Ruth McMullen was married at 19 years old, and had kids by 23. She says when you’re young and married, children seem like the obvious next step – then you realize you just ruined your life.
In practical terms, until the moment the baby is born your life is your own. The next moment, it isn’t. It changes everyone. Your parents, your spouse, your closest friends – all will reckon with, and eventually bend to, the needs of this new life in your life.
If you’re like our co-host Lauren, motherhood is a terrifying topic. This new life is beautiful, cute, but occasionally drooly, and incredibly exhausting. It re-defines you as a person in the world, and challenges your expectations of yourself. It can even cause mental illness.
At first, they sleep soundly. You smile saying, “my baby is perfect.” After a few days, the baby cries all night. It has a meltdown because of a stomach ache. It poops itself. It selfishly demands your time for virtually nothing in return, and it can easily ruin your relationships.
Ruth was diagnosed with postpartum depression after her second child. Even during her favourite part of motherhood – pregnancy – she says she was probably suffering with undiagnosed pre-partum depression.
Even though she loved being big and wobbly with a baby in her belly, needing help to get up, and eating random food all day, she woke up every morning feeling depressed. Depression transcended everything. No matter how much she loved her life and family, an hormonal imbalance made sure the feeling of sadness never dispersed.
Despite struggling with depression for years because of an hormone imbalance she got from having kids, Ruth bravely gave birth to three children.
If you’re like me, you’ve thought about having kids and decided against it a few times in your life. The first time you thought about it you told yourself the world was overpopulated. The second time, you considered adoption as an alternative. But as you watched your family members become ill or lose touch, as you realized your place in the world and the meaning of your relationships, you softened your stance. But you still have no idea if you’d be a good parent.
Getting married young was dumb, she says. Having kids young was dumb, she says. But as a mother today, would she stop her children if they wanted to do the same? She came out of those dumb decisions with a beautiful, loving family, a supportive husband, a touch of depression, and a hell of a lot of resilience. A parent with depression can still be a great parent, and the world is not overpopulated with good parents.
If you’re considering parenthood, Ruth’s advice is this: “thinking about it is a lot scarier than doing it.” When the day comes, at the exact point when you see your arms wrapped around a small child in your own image, “You don’t have a choice to not be ready.”