I took my love, I took it down
Climbed a mountain and I turned around
And I saw my reflection in the snow covered hills
‘Til the landslide brought it down
Oh, mirror in the sky
What is love?
Can the child within my heart rise above?
Can I sail through the changin’ ocean tides?
Can I handle the seasons of my life?
Well, I’ve been afraid of changin’
‘Cause I’ve built my life around you
But time makes you bolder
Even children get older
And I’m getting older, too
The other night I listened to Stevie, then to Dixie Chicks’ version, and teared up as the song suddenly had a whole new meaning for me. I thought of where I am today and all the duality of the things I want and the things I’ve wanted and the things I’m wondering if will ever happen.
Because I’ve built my life around this expectation of being a mother.
Because during all of this I have seen others’ children growing older.
Because I wonder if I can rise above, if the changing ocean tides means that the empty spot in my life, the hole in my heart, that it will remain. That it won’t ever be filled and that I’ll just have to find something else to do.
It’s not that the brakes are on…after all, we are planning next chapter. But sometimes I wonder if we skipped an entire era.
The other day was a full circle moment where I connected with a neighbor who wanted to donate a glider chair for us to have in our basement, the nursery per se, as we had put out the word we were looking to take donations of freebies while going through the adoption process. It was a lovely offer and I took her up on it and asked for her address so we could go pick it up…and it turns out she lives in the home that once belonged to one of my closest friends back in college. Back when we worked in retail together and she and her husband were just starting their family. Her children are grown now and this new family is in this house, this house where I once played with her little ones, and my god that was two decades ago. I’m getting older too.
And I thought about the dualities of the things I’ve wanted over the years, that many of us want as women – to establish a career and financial stability, to buy a home, to find a true partner who we can trust not only to take care of our heart but also who would be a good parent to the child we brought into the world (no matter the source), all of those things so that your child would have as many advantages as you could provide them with. I filed for divorce from my first husband when my older sister, who I was once so close with, broached the question, “even though you’re not trying right now, would you be okay with this man as the father of your child if you were to get pregnant?”, and my answer came out of my mouth within seconds, absolutely not, this would make me a mother of two. It woke me up, and within a year of turning 30 I had filed for divorce, moved back to Portland, and changed careers. Six months after moving back to my hometown I bought my home, and then – only then – did I allow myself to date.
While I am not a fan of organized religion, I do appreciate the saying “if you want to make God laugh, tell him your plans,” as it really hits the nail on the head. We try to do everything we’re told to be Smart, to Do It The Right Way. We follow the advice of our elders and we don’t get knocked up by some guy when we’re young. We tell ourselves, don’t get pregnant until you find the One. They remind us to first establish a career and make sure to have a safety net – a home, a retirement account, enough money to afford daycare or for one partner to stay home, etc. Make sure to have fun in your 20’s – travel, play, try new things. Your friends are having babies in their 30’s, some in their 40’s. None have told you about having any trouble, in fact, two of them planned it at 40 and conceived no problem. Another new friend comes to you for advice because she’s 38, didn’t want kids, but finds herself expecting.
Meanwhile, years earlier you sent the alcoholic lying child of a first packing, the one you loved since you were 16 even as other relationships came and went, packing, and started everything over. Sheryl Sandberg didn’t mention how to deal with THAT in Lean In, now did she. You have changed careers and bought a house and then find yourself laid off during the recession, spending your 401(k) balance and renting out rooms in your basement to keep from losing everything you worked your ass off for. Your ex-husband stalks you, calls your employers and leaves messages and texts about how you’re a whore because you moved on to someone new. That someone new, that person who turned you on to so much possibility and for the first time in your life, helped you see how much more you were than the first husband who said “I hate my fat wife” to a friend and hid mickeys of Seagrams in his dresser and van and what-not yet still tried to get you to sleep with him after your divorce, that someone knew who brought intellect and passion and philosophy and gardening and love, that someone who turned the light on and made you realize how much you wanted to be a mother, he then stole it from you as he turned out to e a player in ways you never could have imagined. The next one was across the Atlantic and his anger seeped from his pores and you said fuck this shit, I’d rather be alone. And yet then, months later, The Real One stops by your blog and after ups and downs and hills and valleys and trans-Pacific travels, not to mention you starting your own business, the two of you are united. He has crossed an ocean for you and moved mountains for you and has shown you his unabashed vulnerability and strength and imperfections and uttered those vowas and you say…okay, let’s do this, let’s have this family.
And your body then reveals it has no intention on granting you this desire, and the hole in your heart that had been plastered over with the lessons of past begins to seep anew. You’ve lost your father, all of your grandparents, friends, and now your ability to pass along your DNA. You feel your body change for one glorious summer, 2016, where you wonder if, finally, those troubles are behind you but then one night in August you bleed and you bleed and for weeks thereafter, you bleed. You feel your baby pass through your body and you can’t even look for it, as you are broken. You lost your baby and your mother on the same day and you know you will never look at the world the same way again. You saw your closest friends distance themselves as you struggled and they dismissed your heartache and while you maintained hope that your child was waiting in Africa to be entrusted you by their birth mother, you also see that dashed after years of waiting. And you wait and you wait.
All the while you think about the things you have been building for, building your world around the promise of Family. Our family, no one else’s. Your husband does what he can but he sees your body breaking, literally, first your back then your eyes and while he loves you unconditionally, you wonder how anyone could love someone in this flawed body, this body where life cannot sustain, where layers of fat now surround where once were strong arms and legs, where the eye heals but are never quite the same. You wonder if you will ever be able to interact with a pregnant person again or hold a baby again after what you’ve been through. You try so fucking hard to be a friend to those who have made it to the other side but your efforts are stymied by your deep and brutal scars. You hang around with those who had their children long ago or don’t have any, and you think about the other things in your life that you want to do.
And the dualities emerge – can you be both? Can you do both? Can we have a big piece of land and animals and also travel and cross off the many countries on our bucket lists? Is doing this just running from our emptiness? Will we always be this hapless childless couple that the fertile avoid, that few will come visit, that see our family in animals rather than homo sapiens? Where are we headed?
Can I sail through the changin’ ocean tides?
Can I handle the seasons of my life?
We’ll see. We haven’t lost hope as we wade through this murky present. We know answers will reveal themselves. We know we are getting bolder in the pursuit of our other dreams. But if we pursue those with more intensity, are we saying we don’t have faith in the longstanding dreams? Or are we self-protecting? Or what.
I don’t know. But I’m going to chase everything. I’m going to look back at all the adventures of my lifetime and, while my body may have failed epically on several fronts, I’m still without regrets because I could not be who I am today without those adventures, without doing what I thought was right at the time, by enjoying every last moment of these past 44+ years. I’ve been a band & portrait photographer, a retail salesperson, a debt collector, a buyer’s assistant an HR manager, a recruiter, a writer, a career coach, a chocolatier, an executive assistant, a consultant. I’ve been a badass single woman, a badass divorced woman, a badass married woman, and all around individual badass throughout. I’ve been to three continents and am not satisfied with my bucket list. I’ve road tripped alone across the Rockies, I’ve journeyed across oceans in the name of love, lust and history, I’ve flown hand in hand with my love to the city of lights, I’ve driven and I’ve been driven. It’s all worthwhile.
Those adventures, those dreams, those lifetimes – they were all worthwhile.
To think of the endless places I’ve been…