My brother graduated from college earlier this year and recently got his ultimate dream job in a nearby state. This is the realization of a plan and vision he’s held for himself since he was a very small child. It is pretty exciting for the whole family! Anyway, a couple of weeks ago I was talking to my husband about it and we were reminiscing about when we were young and launching our lives. Thinking about my brother, I was feeling a little wistful and a little tied down, thinking about how we’re never planning to move anywhere else and so forth and musing about whether we’ve made a mistake by settling so permanently in one home and location, are we missing out on “adventure,” etc. I also said, “remember what it was like to make decisions without having to think about our kids?” After a pause, we realized that we did not remember and that was because, while our children at one point didn’t physically exist, making decisions about our lives as adults has still always included them. And, then I was struck with a wave of memories of how the choices we made as a very young couple were based on the then-hypothetical nature of our future children and what we wanted for them. When I was finishing my BA in psychology, one of the top issues on my mind was where to go to graduate school. I felt a pull towards PhD programs in psychology and I felt like that is what many people were expecting of me, but I also knew in my heart that there was no way I could manage a practice as a psychologist while also having children. I didn’t want to spend that much time in school and then feel torn being pursuing my career and taking care of my children. So, I decided to work on my MSW, theorizing that the more flexible nature of the work and the less expensive nature of the degree would be more compatible with family life. (I was 18 while making this decision.)
Then, when I was getting ready to graduate from graduate school and Mark was finishing his bachelor’s degree we had a conversation about how it was “now or never” in terms of what we were going to do—I told him that now was the time when we had the MOST freedom and flexibility with our choices and if we felt like we wanted to live in a different part of the country, etc., NOW was the time to do it, before we had a family to uproot. We talked at length and looked for jobs and apartments in a variety of different states. Finally, we concluded that we wanted our children to be raised near their grandparents and not in a different state where they would see them once or twice a year. (I was now 21 and would not actually have any children for three more years.)
We realized that many towns and places are much the same as any other and why not settle where we were certain the grandparents would remain. I also knew that I wanted to be close to my own mom so she could help me with my babies! So, we bought land one mile from where my parents live before I even got pregnant with our first baby. Post-graduate school I was offered a full-time job at an organization that I adored the year before I planned to get pregnant and I turned it down, knowing that I wouldn’t want to be working full-time while having a baby.
Any more future babies out there?
Yesterday, I was sitting in the living room playing with Alaina and waxing eloquent about her fundamental awesomeness. The boys were playing in the living room too and I said, “I think I HAVE to have one more baby so Alaina has someone to play with! She’s going to really want me to have a friend for her.” Lann said, “But mom, what if you have a…” and I said, “it won’t matter if the baby is a boy. Boys and girls can play together just fine! It is great to have two boys and it would be fun to have two girls, but the other baby doesn’t have to be a girl. Alaina will be happy to have a boy to play with too.” He started to say something again and I went on and on about why do people think children have to be segregated by gender, blah, blah and then he said, “MOM! I’m not talking about what if the baby is a BOY, I was trying to say, what if it is a MISCARRIAGE!” And, I was quiet for a moment before saying, “I know. I worry about that too.” It was a sobering moment. I’ve talked and thought at length about how I’d like to end my childbearing years on this high, happy note, rather than possibly begin a new loss journey. (I do recognize that it is bizarre to make decisions about our family’s future based on fear, rather than love.) Just as when I was a teenager and twenty-something, today I continue to make decisions based on my present-day children and my hypothetical future children, including the possibility of experiencing further pregnancy losses.
Today as I was snuggling Alaina in the morning—she was popping up and staring at me and then flopping on top of me and snuggling her head into my shoulder over and over—and I was smelling her and feeling her strong, wiggly, vibrant little form and I thought, “you healed me.” If I hadn’t had her, I know I would have carried a permanent wound and a permanent place of sadness in my soul surrounding my childbearing years. She fixed it.
Thankful for place
Returning to my notion of being “permanent, this is an excerpt from one of my essays for my Ecology and the Sacred course.
I was interested by the explanation [in our class text] about how we typically, “tell the story of our cultural lives and our interactions with other people…” While I definitely share this tendency, I do also feel deeply rooted to my natural place—the land on which I live and on which I grew up. My parents homesteaded their property in the 1970’s and I was born at home and spent my entire childhood on the same piece of land on which I was born, playing in the woods. They are very connected to their land and literally their blood, sweat, and tears have gone into their “place” in the natural world.
Eight years ago, my husband and I bought a parcel of my parents’ property and built our own home there. We live on a different road than my parents, but are still only one mile from where I was born, and our property is bordered by theirs on two sides. My husband and I have now invested a lot of time and energy into this piece of land, now our blood, and sweat, and tears are part of this piece of land and we feel permanent in this location. We do not—indeed, cannot—envision ever moving and living anywhere else. Sometimes my husband and I talk about whether this sense of permanence is binding or restrictive—i.e. what about the sense of possibility, about being able to “start over” anywhere—but we’ve concluded that rootedness has a great deal of personal value to us and we wouldn’t want to trade our roots for “wings.” While this isn’t quite the same as a natural history of place, I do feel that my own identity and social story includes an interwoven, personally important element of natural place. This part of the country is where I belong and I am invested in it…
While some people lament the “foolishness” of their youth, looking back at my own young adult years, I’m surprised at my own youthful perceptiveness and foresight about what choices would best suit the needs of my then-imaginary children and family. I’m curious to know what life choices did you make as an inexperienced young adult that have continued to serve you well?