Hallelujah Highway

Celebrating the Journey

A Dream Deferred~ Kristi

on November 13, 2013

I curse like a sailor.  Sometimes these are the only words that express the moment.  This piece contains “language.”   Being offensive is not my intention.  Being real and authentic is.

A Dream Deferred

by Langston Hughes

What happens to a dream deferred?

Does it dry up
like a raisin in the sun?
Or fester like a sore–
And then run?
Does it stink like rotten meat?
Or crust and sugar over–
like a syrupy sweet?

Maybe it just sags
like a heavy load.

Or does it explode?


My thirty-fourth birthday is approaching.  Last year, I was clinging desperately to the concept of peace—not because every little detail in my life was peaceful, but I needed calmness amongst the storms of Holding Pattern after Holding Pattern.  My bad-ass, overachiever and I were used to making shit happen, but my thirty-third year taught me about letting things unfold in God’s time.  It was about trusting His plan and surrendering to His will.  It was about waiting as patiently as possible and in my case that was not patient at all.  My “patiently waiting” involved numerous freak outs, frantic phone calls to friends, and obsessively devising alternate plans to distract myself from the chaos of reality.

I am in the midst of an existential crisis because thirty-five is breathing down my neck and I am starting to panic.  I am not panicking about the fine lines that are present around my eyes from years of ear-to-ear grinning.  Nor am I worried about the permanent wrinkle that has formed between my eyebrows from over a decade of implementing one of my most effective classroom management strategies—the furrowed brow.

Age thirty-five scares the shit out of me because it is the deadline I gave myself on having another child.  I am freaking the fuck out because that is one year away.  My thirty-five-is-it baby deadline stems from logic’s pathetic attempt to rationalize my baby dream deferment.  When I am thirty-five, my daughter will be almost ten and that is an entirely different child rearing dimension—one full of sporting events, sleepovers, puberty, periods, boy band crushes, and braces.   Logic also tells me that ten is over halfway through and I have only eight more years until I can go and have “my life” back.  Logic reminds me that when she is eighteen and I am “done,” I can attend yoga classes and go out to dinner with friends without needing to come home and tend to spelling lists and bedtime routines.  I can travel and go see different parts of the world. I can retire earlier rather than later from teaching.  Logic screams if I had a child in my late thirties, then I will be putting a child through college into my early sixties.  Starting over with a new baby this late in the game just seems like logical nonsense.

My heart, which is not bound by the confines of age, yearns deeply for another child.  At my recent Vermont yoga and writing retreat, Jen Pastiloff, the “make-shit-happen” yoga instructor, asked the class to journal about what would we do if we were not afraid.  My head wrote some insignificant answers and my heart leap at the opportunity to answer.  My heart doesn’t get to speak much because the heart murmurs wisdom that requires extreme courage and can only be heard in the unpleasantness of vulnerability.  As we shared our entries (because when a group of people witnesses another’s deepest desire, the power of that prayer is heightened), my first attempt was weak and feeble.  Jen asked me to repeat it.  I tried saying it with greater conviction, but fear jumped up and made my voice crack in the middle of “I would have another baby.”  She looked me dead in the eye and repeated in affirmation, “You will have another baby.”  When our eyes locked, I could see my pain reflected back to me.  She had suffered an ectopic pregnancy a week or so before and she was grappling with her own baby dream deferment too.  A moment of intimacy between two women with similar longings.

My heart craved a family long before my daughter was conceived.  I purchased a house big enough to accommodate a rather large family, had a stable career that would allow summers off for family adventures, and established a strong village of family and friends willing to help me raise my family.  My heart ached for: little voices filling the rooms of the home; too many dirty dishes from a nourishing dinner still left in the kitchen sink; and a long list of practices and appointments to shuttle the children to in the mommy taxi.  These longings tormented me, so at age 25 I made a pact with God.  If by age 30 I hadn’t had a child yet, I would adopt or become a foster mom.  Because God has a tremendous sense of humor, my daughter was born at age 26.

Since the day my daughter was born, I wanted another child.  Ok, maybe not the day she was born because on that particular day, I felt like I had been ran over by a semi forty-two times.  But, with my swaddled, sleeping baby in my arms, I would tell anyone who would listen that if I had a husband, we would be trying for the next one.  I would half-heartedly joke that since my daughter’s father and I made such cute babies, all he had to do was give me the genetic material for my second baby and I would never ask him for anything again.

I try to disguise the all consuming jealousy of the women around me who are having their second or third child with happiness.  There is a part of me that is sincerely happy for them because babies are blessings.  But, that happiness is the sugary-sweet mask I wear to hide the part of me that is raging with venomous envy—the kind that rots life if given too much room, power, or clout.  At baby showers, I sit and watch women open the presents and oodle over the baby clothes, diapers, crib sheets, strollers, and bottles.  While I smile, oohh, and aahh my way through, my stomach is in knots and I fight for jealousy to not show up in my eyes.  In those moments, I pray my ass off.  “God, please hear me!  I wanted that to be me again.  Please, please, please let this be me.  When is it my turn?”

