attachment living

It’s been an intense few weeks. On top of the typical post-midterm craziness of any academic semester (made more intense for me this semester because I’m teaching an upper-level course I’ve never taught before and trying to write as much of my dissertation as possible before Rabbit comes), I’ve been working on applications for dissertation completion funding. I’m applying for three different fellowships, and if I receive one of them, I won’t have to teach next year; I’ll be able to focus exclusively on my writing. This sounds like an unimaginable luxury to me. Really: it’s almost too delightful to consider. Throughout my course work, I thought of the dissertation as a means to an end – one last difficult requirement – but now I find myself deeply devoted to the work itself. I love the female (and two queer male) characters I’m writing about. I sense their power, their strength. But when they’ve been written about by other critics, it’s been to point out how powerless they are. So I feel a responsibility to offer them a different reading. A recognition of what has gone unnoticed. These characters have become real to me, and I love them both as individuals, and as a collective body of feminine power that has been long.long.long overlooked.

This funding would give me time with them. If I don’t get it, I’ll still have time, so the situation isn’t dire. (And I should add: I fully recognize this as a luxury problem. I mean, who gets a year off to just think and read and write? It’s an almost absurd privilege, and I see that.) But I long for it, and that’s disconcerting to my don’t.get.too.attached.to.anything.that.isn’t.yours cautionary self. These are very competitive. I met with a friend of J’s (from the private college they both work at), and she was tremendously helpful. But she also (inadvertently) made me aware of how different my public-school world is from her liberal-arts-college reality. There’s a different kind of grooming. Money begets money. These fellowships don’t just go to the neediest applicants, they go to the best applicants. And “best” means “best equipped to present oneself in a particular way.” This takes training. Grooming. So while it makes sense that I might not get these because they’re competitive – because others may have better (or more important) projects in the works – it makes me sad to think about not getting them because I didn’t go about applying in the right way. Anyway, I came away from the meeting feeling defeated, but I’m still trying. And though it seems dangerous to want this funding so much, I’m letting myself do it anyway. If there’s one thing I’ve learned this year, it’s that I can adapt. If (in the spring) I find out that I didn’t get any of them, I’ll go to plan B. Or plan C. And I’ll find things to love about those plans too.

Anyway, this process has made these past weeks stressful, which in turn made yesterday AMAZING. We took our last road trip as a two-person family to a favorite city of ours. J and I are so happy in cities. Every chance we get to travel, we find our way to one, and we eat, and coffee.shop, and people.watch, and stroll and stroll and stroll. Like Clarissa Dalloway in Virginia Woolf’s Mrs. Dalloway, I’ll take city walking over country walking any day. Yesterday was even more special, though, because we splurged on a 3D/4D ultrasound of Rabbit River! Seeing him was incredible. Afternoons are his sleepy time, and he adorably refused to lower his hands from his face, but the tech still got some wonderful images. We are both so entirely in love. There is no holding back out of fear. No wishing things were different. There is only the sense that this baby is our son, and that we are meant to parent him, to help him become…well…him.

Here he is, left hand pressed sweetly to forehead:

And sleeping away:

And left hand, right arm, face, skinny ribs and all (I suspect this boy will be long and thin):

I said at one point that I think he’s going to have a big nose, and the tech said, “No! His nose is cute.” She doesn’t know how much I adore big noses. :)

After the ultrasound (which was after an amazing gourmet-Chinese lunch), we headed into the city, and we practically fell upon one of those upscale baby stores that basically amounts to crack for new parents and parents.to.be. We oooohed and aaaahed our way through TWO stories of gorgeous baby accoutrement, test drove our stroller (which J’s mom bought us, but which we’ve yet to see as she’s giving it to us at the shower next weekend), tried out the baby sling I picked for myself after lots of internet research, and purchased Rabbit’s first pair of baby leg warmers and a striped kimono-style onesie that we couldn’t bear to leave behind.

Then we hit a local coffee shop for a chocolate croissant and two espressos (J’s decaf, mine regular), where we watched the seemingly thousand new babies/new parents, and stared and stared at the ultrasound photos of our sweet boy.

After that, we walked around for awhile in search of an ornament for Emmett Ever. Our SHARE support group hosts a holiday memorial every year, where parents can hang an ornament on a tree to remember their lost babies. We chose a blown glass sphere with purple and white swirls that has a distinctive seashell-esque look.

We also discovered an oil and vinegar shop, where we sampled about a dozen aged balsamic vinegars and brought home one bottle of white balsamic (which we learned is less sweet/more acidic than the darker stuff).

Then we ate at a favorite Jewish deli and headed home. On the drive back, we listened to music that made me think a lot about E. I cried for awhile, not because I miss her or because I wish she were here, but because I love her. Because my connection to her creates an ache that is painfully sweet. Because I can love her and be happy at the same time.

So all told, a GREAT GREAT day, and a much needed break. I am so in love with my wife, who is carrying this baby with about a thousand times more grace than I could have done. It’s funny, we thought we knew which roles we would thrive in: I would be a better GP because I’m feminine; she would rock out the NGP role because she isn’t so into the girly side of girliness. But the truth is, all of that was culturally dictated. And none of that has anything to do with what it takes to nurture a child (via either role). None of that was about our particular strengths and weaknesses. In truth, I’m so well suited to non-gestational parenting. The choice it requires. The care it allows me to give my whole family. And J is brilliant at the gestational role. She’s heartier than I am. Less anxious. I don’t believe in an interventionist God, but it’s impossible not to recognize some wisdom to all of this that surpasses our limited understanding.

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9 thoughts on “attachment living

  1. I love all of this, but this last paragraph is particularly beautiful. There is something to finding out a truth in yourself that you never thought existed…it has been achingly lovely to read about the transformations you and J have undergone in your journey as parents. Reading your story has made me realize that parenting is more than a biological or cultural function: it is a deeply interior state-of-mind that is attached to the soul in a way that no authoritative discourse can control or shape to make it “fit.” Many thanks to you and J for “disturbing the universe” in ways that have already affected my perceptions of parenting and love.

  2. I’m so glad you all got to take a trip and soak up the city, and the pictures are amazing! I also loved to read how connected you are to your dissertation project – I can’t wait to read it! Finally, the last paragraph, as Bonnie said, is so incredibly hopeful. That the most difficult situations allow us to change in ways we would never have expected but learn to welcome and cherish. Love to you, J, and the cute, sleeping boy, MJB

  3. “In truth, I’m so well suited to non-gestational parenting. The choice it requires. The care it allows me to give my whole family. And J is brilliant at the gestational role. She’s heartier than I am. Less anxious.”

    I love this. We think often that our family could have taken a much different long-term form had the roles of who carried been reversed, and as you say, not at all for the gendered reasons one might expect out of the gate, but for more subtle personality traits we never realized would be so important in figuring this out together. Generosity. Tenacity. Introspection. Openness.

    • I really admire you mighty women for taking on so many big things at once with such grace and enthusiasm! Writing a dissertation, teaching new classes, preparing for sweet Rabbit…Major life changes. Your posts reveal verve and gusto. I picture Rabbit looking at piles of delightful picture books with the two of you, smiling and at peace, sunshine streaming in through the window.

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