Knowing Each Other’s Heart

If there were any one thing I regret as a blogger, it is that by the time I sit down to convey what happens during our couples counseling sessions, I’m just too emotionally drained to do a decent job. I think it is valuable to record them here, both for myself and for those who may not have the resources available to see a counselor themselves, so I muddle through, but I never feel I’m doing them justice. I’m sorry if these posts aren’t very insightful or well written, but I do think it’s important to put them out there, despite their shortcomings.

Last week our appointment mainly dealt with the fallout of our missed month of TTC. We also got some homework to do for this week’s appointment (usually we don’t go every week but this month’s schedule was weird). The homework mainly had to do with our reasons for having another child. We were both supposed to list our fears and reasons for wanting another baby.

Mi.Vida went first, relaying his fears. Interestingly (to me) Mi.Vida’s biggest fears center around TTC. He’s worried it’s going to be difficult for me again and that–as he’s already stretched so thin–he won’t have enough support to give me when I’m floundering. He also worries that prescribed sex will make him resentful. He fears the whole ordeal will be as brutal and heart wrenching as it was the first time. I don’t blame him for his concerns. They are all very valid and understandable, especially given what we went through the first time. I wasn’t surprised to hear his fears but it was still powerful to acknowledge them. I hope I can remember them as we move forward and do whatever I can to make this a positive experience for him.

My fears were more based in the challenges of TTC, possible loss, pregnancy and infancy all while managing a toddler. Basically I’m worried about how I’ll navigate all the difficulties of trying to conceive, dealing with a loss (if we have one), the exhaustion, nausea and discomfort of a pregnancy and then the sleep deprivation and hormonal swings (not to mention breastfeeding struggles) of the newborn months, all with an energetic toddler in tow. I honestly don’t know how I’m going to manage it all, especially not while I’m working full time. It just seems like too much. And after watching our relationship crumble under the weight of one child, I’m terrified of what two will do to us. I worry for Mi.Vida’s happiness and my own sanity.

Next we presented the reasons why we do want to have another child. Mi.Vida’s were all expressed with heartfelt sincerity and I appreciated them very much. He mentioned how much he loves being a father, how he appreciates the challenges of parenthood even if they sometimes feel overwhelming; while he misses the lazy carefree existence of life without kids he also values all he accomplishes as a father. He says he loves the connection he has with Isa and looks forward to nurturing a similarly fulfilling relationship with another child. He also says, for all its nuanced complexities, that parenthood has brought us closer together and he wants to build our family knowing that we, as a couple, will grow too.

I have to admit, every single one of Mi.Vida’s reasons for having another child surprised me and not just because they were so thoughtful and well articulated. I didn’t realize how much he valued fatherhood and its challenges. I didn’t realize how much joy he took in his relationship with our daughter. I didn’t know much he really, truly loved his new role as dad. And I definitely didn’t recognize his belief that we have become stronger through all of this. Hearing his reasons was a eyeopening indeed.

In the wake of Mi.Vida’s reasons for wanting another child, mine felt incredible pragmatic. I want Isa to have a sibling, and I hope they will be close as my sister and I were. I want to have another child, experience the connection I have Isa with someone else. I want to know what it’s like to love someone else like I love her, to have that bond with two people instead of just one. I want to experience pregnancy and child birth again (well, really just those precious hours after childbirth would be fine). I also hope to learn more about myself by parenting another child; the lessons Isa teaches me are more relevant and profound than any others I’ve ever learned. I also want to see who we, together, can bring into the world. I know we are so lucky to be able to have biological children–a mixture of the two of us–and I want to meet another person that is borne of our love and commitment to each other, almost more so since it’s become so hard won.

Sharing our pro and con lists for having another child was a powerful exercise. I think for the first time we really understand where the other person is coming from. I hope that knowing each other’s hearts will help us moving forward, that we will be able to show each other more empathy and compassion, that we will be able to give each other more support. I also hope it will aid us having more faith in ourselves as a couple, in believing we can do this, despite the struggles we’ll surely face.

