Kev always says this to me. “What is now, will not always be, Mel.” “But Kev, I’m serious,” I say, “I’m never moving from this house.” I hate it when he says it. It’s like he knows me better than I know myself, like he sees something I can’t see yet. It’s like he’s trying the shake the unsteady ground I built for myself with a pile of permanent claims that might not be so permanent. The longer I’ve lived with Kev, the more space I’ve given myself to be unsure about it, sometimes, about it all.
The hard part about being unsure, especially about things people are generally very sure of, is that look of brokenness after disclosing. I felt it at church when my finger poked a hole through something and the hole was too big to ignore. I felt it a long time ago from a best friend when I was thinking about casting my vote in the other box. And since becoming a mother, I’ve felt it every time someone asked when, if, we’d be adding on to our family. “I don’t know. I’m not sure.” She must be broken. I saw it in their eyes and felt it, too. Maybe I was broken, but I couldn’t be certain.
Whenever I approach a new recipe, I ask why. Why, why, why? Why do we need to soak the beans? Why do we need to reduce the sauce? And I begin replacing the whys with the what-ifs. What if we start cooking the beans right away? What if we skip creaming the butter? What if, what if, what if? It’s the process of reconstruction. And the only way to reconstruct is to deconstruct first. And that’s what I did with my belief system and our family system, too.
I won’t go into detail about my belief system. It’s too personal for the internet. And I’m also absolutely terrified to tell you about our family system because it’s too personal for the internet. But with a little nudge from Kev, I’m doing it. Because there’s good news at the end. Though, I don’t want the good news to cloud the process that came before it. I am certain of this—reconstruction after the mess of deconstruction is a beautiful thing. It’s a story I’m proud to tell, especially after living through a storm of shame, as a new parent unsure of whether we’d have more kids.
Becoming a parent was the absolute hardest recipe I ever chose to tackle. Parts of our experience were really hard because of who I was. Parts of our experience were really hard because of who Hal was. And other parts of our experience were really hard because of who Kev was. Kev and I, we’d never parented together before becoming parents. There was no practice run for this tiny, precious human we were holding in our arms, each holding her differently, each trying to get it right. We approached so many things so differently, all out of the same place of deep love. And sometimes different can feel wrong. It definitely can create conflict.
When I started to add up all the hard parts, I almost broke. Well, maybe I did. Like the MCL in my knee that tore so many times, it lost its elasticity, its ability to self heal, ultimately needing surgery for repair, I wondered if I’d need surgery, too. Would I ever be the same again? Would my stretched out rubber band get its elasticity back? (I’m not referencing my waistline here, though that change was hard to watch, too.) Would I ever be enough for her, for him, for myself, much less another human being? Would it take a deep scar and lots of healing to repair me? Yes. To all of it.
By telling you how hard it all was, you might wonder if it was good. Oh yes, of course it was. It is. Isn’t life always both/and? It’s both euphoric and tragic all at the same time, on the same line of music, within the same capsule of a day. The good parts, those are the really easy parts to talk about. No one looks at you with broken eyes when you play those melodic notes. The hard parts, the sharp notes, well, they’re harder to hear. So we build a pile of nevers and always and black and white permanent claims to make our shaky ground feel more secure. It feels good to feel secure.
Mine started to feel so good, I didn’t want to rock the boat. As the years went on, our every day’s slowly got better. Why would I willingly hike down the road that almost broke us again? So we didn’t. What if we kept it just the three of us? So we did. We didn’t completely count out adding on to our family, but I was incredibly uncertain for a lot of years. Kev always left the answer to the question of more up to me.
I am grateful for the years (years!) of space he gave me to be unsure, to be unsure about it all (and a tiny handful of close friends, too). What a gift. I am grateful for the years to reconstruct by way of deconstruction, by way of a big ole mess. I can’t help the flood of tears and the wave of gratitude I feel as I write this. Earlier this year, 6 years after becoming a first-time parent, I decided I was ready to try again, much later than most, despite all the hard parts. If it worked, what a gift that would be. If not, I was grateful for everything we had, for all three of us. I surprised Kev with a funny little homemade card to let him know I’d made up my mind. I’ll keep that moment just to the two of us.
Maybe the swell of my stomach gave it all away. It worked. We are having another little girl early April! A friend who knew this story said, “Wow, you changed your mind.” I did, or maybe I made up my mind. I’m finding a lot of comfort in what Kev says—what is now, will not always be. There’s always space to change your mind or make up your mind, even if it takes years.
Despite a whole lot of uncertainties, I’m certain that I’m not who I was before becoming a parent. And I’ll probably be different after becoming a parent to another human. I’m certain that I’m more resilient than I thought I was, especially standing next to someone who is even more resilient than me, Kev. (We have this print hanging in our room as a reminder of the last 6 years and a good posture to keep moving forward.) I’m certain that Hallie is going to be an amazing big sister. I’m certain that it will be hard and good all at the same time. And I’m certain that I wouldn’t trade all the hard parts for the easier parts. We’re built out of that rubble, and that’s a beautiful thing. Now to turn The Fauxtel into a cozy little sleeping room where baby girl will inevitably fight sleep (if she’s anything like her big sister). I’m excited to get to know her and get to know us all over again.
I don’t really know how to wrap this all up, so I’ll borrow the title of our favorite show. This is us (for now).