wanted to hold newborns. I think I could count on one hand the amount of times I’ve changed a diaper in my life. I never felt that “mom instinct” that some girls seemed to posses from childhood.

When Steve and I got married in 2016 I thought that after a year or two, my attitude about children would change.

But 2, 3, 4, years went by and that feeling never came. Most of our friends who got married around the same time were on their second or third child and there I was, with a baby being the last thing I wanted. When I say the last thing I wanted, I’m not exaggerating. Even the thought of getting pregnant gave me a panicked, stifled feeling. Being around babies stressed me out, and I watched frazzled moms with a mixture of fear and discouragement. It just looked so unappealing. Also, life with just the two of us was an absolute blast, and each year just got better.

As the years went by and my friends were having their second and third babies the pressure I put on myself was pretty intense. Something had to be WRONG with me….didn’t everyone around me tell me how amazing it was to have children? How much they loved being a mom? Didn’t I read in the Bible that children are a blessing from the Lord? Why did I dread it so much?

Looking back I think one of the reasons I was so hesitant to have children was the fact that I was getting so many mixed messages.

In case you haven’t noticed, there’s a lot of negativity about children out there in our world, and that attitude has permeated our Christian culture.
“Say goodbye to it all once you have children” the modern mom jokes. Don’t expect to ever have a clean or orderly home, have time to take care of yourself, exercise, or even take a shower. Oh and forget about a thriving marriage…you’ll despise your husband as he sleeps while you’re up feeding the baby. 

Wow, sounds appealing. 

I was very sensitive to how moms talked about their children, and complaining about kids is sadly, so common. I don’t mean to heap guilt on anyone. I’m have no doubt that being a mom IS hard at times, as I will learn soon enough. But the attitude that I saw in some moms affected me deeply. Why would I want it if it’s always so difficult? When women complained about never having time to take care of themselves, exercise, engage in hobbies after having children, and joked about how intimacy with their husbands didn’t exist anymore, did they think that made having children attractive to others? Moms would say very negative things and roll their eyes about their children while they were literally right in front them, listening, and then in the next breath say “Oh but they’re such a blessing. You should have one!” I’ll pass on that blessing, thanks. 

Another reason I was hesitant was because of my business. I absolutely love photography and I knew being a mom would put an extreme limit on the freedom I had to pursue it. It’s something that brings me joy, a creative outlet, a chance to connect with people, a challenge, an art. My business was my baby and I was so content with that. I had more than 5 years where growing my business was my main pursuit and I was passionate about that, and loved the challenge of becoming better and better.

So that was me. For years.

Fast forward to June of 2021. I’m pregnant!

And nope, it wasn’t a surprise. I was so excited about it!

What changed? 

Well, some things changed, and some things didn’t.

First of all, I still didn’t feel ready to be a mom.

I had prayed that God would change my heart towards children for years. Like, literally YEARS. Almost daily I prayed that prayer. I realized that I had accepted some of the world’s negative messages about children and motherhood, lies really, and I needed to give those to the Lord.

But even after years of praying about it, my feelings didn’t change. But I remember the exact day where I stopped wrestling with the fear of being a mom, and told God, ok. Even though my feelings don’t line up, I’m going to take your Word as truth, that children truly are a blessing from You, and trust it. 

I started watching the moms I admired, who loved their job, who didn’t complain, who didn’t try to get out of it. I realized that it IS possible to work as a team with my husband to raise a family, have time to care for myself and my home, and do it well. Although the negative messages were still out there, I chose to focus more on those women I admired and who I saw doing it well, asked questions, and talked to more women in my life about my fears.

My sister also had two little girls and I absolutely fell in love with them, and in spending time with her, saw the challenges and joys of motherhood on a deeper level, mostly the joys. I remember when she told me about the first time she left her little girl for a couple of days on a trip, and how her heart physically hurt because she missed her so much.

I started realizing that all these years I was focused on what children would take from me; my freedom and independence, my body, my career, my time and energy, my sleep. And I was forgetting what children will GIVE. I realized the amount of love I would have for my child would overpower those other hard things and that I actually would WANT to spend time with them, and that the reward of raising children would far outweigh the sacrifice.

I started filling my mind with the truth about motherhood and rejecting the lies that I had accepted. And guess what? My feelings toward having children gradually changed.