Round Two

Last week was hard. Things don’t seem to be getting any better. In fact, it seems like I’m in the opening minutes of Round Two and I’m not sure I have it in me to fight back.

I went off my meds cold turkey last Monday. I spent all last week famished. I didn’t think I ate so much more than usual but I promptly gained three pounds. I was hoping that when I went off my meds, and officially started TTC, I’d go back on a loose version of my past TCM diet, cutting out processed grains and trying to eat more fruits and veggies. Oh, and I was not going to drink even one diet soda. I’ve failed on both counts, miserably on the latter. I know that women do worse than drink a few Diet Cokes when they are trying, so why do I berate myself so much for this shit?

Luckily the uncontrollable appetite has died down and now I feel almost like I did before, hungry for meals and not so focused on food between them. I’m still eating more than I would on my meds but I don’t feel out of control, so I’ll take it.

One thing that has been hard is the exhaustion. I knew my meds made me feel alert and focused but I didn’t realize that off them I’d feel like I’d been hit by a mack truck. There has been a lot of face slapping on the drive home and frequent attempts to get in bed earlier each night. Slowly but surely I feel less tired and more ready to face each day, with or without a Diet Coke in hand.

I have to admit, I think a lot about TTC. I’m temping so of course I know when I’ll likely ovulate and when we should have sex. I realized last weekend that I never got Pre-seed and immediately ordered some online. Today I realized we should have sex tonight or tomorrow and that the Pre-seed wouldn’t arrive at my parents’ house in time (I have to send everything there lest it get taken back to the post office for me to pick up). So I checked on their site to see where I could buy it and wouldn’t you know, that shit is sold at Walgreens and CVS now! When I was last trying, 4ish years ago there were only two random pharmacies in all of SF that sold it and now you can get it anywhere.

Anyway, after having to ask two older gentlemen where to find it, and then quickly covering it with a box of M&Ms when I passed not one, not two, not three, but FOUR students (two current and two alumni) on my way to check out, I left with the fertile friendly lube in hand. Pulling up to my parents’ house after tutoring later that day, the first thing I noticed was the Amazon box. My pre-seed had arrived a day early, making my CVS trip totally unnecessary. Touche two-day prime shipping. Touche.

Of course Mi.Vida and I got into a tiff tonight about how both of us feels we sacrifice more than the other in this gig called parenting. It was a long and difficult conversation, one that deserves its own post, but needless to say, both boxes of Pre-seed will be factory sealed tomorrow morning.

I don’t think I’ve mentioned here but things are pretty bad at work. Last week I was told I will be moving rooms (I have over 25 things on my walls alone) and then asked to consider if I would teach a 5th grade, double-period English core next year when I return full time. I don’t want to go into the details of why teaching this class would torture my soul but I will assure you that it would be bad. So bad, in fact, that I realized if I have to teach it next year I will be incredibly miserable at my job. Like crying myself to sleep each night miserable. I sobbed most of yesterday about it. I’m lobbying for another class and may or may not be successful but I’ll definitely have at least one period that I really don’t like and have never taught before, which will require an incredible amount of prep work on my part. This is along with the FOUR OTHER DIFFERENT CLASSES I will already be teaching. So yeah, next year is going to SUCK ASS. Big time.

The only light at the end of the tunnel right now is getting pregnant relatively quickly and spending a good portion of next spring NOT at work. Of course that puts more pressure on me to get pregnant quickly which I absolutely DO NOT NEED right now. So yeah. Work not helping my state of mind, or my attempts to be super nonchalant about TTC.

I spent much of yesterday scouring on-line teaching boards, trying to find a promising prospect. Nothing doing. Man, it is cut throat out there, let me tell you. At one point I was actually considering going back to get my Ph.D., that is how desperate I was feeling. There is NO WAY I’m going back to graduate school in this lifetime so I’m going to have to keep hoping for a K-12 or community college opening that I’m qualified for. For now it doesn’t look good.

