On Courage

I will do some diss-related updating soon (extreme micro version: workshopped my introduction with my diss group today and the overarching theme was, “good bones, bulk things up, yay you!” Chair 1 wants to see a revised version of my intro before I send it and two chapter drafts to her and Chair 2 in advance of a meeting the three of us will have to discuss the State of My Career and Like Such As.)

But I want to share here something I’ve been thinking about for the past few days as my daughter’s first birthday approaches. It dawned on me last night that having children in and of itself takes courage. It’s a risk to bring children into the world and all of its beauty, joy, sadness, and danger. It’s a cliche by now, but parenting is not for the faint of heart, from the minute-to-minute work of keeping the newborn alive to pushing through irrational anger when your baby won’t let you sleep to choosing not to get into a power struggle with the preschooler over what he’s going to wear of a day.

But I also realized that it takes courage to decide to stop having children. It’s an acknowledgment that a certain part of your life is over and an acceptance that it’s time to move forward into an ever-uncertain future.

In recent months I have considered the possibility of having a third child, simply because I’ve enjoyed my daughter so much this past year and it breaks my heart every day to know that once these days are over, they’re gone. But I’m 37 and detest being pregnant and never, ever want to have another C-section, and the newborn days are so very, very difficult. I look forward to having a full night’s sleep and to not having to get up at 7 or earlier of a weekend morning. I look forward to not having to jump through logistical hoops to meet my girlfriends for drinks because so much of the children’s bedtime routine depends on me (especially the nursling’s). And so on. I anticipate and welcome the freedom of having older children, and also watching my two darlings become who they’re meant to be.

And yet. There’s a part of me that resists the imminent end of the baby days. Those sweet, snuggly times when every new discovery is a wonder, when you marvel at how brilliant and different your children are from you and each other. The thrill of new teeth and curls and the beginnings of words. I don’t want these days to end, but the only way to keep them going is to have more children, and that’s simply not an option for our family for so many reasons.

It’s responsible to stop at two. It’s the sane thing to do, for our family. It’s such a bittersweet time for me, the moment of turning my back on these rose-hued days for good, of closing the door. It takes courage to face this future, a future of no more children, a conscious decision to move into the next phase of our lives, even though that decision simultaneously brings my mortality into stark relief.

Maybe, just maybe, what I’m saying is that in some small way I identify with Michelle Duggar.

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  1. Jen

     /  October 14, 2009

    Thank you for this entry–so poetic and true. And now for the part wherein I ask for a favor: I edit and produce the monthly newsletter for the mothers’ group to which I belong and with your permission, would love to include this post in an upcoming edition. I unfortunately can’t offer payment, but I can offer a basket of homemade goodies-for-you by yours truly. Think on it and let me know.

  2. jodi

     /  October 15, 2009

    WOW. This is some seriously rich and true and good good stuff. THANK YOU.
    Whew. I want to print this out and paste it on my bathroom wall (the spot we put Things You Should Read Often And Read Well). Share this with the list, eh? I’m sending a few mama friends this way too.
    Thanks, mama…


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