***While I am packing up our house like a woman possessed, getting our family ready to move across the continent, several generous readers have volunteered to keep you musing. This first guest post is written by Jasmine Johnson-Kennedy. Jasmine in an Alaskan off-grid homesteader (ironically, I do not know her from Alaska but solely from this virtual space). She also writes at her own blog, Bunchberry Farms.***
You may think I’m crazy when I say this, but its true. I have been actively talking myself out of having children for a decade. How old am I, you ask? I’m twenty six.
Why have I been dissuading myself from ushering new souls into the world for so long? Because I want them SO DAMN BAD.
I actually give my younger self a lot of kudos for being so responsible. As a highschooler, while I personally wasn’t sexually active until late in highschool, I had pro-condom bumperstickers on the back of my truck and in my bedroom. I talked my friends through the process of getting on birth control. I was decided that if I should ever need to, I would get an abortion rather than become a teenage mom. And all the while I desperately desired kids. I would fight the undertow of the longing. I would find myself insanely jealous of the young single struggling under-advantaged moms that I worked with at my minimum wage part time waitressing gigs. And periodically I would have to sit down with myself and have a good long chat about what the reality of kids would mean, about how having an underage mom wouldn’t be doing them any favors, and about how I wanted to be able to choose them at a time their nurturance would be my primary endeavor.
I played gypsy for a year, and then I went to college. And for five years I indulged in academia and theatre. I knew I didn’t have the time or energy for kids. I knew that the time would come for being a mom, that that time was not the (then) present. But I longed. Oh, how I longed. And I dreamed. Oh, how I dreamed. The dream of the homestead and the dream of the motherhood came to rival each other in depth and intensity. They became entwined to the point of identity. My mantra-goal became “Get the land” because once I had the land, the homestead and the kids could and would come. I plotted and planned and despaired and hoped and leveraged will power and luck and fate and love to get the homestead. Meanwhile I would read the parenting magazines at the Laundromat, hide “Fit Pregnancy” (the prenatal yoga issues) and “Natural Parenting” magazines in the wait-station at the restaurant, read the latest “Mothering Magazine” and “Midwifery Today” every time I visited my mom. I would hide in the magazine section at the grocery store and read “Good Housekeeping” and “Real Simple,” skimming past article with potential relevance to where I was at, and instead focusing on the ones that talked about homework and kids organizational strategies, about family dinner plans and how to pack a school lunch. I rarely babysat because I was always in rehearsal or on stage or waitressing. I was engaging in the act of living the life-stage I was in while desperately and nearly obsessively longing for and planning the future. I have always been the queen of ten year plans. I am not entirely sure it is the healthiest way to live, expending so much energy and thought and time on a future that you are at the same time ensuring is distant from where you are.
Sometime in college I met my Darlin’ Man. And as soon as we met, certainly as soon as we became serious, I realized that there was no way I could or would ever get the abortion I had always planned on if we accidentally conceived. This realization scared the shit out me. I mean, I thrive on planning the future. The reality of children was always, always something that I knew I would invite into my life when the time was right. I wished for them NOW, but I knew this. When I was maybe 3, maybe 4 years old my little sister was a baby. I have this vivid memory of sitting in my kid-sized rocking chair (the one that is in the attic space at my mother’s house waiting for the next generation along with boxes and boxes of kids books and toys that I’ve been saving all of my life), in the middle of the afternoon, and singing lullabies to my doll. For hours. We had this tape of lullabies, English on one side, French on the other – Lullaby Bersuese – and I distinctly remember one specific afternoon repeating and re-listening to the French side at least two if not three times. Singing along and rocking my doll straight through from afternoon to dusk. I wanted to memorize it so that when I was a mom I could sing it to my kids without the tape. Ever since then, I have known, bone deep, that motherhood was something that belonged in my life, that it was something I would choose for myself. Accordingly, it became the end-goal of every 10 year plan I ever made. It was there and real and desperately wanted, but was always placed a decade or so away. Placed out there in the future with a plan in place to ensure it stayed there. So when I met my Darlin’ Man and realized that if we conceived I would keep the baby, it scared the shit out of me. It took the concept of motherhood out this plane of planned activity at the perfect time – a place I had put it, and kept it, so that I would not be prematurely tempted – and (re)created it as a thing that could happen by chance, something that could happen to me and I would do nothing to stop it. I mean, no kind of birth control is fail-proof right? And if the idea is that you manifest in your life that which you focus on, kids are an immanent accidental possibility, right? And that’s scary stuff. But even while recognizing the absolute havoc that untimed and unplanned kids would have on my life, on our lives, even while rebelling against the mere concept of the active choice being taken away from me – in my deepest self of selves I rejoiced. I rejoiced because suddenly, miraculously, my most deeply held desire was a possibility. Because even a 1 in 10,000 chance is a possibility, right? And if I hit that one in ten thousand jackpot, well, I could hardly blame myself for accidentally becoming pregnant with my beloved’s child, right? It wouldn’t be an ill-considered decision, but fate.