Of course this morning a position I qualify literally landed in my reader. So I spent much of today typing an outline of a letter of rec for my vice-principal to write for me and trying to get a hold of my graduate professor (the one I SWORE I’d never speak to again) to see if she’ll write me one too (or just sign one that I write for her). I also dropped $40 on official transcripts from my grad school. Man, what a racket.

Of course I’ll apply and put my best foot forward doing so but I don’t have a lot of hope. I’ve applied to four similar positions and never even got confirmation that they received my application. I doubt I’ll get anything from them either.

The final pin ball rattling around in my head is about some creative writing classes I want to take this summer at my lovely alma mater, UC Berkeley. There are two I’m interested in, one on writing children’s picture books (5 Mondays) and one on developing the idea for a Young Adult (YA) novel (8 Tuesdays). Together they cost a considerable amount of money and require me being away from home two nights in a row for five weeks. The reasons to take them both are I’m not really sure what direction I want to go with my writing right now, and while I have ideas for both, I need direction to develop either of them. Also, it will be summer and I’ll have some time to dedicate to both projects, which I would love to do. I feel both classes would get me to a good jumping off point for the rest of the year. Also, and of course this is uncertain, I might be either very pregnant or having a baby next summer, in which case I couldn’t take either class. I also know that taking them while working just won’t be an option of me. So yeah, I’m toying with that idea. Of course the idea of being with Isa for two nights in a row is what started our little tiff today about carving out equal time for ourselves. I guess I really do want to much. I always guessed that was the case but now I’m sure.

I’m sorry for that incredibly long and sordid vent. I really needed to get that all out. I hope you’re all doing better than I am right now, and if things are shitty I send my love. Shittyness sucks, as you well know.

Couples Counseling: Making Progress

Mi.Vida and I had couples counseling this weekend and I forgot to write about it. I really want to document our couples counseling experience because I think it could be useful to others dealing with difficult moments in their relationships and because I want to be able to look back and see how much we’ve done and how far we’ve come.

At counseling this week we touched on the following:

– Mi.Vida admitted that he has issues to work through, namely his intense anxiety surrounding conflict. Basically he is hypersensitive to conflict and wants to avoid it at all costs. This is making confronting his boss about his raise very difficult for him.

– Mi.Vida recognized that he needs to carve time for himself and the things he wants/needs to get done, like looking for a job.

– I noticed that I struggle focusing on “our” time if we haven’t planned to do something earlier. Last week, when we planned to watch a movie I was able to put my phone and computer away and snuggle with Mi.Vida on the couch, enjoying the film. This week on Saturday, after Mi.Vida came home from seeing friends, we both mucked about on our computers for most of the night, not really doing anything and then lamented the fact that we hadn’t taken better advantage of our time.

– I also admitted that I would appreciate more planned family activities during the weekend because I’m sick of just tooling around the neighborhood when I’ve been doing that all week. I also think we need to practice parenting together because I notice lots of moments of tension when we each want to handle a situation differently. We solo parent a lot, giving each other breaks and time to get things done, and when we parent together we’re not as smooth as we could be or as we’ll need to be to deal with Isa as she gets older and more cognizant of what’s going on.

– Mi.Vida’s homework is to start planning what he’s going to say to his boss, line by line.

– Our homework is to spend at least one hour a week having structured together time (as in not just together in the same room on our computers).

All in all I am very pleased with all we’ve accomplished in couples counseling so far. I truly believe it has fundamentally changed our relationship for the better. I shudder to think where we’d be without it.


I have been feeling increasingly… ambivalent, lately. This feeling extends to pretty much every part of my life. I am ambivalent about keeping my house in decent shape. I’m ambivalent about doing all the needs be done to ensure I’m prepared for work on Monday. I’m ambivalent about putting in the time and energy with my partner. I’m ambivalent about working on my book, which I’m pretty sure will never be published.

