Sunday, May 8, 2011

Considering Momhood

Circa early 1992, my husband and I determined (after almost a dozen years of co-habitation in committed, loving relationship) that this was not a world into which to bring a baby.  We would remain childless, living a carefree, double-income-no-kids life from what was then our perch on the hill just below Hollywood Boulevard.

In those days, our choices of how to spend free time after work revolved around things like soaks in the jacuzzi overlooking Sunset, followed perhaps by an episode of  "Star Trek: Next Generation" (or "Thirtysomething", or "Seinfeld", of which we were fans even before it was cancelled that first time), going out with our footloose-and-fancy-free friends, or maybe walking to Mann's Chinese Theater to catch a movie.  On a whim, we could take off with whoever was up for it or just each other, enjoying weekend getaways to San Francisco or Del Mar or the desert, simply leaving plenty of food and water on the floor, for our two cats, before we made our way out the door.

We'd given it a lot of consideration.  As much as I'd wanted kids for as long as I could remember, I couldn't at the time envision having the courage to face head-on with a baby strapped to me the toxic systems of "normalcy" that twenty years ago already concerned my husband and I, toxic systems which have since, obviously, wrought ever greater troubles: Continuing and accelerating resource wars... debased methods of fossil fuel extraction such as fracking and deepwater drilling... oceanic systems threatened by aggressive harvesting and life-wasting chemical dumps beyond belief... a plastic-trash island the size of a continent, traveling towards Hawaii's shores... corporate farming overtaking family farms... consumptive consumerism gone wild with trash outgrowing the boundaries of available landfills... yadda yadda.

While humanity hastened its assault on the quality of life on our planet, our simple plan was to nurture and take care of each other (and the cats) as best we could.

Funny thing in retrospect.  Our choice to not re-populate ourselves was made out of consideration and concerns for the human destructions of overpopulation, war-mongering, resource depletion, and environmental devastation.  Our motives and intentions were for the greater good, but... at the time, it wasn't yet clear to me how I was contributing to these problems by my own self, given that the result of determining not to add to 3rd Rock's population didn't actually result in much change to my own contributions to said warring, depletion and devastation.

Even though I was enormously impacted by growing up in the dawning Age of Aquarius, was rainbow-shaded by being an older child during 1967's Summer of Love, I was also steeped in a late 20th-century consumeristic meme of abject materialism, part of a TV-glued generation influenced by repetitive, catchy, mind-influencing marketing delivered via sit-coms and Saturday morning cartoons (imagine kids ~ just ONE day a week of decent cartoon viewing). I don't doubt that I've watched every single episode of "I Love Lucy" (many of them more times than I could count).  As an early thirtysomething at the time of the no-kids decision ~ with a good job in publishing that provided a decent amount of "disposable" income ~ the frequent sales in boutiques on Melrose (and, oh, those semi-annual sales at Nordstrom's!) kept me in what I believed was a manageable amount of systematically-encouraged, deferred debt (coached as my generation was by Betty & Whilma from "The Flintstones" excitedly running out the door with their new credit cards, happily shouting "CHAAAAARRRGE it!").

At this time of ascendency of the Clinton presidency, most folks hadn't yet begun to consider buying organically or locally grown food, not even most liberals, as many hippies I'd idolized as a child developed into latte-sipping, Saab or Volvo driving Yuppies who took fabulous vacations and became enamored of McMansions (more resource depleting debt), but still accumulated more stuff than they could comfortably fit into 4,000 square feet, and begat a multi-billions of dollars a year storage industry as a "solution" to what I consider to be a kind of hyperconsumerism. Conservation (as distinct from the growing rise of conservatism) was practically a mocked notion in most mainstream mentions, being a relic of what was widely seen as part of a "weak" president's response-in-a-sweater (ah, Jimmy, you tried) to the oil crisis of the 1970's.

Romanced by the hypnotic drone of advertising that had been aggressively and cleverly programming us to be "good" consumers for three decades, my husband and I ~ like many of our go-go generation ~ routinely bought and ate at home processed, corporate food from the market.  But most of the food in our refrigerator was in styrofoam take-out containers, from fast food to delis to leftovers from La Scala Boutique.  And I gave not a thought to pushing the gas and rabbiting it off of green lights, the better to position myself in the lead of the traffic, the better to get to wherever I was going faster, faster, faster...