And I rejoiced because I knew that the choice of pregnancy and motherhood was really and truly finally within my grasp. And that scared the shit out of me. Because if it was something that I finally could choose for myself, why was I not? If facing the reality of eminence of the mere possibility of kids brought me such joy and relief, why was I avoiding it? What was I doing with myself? If I was defining fulfillment as motherhood, and I was denying myself motherhood, then what sort of messed up mind game was I playing with myself?
So I did two things, I sat down with myself and gave myself the permission to savor this pre-kid life for what it is. There are many things I love about it that I know I will nostalgically savour when my proverbial style is cramped by the minute to minute reality of littles. This life I’m living now is a step along the way but not merely a means to an end. (Or so I tell myself when I’m not assuring myself that AS SOON as we get enough student loans paid off, I can then get pregnant. If that’s not a means to an end, I don’t know what is.) And I asked myself what motherhood really meant to me. I found that while the essence of motherhood in my soul stands alone and can be applied to or fit within any life scenario I can imagine, my VISION of my future motherhood was pretty specific. Once, in the early and turbulent portion of our relationship, my Darlin’Man asked me if I knew what my purpose in life was. I don’t remember the words I chose – I think nurture was one. But I remember being very careful of what words I used because I knew the answer as clear as day, and I knew that English lacked a single word for the amalgam of creation and nurturing and tending and supporting and healing and reverence that gardening and mothering and animal husbandry and making art and feeding people and giving them medicine and tending their wounds all have in common. There is a common element, and it is profound and resides in my soul, but I don’t know that there is a word for it. I thought about all of this and I realized that my vision of my own experience of motherhood was all entwined in my vision of homesteading. Raising kids and goats and gardens was all one life action for me. Which meant I better get the set up in place if I wanted to realize that vision.
So I shifted my future focus onto the homestead (and by this I mean I took all of that near-obsessive planning and applied it to small scale agriculture). I got married. My mom moved up here in anticipation of being grandma in the not too distant future. Last summer we bought the homestead. It needs a lot of work in creating it as a productive home scale agricultural venture. It craves digging and building and fencing and lots of compost. But every time I think about a fence line, or the placement of a coop, I think in terms of little hands on latches, little feet in the grass, buoyant laughter echoing, trees for solace of little hearts. As I think about where the fruit trees and the barn ought to go in relation to a future barn, and maintaining the direct sun on the solar panels, I’m also thinking of swings and climbing trees.
I’m now on the two year plan for getting pregnant and every time I sit with myself and examine my prospective reality of motherhood, it still scares the shit out of me. In a deep and challenging way, a way that has within it the distillation of the visions of bliss and golden glowing mama-ness. A way that encapsulates the dreams and the bone deep blood deep voice that knows about children belonging in my life. A way that is also aware (as aware as one can be without the experience) of the work and the drudgery and the self abnegation and the frustration. The responsibility and the giving.
And if the prospective reality scares the shit out of me and I still want it with the intensity of a decade’s longing melting into tender humbleness; that must mean I’m getting closer and closer to actually being ready, right? Are you ever ready? Probably not.
And the closer my own motherhood draws, the more I find myself open to following the lead of this land, our (future) kids, this life we’re choosing. The ten year plan has opened to allow me to glimpse possible vistas of twenty and fifty years down the road – it is less rigid and encompasses much more possibility for change. Which means I might just make it though, right?