I’m ambivalent about having another baby.

Isa is an amazing girl. Truly, I do believe she is special. People tell me it all the time. Total strangers who meet us at the park assure me that she is a truly unique little girl. She has incredibly energy and a wonderful personality. I feel incredibly blessed to be entrusted with the responsibility of guiding her through this life.

Isa is an amazing girl. She is also incredibly stubborn and strong willed. She wants what she wants when she wants it. Her reactions to disappointment are intense and visceral. She throws herself on the floor. She screams. She hits. She purposefully hurst me. She writhes and twists and makes it impossible to contain her. Her physical strength is astounding; there has been more than one occasion when I’ve been unable to keep her safe from herself, when her head has struck the concrete with brutal force, when she’s given herself bumps or bruises or cuts.

There has been more than one occasion when I’ve totally and completely failed as a mother.

I know that what I’m describing is normal toddler behavior. I know that every mom of a child under four has experienced these things. But the thing is, I NEVER see other kids doing these things. Isa has had so many melt downs in public–at the park, at the grocery store–places with tons of other kids and I NEVER see other kids throwing tantrums like the ones she throws. And Isa throws these kinds of tantrums frequently, every day, many times a day.

Isa is only 1.5 years old. Whenever I admit to other mothers that I feel out of my depth, that this age is much harder than I had anticipated, they assure me that I have no idea what I’m in for, that 2.5 and 3.5 are SO MUCH HARDER. When they say that, something inside me dies. I have a really hard time not crying.

Why do I think I can handle another baby when this one already challenges me so much? Why do I think I can even handle being pregnant when sometimes my own daughter can overpower me? Why do I think I make it work with two when I’m failing so miserably with one?

Isa, losing her shit because she has to wait three minutes for the carousel.

Sometimes, when I come home from a particularly hard afternoon at the park, when Isa has fought putting on her socks, her shoes, her jacket, her hat, getting her diaper changed, not bringing five stuffies with us, going outside, walking down the street, holding my hand, pretty much everything I’ve requested she do, when I’ve failed to keep her head from crashing against the ground–as the eyes of ten parents remain trained, intently, on us–I wonder how I could ever be so foolish as to try to have another baby.

When I feel so defeated at the end of the day that I just want to crawl into a dark hole and never come out, I ask myself, what are you thinking wanting to do this again? How will you ever manage two when you can’t even manage one? 

When Mi.Vida and I get in an argument just because we’re exhausted, because we have nothing left, I implore myself, You will ruin your relationship! Please don’t throw away everything you have!

Because sometimes, a lot of the time, it feels like having another child will be the end of me, the end of this life I’m struggling to keep a hold of as it is, the end of my relationship, my friendships, what little creative freedom I have left.

If I’m struggling this much just to parent one child, how on earth can I ever parent two?

Yeah. I’m feeling pretty ambivalent about it all.

Trying to Conceive When You Already Have

Yesterday I had my first TTC-related panic attack. At least the first one in a while. It came out of nowhere, I don’t remember even thinking about TTC before it happened but suddenly I was drenched in a cold sweat, absolutely sure that our attempts to have another baby would be fraught with struggle and loss. I felt sure I wouldn’t buckle under the weight of whatever was in store.

When I relayed all this to Mi.Vida later that night, during our 10 minute check in, he held me close and assured me that we’d be okay, that we are strong, that we can get through anything.

And besides, we have Isa, as if that were that.

It’s true. We do have Isa. And while I can tell having her means something different for him than it does for me, I wonder how she will change things this time around. What will it be like to try to conceive when I already have. Will it be easier? Harder? Less nerve wracking? More difficult to manage? The truth is I’m not sure, at this point, on the eve of our TTC start date, I can only guess.

