The Honor and the Sacredness

“You’ve been married for over a year now! Time to have some kids!” “You’re not getting any younger!” “When are you going to start a family?” “Oh! You got a dog? That should tide you over until some kids come along.”

There have been a few times in my life when I knew, beyond a shadow of a doubt, what I was supposed to do and what I wanted.
When I was deciding which college to attend, I prayed for certainty and I received an illogical, deep confidence that I was supposed to go to this specific college in this specific city at this specific time. And I did that and I came away from it with a degree that I have never used and a few friends that I would gladly spend dozens of thousands of dollars to meet again.
When my friend Ryan took a long lunch break and came to my house and told me he couldn’t wait one more minute—he had to tell me he loved me and asked me to be his partner in this life and I had so many questions and so many doubts and what-if’s swimming through my mind but my soul screamed louder inside of me, “This is something big for you. Take this and protect it!”
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Everything else—I’ve just been winging it. I’ve never felt called to anything in my life.


Most of the women who might end up reading this (should it ever go public–I’m still deciding) know what I’m talking about when I talk about the yearning to be a mother. They know what it is to know in your heart, that’s what you want. To pine for a child. Many know what it is to ache when her cycle re-starts even though she felt, for sure, that this time was the time. Some of you know the sinking, sickening, horror of losing a baby before you had a chance to meet. Many people are well acquainted with at least one of these feelings. A lot of people have known them all.

I haven’t felt any of them.

For some people, the choice is so cut and dry and so uncomplicated. Yes, we want kids or no, we definitely do not. For some people there’s no choice at all. I’ve heard stories of the women who wanted kids so desperately and couldn’t or those women who didn’t want to have kids and went on to live full and happy lives (even a few that didn’t want kids but here they are). I’ve heard so many stories about motherhood and non-motherhood but I’ve never heard the story of the woman who didn’t know if she could have children and didn’t know if she wanted to have children. Likely because it’s a non-starter and a non-ender. Where do you go from there? That’s literally the whole story.

But it’s where I am. I’m the story of a woman who doesn’t know if she can have kids and doesn’t know if she wants them. There are a lot of questions inside of me.
There was a time when I described it to my doctor as “we’re trying to not not try?” And, during that season, every time that my cycle would start—indicating that a pregnancy would not be taking place this month, I would feel… something. I’d mourn to my girlfriends. The whole time feeling something for which I didn’t have any words. It was something like sadness. But the sadness didn’t point directly to “I want a baby and I don’t have one.” It didn’t feel like that was quite right. For the better part of a year I analyzed that feeling every time it came around. Each month.

In retrospect—I believe that I was feeling a little aimless in my life and I felt sure that if I had a baby, at least then I’d always know what I was supposed to be doing. Or if not that, I’d at least have a distraction from needing to figure out what I was doing. It would settle everything Right? Because babies fix things?

parkerkids

Once I recognized it, I figured that was a pretty reckless and selfish reason for me to bring a whole new life into this world and into my marriage. So now we’re back at ¯\_(ツ)_/¯.
A whole lot of “I don’t know.” A whole lot of conversations between my husband and I that never really lead anywhere except to check in, “are you still at ‘I dunno’? Me, too.”

But that’s not really what I wanted to tell you. It’s just the back-story.
What I want to tell you is what I do know.

jocandcora9

At long last, I feel a confidence deep inside of my spirit. There’s something that I know for sure. There’s a calling on my life that I have never said out loud.

I love where I’m at in my life. I love being able to get together for dinner with my friends and snuggle their baby all evening long—undistracted from my own little ones at the table. I love it when someone texts me, “I’m in a pinch, would you mind watching my kids this afternoon?” and I can say “totally!” I love being the one who gets a phone call from that mom friend who just really needs a kid-free night and wants to hang out. I don’t have to figure out whether or not there will be someone to watch my kids. I love it when my nieces and nephews or friends’ kids come over and explore the weird things in our toy box. “Why is this toy made of wood?” I love getting on the floor and coloring with my buddies while their mom takes a break for a second.

owen

I have never felt slighted.
I have never felt jealous.

I love watching my best friends go from single to dating to married to pregnant to motherhood (not always in that order—but it’s the process that  is so amazing). One day, I’ll even get to see my friends and siblings become grandparents. To witness the transformation into motherhood is something that I hope to never take lightly. I love seeing these babies go from tiny, wiggly little potato sacks into full blown kids with a whole sense of wonder and learning and vocabulary and a personality that is all their own. It feels like a real honor to get to bear witness to this ever-evolving, sacred, messy, miracle in front of us all.

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What I love more than anything is the way that no one that I love has ever made me feel like an other because I’m not a mother. I know people who have fallen out of touch with their mom-friends because they feel like they can’t relate to one another any more. But I feel overwhelmed with gratitude for the people in my life who have made me feel important in their kids’ lives.

abbey

So there’s this one thing that I feel certain about. One mission that I truly feel called to is to uphold the mothers in my life. Hold their babies. Color with their kids. Bring snacks. And try to commiserate over the insanity that is a three-year-old.

noah

There is an honor and a sacredness to being a mother. There is also an honor and a sacredness to be a woman who is not a mother. I have a gift and a perspective that not everyone has and a gift that I feel so compelled to share with the parents in my life. The gift of my time. The gift of a patience that comes from never being able to imagine what it must be like to be a mom for 24 hours a day with no vacations.

My life, my marriage, my child-free-ness can be a blessing to me and to others as-is. It’s a story that isn’t often told but it’s mine and I’m so proud and excited about it. It’s one of my favorite things.

