The two stories here today are especially close to my heart–not only because they’re from women I dearly love, but because they tell of two paths made beautiful when they weren’t the expected path.
My Beautiful Friend, Anna
I say I’m lucky to be Anna’s friend, but I think to be Anna’s anything is to be lucky–husband, sister, niece, nephew, neighbor, person sitting next to her on a bus. She breathes creativity–intentionally inhaling inspiration from everything and everyone she encounters, and exhaling love back to the the world in her work, in her words, in her actions. It is easy to assume “motherhood next” for a young woman who is so naturing, but there are so many different wild paths, and sometimes it’s not up to us to choose which one we’ll be taking. Anna recently shared more behind her “Just the Two of Us” story, and I asked her if she’d be up for contributing a little bit of it here–because I know this is many others’ stories too. When I opened the e-mail and began to read, the tears just fell. I love her all the more, and I love this path that she’s choosing to make so beautiful.
Like most couples, my husband and I figured we’d expand our family a couple years after we got married. Admittedly, this expectation was founded mostly upon the common assumption that having kids is simply what you do next. However, when the time came to get more serious, we both realized that we weren’t ready. This triggered years of deep conversations between ourselves and with our friends (both those with and without children) about the joys and realities of that hefty responsibility. The more we talked about it, the more unsure we were that this was an adventure we wanted to embark upon. I was surprised to find myself firmly on the center line, desperately wishing I felt more strongly about it either way.
A decade passed. As my siblings started to have children, I dove headfirst into being an auntie. My nieces and nephews enthrall me – they are the most hilarious, honest, beautiful little souls I’ve met. Fascinated with their wit and curiosity, I started to wonder if they were moving my needle. Yet I was still plagued with a lack of urgency and confusion: how could I love them so much and still be so unsure about having children of my own?
In my late 30’s, I went in for my routine yearly gynecological appointment. As the nurse practitioner started my exam, her brow furrowed. “Do you feel that? That wasn’t there last year. Let’s get you an ultrasound…”
An hour later, the doctor explained that numerous large fibroids had consumed most of my uterus and fallopian tubes. Hysterectomy was my best option. I don’t remember leaving his office, but I do remember calling my husband and saying, “Everything is ok but…” through my uncontrollable sobs, not wanting to scare him. He sweetly asked if he could come get me, but instead, I sat in the parking lot feeling the pain of the choice I once had being ripped from my realm of possibility.
After collecting advice from doctors across the country, we’ve conceded that my oven is irrevocably broken. At first, the theft of the option to have my own child left me with a tornado of emotions. I spontaneously cried in Target. Felt anger at my indecisiveness. Avoided social media because child-related postings made me jealous. Felt annoyance at my reaction to something I was unsure of in the first place. And experienced the nagging fear of regret. In hindsight, these are all understandable reactions. Now, I’m at peace knowing that I’m traveling the path I was meant for.
I focus on taking every opportunity I can to make memories with the tiny humans in my life. I relish their giggles and wonder – they are addicting little nuggets. I love the privilege of exploring and creating with them, and exposing them to experiences they might not otherwise have. I nurture them in my own way, bringing magic into their life that’s uniquely ours.
During a recent woodland hike to find evidence of fairies, my youngest nephew remarked that he’s glad we didn’t have kids. Bemused, I asked him why. He answered, ”…’cause then we couldn’t spend so much time together.” So true, little one. So true.
My sister will always be my go-to for everything in motherhood, everything in life. She’s share here about her journey to being a single mom (you can read it here), but today she shares one of my favorite Mother’s Day stories, one our family still laughs about today. Every motherhood path looks different, and my sister’s been doing it alone for many years now. She went from broke single mom, struggling to make ends meet, to the strong accomplished woman she is today. She bought a house (and decorated it ridiculously beautiful), raised three amazing girls and proved that sure, it takes a village, but your own strength and will can get you pretty far too.
Mother’s Day 2018
Seven years ago, I was deep in the trenches of single-parenting while preparing for another week of work and school. This meant making sure everyone had clean laundry, completed homework, and stuff for lunches. It was also Mother’s Day, and I had yet to receive any cards or recognition from my three girls.
I’m not one to make a big deal out of Valentine’s Day or even my birthday, so I didn’t give it much
thought and certainly didn’t spend the day moping. But by the end of the day – as I finished folding a load of clothes and making a mental grocery list – I was frustrated.
“Hey girls, I’m running up to the store to get a few things for lunches this week,” I said. “Because that’s what good moms do,” I added, for extra effect.
Before I left, I rummaged through craft piles to find crayons and paper and set them on the table before continuing.
“And while I’m gone, I’d like each of you to write me a Mother’s Day note. Tell me what I mean to you. Maybe even draw some pictures.”
I barely got the words out and they all burst out laughing — even I struggled not to laugh. This was not my typical MO, but I had been pushing them to advocate for themselves and communicate their needs. I figured I should probably do the same.
“I’m not kidding,” I said, still trying not to laugh. “There better be three Mother’s Day cards on the table by the time I get home.”
This particular Mother’s Day always seems to stand out in my mind. On the other hand, so many of the
surrounding days and years seem like a blur, clouded by the struggle of making ends meet, endless
soccer games, and parent-teacher conferences – all while working full-time and furthering my education.
In between, were less than desirable living spaces, too many pizza deliveries, and perpetual PMS.
I arrived home that night to find a clean house, candles lit, and three Mother’s Day cards lined neatly
across the table. These were quite possibly the sweetest notes I’ve ever received.
The girls and I look back on that Mother’s Day and laugh. My days are quieter now, with two of the three on their own, paying bills, pursuing education, and getting oil changes.
My fear as a single mom had always been that my kids were missing out on something. Yet all three have
become kind, hard-working, good people. I can’t imagine feeling any prouder of each one and our journey – even if it had been different.