When BD and I were together, for ten years, unmarried and without children, people would delicately pose the question: So… Are you thinking about marriage? And I’d say, oh sure, but no need to rush. We don’t want to get married right now. And later on, oh yes, we’re getting married but don’t get your hopes up for kids anytime soon. We’re not at all ready yet.
It was a lie. I was ready for marriage when we were together for four years, and were travelling through South America. I was 23. And I fantasized secretly about him popping the question on one of those magical deserted beaches in Brazil, with the little crabs popping out of their holes in the sand and running around sideways.
Once I even said something like one day we can come back here for our honeymoon. He could have shrugged it off, but instead he got really upset. What do you have to go ruin everything for? It was one of the only fights we ever had in our 13 year long relationship.
After that, I learned that some things were better left unsaid. That patience was a virtue. That like my mother, it was my duty to make sure that the man in my life was happy, because that was the secret of long lasting relationships. It was. BD and I could have probably continued on our merry road of quiet content, if it hadn’t been for my desire, that could no longer be suppressed to become a parent. I pushed him into marriage, and he rose to the occasion. And then I pushed him into having a child. We’d been together for 12 years. I was turning 31. I told him stories about biological clocks and how these things took time. And I got pregnant ridiculously fast. Like my body had all these eggs lining up throughout my life, waiting for anything that loosely resembled sperm to impregnate them. I’m pretty sure even porn could have knocked me up, my body was so ready for a baby. A week after the first time we had unprotected sex, my breasts were sore and I was nauseous as fuck.
I used to be Disclaimer Girl. The one who could never accept 100% fulfilment. Happiness came with a warning: “Don’t get your hopes up to high.” It came with a but. Without warnings, without buts people could get disappointed. How’s the new job? Oh you know, it’s great, but who knows how long I’ll be there. They’re not doing so well financially, they’re constantly laying people off. Oh that’s a lovely dress! What, this old thing? I’ve had it for years. I bought it on sale. It makes my butt look big doesn’t it? But yeah, I guess it works. It was a mediocreness of emotions. It restricted how high I could go, but it also protected me.
That changed when I first peed on that stick and saw those two little pink lines. I could not restrain my happiness. I couldn’t put a disclaimer on that. No buts when it came to my love for that tiny fertilized egg that would soon enough become my son. BD was not as thrilled. He was highly protective of me, as always, made sure I ate all the right things and didn’t do any heavy lifting. He did all the right things but he did them with a stiffness. He was freaking his shit out.
When I was three months pregnant he started talking about going abroad for work. He would be gone for three months, weeks 22-35. It was a great opportunity for him. It could mean more money and a secure future for us both, well, us three. I didn’t think twice. I wanted him to go. Because I believed with all my heart that he would return a changed man. He would be excited about becoming a father. He’d rise to the occasion.
How’s the pregnancy? Amazing. I’m sick as hell and alone. But I love it. I wasn’t lying. I hated the nausea and constant puke fest. But I was excited for a life that I was going to have, soon, if I was patient. Wow, you’re so wonderful to let your husband go abroad for so long when you’re pregnant. I didn’t think I was being wonderful. I didn’t think it was my right to tell him not to go. I didn’t want him to go. But that’s because I wanted him to not want to go. I wanted him to want to stay with me. But since he didn’t, what was the point of forcing him to stay?
Three months past and I got used to doing things on my own. Useful experience for later on. Then he was back, in body at least. He worked crazy hours. I barely saw him. He was there for the birth, and I have to give him credit, he was 100% present there. But shortly after the birth he went back to being a workaholic. Staying late at the office, leaving bath time and bedtime to me. Apologizing over the phone. Saying things like, I’m here with the gang, we had a long day and decided to get a beer. That’s OK right? I can leave if you want. Knowing that I would never tell him to leave his friends and come home. Because, even though I was responsible for a new person in my life, it was still my job to keep my husband happy. If he could find balance, if he was not too overwhelmed, if I could somehow make it so that this was not too hard for him, than he’d rise to the occasion. He’d be the father I knew he could be. He’d love me like he was supposed to.
It was around that time that he stopped wearing his wedding band. It was around that time that when I told him I loved him, he stopped saying it back. And quickly after, he was gone.
How’s motherhood? They asked. Amazing. I’d answer. I’m happier than I’ve ever been.
And that wasn’t a lie either. I was happy. I had always wanted to be a mother. So even though I was dead tired, even when my Boy was sick and I was taking care of him all by myself, I quickly learned that there was a difference between easy and good. My new life wasn’t easy, for sure. But it was meaningful. It was important. And that made it good.
So there were no more buts. Not when it came to my family of two. We were one complete unit and we could listen to Led Zeppelin and dance around the house and love one other to the moon and back without a single disclaimer. It was safe to give him my all.
It was harder to implement my no buts policy to other aspects of my life. Oh I like my job, sure, but I don’t really know where it’s going. I mean, I am signing that five year contract, but it doesn’t mean I’ll stay. I can always back out of it. I like this apartment. It’s easy for me to stay here. Sure, it used to be ours. There are some rough memories there, but it’s OK. Yes, I really Iike this guy, I might even love him, but it has no future. We don’t want the same things. It’s good for now. The sex is amazing. Anyway, I’m not going to be careless this time, I’m not going to get too attached.
Objectively speaking, some utterly crappy stuff has happened to me when I’ve let down my guard. I allowed myself to believe BD and I would be together forever and raise our beautiful son together, and he left. I allowed myself to believe M was going to get better. She didn’t. It is very difficult for me to simply believe that things will be good. To be happy with no buts. To relish the moment without preparing myself for tomorrow’s disappointment.
BUT, and this is an important BUT. I’m trying to change that. I know that at the end of the day it is my choice. I can choose now, to put disclaimers before every aspect of my life and make sure that I never get hurt so badly again. It makes sense, for someone like me to do that. Or I can fall blindly in love with my life. I can love my new home, I can trust that preschool will be good for my Boy, I can decide to love my job and embrace its difficulties. And if I want to, I know that I can also love this man, whom I introduced as my boyfriend to my sisters and friends on Thursday, and felt my chest burst with excitement. I do love him, but there are still about 10,000 gigantic disclaimers there. His girls. My boy. They need to be protected. They can’t be let down twice. And there’s the other thing. That it’s easier to believe that love is never forever. It always ends at some point. And so, merging lives is, by definition a bad idea. Better to keep things simple.
Thursday night I threw a birthday party and he came. We got plastered and danced and he met my friends. It made me want, for a moment, to forget about buts and to just love him. And I have this picture now, that my sister took of us that I look at and think… What if? And that thought excites me and scares the crap out of me. But I think it’s healthy for me to allow myself to think it.
So I do.