XOXO, Lib

8 thoughts on “The Honor and the Sacredness

  1. Alyssa

    I love this so much. I feel as if I could have written it. So my response is sort of my version of it.

    Justin and I were married very young, at 22. For six years we enjoyed being married, grew up together, and happily chose grad school, careers, travel, and each other. People started to really bother us about having kids. We were content without them. We had so many things were were figuring out.

    My sister had two little boys. My sister in law had two little girls. They started leaning on us, hinting. So did our mothers. I began to resent it, and overreacted so negatively that they stopped asking. I did not want to be told what I wanted, what my nephews and nieces “needed.” And I was already so happy.

    When my BCP prescription ran out in 2013, I had such a hard time getting an appointment that I decided to stop taking it. When Justin got a great job, we passively “decided” to not try, not prevent. I still didn’t know if I could/wanted to be a mother. Had no idea if I was cut out for it.

    Nothing happened, and I tended to avoid Justin when I thought there was a possibility I could get pregnant. He wanted it so much, and he had really held up his end of the deal helping to make us stable so we could have kids. So I didn’t tell him.

    It wasn’t until late after a show in the high school theatre that I had a “moment” of sorts. One of my junior boys was taking off his stage makeup, and was still covered in mascara. Annoyed, I asked him to let me help him get it. As I gently wiped his eyes, he looked up at me quizzically. I said, “Yes?” He replied quietly, “Mrs. D, you will make an amazing mom.”

    For some reason, that really jarred my view of myself as a non-mothering type. It helped me think I could do it, at least for Justin (who I thought deserved to be a dad so much). We “tried” for 2 years, but only really when the baby would be born in summer to be convenient for my teaching job. It didn’t happen.

    After the busiest summer of my life directing a musical and managing a pool, it did, and I was shocked and nervous taking my first ever test in August. Only a few days later, I was in the ER, bleeding. A few days after that, I had to leave the first in-service at school to get checked for pain. Within 6 hours, I learned the pregnancy was in my left Fallopian tube, I was hemorrhaging, had lost the baby, and would need immediate surgery to remove both. I have never processed so much so quickly.

    I thought I handled it well, at first. Then I wondered if I had caused it by not wanting it enough. I wondered if there was something wrong with my body. I wondered why, if I had done everything right by trying to be “ready,” why my first pregnancy had gone so horribly wrong. And I realized how much I wished I could have kept that little baby safe.

    Three months later, I was pregnant again, and terrified. I still wasn’t ready, and I was scared he wasn’t okay. But I knew how much I wanted him. Now I am nearly 38 weeks, and have watched curiously as pregnancy changed my brain chemistry, and changed my partner in some pretty incredible ways. We’ll meet our little guy any day. And when I see him, I know I will feel just a little more complete, in a very different way.
    ———-
    All this is just to say, not knowing is really how it works for some of us. Not being sure of being a parent, of trying or not trying, of being childless or childfree; it won’t always come in a clarifying moment. And even if it does, it may be strange or painful, and the choice of how to respond is still yours. That itself is as amazing as motherhood. Wishing you all the best as you navigate that liminal space–there is no right (or wrong) way to do it.

  2. Alyssa Dawson

    I left a really long comment on this, and when it disappeared I couldn’t bear to rewrite it. In summary:

    1) Thank you for writing something that I felt so deeply for the six years before now. It seems to be something that very few people understand. You describe it much more eloquently than me.
    2) You have a lot more grace than I do. When asked about my lack of children 3-4 years ago by my sister, SIL, and MIL, I overreacted harshly, and they stopped asking. I still feel badly about that, because it makes it seem as if I was certain I didn’t want them, when really, I was still living in a mixed peace in that unsurety.
    3) Sometimes there is no clarifying moment that other people have. Sometimes there is just the start of one. In 2012, I remember taking stage makeup off one of my junior boys in a theatre production when he looked up at me and said, “Mrs. D, you’re going to make an amazing mom.” It shook me to my core, because I hadn’t even thought of myself that way, yet my students knew it was something within me. Even then, I still wasn’t ready or sure I wanted to be a mother. I was still learning how to support my mothering friends with kindness and grace. I was still learning how to enjoy other people’s children.
    4) I might still be occupying that special liminal space that you describe so well if not for a trauma-filled first pregnancy (not planned, not unplanned–how I understand that phrase so well!) that left me without a left fallopian tube, without a baby, and with a deep, deep, indescribable sorrow. I would have done everything I could keep that little one safe. I felt like maybe I was being punished for being neither ready nor sure (now, I know that is not true). I vowed that after I healed, I would be.
    5) At 38 weeks, I am scared out of my mind, and still not ready, but happier than I have ever been. I have watched my body and brain chemistry change in curious ways that I have trouble comprehending (how is it so natural for other women?). I have learned so much, and will be learning much more soon.
    6) All my very, very best to you. The space you occupy presently is precious, essential, and should be held onto tightly. If it is ever time to let go of that space, I wish I could say you will know immediately. But you might not, and that is totally and completely normal and okay.

    I take comfort in research and science. If you do, too, then read this. It helped affirm my choices and kept me from being anxious about changing my mind.

    http://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2013/07/how-long-can-you-wait-to-have-a-baby/309374/

  3. Jamie

    I love this so much, and it is such a beautiful blessing to watch you whole-heartedly love my daughter. You engage with her not as a kid, but as a literal part of me, this being an active extension of our friendship.

    I love you so much. And Em loves you so much!!

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