“For everything you have missed, you have gained something else, and for everything you gain, you lose something else.” — Ralph Waldo Emerson
Question: what choice did I turn down?
Answer: I turned down motherhood.
That was not the plan. I was married. I wanted to have a baby.
My whole life I’d wanted to be a mom and/or a teacher, preferably both. Well, I wasn’t a teacher, but I really did want to be a mother.
Especially once all my friends were, and my sister. Especially my sister because we’re close and I got the worm’s eye view of the entire process.
It took some doing but my husband finally warmed up to the idea, which he thanked me for many times. Long visits to my sister or his brother or his ex-wife and her family, (yep, we all got along!) where we got to “hold ’em, pet ’em and squeeze ‘em” — oops, wrong metaphor.
We got to experience parenting up close and personal. All of them are great parents, with great kids. It was so special. I wanted at least one.
For all the wrong reasons
I was also clear I was using the fantasy of motherhood to make up for the places I was unhappy in my life. I was unhappy in my clerical job, overwhelmed by social commitments and did not make enough time to express myself creatively.
And where real intimacy went missing, like my marriage. We’d both gotten so busy with our saving-the-world projects, at some point we stopped making quality time for each other.
Having a baby was to have solved all this by giving me time off work such that hopefully I would not go back to that job. By bringing my husband and I back together again. By getting me out of commitments and being in and of itself, a form of creative expression.
At least, instead of sewing pj’s with feet and cross stitching bibs and tee shirts for my friend’s and family’s babies, I’d be doing those things for mine.
We tried to get pregnant but it wasn’t happening. We did all the usual tests to no avail. The next step was to get invasive and possibly surgical. I hesitated. We hesitated.
Like those animals with some kind of sixth sense that tells them to flee an area right before an earthquake or tsunami, we must have known something was about to shake loose.
My husband left for a month in Papua New Guinea and all hell broke loose. Or at least, I ventured out for some creative self-expression of my own and he returned to a different woman. An addicted woman.
So my fantasies changed. And eventually changed again. Thank God.
By then, it was to live on my own, get a meaningful job, and explore creative pursuits. Twelve step recovery allowed me all that and more.
I went from a clerical job to working full time as a union rep. I got my own place when our landlord sold our Berkeley house, forcing us to decide whether or not to stay together.
And I started writing, drawing, painting, and sculpting with paper mache. Instead of baby bibs I made fabric art wall hangings.
Though it sounds clichéd, I make mention of it here because in many ways, my creative outpourings are my babies. And to remind myself how fertile that period was.
I wrote a novel which turned into a screenplay. Then wrote four more screenplays one of which turned into the novel I am about to publish. Borrowing a structure from program, I set myself the task of writing 90 poems in 90 days.
In short, un-choosing husband, social life, and almost nightly salsa dancing allowed me to choose myself. In a huge way. A way I deeply honor now as I write this.
Creative off spring proliferated from my loins. Just not any children.
Fast forward as I stayed celibate through the 90’s. But when the new millennium rolled around I thought I might like to date again.
So I took a program friend’s advice — and yes, we sex and love addicts are allowed to date, have relationships, and even marry in sobriety. I’ve been to such weddings.
The advice was to try Match.com. I did. It worked. And worked well.
I wrote to three men, eventually meeting one man and dating for two or so years. I’ll call him Gregory though that’s not his name. Greg for short.
I was attracted to him immediately because his match photo included his two daughters, ages 8 and 11 at the time. By then my youngest niece was 11 also.
In the photo dad and daughters huddled playfully at the beach. Not too far from where they live on the peninsula.
A dad who leads with his kids.
A dad who is a dad first and foremost. Before he is a date, a lover, a partner. A dad who would not dream of introducing a woman he’s dating to his kids until he was sure about the relationship.
I was impressed. Smitten. And excited about the possibility of being a step mom and having instant family without the hassle of birth and babies and all that stuff.
Besides, Greg was hot in his own right. And a lot of fun. We shared a wacky off beat sense of humor, among many other things.
I was eager to meet these two amazing girls and hoped they liked me. I did and they did. We had wonderful times together, carving pumpkins, playing improv games, and making theater with Barbie dolls.
I loved this. I loved them. We even went on a trip to Pt. Reyes with my sister and her two daughters and the 11 year old’s hit it off well.
Greg and I had an interesting relationship.
While he encouraged me in my creative pursuits, he acted threatened when they impinged on the times we could be alone together — i.e. the kids were at their mom’s or with a sitter.
So when I had a ten page play produced by Playground in San Francisco, he came to share that joy with me. But when the director invited me to the pub across the street to hang out and meet the actors, Greg panicked.
He had to get home and relieve the baby sitter. Knowing my addiction history, he became suspicious of what might happen. Or at least jealous.
I was shocked. And angry.
But not about to decline that moment of celebration. This might be the one and only time! Well, actually, it was the second. But they were few and far between. I was not about to pass that up.
Our relationship never fully recovered from that night.
It felt like I had my own child to protect and damn if I would let Greg’s fear get in the way.
I imagine single moms having similar experiences in the world of dating. My hat’s off to them. These are treacherous waters I’m sure.
We hung on for several more months before I broke us up, but the fire had gone out. The fire not only of attraction and excitement, but the fantasy of family.
Last night I was on Facebook catching up. I hadn’t been on in such a long time that I learned one friend had died, and two more face serious illnesses.
I happened to notice Greg’s page and clicked on a picture of his youngest daughter now a grown up lovely young woman with pink hair.
The click took me to her page. There I learned that she and her friends celebrate each other’s birthdays by picking charities and giving them the money they would have spent on presents.
That’s what they post on Facebook. How cool is that!
Am I sad I missed out on being part of her young life?
But would I have forgone my creative babies to so do?
Not a chance!
Marilyn Flower writes fast fun reads with a touch of magical realism to strength the imagination of socially conscious folks. Clowning and improvisation strengthen her during these crazy times. She’s a regular columnist for the prison newsletter, Freedom Anywhere, and five of her short plays have been produced in San Francisco.