I always wanted kids, but in a general way. My career was important to me, I was young, and I didn't feel ready to have kids at all when I went to Texas about 4 years ago to help care for my sister-in-law and her newborn. When my s-i-l was 9 months pregnant, she had an absolutely excruciating headache, was taken to the emergency room, and was found to have a (large) brain tumor. The baby was delivered by c-section the next morning, and s-i-l had brain surgery the day after that.
When I arrived, the baby didn't have a name yet. I helped to name her -- s-i-l had made a list of about 25 names, and she chose the ones I said were my two favorites. (First and middle name.) I diapered, fed, and rocked baby Isabelle for a full week. And something happened.
I do think that there is something innate, something biological, that is triggered by holding, smelling, and seeing a newborn. It was incredibly wrenching to leave her after a week (I cried and cried), and I felt so intensely that I was really worried about seeing her after that -- that has died down, but I still haven't seen her, and hope to this summer, and will be curious what happens.
At any rate, my generalized desire to have a child at some point became very, very specific after that week. It was like there was a hole that I didn't know about until it had briefly been filled and then the filler wrenched back out.
Interestingly, this happened to my husband, too (thank goodness!
) so I don't think it's something purely female or maternal.
This is the innate. I think the triggers really are biological. But learning how to "mother", the verb, is something else. I recently saw something really interesting in a discussion about different types of childbirth and how mothers bonded with their newborns. One person wrote:
It took me time to truely love my child. Why? Because I didn't know who she was. I felt the bonds of mom and daughter, but how could I love a person I didn't even know? A few weeks later, we were so in love with each other. It just took time to meet her.