Tray tables up, seats in their upright position, we are fast approaching – 40!! Yes, I turned 40, which has driven me into the rabbit hole of looking into journals from 20 + years ago. It is so strange, I recognize the handwriting as my own, but much of the details I can’t remember recall. On the other hand, there are entries that I can remember exactly where I was. I can see my 18 year-old-self sitting at the Village Café in Richmond, Virginia on Grace Street scribbling away in my journal, with my straight-edge boyfriend sitting across from me. I can still remember how cool I felt to be in the big “city” of Richmond and not out in the suburban mall where most of my classmates spent their days. Being a tiny, mestiza Filipina, teenager in Richmond, Virginia was hard. My journal entries were mostly about overcoming, or resilience, with a lot phoenix references.
But looking back on these last 10 years, the most important event in my life was becoming a mom. To my surprise, and all my friends, I got married at 27 and we tried for years to get pregnant. So those lost years were hard as anyone who has gone through the trials of infertility can tell you. I won’t go into it here, except to say that my heart broke after several failed IVF attempts, and my arms had tracks on them after so many blood draws, and my ass hurt after so many huge, progesterone shots. Anyway, it all turned out OK because we became parents to our beautiful twins and then my life shifted and the landscape change like a tsunami had swept through it. Washing away all the unimportant things, like brushing my teeth before I leave in the morning, and revealing the truly important things – like today, I mostly succeeded in feeding and clothing my children and they are still alive.
It’s funny, some people tell you it is hard to have children, but you don’t listen, you think well it can’t be that hard! Or some people lie and tell you it isn’t hard at all and that they can parent without even breaking a sweat. Well, I can say that more than marriage, more than losing my virginity, by far, parenting was the biggest thing to hit my life this decade. In fact, there were moments when I really, truly wondered – how did the human race continue and not sink into extinction?
I also started to hate my friends without children – I hated when they called me to tell me that they were doing nothing, just laying around doing nothing while I had two screaming toddlers wrapped around my ankles. I hated when they told me having a dog was like having a child, while I had to spend an hour dressing, and taking two toddlers outside and into car seats just to move my car to other side of the street, because unlike dogs, I can’t leave them in the house while I do a quick errand.
My other mom friend in law school and I used to laugh about our parenting struggles until we cried. One day, an innocent, fellow student without children, said in a tiny, scared voice, “guys you are making me not want to have kids.” That’s when I realized that non-parents aren’t supposed to hear these stories, they are stories only to be told and shared with other parents, preferably over whiskey.
But of course there are the other moments – the exquisite ones, the achingly, satisfying moments, the ones where our children smell like sunshine and rich soil and fresh breezes and wild ocean all rolled up into one. When they hold our hand in such a way that we are finally and totally quiet and time stands still. When we roll in the grass together and laugh until our stomachs hurt and we thank the universe or god or whomever we believe in that we were placed on this earth to share it with this little creature, this burning star that chose US to be their parents. There are those moments too. And since it such an all-encompassing experience, only a poem will suffice. Here is a draft…
is an unfurling –
a position you grow in
or they having you?
their always physical presence –
a light, always touch, like air
heavy like 1000 leagues underwater
where it is dark and still and full.
stretch out like giant sequoias over the landscape
of my life
creating primordial darkness where shadows and sun
and small creatures live and make their homes.