I love all of Courtney Martin’s writing on On Being. I highly recommend you check her out. But this piece, The Right Decision Is the One You Make, ripped me to shreds. I’ve read and re-read it, and I urge you to do so.
Because of her gorgeous words about parenting, yes: “I’ve been on the steepest learning curve of my entire life, and madly, viscerally in love, and totally out of control. I never could have made a different decision. It feels as if it was made for me on so many levels. I am humbled, so completely and totally humbled by it all.”
But most of all, because of her wisdom about control. Her beautiful writing about how becoming a parent strips you of the illusory sense of being in control (and how it’s a false feeling, no matter whether you are a parent or not). Martin calls life itself “terrifying and magical” whether you have kids or not, and that’s my impression, too.
I’ve written at length about my own often-crippling need to feel in control. I’ve described the way I have “white knuckled” my way through much of my own life. But the truth is becoming a parent shifted that, and something fundamental inside of me, and because of that I relate in an almost-uncomfortably keen way to what Martin writes.
Grace’s arrival in our lives was unplanned. That’s not news to anyone who knows me (or to her). I wrote a whole book, in a drawer now, about those unexpected two lines on a pregnancy test and the way that they knocked my world off balance. For someone who had planned her entire life, frankly, it was a pretty big shock. The deep postpartum depression that followed after Grace’s birth had its roots, I’m convinced, in the unplanned aspect of my pregnancy. Of course I recognize now the tremendous gift that this turn of events was; sometimes I wonder if I would have ever had babies, had I been fully in charge of the decision. It’s never the perfect time, after all.
And the lessons that my experience of those couple of years – we are not pulling the strings of our lives, at all, the darkness can hold tremendous gifts, and the unanticipated path can be the most beautiful – continue to echo through my days now. The years of my pregnancies and with infants and small children at home, while some of the most exhausting and difficult of my life, were also the richest. With a decade and a half of retrospect now I can see that some of the themes that would shape my midlife took root. I’m so grateful for that, and for having lived through an experience that was harrowing and beautiful, frighteningly dark and disorienting, yes, but also glorious.
Terrifying and magical, you might say.
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