Wednesday, January 19, 2011

The Dream I Never Knew I Had

As a child, I never dreamed of being a wife and mother. I didn’t fantasize about my wedding day or scribble my hypothetical future children’s names on notepads. I rarely played with dolls, and if I did, I usually pretended they were the neighbors’ or some distant relative who came to visit. I did enjoy playing with my Barbie, but Ken was never Barbie’s husband, he was her assistant. (I know how anti-feminist Barbies are, but it was the 80s, we didn't have a lot of toy choices). My Barbie was a busy executive (or veterinarian, journalist, or President) and obviously needed a lot of help. So, along with her driver, GI Joe, Ken would keep her on schedule. Obviously.

(Confession: There was a brief period when a dear friend of mine and I would play ‘house' and pretend that we were grown and married—she to Patrick Swayze, I to Richard Grieco. But, I think we can safely blame this unfortunate period on too many episodes of 21 Jump Street, not on some general desire to be married).

After surviving a less-than-fantasy-like childhood, moving out at 15, and juggling ambition mixed with a high dose of bad decisions, I was on the path to becoming a single, professional woman, as I had always imagined. And then, it happened...

I was a 20-year-old senior in college when I found out that I was pregnant with my daughter. Odd pains sent me to the emergency room, where a nice, but way too rushed, nurse asked if there was any way I could be pregnant. “No,” I laughed. “I’m not having kids.” “That’s not what I asked you,” she said (as if she had heard those words from very pregnant women before). And, after making her administer the pregnancy test three (yes, three) times, all of which came out frighteningly positive, she quipped, “well, I guess you are having kids after all. In about 8 months, to be exact.” Touché.

After a makeshift proposal (involving an ad for a minister and a guilt-inducing speech about the importance of a two-parent household), I married her father, a man whom I had only intended to pass the time with until I graduated. (My moral compass has thankfully shifted closer to North since then). I had no idea how to be a mother. I knew nothing, except that I was scared to death. But, somehow, I also knew that, whoever this little person was inside of me, I would do anything for her, even ... get married.

The day my daughter was born, I fell in absolute, unreplicable, undeniable, overpowering love. I looked into her tiny brown eyes and saw everything that mattered, every reason for my life, every beauty in the world. And from that moment on, my once fiercely-independent, very non-maternal life became all about her.

My career path shifted from business administration to working in the movement to end violence against women, because I, I needed to make this world a safer place for her. Having a flexible schedule became much more important than having a big pay check. Spending time with people who were good to her became much more important than being with people who were fun (thankfully I've been blessed with many friends who are both wonderful and fun). My search for homes now focused on safe neighborhoods rather than proximity to adventures. In every decision I made, her needs and well being always came first. And I would have it no other way.

If you read my previous post about the divorce I endured five years ago, then you know how well my marriage to her father worked out. But, I will forever be grateful to him for our daughter. We were divorced when my daughter was five, while I was in my second year of law school. I finished school, began my career as an attorney (for a non-profit women's organization), bought a house, and was raising an amazing little girl on my own. Until, once again, God decided to throw me a curve ball, proving that I’m really not as in control as I’d like to believe.

In 2006, I met a handsome, kind man with sparkling eyes and an intoxicating smile. And I couldn’t deny that I had fallen in love again, this time with 3 men—the man with the great smile who made my heart melt, and his two young sons. I never imagined falling in love again. I never imagined getting married again, especially to a soldier. But, then again, maybe all of our greatest blessings are things we never would have, or could have, imagined.

Today, five years after falling in love with them, three years after once again saying, “I do” (and this time really meaning it), I can honestly say that I love being a wife and mommy. (Who would’ve thought?) It is my greatest accomplishment and my greatest joy. As I watch our three angels—the one whom I gave birth to and the other two who joined my heart and soul when I married their father—I feel complete bliss. They are what my life was meant to be. And although my career is still very important to me, my passion is doing work that is important, and will make their world better. Nothing can compare to the love and devotion I feel for them.

Although I never knew it, this is my dream. And I’m so very blessed to be living it.

Besides, I think Barbie would be happy that I married GI Joe.

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