Sunday, March 1, 2009

Parentood By Choice

Please keep in mind, while reading this post, that it is my first and very rough draft of an article I am working on. It requires much more structure and polish so be kind. LOL


I am forever grateful that my long wait for kids afforded me the chance to really choose parenthood. One of the wisest women I know said that if you can't imagine your life without children then you should have them. Having children should be an option, a path one takes with purpose and excitement.

I never married and would have had a happy life had they never come along but I would have missed so much, the blessings and the worry. Only a parent can realize that constant, on the edge of panic, feeling that you have or might forget something. The unrelenting awareness that they could so easily be harmed or lost, it's a wonder any of us make it through.

I remember the moment when I knew just how much I wanted to be a parent. While riding the train to work I noticed a teen boy and his mom across the aisle from me. I couldn't hear them but they were talking; an easy, relaxed conversation that comes with intimacy. The way they laughed together and enjoyed their bond made me realize that it was, for me, about more than a baby to love. I wanted to parent a person, someone who would become an adult; I wanted to be a part of that.


As a single woman I had choices, while they were all mine to make the impact they would have on my child was my first consideration. I could undergo artificial insemination but that would leave my child's genetic heritage a mystery. I could adopt but it was an expensive and iffy proposition. I could become a foster parent but it would mean a bond with a child who might would leave; a noble choice but not something I think I could cope with.

Every choice has a consequence and I had not been able to get beyond any of them. I prayed and read and waited; I was confident in God's awareness of my desire.

Then one day a friend called and told me about a mutual friend who was in need. She had just given birth to her second child and was in an emergency situation; she had to leave her home and had no permanent place to stay. Friends had offered temporary help but a woman with a newborn needs something stable. I had a place with an extra bedroom and, for me, it was a no-brainer. I told her to come stay with me and for as long as it took to find something permanent.

Patricia, Michael (11) and Lanora (5 weeks) moved in. All of us were surprised at how easily we fit into my tiny place, I worked full time and attended college part time so they had run of the house most of the day. We all got along so well, Michael was a great kid and very patient with me and Lanora began to worm her way into my soul.

I knew my growing bond with Lanora was from God because, unlike her charming brother, she made no effort to endear herself to me. She screamed bloody murder every time I tried to hold her, unless she was asleep, but I fell in love. When Patricia began to tell me about her search for a house we both began to cry, we learned that our dread of the day they moved out was mutual.

God had created a family, definitely not the model others could easily identify with but there it was. Our church owned a small house nearby which had been sitting empty for several months, now they were going to have renters and we were going to have a bigger place for all of us. For a while we were still basically roommates, I worked, attended college, Patricia took care of the kids and we helped one another as best we could. This, however, would change.


Lanora grew and let me hold her more and more each day. As she grew in awareness our bond became stronger and she would greet me with excitement as I came home. Eventually she was crawling at full tilt to the door as she heard my car pull into the drive. She expected me to play with and dote on her until she was too tired and had to go to bed; and I was a willing playmate.

At work my patient fellow workers listened to my daily updates on her progress and looked through many pictures. It was at this point that Patricia and I had begun to talk about how the two of us were in the exact opposite role we seemed best suited for. I was a homebody, loved to cook and keep house and she wanted to be out and around people. She loves to work and being at home was like a prison sentence; God was at work fixing this problem already.

My work was with the welfare department and my clientele were primarily homeless and mentally ill. The stress of dealing with people so impaired and the danger of my work environment began taking their toll. I had struggled with depression and anxiety since early childhood but I understood very little about what was ailing me. I coped as well as I could until the job helped bring it to a head. After several weeks with little more than an hour or two of sleep, nightmares, clinical depression and frequent migraines I was convinced by friends to see a doctor.

My doctor ordered me off work for several months and this afforded Patricia the chance to go back to school and work. Of course, this arrangement worked beautifully and it has remained such to this day.


Society gets little opportunity to see women collaborating without jealousy where children are concerned and this leads many to ask how it works. Some people got it right away and saw the strength of two women who supported each other and loved children without regard for who they "belonged" to.

The most common question we got was whether we were "involved". Patricia once answered that it would probably be easier if we were but we both liked men too much. As Lanora got older she would proudly announce to that she had "two moms", the parade of looks that passed over folks faces after that were priceless.

At first I was quick to make it clear that we were both heterosexual but eventually realized that I didn't care too much what they thought. Besides, watching them try to steer the conversation in order to determine our "situation" was not to be missed. For those who became our friends it was evident, soon enough, who and what we were. And although I think raising the kids was the primary reason we became a family, Patricia and I have become like sisters and will always be the others best cheerleader and empathetic ear.


Patricia eventually met and married Martin, from that came a BIG surprise named Jonathan. Lanora and I were at his birth and I have been his primary caregiver since day one. For a while Lanora and I shared an apartment downstairs while Patricia, Martin and Jonathan were upstairs, with Jonathan staying with me during the day.

Eventually Patricia's marriage ended and this meant Patricia, Lanora, Jonathan and I shared one place. Martin relocated to another state and shortly after died unexpectedly. About two years later Patricia met her current husband, bought a house for the kids and I while she and Darran live a short way from us in order to be close to their work. Lanora met and married Sean this winter and, like her mothers, she is opting for the unconventional. They don't plan to have children and are happy to share a home with Jonathan and I. Both are hard working, honest, wise with their money and prudent with their time and resources.

Needless to say, I am thrilled that they want to stick around. Our near future includes plans to find a lot with more acreage and and build at least two small homes. We are all excited about a venture into homesteading and sustainable living; Sean is talented in all areas of construction, electrical and computers. We also hope to build housing for other members of the extended family so more of our resources can benefit the whole.

It's still not the usual family arrangement but it's every bit as real and provides a safe environment to learn, grow and pursue happiness.

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