At Home, Cambridge, Massachusetts
Life is crazy. We moved into Harvard student housing last week and it was a zoo. By God’s mercy my mom came into town and helped us pack. I seriously don’t think we would have made it without her help. She pretty much got into town and power housed her way through our apartment. The only downside to having her pack was how excessively she tapes boxes. It’s given us a lot of laughter as we unpack.
Now that we’re in the new place, I feel both deeply grateful and am dealing with a lot of anxiety. The place is really great, all things considered, and will be great with a kid. It’s much more accessible to campus, there is a washer and dryer, and tons of areas for children to play in – as well as tons of children themselves. Baby V definitely won’t lack for playmates.
With that said, though, I’m struggling with my pride, my limitations, my doubts, and my worth in this move. My pride is rearing up because this place is just so small and so unglamorous. While everyone else is buying houses and moving on in the world, we’re choosing to live in cramped student housing. I find myself worrying not about the apartment itself so much as I worry about what other people will think of it and of us in it. I’m facing my limitations because I am working a ton in order to live here rather than a half an hour away, and I feel overwhelmed wondering if it’s really sustainable with a baby. Can I really work as many hours as I’m committed to working in a week and can Trey really get through his PhD excellently with a baby on the way?
This is the most I feel doubt about it. I know a lot the emotions involved have to do with the fact that I just moved, the house is still a disaster, and I’m really, really behind on my thesis. But nonetheless, I’m starting to better imagine the realities of adding a baby to our lives and am trying to reckon what I foresee with everything I’ve committed to. Lord, please let this child be a good sleeper! And of course, with it all, as with any time I feel emotionally overwhelmed or stressed, I am really struggling with my self worth and the decisions I’ve made. Am I making the wrong decision by not trying to do a PhD myself right now? Are we insane for continuing with school through our 30s? If I can’t have as much academic success this year as I think I need to be in a good position for applying to programs later was this whole degree a waste? Is all of this pure drivel and instead I should be thinking only and solely of my kids?
I just want the answers to life and more often than not, answers are the most difficult thing to find in the world.
National Quemoy University, Kinmen Island, Taiwan
It is my birthday and I have only fully realized it because I wrote out the date just now. I am 32 years old and the past two weeks have been some of the most eye opening to my life that I've ever had. I am realizing that I am exactly what I never thought I would be – a successful, childless workaholic. I know I constantly worry about not doing something with my life and about having to give up my interests to have kids. But it has literally never crossed my mind what my life looks like to the outside world until this month.
It started during a phone conversation with my mom. She asked me if we were trying to get pregnant and I was floored. I assumed that would just be obvious to everyone since I am turning 32. Even my mom didn't think it was an obvious thing.
Then I actually heard myself speaking in some of my conversations with people – I was preparing to travel internationally for my job while also finishing up my school semester while considering applying to Harvard while publishing a paper while joining staff at a church. While living in the third most expensive city in the United States. I've been so focused on figuring out how to not lose my goals that I have been totally blind to my success in them and again, how I must look to the people around me. I have been addicted to success and work. I also have been legitimately trying to figure out how I am supposed to use my gifts and talents.
Right now I have a choice before me – I cannot use all of my gifts and talents to their full extent without burning myself out. I cannot have a family while using all of my gifts and talents. So which ones will I use? I am 32 years old, have been working like a mad woman for four years, and am burnt out. It is time that I get my shit in order and stop trying to do it all and instead focus on how to live while using the gifts I care about the most and have the most peace about.
I grew up hearing yuppies referred to in only negative terms. Good Christians had children early and valued their families more than anything else. I have had no paradigm for seeing myself as a thirty-something, successful urbanite because I was trying very very hard to not be selfish in my decisions and I grew up thinking that yuppies were simply the result of selfish, immature motivations. I constantly heard yuppies referred to as the result of never being willing to grow up and be an adult, and I have tried very hard to work against that.
And yet, here I am. The very definition of a childless thirty-something-year-old woman who is doing well in her work. I am more the product of my society than I could ever have imagined myself being. I couldn't have imagined it because I never thought I valued the things yuppies value. But I do. And I do not think it is evil. I think it is cultural. And a result of trying really hard to use what's been given to me for God’s glory.