The day I saw those two little red lines, I’m not going to lie, I freaked out a little. I remember just staring at myself in the bathroom mirror with wide eyes. It wasn’t unexpected, but it was all so new and scary. I was so nervous but I was also really, really excited. I actually waited to tell Steve about it for a couple of weeks. In those magic weeks I remember that feeling of knowing a little life was inside of me, it was just the two of us, me and my baby, our little secret.

When we started telling people about our baby, I think a lot of people were shocked, because I had been open about my struggle for wanting children. But the joy that others shared with us blew me away. Every life truly is a precious gift, and having those around me celebrate that new life with us was so special.

I still look ahead to having children with a degree of trepidation. The world is watching how we raise our families just like I watched the moms around me for so many years. I think raising a God honoring family is one of the ways Christians can have a great impact on the culture. And it’s scary because I’m far from perfect and so is my husband….how in the world can we do this right!? Also, the world is a scary place right now. The thought of what the future might hold for my children can give me anxiety.

The advice from other young parents has come on thick since we announced our pregnancy, and while I appreciate it, I know most of this we are just going to have to learn by doing.

The thing that has been most beneficial to me as I prepare to be a first time mom, is simply encouragement. Someone else telling me, “you can do this, you’ve got what it takes, I’m here for you.”

And the other best thing? Watching moms who love on their children without complaint, prioritize their marriage, and actually enjoy the life they are living, even through the hard times.

scared to death

As I write this I’m nearing week 37 of my pregnancy with our little girl. 3 weeks to go. I’ve been healthy but I haven’t enjoyed pregnancy much, to be honest. It’s been a daily surrender of my body and getting used to a new normal. I hate not being able to be as active as I used to be…..it’s also getting pretty crowded and uncomfortable and I’m more than ready to hold her on the outside.

Trying to figure out what my business will look like after children has also been a challenge. Steve and I have had many conversations about it, He knows how I love what I do and has never wanted me to give it up, but rather learn how to balance it with my other role, being a mom. My top priority is my family, and my schedule will reflect that. But I won’t be giving it up completely. Creativity is a part of me and it will always be. We will just have to learn to work together and discover what works best for our family. As I book my schedule for 2022, Steve always reminds me to keep it light, because after we have the baby I won’t want to leave her. I think he’s right.

All in all it’s been a long, beautiful journey to get to this point. I thank God for working in my heart to prepare me for motherhood. Steve has also been my biggest supporter, as always, and I absolutely cannot wait to watch him be a dad. I’m just so excited.

If you’re reading this, and you can identify with my feelings toward motherhood, let me encourage you to bring it to the Lord, and tune out the messages of the culture. Feelings aren’t always trustworthy. Be honest with yourself about what lies you may be believing about children. If I can get to the point where I’m excited to be a mom, anyone can.

And now, we wait. I’ll keep you posted 🙂

Updated to add: I’ve been shocked at the number of emails and messages I’ve received from women all over the country as this post has gained traction on the Internet. I’m now the mother to a 1 year old and if you’d like to hear about my experience, here is part 2!

I was scared to death of having children…here’s what changed

  1. Mary Cate Guman says:

    Hi, Jess. Thanks for posting. I believe many women experience thoughts and feelings like the ones you shared on the journey towards change. Thanks for sharing parts of your journey with us. It was encouraging to read. Blessings to you, my friend.

  2. Abigail says:

    I always wanted to be a mom and yet now as a mom, this post resonates very deeply with me. The negative mindset towards motherhood is draining and a lie that Satan loves to trap women with! Thank you for speaking boldly and honestly yet with so much grace!

  3. Jane says:

    Love your honesty! Wish I would have had this to read 30 years ago! Even then, I was shocked at the negativity toward children, the flippant comments about how they are a burden, and the pushback when we dared to a third, and – gasp – even a 4th child! Words too often tore down instead of building up. And little ears hear and are affected more than we realize! Your parents were a constant, consistent support and encouragement. We treasure their friendship! I applaud your willingness to be transparent about your journey. Rest assured, if you were out of God’s will those first 5 years, he was entirely capable of telling you! Instead, he smiled upon you with the gift of a creative outlet that is also a ministry. Not wasted time at all! You will be the best mother ever, because God is with you always.

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