At the most recent baby shower, it was present time.  My daughter stood in front of my chair and watched the very pregnant, very glowing, and very excited mother-to-be.  In a nostalgic moment, I watched my daughter and remembered my pregnancy—how I used to lay my hand on my belly in moments of connection with this beautiful little girl who now stands before me.  At the beginning of present opening, my daughter’s disposition was upbeat and bouncy.  In an instant, it changed.  Her shoulders sagged and hunched forward as if to hide the heavy load on her heart.  Her lips, which were originally turned up in a smile, grew heavy and hung lifeless.  Her eyes, which usually ooze love, bulged with an uncharacteristic intensity that I knew so well.  I leaned over and whispered, “Are you jealous?”  She turned to me, gave me that mommy-you-know-me-so-well look, and climbed up in my lap as if my giant hug would ease her discomfort.  Her not-so-little-anymore head burrowed into my bosom and her almost five-foot body clung to me.  My daughter.  My mirror.  These longings in my daughter create indescribable pressure and my ego tells me it is my fault.  This makes me cry out in frustration and sorrow.  Fuck, what do I have to do in order to make this better?

During the last eight years, I have vacillating between the stages of mourning as I struggle to grieve and accept that not having another child might be my lot in life.  My default mode of operation is to bury my head in the sand and deny, deny, deny.  I tell myself that I must have unwavering faith, like a mustard seed, that it will happen.  I stay in my “awesome bubble” where everything is “great” and “wonderful” and “happy” and “tranquil” and “serene” to avoid feeling the rage I have about not finding my husband and not being able to have the family for which my heart longs.   I try to regain control of the situation by bargaining, bartering, and haggling with God and the universe.  My most recent negotiation with my daughter and God: if I am not on the marriage track by age 35, I will look into becoming a foster mother.

Sometimes, I get depressed and I let the tears of devastation flow—like the day I broke down as I gave away my daughter’s baby stuff for the second time.  I tried to give the stuff away the first time, but that attempt caused so much anguish that I ended up holding onto the stuff until my daughter was five-years old.  I felt like if I gave the stuff away, I was giving away the possibility of my next baby.  My maternal instinct clung to the stuff because I felt the need to be prepared.  My best friend pried my fingers from the stuff and coaxed me through the release.  In her infinite best friend wisdom, she assured me that when I do have my next baby, she would throw me a beautiful shower where I would get bigger and better baby stuff.  Plus, she reminded me that the single mom receiving my baby stuff needed it far more than the bottom of my daughter’s closet where it was stacked in a disheveled, disorganized mess.

When I was in my twenties, I told myself that if the next baby hadn’t happened by age 35—an age that seemed SO far away—I would force myself into acceptance and move on to Alternate Plan B.  To fill the void of my unborn children, I would proceed with going back to school for my doctorate and move up in my career.  As I approach my thirty-fourth birthday, doing so does not look as attractive as it once did.

For example, I applied for a teacher on special assignment position this past summer—the type of position for which I have groomed my resume.  But, as the interview approached, I grew more and more anxious.  Did I really want to leave the classroom?  Would I have the same impact if I left the classroom?  What would be the consequences on my family if I took a position like this?  I kept praying and praying for signs.  Former students came out of the woodworks in droves.  The gay student I mentored last year was moving to an online school and he was terrified of the change.  Would he be accepted?  Would he be motivated enough to complete the work on his own?  Could he graduate?  Through email, we walked through the enrollment process and the fears.  He was accepted and he is doing well.  I had several old students find me on Facebook and share with me how much I impacted them as a teacher almost ten years ago.  These were my signs.  It was not time to move on.  Thankfully, I did not get the job.

I am not ruling out the fact that a baby might come after the age 35.  God has shown me time and time again that my plans are no match for His perfect plan.  Nor I am ruling out the fact that Alternate Plan B may occur, but not at this time because if I activated Alternate Plan B now, it would be out of a need to fill a void.

So, what happens to my dream deferred?  Does it dry up like a raisin in the sun?  Does it fester like a sore?  Or, does it exploded.

One response to “A Dream Deferred~ Kristi

  1. Oh Kristi – such bravery and truth will be rewarded. Set yourself free. Why limit yourself? If there is anything I have learned in the last few years it is that we limit ourselves and get in our own way so. damn. much.

    Be gentle with yourself. Be kind. But also realise that while you think you are holding this desire gently in the palm of your hand you’re probably strangling the life out of it.

    What if you just decided that you want another child. Simply that. No time limits, no deals to be made, no expectations of how, where, when, why. I agree with Jen – you WILL have another child. But not until you stop trying to control it. You are an AMAZING mum and not only are your daughter, and all your students lucky to have you – baby number two will be too.

    Surrender. The awesome bubble is popping but that does not mean you are not awesome. It just means that you can’t control awesome. Surrender with love. Surrender to love. And remember that you are more than enough.



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