Recycling was starting to take hold as a buzzword, but hardly anyone practiced it... most stuff just got tossed in a trash bin (or the street), as landfills swelled into mountains haphazardly formed from our discarded detritus, while the ads on TV exhorted to us how EZ it was to just "heat it up and throw it away! No muss ~ no fuss!"  Talk of coming food crises and resource wars to us at that time were just that ~ talk ~ but hub and I were liberally bent enough to be already well on board with the notion that continuing the Western-hyped lifestyle of increasing planetary degradation was sure to ring humanity's death knell.

So.... we took a stand to at least not add one more person to the mix.  No birth control is 100%, but we'd do our best to be careful and control ourselves as we reasonably could.

Tangentially, over in Japan, at the same time of our decision, which I'd not yet relayed to my mother... My parents were living near Tokyo, and Mom was impatient that both her daughters had been married for several years and yet she had no grandchildren.  Being a proactive, (naturally) red-headed Celtic descendant with a desire ~ and whose most frequent wish for her children is to see us happy ~ she developed and implemented a plan: She went to a fertility shrine in Kyoto and lit candles.  She didn't tell us this until the seeds of her plan where well sprouted, so to speak.

Fast forward a few months from our mother's secret, sacred deed.  BAM!  My sister's pregnant with her first (of a subsequent total of three).  I was flat out happy for her, because I knew that's what she really wanted.  And the part of me that always wanted to be a mother yearned a bit, suggested that what the world needed was more people of good heart and good cheer, who had the courage and determination to fight the good fight to shift the paradigm... while the part of me that believed I'd made the correct decision for humanity's sake stood firm in satisfaction that it was the right choice for the Hub and me.

Three months later... the same week Hub and his (then) business partner rescued an oil-soaked kitten, whose cries from where it was living within the engine block of an abandoned car near the Rock & Roll Ralph's supermarket on Sunset alerted them to its pitiful plight... the day after the infamous L.A. riots hit the fan in the wake of Rodney King's horrific beating, snippets of which were relentlessly broadcasted and color-commentated by all-but-panting talking-newsheads (seriously, can't we just all get along?) ... during which we witnessed rock & roll rifle & gun owners take to the rooftops of adjoining apartment buildings to lock & load in defense of the Rock & Roll Ralph's, which they saved, stalling off the would-be firebombing-looters until the National Guard blessedly and thankfully showed up (seriously, can we bring them all home finally, NOW?!)... and it was rumored that dangerous knuckleheads were rifling potshots at planes taking off at LAX... I flew to DC on a business trip, a young professional on my game. A couple of days later ~ when I felt like I was going to puke while staffing a conference booth in a convention center, and excused myself to the ladies room ~ I lamented while reeling with nausea in a stall, head between my legs, what a lousy time it was to come down with the flu.

And that's perhaps the first time, the first time ever, I can consciously remember that it was exactly as if angels were talking to me, in my head.  Not out loud, but in a way that makes the words loud and clear in their silence.  It's a riddle, but my experience is that what some of us think of as angels or benevolent spirits can be very amusing like that.

Anyway, this particular angel let it be known to me that, absolutely, I was not with flu but, for now, the physical guardian of a powerful and gifted soul who would fill my life with grace and challenge and rewards of love and growth beyond measure. I felt a lil'bit more ill on receiving this news, while at the same time knew in an instant that this message wasn't a fevered delusion.  I didn't have a fever.  I had a choice to have a baby.

Very fast forwarding to now, my husband the reluctant father naturally turned out to be a loving, indulgent, mensch of a dad, and a loving, indulgent, prince of a partner in parenthood. Our insulated lives became an endless, evolving, chaotic concert of joys and challenges with the wild foal in a china shop that is our wise, creative, passionate, loving spawn of a child.

Choosing conscious parenthood with and for someone has dared me to examine more about myself and my personal impact on a life ~ to closely watch how it ripples ~ than I could have possibly hoped to know by myself, a formerly reluctant mother. Holding our baby in my arms for the first time, I came to accept and embrace in a heartbeat, pounded into my very marrow, an understanding and appreciation that this precious gift of a soul had her own purpose for showing up, and chose us out of everyone else available on this planet to be her parents. (She actually, spontaneously, told me of this herself one subsequent day, from the backseat while on the way to preschool ~ but that's another story.)

Looking back over the last couple of decades, re-examining what my husband and I thought was our decision to not bring another child into this crazy, wonderful world... I realize that our daughter's "unplanned" arrival in our DINK-dom helped me to finally, really, truly imbue into our daily lives the most essential, love-based messages that have been shared by the mystics of many ages, to not take the downfall of humanity lying down, to wisely but urgently seek ways to take actual, daily action in support of our best intentions for life in general on this shared planet.

