As I sit here, seven-and-a-half months pregnant and struggling to balance my all too limited time between finishing my last semester of college while caring for a very active four-year-old, trying to keep the house from becoming completely engulfed in miscellaneous piles of crap,and attempting to be something to my husband other than a grumbling, moaning weeble-wobble, I am wondering why I have never followed the traditional path through life. There is an order in which you are expected to do things–go to college, get a career, get married, have kids–and I am quickly realizing that the reason for the traditional order is that it is the easiest way to make it through life, a way to accomplish as much as possible with the least amount of struggle. And as of right now, I am struggling. The timing of my pregnancy will put me at 39 weeks along during finals, and the physical demands of the third trimester are kicking in. Big time. All I want to do is eat carbs and nap but instead I am conjugating irregular verbs in Spanish, developing a creative project the encompasses all of early British literature, writing unanswered emails to disgruntled pre-K teachers, packing lunches, washing clothes, dishes and dogs, and using every last bit of energy I have to keep everything from falling to shambles. I can’t help but think, as I sit and take stock of all the things still left undone, if I have done myself a disservice by living my life out of order.
But then I wonder if I would value my education as much if I hadn’t spent years working too hard at shit jobs for too little money. Instead of taking my parents up on their offer to let me live at home rent-free while I attended junior college, I decided to move into my own apartment and support myself. The decision seems silly and unnecessarily rebellious now, but at the time I wanted to prove to myself and everyone else that I was capable of taking care of myself. Without the struggle of living on my own on a minimum wage salary, would I understand what a privilege a higher education is? Would I appreciate the opportunities I will now have with a degree if I hadn’t spent a year of my life working at a gift store, sorting through disembodied hermit crab limbs in search of survivors? Would I have chosen to follow my passion for writing if I hadn’t discovered, through years of forcing insincere smiles onto an alarmingly hostile public while making up back-stories to explain their foul dispositions, that I would be happiest working alone writing down the stories I told to myself? Would I have learned as much if I had gone to college in my early twenties when I was convinced that I already knew everything anyway and my point of view was the only correct one? I don’t think so.
I also wonder if I would have been able to appreciate the ease of my relationship with Casey if I hadn’t spent years of my life struggling to make someone fit. Fully believing in the American view that true love is a something you fight for, something precarious, something you clung to when found, I spent years fighting for the wrong men. I pined over guys who didn’t call or care, always wondering what was wrong with me. Now I know that it wasn’t me, but them, or just the combination of us together that didn’t work. But I struggled anyway because that’s what I believed you were supposed to do. Isn’t everyone always saying that relationships are work? When I met Casey, the struggling stopped. I met a man who did what he said he would do, always. I never had to question his feelings for me because I knew if he didn’t want to be with me, he wouldn’t. I wonder if I hadn’t been so thoroughly sick of men falling short of my expectations if I would have been so smitten with a man who met every one. The love I have with Casey isn’t something they would write a romance novel about. It’s subtle and comfortable. A friendship and deep respect for one another keeps us from ever drifting too far apart. After years of working to make wrong relationships right, I can fully appreciate a man who never makes me work for his affections.
And then of course there is the beautiful, amazing David; the person who finally gave me a period to put at the end of all my questions. He is the answer, the purpose for my life, the child I was meant to have. Being David’s mother has transformed me in ways that are beyond explanation. He has made me a kinder, more empathetic and compassionate person. He has redefined love for me from an emotion that nurtured my own insecurities to an emotion that eclipses my own wants and needs in the pursuit of his well-being. There is nothing I wouldn’t do for him, nor a day that I wish things were different. Which is why it makes me laugh when I think of the self-assured twenty-five-year-old who confidently told the man who would become my husband that I was never having children. Casey looked at me then, and said with just as much confidence “yes you will. You’re going to be a great mom.” Back then I remember thinking “who the hell does this guy think he’s talking to? He doesn’t even know me” but Casey has always been able to see things in my that I am blind to.
My position on having children wasn’t because I didn’t like them, but because I felt I would never be able to put a child’s needs before my own. I also knew that parenting was a two person job (at least) and in my world, men didn’t stay with the women they made babies with. I saw the way my single-mother friends had to struggle and I knew I wasn’t as strong as them. Parenting wasn’t something I was capable of doing on my own and so I decided it wasn’t for me. Had I waited to have David until I felt prepared, until I was emotionally mature enough, financial stable enough, and secure enough in my relationship with Casey, then I would probably still be waiting. Sometimes life steps in and makes decisions for you, and that’s what happened with David. What I didn’t know, had no way to know, is that parenthood is something that you just do, there is no preparing for it really. There are daily sacrifices that I make and I make them with no sense of martyrdom because the pay-off is so much more than anything I have given up. With another life on the way, I am not apprehensive but excited to be able to experience it all over again with the confidence I have built over the last four years.
Maybe my way wasn’t the most direct or efficient, but it was the path I was meant to take. There is something to taking the hard way, you learn more about yourself and you are instilled with a gratitude which puts the smaller struggles you face into proper perspective. I know my out of order life isn’t for everyone, but I don’t regret a second of the struggle.