- Erika Barr
My Journey to Conscious Parenting
Updated: Nov 17, 2019
I was 27 when I got pregnant with my first child. Sean and I had just gotten married 6 weeks prior. We had the perfect plan. I was going to quit my job, we’d get married and go to Africa for our honeymoon, and then I’d get pregnant. I was lucky, getting pregnant was easy. It happened right away and we were thrilled. So far everything was going according to plan…
At the time my husband would have definitely called me a control freak. I liked everything to go my way. The detail of my pregnancy I wanted to control the most was the gender of the baby I was carrying. Of course I picked something that is completely impossible to control (outside of going through the painful and expensive process of in-vitro, and even then I’d only be controlling biological sex, NOT gender). We cannot control most things in life and letting go of the idea that we can was one of the hardest lessons I’ve ever had to learn. My first baby handed me a giant dose of that lesson.
I got pregnant in 2011, before they were regularly doing the NIPT screening, a test where they take the mother’s blood to detect genetic abnormalities and also learn the biological sex of the baby. I was desperate to know the sex of my baby. I wanted a GIRL. I ONLY wanted girls. Having anything other than a girl was not an option. I was going to have two of them. Sisters. My girls would have the sister that I never had. They’d have a mama who did all the girly things with them, things that my mom never did with me.
I couldn’t wait until the 15 week ultrasound to find out if I was having a girl, so I decided to go through an incredibly invasive and painful procedure called CVS. It’s much like amniocentesis, but they can do it earlier. During the test, they stick a needle in the mother’s belly to collect a small sample of cells (called chorionic villi) from the placenta where it attaches to the wall of the uterus. This test detects chromosomal abnormalities and will also detect the presence of a Y chromosome. When I asked my doctor for the test, she tried to talk me out of it. This was not a high risk pregnancy. I was only 27, and everything seemed to be developing normally. I was insistent.
First, I was required to go to a group info session. I was the youngest person there by at least 10 years. The woman who ran the class had a private meeting with each of us. She asked me why I wanted to have CVS done and told me about the potential risks. She also tried to convince me not to do it. I was completely honest with her. I told her that I needed to know the sex of the baby as soon as possible. I went on further and said, “Also, I know you will think I am crazy, but if it's a girl, when you call me with the results will you just say ‘It’s a girl!’, and if it’s a boy, start with, ‘the baby is healthy'"?
She definitely thought I was crazy. Can you imagine how worried she must have been for the baby that was coming? Boy or girl, this poor baby was about to come into this world with a mama who wanted to control everything right down to the way she was told by a doctor what the sex of her baby was.
Writing this now, I feel all kinds of sadness for that 27 year old. She was so unconscious. She wanted the fantasy at all costs. It’s hard not to feel shame too. Most of the people in that room with me were there because they were at high risk for having babies born with medical abnormalities. Some of them had lost babies already. And here I was just wanting to have my expectation met as soon as possible.
I think you can predict where this story is going…
About 7 days after I had the procedure done (a scary 7 days following a painful CVS and fluid loss), I got the phone call. It was around 2pm on a Friday and I was at my dear friend, Elizabeth’s house. The doctor called and said “Hi, This is Dr. Anderson calling from Kaiser. I have great news! The results came back completely normal!”
I freaked out. What did she just say? My panicked response was, “Oh God, is it a boy?!”
She cheerfully replied, “Yes, there is the presence of a Y chromosome.”
I can’t even remember what I said to her after that. I hung up very quickly but I vaguely remember her asking me if I wanted to talk to a counselor. After I hung up I sobbed to my friend that it was a boy and ran to the side of her house and wailed by the garbage cans. I didn’t want her kids to see me crying hysterically. I was devastated. I was heartbroken. My daughter dreams came crashing down around me. I didn’t choose to quit my job and raise a little boy, I was meant to have a girl. This couldn’t be happening to me. I cried my heart out.
When I came back to my friend she hugged me and told me what a blessing it was that I was carrying a healthy baby. She was very gentle with me even though she couldn’t understand what I was going through. She herself, had two beautiful little boys that were around 3 and 1 at the time. In hindsight, there was no mistake that I was meant to be at her house when I got the news. She was my only friend with kids at the time and she had two beautiful little boys that she cherished. She was thrilled to have baby boys. I needed her on that day.
I went home and cried and cried. Sean came home and I told him the news. He was terrified of this happening because he knew how much I wanted a girl. Poor Sean had no room to have an opinion about the sex/gender/ANYTHING of our baby. I never gave him the chance to think about it (not that he would have cared either way). It was all about ME.
ME. ME. ME.
When I think back to that time, I marvel at how selfish I was in my choice to have a baby. Was I thinking about ushering a sweet soul into the world to nourish, and guide, and grow with? NO. HECK NO. I was thinking about how I get to quit my job and do whatever I want. HA! I was thinking about how I get to design the room of my childhood dreams. I was thinking about what pleasure this child would bring me as I dressed her like a doll everyday.
I write this story to share with you the level of my unconsciousness when I entered parenthood. From the moment of conception, I was already using this child to complete my incomplete self. I was lacking in so many ways and I was looking to the external world to give me the validation that could only have been found inside myself. I wanted a baby to show off to the world. I wanted a baby who I could give the things that I never had. And by “the things I never had”, I mean the material things. The things I was conditioned by culture to believe mattered. I never considered that the things my child would need might be things I wasn’t ready or equipped to give. I never considered my child would come in with his own unique spirit and that I would need to WAKE UP and heal myself before I could even consider how to show up on the level he required from me. I never considered that my child was exactly the gift I needed to hold a mirror in front of my face and show me just how screwed up I was.
If only I’d known…
Part 2 coming next week!