This past August as I sat out on a porch with my parents, enjoying the fresh Maine breeze (as I have done every summer of my life since I was born), the morning felt just as beautiful as it always has, but a bit more empty. Every year since we lost my GRAND mother (yes, she was that grand) in 2016, we have lost a petal more, a gem more of our family and friends over the years.
The struggle of 2020’s lack of hugs and explosive joy on a dance floor seemed a bit more bearable after dealing with all the loss our family has dealt with. However, more than the struggles (note: I urged myself to meditate on ‘gratitude’ before writing this. I also make silent scream faces and moan nearly every day of the pandemic), I have found that 2020 brought my most valuable lesson yet: yep, that gratitude.
I love my husband, my dog, my family, my friends. Good hair, lots of money, travel, clothing, etc. can surround us and give us a lift, but by no means make life what it is meant to be. Small moments mean much more to me this year. I have done much reflecting, as well, on what my favorite moments of my life, thus far, have been. One of my fondest memories was of family lobster dinners at that same apartment porch I sat on with my parents. A simple salad, a table dressed with lobster crackers and picks, butter and corn; and my grandmother, never quite sitting down with a cigarette out the side of her mouth, a glass of Tab on ice, and backhanded compliments and demands being thrown this way and that. When I’m old and gray, that memory will still probably be just as vibrant and bring me just as much joy. It was at these moments this summer that I decided now is when I want to be a mother.
I felt sick of the world and sick of the internet and sick of our government. On one hand, why would I bring anyone into that? On the other, I have found truer friendship, truer joy, and truer meaning this year than any other. My god, through the history of humanity we have endured worse, we shall overcome this hell of a year and enjoy a lobster dinner again some day.
I have always wanted to be a mother, I just did not know when that would be. Being an actor, the upkeep of my image to match fancy photos has always been a precedent. Some of my most remembered phrases as a child are, “beauty hurts” and “are you sure you want to eat that?” The thought of letting my body be changed uncontrollably for nearly a year was, to put it mildly, a bit overwhelming. 2020 put my petty physical woes at ease. I did not have to blow out my hair for any appointment (or at least I was not comfortable getting back to work in that capacity), no one was judging what I wore each day, etc. Ostensibly, I could now be whoever I wanted to! I had not realized I was putting any of myself on hold up to this point. Indeed, yes, I followed a dream that I still do believe in, but there was a lot of red tape up in this corner and that, which prevented me from doing…whatever I wanted to! Some, yes, were restrictions I put on my own self, perceptions I believed other people had, a mold I needed to fit. However, where is the line of distinction between your own ideas and what society has fed you? At some point, they become one and the same. So, I shaved my head and decided to throw a pregnancy in there too!
When I brought up my proposal of building a tiny human to my husband Calvin, he was relatively ‘along for the ride’ and urged that it was more of my decision to make than his. I did not really know what he meant by this at first. It will be OUR baby, after all. They will change his life just as much as mine! I quickly learned that he was equally as excited and on board.
Only weeks to a few months later, did his comment start to sink in and make me think more deeply. We conceived rather quickly in September and began telling close friends about a month or two later. Through every Zoom call we heard “Woo hoos!!” and “wows” and crying and laughing and questions about how I’m feeling, predictions of the sex, “can’t waits” and a host more of very supportive responses. After a handful of calls, Calvin stopped me one evening and said, “Have you noticed that every time we tell our friends about the baby, the woman friend quickly retorts her reason as to why or why not she is having her own children now?” Honestly, it really did not occur to me. But I thought about it…and he was right. Each of our woman friends felt it necessary to explain where they were on their respective motherhood journeys! As if it was an apology…to us? To themselves? To society? Who knows. I have no problem with any of them sharing their thoughts with us on this, don’t get me wrong. I simply found it to be a fascinating observation. Being a woman can be amazing, powerful, “I am woman, hear me roar,” etc. However, we also carry a huge 50 pound backpack of expectations. Being the perfect partner with legs shaved, sugar scrub applied and lotion perfumed; being the powerful career woman hitting all your milestones before putting your life on hold for baby; being the best mother with time for attention, care, love: all without scarring your child for life - being a great cook, keeping the house clean, making sure you’re a good driver; don’t dress too skimpily, but look appealing; be accomplished without sacrificing a man’s feeling of worthiness, etc. These may not all be true for you, but I guarantee they’ve all popped up in your head at some point.
This all goes to say, Woman…I’m talking to you. Do whatever the hell you want.
Some people want to be a mother, some can’t be a mother, some don’t want to be a mother, some are young mothers, some are older mothers, some adopt, some foster, some are the cool Auntie. You’re all right. You’re all awesome. I’m proud of you regardless and you’re just as much of a powerful woman as any of us. You owe no ‘excuse’ to anyone. I will also say, that I’m happy to talk about my experience with anyone who is interested in starting their journey of motherhood. I also understand the need to hash through these decisions. It is a major DECISION. My husband was right that it affects me a lot more than him (at least now). Not only physically, but also emotionally, spiritually, mentally. There are a lot more expectations on women in this capacity than men. That’s just the way it is. I’m here to acknowledge that that is the case and urging you to be easy on yourself, no matter where you are on your own path.
This is also a reminder, that pregnancy+2020=a lot of time for me to think. If you’ve read through this whole thing, thank you for coming to my TED Talk. There are great things ahead. Maybe not tomorrow, but soon. And for us, we’re very excited for June 2021 for Baby Ball Junior. Much love to you all in this new year. Wishing you mental and physical health, prosperity and a good snuggle. -Ruby