Growing up, I considered it a foregone conclusion that my life would follow the traditional timeline of my rural small town: finish high school, fall in love, get married and be done having babies before age 30. No muss, no fuss.
Of course as an actual adult there are not enough horrified gasps in the world to properly convey how insane that life plan seems, but there was a time when I pored over books of baby names and studied hours of TLC’s A Baby Story (seriously, call me if you are about to have an unexpected roadside birth, I’m basically a junior Obstetrician) and I couldn’t wait to go from being a kid to raising a kid. College Schmollege, amirite?
We won’t get into the psychology of why I probably wanted to immediately create a happy family of my own as a do-over for the unhappy one I grew up in, but I was either a casualty of patriarchal fairy tales (bad) or a casualty of my upbringing (worse). Or both (worst). An embarrassment of riches, any way you look at it!
Luckily, better judgment prevailed and I got the fuck out of my house and went to college. The new experience and environment helped me appreciate that “traditional” was a fork in the road I would never take and that I’d be miserable in the life I’d fantasized about.
So Plan B then? I abandoned all familial fantasies and committed instead to doing exactly as I pleased and letting life unfold as it may.
Viva la Adulthood!
Doing as I pleased worked out really well for me as I established a satisfying career, enjoyed an interesting social life, and curated a personal aesthetic that allowed me to be comfortable in my skin.
I was generally quite happy, albeit very solitary as the other half of Plan B wasn’t going as well: life was unfolding as it may, but not the way I had hoped. I didn’t want kids, but I still wanted a partner.
Instead, by 2015 I was entering year 11 of dating without making a meaningful connection and was becoming increasingly terrified that I might never make one and therefore might never be loved.
It was as sad as it sounds.
But then I met Keith! And he loved the shit out of me! (Spoiler alert: he probably didn’t, he’s a sociopath.) And he came with four kids!
Oh, shit. That was not part of the plan.
Falling in love with one person is a great way to start seeing your future through a new lens, and I did: new optimism and thoughts of settling down.
But Keith wasn’t one person, he was a package deal and falling in love with a parent of four–no matter how much you think you’re going to stay on the sidelines– is to fall in love five times and to start to see absolutely everything differently.
In the beginning, I figured out my place, my role, my boundaries and my relationship with each kid. They accepted me immediately and before long Keith and I were fully co-parenting with the kids’ blessing.
Even though I didn’t want kids, I knew I’d be a good parent if I ever did it, I just thought I’d hate doing it. But I loved every fucking second of it. Every tween breakdown and toddler fit; every bath and barf and spill; every laugh and hug and game; every problem solved and secret told and lesson taught; every, every, everything.
It also turned on my Motherhood Switch.
Fuck fuck fuck.
I was already grieving the loss of the kids and now I had to wonder how I’d feel if that was my one shot at motherhood. Robbed? Sad? Lucky for what I had?
Life is certainly a lot simpler when what you want happily coincides with what you have.
But I wouldn’t change a thing.
It was the greatest honor of my life and the best love I’ve ever given or received.