I don't even know what I am trying to say with all of this other than I just am at this totally bizarre place in life in which I both know where I want to go and believe I have the talents to do it (if I let go of certain other things that I've held on to), and I can completely recognize that I am not the person I thought I was. In other words, I feel like I am waking up to who I am and I am becoming more aware of my abilities. I guess what's really going on is that my vision is focusing. So much of the excess work, of the excess baggage, of the excess stress needs to fall away. I don't need to stay in this whirlpool. I know what I want - my husband, my children, to teach and write, and community ministry. The rest has to go. And that can be the value of finding myself where I am at 32 – the focus that I haven't been able to find until this point.
(Image by Nicolette Tomas.)
Airport, Atlanta, Georgia
I can just feel this pressure welling up inside of me. Why am I not pregnant? Does everyone judge me? My brain and heart are really twisted. Approval has ALWAYS been my biggest idol. One small moment during this weekend has been a surprise blessing, though. An older friend mentioned to me in passing that she was 33 when she had first child and 38 when she had her last. I don't really know this woman well, and I don't know what the circumstances were, but those words were a sweet balm to my soul when I heard them.
At Home, Arlington, Massachusetts
This morning as I showered, the greatest sense of peace came over me regarding having children. I thought in passing about how much I haven't been stressing over the issue recently now that everything with school is pretty much decided and I'm only a few weeks away from starting. It's like someone has pressed the "play" button, and now that everything is in motion, it's all ok. My next thought was a premonition. All of the sudden, I felt very certain that Trey and I would not be able to conceive. But rather than panic, I immediately knew that was ok, too. We would keep trying for a while and then eventually adopt. And I was totally, completely happy with the thought. It would be a very different life than what I've ever imagined, for sure. Thinking of myself as the 35-year-old mom with a career, multiple degrees, and newly adopted child is definitely not what I ever imagined for myself. I've always loved the idea of adoption, but not necessarily this way. Yet there was deep peace in all of these reflections and I knew it was ok.
After my shower, I continued to reflect on it. Disappointment started to creep in at the possibility of never asking the question, "Who does our baby look like more?" That would truly be difficult. But then I also thought about the joy of redemption that adoption uniquely offers and I knew that there are aspects about both that the other doesn't share. Working hard, making money, and accomplishing certain things wouldn't be bad. And the mothers I know who have adopted are no less mothers in my estimation. I've never once lumped them into a different category in my mind. I would still be experiencing the fullness of motherhood.
In the end, though, I'm glad to be able to say, "What 'er my God ordains is right," and leave it at that. I'm excited to be a mother and I am excited to know peace in whatever manner motherhood comes to me.
At Home, East Arlington, Massachusetts
I turned thirty years old last August and the reality of trying to become a mother is lurking. I find it almost overwhelming to contemplate trying to become a mother. I don't think the task has ever not seemed daunting to women. But I also feel like it’s particularly overwhelming today and to me. Almost every single aspect of it seems overwhelming.
Trying to get pregnant in my 30s sounds impossible and I feel like all I hear are scare tactics about trying to do so. Every woman seems to raise her eyebrows and look at me with judgment because I've not tried to conceive and birth a child before my 30th year of life. Very few of them have actually verbally judged me. But I hear their condemnation in their silence and I see it in their surprise. They are suspicious of me. Even those who don't react this way, who scoff at the idea of judging a woman for not starting to try to have children until her 30s, even they scare me. All they talk about is how hard it is to get pregnant. And their souls seem overwhelmed.
The truth is, I know very few women who I see experiencing real joy in motherhood. Most of the young mothers I know are either totally overwhelmed with motherhood, or they see it as their salvation. And seeing motherhood as salvific does not produce true joy, but rather a terrifying obsession with motherhood. I want so much to avoid falling into one of these camps or the other. Lord, please help me.
About the Project
This is a very personal project. It tracks my growth and development as I journeyed toward motherhood over the recent years. It doesn't document every experience I had, and probably neglects my more joyful and peaceful moments in the frenzy of trying to communicate my fears, anxieties, and doubts. If you are a friend or loved one, please do not let anything you read here overshadow what you know of me personally. If you are a stranger, please remember that a living and flawed person stands behind these words. To all my guests here, please understand these are not political statements and try to extend me grace, even as I share my failures and foibles - I have repented of much of what I share. I don't share this journal as an exemplar, but rather out of the desire to share my hope that entrance to motherhood does not need to be a fearful thing - despite the very real fears I have fought against. Motherhood is simply a part of life and one through which I am discovering more of myself and my God.