Our child's pure, unadulterated innocence challenged us to bring out the even better in ourselves, to learn the lessons that it's not about the stuff we can buy... he or she who has the shiniest and most and best toys and biggest bank account doesn't necessarily win in the game of love, in the pursuit of true happiness, and no doubt ~ consciously or not ~ such a pursuit is toxic, and helps to stack a losing hand in the game of life for so many of Earth's inhabitants in the process.

Tidily stated:  I think I've learned it's better to swim with the dolphins and spontaneously play, than swim with the sharks in aggressive attacks.  And most of all, I finally, finally got the message that has since driven every breath I take and move I make: What the world needs NOW, is love, sweet love.  Dionne Warwick may never have sung truer words...

Only I'd flip that sentiment of "it's the only thing that there's just too little of."  The vibration it sends focuses on our lack.  Being a mom, if it has taught me nothing else, has taught me that it's vital to our very beings to focus on what we have in abundance, not on what we think we lack or finally got and feel a need to hoard.  In the blessing that is my life, I am humbly grateful for the abundance of love available to share.  No hoarding.  Give it freely and know it will return beyond measure, our greatest treasure.

By the way, we hadn't planned to adopt a third cat, but we kept the oil-soaked kitten. In his way, he chose us, too, and became baby's first best friend.

And, oh, yeah... Thanks, Mom (^_^)

* * * * * * * * *

Moral (perhaps?): Sometimes, the best things that happen to us in this Life are the things we resist the most.  The Eternal answers all prayers, just not always in the form we anticipate, so don't believe everything you think...


  1. gorgeous... gorgeous and again so gorgeous.....

  2. Susan -- The problem I have is that I want to race ahead and start posting superlatives and it takes so much discipline to keep reading, but it gets better and better and I want to hurry ahead and start telling you how great this is. Well, once again, I'm just going to say it. PLEASE GET THIS OUT THERE TO THE PUBLISHED WORLD! Send it to magazines and papers right away. What you say is so wise, so beautiful it hurts, with such delicious words. You have to share these things with the world. I'm beginning to think our lovely wonderful Divine Mother sent me to tell you this. Now She's telling me to push you to do it now.

  3. Not everyone is cut out to be a mom. I'm actually quite glad that we didn't breed. We were never "grown up" enough for it. And now that I'm older and getting close to the point where I likely couldn't breed if I wanted, I don't see it as a big loss. I'm still an overgrown kid myself. And that's just the way it goes. Peter Pan of opposite gender. That's me.

  4. Thanks, Wendie and Jill. Your encouraging support means a lot! And Michelle, I appreciate that you read this piece from a childless perspective. You beautifully reinforce a point I make which is that it was my CHOICE. Parenting is a helluva lotta work and pain mixed in with all the love and joy, and not everyone's cut out for it. Sadly, too many who aren't well equipped for it go for it anyway and keep the family courts and children's services in overloaded business.... but that's a whole other field o'worms!

  5. Wonderful read Susan, It brought back memories of looking out the window of your Hollywood apartment on the night of the Rodney King Riots and I'm 4 months pregnant with Maddy. I remember being so worried about bringing baby into this crazy world. But our girls are a light that shines bright.
    I loved being pregnant together! And everything else that followed.
    Thanks for writing this.

  6. Ah, those were some days, Maren! Our girls were baked (so to speak) in the loving warmth of those late-night swims we'd take in the pool at your "Mabel"house, the fun and joy of Arrowhead getaways ("Shut the F*CK UP, Damian!") and all measure of good times in shared expectant parenthood. You and yours are such a blessing in our lives xoxox

  7. Errata alert! I originally credited the artist of the Bacharach song as Ms. Ross. Apologies to Ms. Warwick <3

  8. I *did* know better, I feel compelled to add. Just took me a very careful re-read to catch the error. OK. There. Ego soothed. Now I can let it go ;-)

  9. Excellent. I had decided not to have children at 18 after a particularly grueling childhood (which Mom continues to this day from Florida), but I didn't have a successful marriage and the endocrinologist said I was barely a female anyway. Yet, I am sorry to have missed it all. I understand all the joys and rewards you feel. You are a lucky family.

  10. Thank you, Susan ~ for the kind words and for telling your story in such a raw and brave way. FWIW, I sense the Amazon in your soul rising to stand strong in her own Power <3