Another kind of richness.


My Dad lives near me, so I get to see him as much as I want (without being a pest). The last time I went, I was really weepy. I arrived in the rain with Cuban sandwiches and diet Pepsis. We sat down to watch Star Trek: Next Generation—which we’d watched together all while I was in high school, and have since rediscovered on Netflix, and so are watching straight through from the beginning—but first I wanted to ask him some questions.

I told him how I’d just gotten my IUD, which was much more emotional than I’d anticipated. Though preventing conception is exactly what I want, and I can reverse it tomorrow if I want, it feels sobering to have an actual physical device in my womb now, blocking children. I asked him why he’d chosen to have children. That I’m so happy, that all of my dreams are coming true, but that none of that had ever been guaranteed, for me or for any of his five children, so why did he and Mom take the risk? What if we lived horribly unhappy lives? What did they want out of us?

He said simply that having children brought a certain richness to life, and that was the kind of richness he and Mom had wanted. And that I was choosing a different kind of richness. I’m mostly at peace with that, though I also tried to describe how the physical pain I was feeling was different from any other physical pain. That when the IUD went in, it hurt like hell, and even though it was only for a few seconds, it broke open a reservoir of emotion I didn’t know I had. That I’d felt very fragile on the drive home, and cried though I didn’t know why. That I could still feel it, glowing like an ember. He listened and said, Yes, I’ll never know that kind of pain.

We settled in to watch Star Trek. Re-watching it has reminded me of just how formative the series was for me as a teenager. Without being aware of it at the time, I was mapping the kind of life I wanted: a new adventure every day, and a band of friends to brave it with.

11 Comments on “Another kind of richness.”

  1. Karen says:

    Thank you for this, Monica. I really like the idea of “another kind of richness” for those of us who choose (at least for the time being) not to have children.

  2. Vern says:

    I only vaguely remember when my wife got her IUD. It was inserted soon after our second child arrived, which is probably why the memory of it is muddled. But I do recall our resulting jubilance, mostly because we continue to express it to this very day. After two wonderful birthings– well, as wonderful as 46 cumulative hours of labor and two years of toddler-induced insomnia can be– we’d both had enough.

    After six years of parenting, we’re well acquainted with the richness your father speaks of. Little girls are the best! But we– the wife and I and no doubt our darlings– are very glad we waited. I was 39 and she was 31.

    Being single and childless is really its own reward. Savor it as long as you can so that if you choose to get spliced you have no regrets about leaving the solipsistic existence behind. Rest assured, if you don’t they won’t either.

    P.S. Last year two neighbors (within our building of 30) who got the copper IUD after having two children got unexpectedly pregnant and now have three. The odds are slim but nevertheless.

    P.P.S. Of all the Federation starship captains my girls and I prefer Captain Janeway and the USS Voyager. Picard is a close second.

    • Vern, we LOVE Voyager too! We just watched the pilot of that, too, because we realized we’d never seen it. Now I get all that Caretaker/Ocampa stuff. And ohhh, I had SUCH a crush on Harry…still do!

  3. yallya says:

    I am so happy to have found your blogI You know me from elseweb :).

    I know what you mean about physical pain leading to emotional unblocking. I hope it hurts less, now.

    I found this deeply moving:

    >Without being aware of it at the time, I was mapping the kind of life I wanted: a new adventure every day, and a band of friends to brave it with.

  4. Bob says:

    As a dad myself, I get the notion of richness. My daughters are in elementary school, but I would absolutely love it if someday they brought Cuban sandwiches and spent a quiet evening with me.

    It is true that happiness and fulfilled dreams are not guaranteed. On the other hand, horribly unhappy lives do not arrive in an instant. They are unraveled over a life, allowing opportunities for help from families, friends, therapists, and others. And even the most horribly unhappy life probably had some nice moments, too.

    What I want for my children is to experience the joy of living and to seek out their own paths to happiness. It sounds like you have found your path. Someday down the road, that may change, as you and your friends begin to ponder families of your own. The adventures will change, too, but hopefully not the spirit of them, or the joy you experience from them.

  5. Erin says:

    As I reflect on your post and what my IUD means to me, I imagine the express lanes on the highway… When it’s not rush hour, the barricades are down and there’s way to drift into that lane, hopping onto an express path somewhere else, without local exits along the way. Right now life is moving its own speed, and we’re free to stop off anywhere we please… it’s incredible to think that I don’t have to wonder about what it’s like to *not* have the option of getting off the highway because of my IUD. It is the barricade that change the speed at which my life moves.

    I appreciate what you’ve written about the emotional-ness involved in your experience. I felt something similar, too, when I got mine. Getting one is a connection to fertility for those of us who wish to not become mothers right now – and that decision, the decision of “not yet”, is very powerful, both to think about and to feel physically. as time has gone on, i nearly forget about my IUD, especially because I don’t have much of a monthly cycle, but lately, as more friends have children and our own lives move forward, i’m reminded that the end date on the Mirena packaging is on the horizon, and I need to make a decision soon about replacing it. While most of me is very appreciative of the biological/chemical/pharmaceutical/magical choice I have, another part scoffs at how arbitrary the choice becomes when we mix nature with medicine. (why am I at this decision point at five years, specifically? why didn’t they use enough chemicals for six years? how crazy is it that my entry into motherhood may be steered by Bayer’s business model for marketing Mirenas to twentysomethings?)

    [Random aside: to the point about your father saying that he’ll never know that pain, sometimes when I get a cramp here or there, I’ll mention it to B., and realize all over again that he doesn’t have that part of a body. it always makes me think…what is in that space in his body where a womb would be? What does he keep there instead? I’m reminded of boys from middle school who always kept a few mechanical pencils in their pants pockets, which always seemed dangerous and odd…]

    • I love this. I’ve often wondered how to convey to men what it’s like to have a woman’s body, or to have a body that can grow other bodies, especially when I was writing GIRL…the express lane metaphor is really good. And my Paragard has an insane lifespan—10 years!?—and when the doctor wrote that on my card, “Exp. Oct 2023,” I was like, Holy fuck. Again, I can get it out tomorrow if I want. It just felt…daunting.

      Of course, the flipside to telling men what it’s like to have a woman’s body is the intense curiosity of what it’s like to have a man’s body! I’ve certainly had dreams to that effect once or twice…kee kee… 😉

      Also, best line: “How crazy is it that my entry into motherhood may be steered by Bayer’s business model for marketing Mirenas to twentysomethings?”

  6. […] an agent, parental death, mansplaining, romantic love, living in Belize, creative control, childlessness, work ethic, day jobs for artists, body image, branding while female, self-cutting, harassment, […]

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