Wednesday, March 01, 2006

Marriage and Babies

A year and a half ago, A~ and I drove up to Vermont to spend a weekend with our old friends, P~ and M~ and their two children, partly because we love and miss them (we've known P~ for over a decade), but also to give A~ a vicarious glimpse into parenting. It had recently become clear to me that I wanted marriage and a child. At the time, he wasn't sure he wanted either, and the prospect of losing me scared him to death.

By the end of that visit, A~ was speculating about the fun aspects of parenthood, even considering that it might be better to have two children rather than an only. He was gearing up to propose marriage, though not quite off the fence yet. What little he said in this regard thrilled me to pieces. I tried not to think about my doubts.

This past Sunday I was back at P~ and M~'s place for the first time since the wedding, since two miscarriages, since A~ exited, stage left, and J~ entered, stage miracle. I wanted to share my old friends with my new love. I also wanted to play with their kids again, to feel the same heart-opening sureness that I could parent, could enjoy parenting, had the capacity for that kind of love.

As much as I was glad to introduce J~, was satisfied with the visit as it stood, I also found myself thinking about the anticipation I had felt in the past year for sharing wedding photos with P~ and M~, for reminiscing about the day they, in part, inspired. It still seems so special in my memory, somehow untarnished by recent events. I'm still proud of my wedding. And it hits me sideways: I still love A~.

What a strange mix of emotion.

At the outset of our late night return south again, J~ and I pulled into a rest area to talk, to think, to kiss, to bond for a minute before the long drive whitewashed our brains and bodies in preparation for sleep. In that street-lit conversation, J~ spoke with such tender conviction, saying not that he thought it "might be fun" to have another child, but that he actually wanted to do it, believed I would be an excellent mother, loved the idea of making a family with me. Instead of saying that he didn't know his own mind, fearing commitment but also fearing the loss of me, he said in no uncertain terms that unless I sprouted a second head in the next few weeks, he couldn't imagine feeling less sure of me as someone he wanted to share his life with, children or not.

It took me some time to let my guard down and actually hear this, to actually believe he wasn't just wishful thinking, intentionally blinding himself to all the flaws A~ so constantly noted in me. "You really don't know how amazing you are, do you?" J~ asked. I don't recall my response. I probably blinked, stared blankly, laughed. How do you answer a question like that?

In all the years with A~, I never allowed myself the dream of someone who unabashedly wanted me, wanted a family with me, someone who could hold up his end of the nest-building, emotional and physical support-giving bargain. It didn't look like something I could realistically expect out of life. Even now, I feel a certain trepidation in being so wide open, in putting my heart down on the page for all to see and judge, in admitting even to myself, as I did in the car that night, under streaky yellow neon, with tears streaming and my own second-head-sprouting disclaimer on the record, that I want this too, and that I believe in J~ also, and will not resist a dream come true.

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