“This room would be perfect for a nursery,” my mother said, while inspecting the small, enclosed area next to my new kitchen. My husband and I had just bought our first home, and it was move-in day. My siblings, parents, and cousins had all volunteered to help, and amid the chaos, my mother found the little yellow room I dreamed of turning into a large, walk-in pantry.
And I meant every word. I was 26, and had too many other things I wanted to do with my life; take a class in modern art, ride the high-speed rail in China, spend the night in a glass igloo on the Arctic Circle to watch the Northern Lights.
But children? They were never a priority when I exchanged wedding vows with my husband.
In fact, I wasn’t even sure that I wanted children. Most of my girlfriends already had toddler-aged kids and were exhausted from the lack of sleep, which became their new norm. I valued my solid eight hours of REM sleep and occasional weekend naps too much to give them up. My friends didn’t have time for impromptu dinner dates, either, and complained bitterly about the rising cost of medical insurance for their children. None of this sounded appealing to me, especially when I considered the expenses involved with raising a child. I wasn’t interested in sacrificing my free time or my savings account to have a baby.
My husband had a different perspective on raising children, and with good reason.
My husband was adopted by a loving family, but at the age of 5, he lost his adoptive mother. A year later, his adoptive father married a widow who had seven children and moved them into my husband’s childhood home. The wife was a kind, gentle woman who adopted her new stepson as one of her own — but the changes were difficult for my husband. Seemingly overnight, he had seven siblings and a new mother. Despite her attempts to make him feel like part of the family, my husband still thought of himself as a boy without “real” parents after going through two adoptions. It created a sense of abandonment and mistrust that plagued him throughout his childhood.
These insecurities were reinforced during his teen years when his adopted parents divorced. His father met another woman, left the family home, and married for the third time. What my husband perceived as a rejection by his father only intensified his feelings of abandonment, and he vowed that if he ever had children of his own, he would make sure that they knew how much they were wanted and loved.
I knew going into my marriage how important having a family was to my husband, but children were the last thing on my mind.
I wanted to enjoy the early years of our marriage, unfettered by the demands of a baby who would need to come first in our lives. Deep down, however, I was battling my own insecurities about motherhood, believing that the nurturing gene must have skipped a generation in my family. I had zero experience with children — I never had the neighborhood babysitting gigs that my sisters did, and I had no desire to tend to the unruly tribe of children who lived on our street. The thought of being responsible for another person’s life was a terrifying prospect, and I intended to delay pregnancy plans for as long as possible.
Just two years into our marriage, my husband was ready to expand our family.
Sympathizing with what he had been though in his past, I did some deep soul-searching. I decided I had to stop focusing on my own needs, and begin to consider the life with children that he wanted.
My husband craved that special connection and fulfillment that a parent feels when they hold their newborn for the first time, and it wouldn’t have been fair to deny him the sense of wholeness and belonging that he’d missed growing up.
I knew from the close relationship he shared with his nieces and nephews that he would be a father who loved without reservation. He’d be a hands-on parent from the start, determined to be the kind of father he wished he’d had while growing up. For this reason — despite my initial hesitation — I agreed to start a family with him.
And it was the best decision I could have made.
Together, we leapt into the uncharted waters of parenthood when our first baby arrived. The transition wasn’t always smooth — I was completely out of my element, and the bone-deep fatigue I felt each morning often left me in tears by the end of the day. I battled feelings of insecurity, doubting every decision I made and worrying that I may not be making the right choices for my son. The amount of parenting advice thrown my way was overwhelming, but in the end, I learned that I had to trust my own intuition and let it guide my future decisions.
My husband was always supportive of the choices I made for our family, and together, we tackled the childrearing responsibilities like a synchronized team. We collaborated on everything from pediatricians to daycare, late night feedings, grocery shopping, errand running, and the family budget.
Seeing him beyond the role of a husband and in his new role as a father increased my love and respect for him, bringing us even closer in our marriage.
He was a hands-on partner who seldom second-guessed his decisions. His “go-with-the-flow” approach taught me that it was normal to learn from our mistakes in order to become better parents.
Although I started out our marriage with reservations about having children, when I rocked my son to sleep against my breast late at night, watching the moon carve a path of light through the deepening sky, I was astonished by the capacity in my heart to love another person so deeply. I was forever changed by him, and I knew that my life would never be the same…and in the best possible way.
I embraced being a mother wholeheartedly, and knew that there was still more love to give.
The nurturing instincts I once thought were missing from my genetic makeup kicked into high gear, and I surprised my husband with a renewed desire to expand our family again.
We went on to have three more babies, and I have never regretted that decision. My husband and I have been strong advocates of our children, providing them with a support system based on love, stability, and a sense of unification that protects them when the world is not so kind. They complement our lives by challenging us to be better people and by gifting us with unforgettable moments of joy.
Together, we’ve created the strong family bond that my husband felt was missing from his own childhood.
Today, watching him teach his children how to play softball on the lawn and ride their bicycles down the tree-lined street of our neighborhood, I know his heart has finally found its home.