In some ways I reckon it will be a better, more positive experience. I want that very much and am going to put a huge amount of effort into assuring that I handle things more positively. Our first attempt at TTC was wrought with anxiety and conflict; it exacted a considerable amount of damage on our relationship, damage we’re just now repairing. Much of the negativity surrounding our first TTC experience originated with me and I intend to do everything I can to approach this situation differently.

I can already feel that some things are different. There is no longer that wild, untamed dread roiling inside me, I am no longer paralyzed by the fear that I will never be a mother. That fear, harbored my entire life, grew exponentially in the years leading up to our attempt at TTC until it became an uncontrollable force, frantic and furious, unyielding, wrecking devastation on my mental health and my relationship. There are few things I’m more ashamed of than the ways in which I let that fear overtake me. I was wholly consumed and what was left of me was only a shell of who I really was, of the woman my partner loved.

That fear is gone and, as you can imagine, the effect is remarkable. Surely this experience will be better if only for that. With that wild, uncontainable beast at bay, I have faith I can manage my trepidation and dominate my doubt.

Yes, being a mother will help my cause greatly, as I assume will the actual act of mothering. My previous months TTC were exacerbated by my irascible impatience. I had been ready to start mothering for years and any further delay was more than I could bare. Now I have a daughter on which to dote and I hope that her presence will serve as a distraction, taming my once irrepressible impatience.

I also must admit that having my daughter has taught me that motherhood is not all rainbows and unicorn flatulence. And while I can’t accurately fathom how challenging caring for two children will be, I’m aware of the fact that it will be exponentially harder than I’m expecting it to be. Reminding myself of the ordeals we are sure to face with two children will probably do as much to temper my impatience as my daughter will be.

Yes, I believe for me, this experience will be different from the first. The fact that I was able to handle pushing our TTC date back by six months without totally losing my mind (as I would have done the first time around) is a testament to how things have changed. With my desperation subjugated and my impatience muted, I hope to weather the storm of TTC with considerably more style and grace. In fact, I hope not to look on it as inclement weather at all.

Of course, not all the pressure is gone. While I am unequivocally a mother, I don’t consider my family complete. I want very much to have two children and I’ll admit there is an age gap I consider desirable. Even if I succeed in evicting these qualifiers from my mind, I will see them all around me. Almost every child that Isa teeters up to at the playground will have a waddling mother in tow. I will be reading of other bloggers completing their families in much the way I hope mine will be completed. Despite my best efforts comparisons will be made, months will be counted, and panic will begin to creep in.

Honestly, the months of timed sex and BBT charts stacking themselves up indefinitely isn’t want sets my teeth on edge – the thing that sends me reeling is contemplating another loss. Because the truth is, losing another pregnancy is something I’m not sure I can handle, at least not with any measure of competency. And if I’m thrown by pregnancy loss into the immeasurable depths of despair, it’s not just my partner that suffers, buy my daughter as well. The idea that I might not be able, or willing, to care for my daughter during a time, or multiple times, of loss, is truly terrifying. And when the fear of TTC comes over me, it’s the fear of loss that is able to sink it’s teeth in and not let go.

Uncertainty is something I strive (and fail) to accept in my life. The first time we were TTC the uncertainty of the outcome overwhelmed me. My entire identity was at stake and not knowing what would happen took me to the brink and I thought many times of just stepping over the edge. Trying to have a second child I feel faced with less uncertainty, but uncertainty all the same. I’m no longer unsure I’ll ever be a mother. I am not as distrustful of my body’s ability to carry and birth a child. But I’m still not sure I will have the second child my heart so desperately craves. The shape and size of my family is yet to be determined. And of course the path I will journey to reach that family is completely unknown. My trepidation is understandable, especially considering the journey of my mother, and those of other women in this community, that I look to as guides. I just have to keep reminding myself that my story has not been written and if I spend my time filling the blank pages with tragedies that haven’t happened, I’m only setting myself up for unnecessary suffering. Life’s filled wth enough hardship already, there is no need to conjure misfortune when it hasn’t happened yet.

So I will wait. And wonder. And hope. And keep taking my B6 vitamins.

