Jessie Veeder, Published March 22 2013
Coming Home: Living life on what we have rather than what we don’t
Yes, our three nieces came to the ranch dressed in their cowgirl boots, ready to run wild and free. And I’ll tell you, there’s nothing like a 9-year-old, a 7-year-old and a 4-year-old bursting through the door of your home to remind you how quiet and un-sparkly your life has been.
When the nieces are here we have a few things we need to do, and the first is to get outside where we work to cover every acre of this place, question-by-question, tiny footprint by tiny footprint.
This particular chilly visit found the girls sliding on their butts down the steep and snow covered hills surrounding our home, their pink snow pants swishing as they giggled and chattered about where they were going to explore next. My husband and I followed behind them, hoisting them up, cutting trails and retrieving pink beanies caught and dangling off tree branches, left there unaware by the little towheaded beauties scrambling up the hill.
We don’t have any children of our own, a little void in our lives that gapes more apparent as we watch these girls explore and fall in love with a world we’re so happy and proud to show them.
It’s uncommon out here to be 30, married and childless, and our path together from high school sweethearts to a young married couple settling in on a ranch outside our hometown begs for an explanation of the missing piece.
“Do you have children?” some ask as we stand in line at the grocery store, our cart full of everything but diapers and fruit snacks, the weight of a simple question in an ordinary place punching at our guts, forcing out a hardened, polite Midwestern smile as the answer “no” rolls off our lips and falls to the floor.
It’s just the easiest way to answer a question not intended to carry so much weight as inside us we re-live the reasons, deciding whether or not to explain – that we almost had a baby.
Five times we thought we might.
Five times the pregnancies were lost.
I used to be scared to say it, and I suppose I still am a little, but it is likely I will not give birth to a child. I’m saying it today not to indulge my own frustration, but because I know I’m not the only one cursing my body and holding my breath as countless doctors work to find solutions and answers that may or may not ever reveal themselves.
I know we’re not alone in replacing the celebration at the discovery of two pink lines with fear, worry and uncertainty.
I suppose fear and worry is where it begins with everyone, but it’s the hope we all hang on to, no matter how big or small, that keeps us moving forward.
Our journey to parenthood is in its middle chapters, and I’m comfortable in my understanding that the life we envision is never a guarantee.
Because our time together as a childless couple has been a gift in its own right, one that I have come to cherish even in the moments I’ve been consumed by the misery of loss. We have learned what we’re made of – guts, compassion, anger and tears that wipe away. And we’ve learned to brush off the small worries that are a long ways from our hearts, to laugh and carry on and live a life not centered on what we don’t have, but on what we do.
And what we have is each other, our family down the road, a house in the oak trees, three little blonde nieces and one adorable nephew who need us to take them sledding and horseback riding, give them popsicles before dinner and carrots fresh from the garden, to trudge with them to the top of icy hills and open our arms up to a sky that wasn’t predicated to snow, but look at that, it’s snowing anyway.
This column was written exclusively for The Forum.
Jessie Veeder is a musician and writer living with her husband on a ranch near Watford City, N.D. Readers can reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org.