This is the year I will turn 40. I've never been big on numbers, mine or others, but 39 (and 2014 in particular) has been a rough year, and I've never felt my age as acutely as I have in the last year, so approaching 40 has me feeling anxious and a little ill-prepared.
Then, as if some sort of cosmic joke, at Christmastime I also learned I was expecting a third child. This realization came down on top of my head like the figurative sky falling in.
When I married my husband over two years ago, we talked about having a baby. We both had our children from prior relationships. We thought about it, considered it and ultimately we made an unspoken decision that we were too old, too tired and had our hands too full with the children we already had and our lives, jobs and responsibilities. We started dreaming about the next chapter. The post-children-living-with-us one. I had never really considered it before. I always assumed I would have a third child. We could move wherever we wanted to, we could go out to dinner when we wanted to, and we could start over in 10 short years when the kids were grown and out of the house. We became excited about the possibilities. My 40's were going to bring a new normal, and I was ready for it. I've settled into the busyness of kids' sports, school events and continuing to develop the middle of my career as an attorney. But I also had my eye on the future. I began cleaning out the basement of all of the baby/toddler/little kid stuff. The kids even helped me. We donated things, gave them to friends and generally moved post-baby.
I also mourned in some way. I had always wanted a third child. And I felt like it would be fun to have a child with my husband. Seeing what we would create, and parenting a child together were things I thought sounded wonderful. But I didn't stay sad long. I was comfortable with our life together. And besides, after the year we've had, another child seemed unthinkable.
2014 brought a lot of things our family's way. A few close friends were diagnosed and treated for cancer. This scared me, and shook my foundations more than usual. These were women I knew and loved. Their journey through cancer treatment and the pain of facing their mortality, brought mine to the surface as well.
My brother relapsed into the abyss of drug addiction. After some years of sobriety, this past year brought a full and complete relapse for him. He is engulfed in his addiction, and all of the behaviors that go with it - stealing, lying and creating chaos for everyone. His relapse brings me to the realization again that my own anxiety, depression and addictive traits could spiral out of control.
My father is dying. As he loses his sight, his hearing and his mind, the rest of us wait and watch and hope that his passing can be easy for him. He is reliant on all of us, and especially my mother. It is hard for him and probably even harder for her. His loss of his memory and ability to talk about things is sad, and of course reminds me that perhaps one day I will be in his shoes.
My daughter is growing up so fast. She is officially taller than I am, she started her period (she'd love me sharing that), has hit the "I don't tell my mom everything anymore" phase and is turning into a young lady. While I am enjoying seeing her grow and change, there is a bittersweet feel to it all. No
longer my own, but now becoming her own person. Her eyerolls and attitude frustrate me, but her growth makes me happy and proud.
Michael Brown was shot in the streets of Ferguson only 8 miles from my home. Tamir Rice was shot in Cleveland. Eric Garner was choked in New York. None of the people who killed any of them has been held accountable (yet). These events have brought back into the forefront the race, socioeconomic and class issues our country, and closer to home our community has to deal with. While I could've predicted the non-indictments in these situations, I am saddened by it. I am disappointed and angry at the world we live in, and the failure of our systems of justice. I worry about my children growing up in a world that remains divided and not just.
I have left my church home in search of something different. So far my journey has been more discouraging than encouraging. My visits to churches have confirmed my own suspicions - we remain a divided community on Sunday mornings in much the same way as every other day of the week. This leaves me sad, and feeling a bit homeless.
So, in the face of all of this, I stand in the middle. Expecting another child. A child I did not plan for, and that when I learned of his/her existence I cried tears of fear. How do I bring a child into the world I experienced this year? This child will likely never know his or her grandfather or uncle. This child will have very few extended family members. This child's siblings will be 9 and 12 years older than him or her, and therefore not have a playmate as my other 2 had in one another. This child's mother is OLD. And so is its father. This child is born into a family without a church home. This child is born into a world where his or her race will still matter. While I feel more financially secure, and my marriage is certainly stronger than it was when either of my first two children were born, I feel even less prepared this time around than I did the first two times. I know too much. You can't unlearn life experience. I know about children who have cancer, friends who have miscarried, had stillbirths and have lost children to illness. I have known women who have died in childbirth, died of cancer and in car accidents. What if I die and my child grows up with his or her mother?
And yet, here I stand, expecting my third child. I am in a different place than I was at first. This baby feels more like defiance. Like hope in the face of incredible tragedy and sadness. Choosing to bring another child into the world at 40 years old, knowing so much more than I did when I brought my first into the world at the age of 28, feels like a statement, a manifesto.
This baby feels like hope. It feels like shaking my fist at the sky and saying "I refuse to give up on this world and these people." It seems like I'm saying that my husband and I and our love for one another and this child will be enough. That despite my fears and doubts and uncertainties and worry and sadness and anger, I can do this. I can carry and deliver a healthy child. I can raise this child to know love and certainty and joy. This child is the manifestation of the things I could not find on my own. This child is exactly what I needed and a gift I had no idea I would receive. This child is my hope for my world. And for my husband's. And maybe for other people's worlds, too. Even at 40, this baby is offering me more hope than I know what to do with. May it always be true.