Womanhood: An unattainable ideal?

I’ve had a hard time getting back into the swing of things since winter break. I’ve been incredibly tired and overwhelmed and just unable to get done the things that needed to get done. I can’t tell you how many times this week my wonderful partner insisted I go to bed only to stay up washing the dishes or straightening up Isa’s playroom.

I felt horrible.

Yesterday, I called Mi.Vida from the car, mentioned how exhausted I was and apologized for how much slack he’d been forced to pick up in the last two weeks. I didn’t realize I was fishing for a “don’t worry, it’s fine” until one didn’t come. When my desperate, “but you’ve had to do so much, I feel so bad, I know I’ve really dropped the ball lately,” was met with (what felt like) a stoney silence, I was mortified.

It wasn’t just that I felt truly sorry for all that Mi.Vida has been doing, it wasn’t just that I was worried he was genuinely angry at me for my short comings, in that short silence I felt the irrevocable judgement that no words could ever convey. I was doing a shitty job. I was failing, as a partner, as a mother, as a woman.

I hung up the phone and promptly started sobbing.

Yesterday Mel posted a critique/discussion of Meryl Streep’s The Iron Lady, using it as a jumping off point to explore “how we define womanhood.” Her post artfully weaves the movie’s portrayal of Margaret Thatcher with her own impressions of how we define womanhood and then judge all woman within that definition.

I didn’t realize it at the time, but Mi.Vida’s silence stung so sharply because I took it as a judgement on my capabilities – as a mother and a partner, as a woman who is supposed to be able to do her job, maintain her home and care for her child. When I can only perform two of those jobs well (or at all) and leave the third to languish, I have inherently failed as a woman.

I don’t think we realize how much we expect of ourselves as women, and how conflicting those expectations can be, until we force ourselves to examine our situation carefully and honestly. The reality is that in this day and age, women are expected to be wives, mothers and career women. While not all women chose (or are able) to take on these roles I would argue that it’s socially expected that they do, at one point or another. The choices* not to commit to a spouse, have children, or pursue a career are commonly used to qualify someone; those circumstances are mentioned because they are seen as modifiers, they single that woman out.

As mothers, women are not only expected to love their children unconditionally but cherish spending every waking moment with them. The role of mother, and the children that distinguish a woman in that role, are assumed to provide all of life’s satisfaction and then some; her children should be enough, in and of themselves, to guarantee her happiness. As mothers, women are also expected to be not just capable of, but exceed in, the distinct arts of feeding, nurturing, educating, soothing, discipline, imagination and play. It is also presumed we can, and will, keep the house clean, the laundry folded and nutritious meals on the table. All of these many and incredibly varied responsibilities are shouldered by every mother in our society today.

As wives (or partners) we are expected support our husbands in much the same way we support our children. We’re also expected to be there for them emotionally and intimately, as friends, lovers and partners. Even though our hearts supposedly belong completely to our children, we must find space to provide unconditionally for our husbands as well. We also must share financial responsibilities and work as a team to ensure the general happiness of everyone in the family. Oh, and it would be greatly appreciated if we could maintain our girlish figure and good looks too.

As if that weren’t enough, women of the 21st century are also expected to pursue a career of some kind, less they languish in the monotonous, simple-minded routine of the stay at home mom. Women who have no plans for themselves outside of the home are considered to lack ambition and are sometimes even pitied. What will they do when their children are in school? What will they do when they’ve left for college? As women we are expected to thrive as mothers but are found lacking if that is all we do. As productive members of society we are expected to do more, use our minds, make something of ourselves.

Of course not all women play all these parts, not all of the time, but I would venture to say there is an expectation that we will preform all of them at some point in our lives, and many are attempting to excel at all three for the entirety of their middle aged years. How are we supposed to succeed when these roles are at war with each other? How can we ever be dedicated mothers and wives when our careers pull us away from our husbands and children? How can we take advantage of our education when we do so at the expense of our family? If we want, or are forced, to do all three we are setting ourselves up for failure.

And here is where the guilt comes in, and the judgement – the condemnation of ourselves that turns outwards in the disapproval of others. If we can never satisfy our own standards, we better find everyone else lacking as well.

Let me use myself as an example. I don’t cook. It’s not that I can’t cook but I don’t cook. I don’t like to cook and in a stroke of what I consider to be pure genius, my partner and I made an agreement in which he does ALL the cooking (and meal planning) and I do everything else, effectively solving years of disputes about who does what around the house. For us it’s a perfect arrangement–I am forever grateful for my husband’s efforts in the kitchen and he commends me for all I do around the house. Oh, and did I mention I never have to cook?

Every once in a while it comes out, the fact that I don’t cook. Sometimes I let is slip, sometimes I declare it proudly, but no matter how it makes its way into the conversation it’s always met with the same looks of bewilderment, indignation, or pity (many times simultaneously). The questions are always the same, though only sometimes uttered, How can she call herself a mother? Or a wife!? Isn’t it every woman’s job to feed her family? Her poor husband! I could never do that to my partner or child! Does she think she can get away with this?! When I admit that I don’t cook I automatically drop a peg in the minds of most other woman; by relinquishing this traditional obligation I have forsaken a part of my womanhood. I am effectively less of a wife and a mother.

Right now it’s 3:47pm. My daughter has been up since 3:29pm. I didn’t immediately go to her because I was writing this post and I wanted to finish. What does it say about me, that I chose my own fulfillment over my daughter’s? Does it even matter that she has been chattering away, completely content in her crib for the last twenty minutes? Surely I should be judged even more harshly for the fact that I didn’t spend this morning–or any morning this week–with her and am effectively wasting a precious half an hour of possible together time. Obviously this act qualifies me as less of a mother: how can I possible love my child with all my heart when I don’t take every opportunity to be with her?

And therein lies the rub. No where, not in one of our defining roles as women, is anything mentioned about our own happiness, our own fulfillment. Good wives, mothers and career women are never supposed to put themselves first. There is always someone else who depends on us, someone else whose needs have been determined more important than our own. The role of individual is sorely lacking from our understanding of womanhood. Maybe if we created some space for who we are as unique people, we could make room for all the other parts we play, giving them the opportunity to merge into a more cohesive (and forgiving) entity.  Maybe then we could define ourselves as mothers, partners and career women in a way that works for each of us, individually and as a whole.

I believe womanhood can be significantly less confining, but only when it is emphatically harder to define. 

What do you think?

Are we brave enough to change the definition?

For more on this topic – and to be reminded of why we’re all RAD! – check out Jjirrafe’s post at Too Many Fish to Fry.

*Obviously one does not always have a choice to become a wife, mother or career woman. Not having that choice, and the damage it does to a woman’s identity within the confines of the traditional definition of womanhood, is an important discussion, one that sadly did not fit in today’s post but that I do hope to tackle some day.

On Not Actually Being Married

January 2nd is Mi.Vida and my anniversary.

Monday we had hoped to celebrate. Mi.Vida’s parents were going to take Isa in the morning and we were going to hang out. Unfortunately they fell sick on Sunday night and called to cancel. So Mi.Vida went to work and I stayed home and got some stuff done, hung out with Isa. We hoped to celebrate this Friday.

And we did. We lounged in bed all morning. Enjoyed some uninterrupted adult time. We were silly, we made each other laugh. We did, well, nothing until 10:30am and it was glorious. Finally we made it out of the house for lunch at one of our favorite spots and even had time to hit up Costco before our daughter was returned home. Who can argue with that?

While at lunch Mi.Vida told me the story of his friend and how her now fiance proposed to her. Evidently he had asked her parents, secretly, while they were all wrapping presents before Christmas. He presented her with the ring (and then dropped it, picked it up and represented it) on New Years Eve. It was a sweet story and I am happy to hear of their engagement. I also felt a little wistful about the lack of a similar story in my own life.

You see Mi.Vida never proposed to me. He never bought me a ring or got down on one knee. In fact, we never actually got married.

January 2nd is our anniversary, but it’s not our wedding anniversary. Mi.Vida and I never had a wedding. Our anniversary marks the day we became domestic partners in the city of San Francisco. It was really just a symbolic act – it doesn’t provide either of us with any rights as the parter of the other. If one of us were a employed by the city of San Francisco our domestic partnership would afford the other health benefits but as a teacher in another county and a non-profit attorney, our partnership is given meaning by us, and really nothing else.

We were going to get married. The type A planner in me probably never would have allowed for a surprise proposal but we did plan to tie the knot. We weren’t sure if we could afford a wedding but we definitely wanted to do something to mark the occasion. We hoped to get married before we started trying, to make our family building a legitimate undertaking.

In November of 2008 Mi.Vida and I celebrated the election of Barrak Obama as the president of the United States. Unfortunately, in California, something else passed that day – Proposition 8. Proposition 8 rewrote the California constitution to define marriage as an institution shared between a man and a woman. Prop 8 made it illegal for gay couples to get married in one of the more progressive states in the union.

When Prop 8 passed, Mi.Vida and I decided that we didn’t want to enter into what had become, in our minds, the discriminatory institution of marriage. At first we hoped to become domestic partners but evidently, in California, only same sex couples can become domestic partners. (Yep, you heard that right, in California only hetero couples can get married and only same sex couples can become domestic partners. If that is not a version of “separate but equal” I don’t know what is.)

Left with no options, we became domestic partners in the city of San Francisco. On January 2nd we had a small ceremony at the court house, attended by only our immediate families. Two weeks later we had a party at my parent’s house.

In the past 3 years Prop 8 has been tried several times in the California courts. It was eventually declared unconstitutional but the state is not issuing marriage certificates to same sex couples until the appeals process is over. The last I heard the courts had decided that the appelants had standing to bring their appeal. It could be years before the process is over.

So where does that leave us? We always told each other that if presented with a pressing legal reason to get married that we would do so. So far, no such reason has materialized. So we wait. Sometimes I want very much to get married; I feel like something is missing from our commitment to each other. Other times the whole thing feels unnecessary; I see no reason to “legitimatize” our relationship in the eyes of the state of California. Sometimes I’m not sure how I feel and I just wish the whole ordeal didn’t require so much soul searching, such an exhaustive consideration of so many distinctive yet intertwining beliefs, expectations and traditions. I definitely wish marriage here didn’t discriminate, that I could make my decision without factoring in that very upsetting detail.

Today I clicked on a link to a BlogHer article entitled Is Marriage Obsolete. Really, the article does no more than pose the question and honestly I haven’t had the time to read through the many, and lengthy, responses. Of course the question strikes my interest and really the only answer that should matter to me is my own. The truth is I don’t know. Having never been married I can’t say what the institution would add to our union, at least not in a personal or intimate way. Obviously marriage does provide people with legal protections and makes it harder for two people to walk away form their commitment to each other. Of course, common progeny makes it even harder for two people to part ways and we already have ourselves some of that.

The reality is I presently consider myself to be married. We wear rings that we exchanged during our ceremony. I call Mi.Vida my husband, as well as my partner. I tell my students that I’m married, so as to avoid any difficult conversations or parental judgement. I feel as if I’ve committed myself as fully to Mi.Vida now as I would if we were married. And yet sometimes I wonder if that is really the case. I don’t know if marriage would strengthen our love for each other in any tangible way, or if we’ve already made that commitment fully to ourselves in our hearts, where it matters most.

What are you thoughts on marriage? Do you feel it’s becoming obsolete? What does it mean for you to be married? Do you think you could achieve that without the actual certificate? Is marriage more about the legal protections, the personal commitment or a complicated combination of both?