It’s been a tad quiet around here, what with a visit from my sister, end-of-school-year shenanigans, and now, packing for my trip to Ecuador to visit Noonday’s artisan business partners there. (I leave tomorrow - follow along on Instagram @juliegodshall and/or Facebook, and be on the lookout for blog posts all about what I learn when I return!)
But before I go, I have to leave you with wisdom from my sweet friend LaShawn. She and I met on my very first day at InterVarsity, when I joined the legal team there - almost exactly 10 years ago. I’ve always admired how she exudes wisdom, laughter, and connection with others. She’s an accomplished fantasy and sci-fi writer, and I’m so honored she accepted my request to contribute her reflections on motherhood for my series! You can read her blog here for links to her published works as well as her musings on the creative process, African-American issues, and more.
Take a look at her infertility journey and the journey toward finding completeness with her family of three.
Guest post by LaShawn M. Wanak
In May 2015, I sat in my doctor's office and received an answer to an unspoken question. "You have fibroids," the doctor told me. "Most people have one or two, but your uterus has so many. And because they're burrowed deep within your uterine lining, we can't simply take them out through surgery. You're going to need a hysterectomy."
It explained the heavy menstrual bleeding I've endured over the past few years. It explained my struggle with anemia. And it explained the last miscarriage I had in 2014—I didn't know I was pregnant until a sudden rush of bleeding two weeks later. It was a litany I had heard at least two other times in my life. This time around, however, I need to know what was going on with my body, so I asked for an ultrasound. And there we found the source of the problem.
Fibroids were keeping me from staying pregnant. My uterus was too broken to carry a child.
The first thing I felt was relief. Good. I can stop trying. I can't deal with this emotionally or physically anymore. Then I went home and saw my son, the only child I was able to carry and bear full term, and I thought. Wait. This means my son will be an only child. What does this mean for us? For him?
When I picture motherhood, I picture two parents, two to three children, and a pet for good measure. At the very least, two children are expected to round a family out. Vacation packages are set up for four people. You sit four at a standard table at a restaurant. Classic board games require four players. A family of three makes things lopsided. My son is keenly aware that he's has no other siblings. Other families are learning to juggle sports, errands, keeping kids from beating up on each other. With our one kid, there's less running around, more quiet. Our family exists in an odd state.
Of course, there are the questions. "You just have one child? Oh, you need at least one more. You don't want your child to be alone when he grows up, would you?" And there is family history to consider: I grew up with two sisters. My husband grew up with a brother and sister. Wouldn’t we want the same for our son?
Questions like that used to upset me. Not anymore.
Having a smaller family is teaching me to consider what a family actually looks like. It's more about the relationships within the family unit. My parents spaced out the ages between my sisters and me (and if I recall, my youngest sister came as a surprise). And yet, I sought to make friendships with kids closer to my own age. Those people I fondly called my 'play-cousins', who had no blood relational ties to me, but was dear to me all the same. This is something my son is navigating now. And something else to consider – my grandmother was an only child. And yet she is still loved and adored by her adult children. In her old age, we make sure she is not alone.
Consider the word nucleus: a central part about which other parts are grouped or gathered. A core. Nuclei are at the heart of atoms, which comprises of three sub-particles: protons, neutrons and electrons. Three. Family doesn't have to be four. It can be three. It can be two. It can even be one – surrounded by the ones he or she collects around themselves. A community of a few. People that are trusted. That's family.
Our small family allows us to hang out more with people who also don't feel like they fit in standard family units. We hang with larger families. We hang with single people. Family dynamics isn’t dependent on a number. We can create community with just the three of us. Also, I need to remember that, although my son is a freshman in high school, I still am a mother. I went through the whole rigamarole of sleepless nights and diapers, child-locks and temper tantrums. And schoolwork—so much schoolwork. In fact, I'm still dealing with schoolwork, albeit it's more to do with Honors Algebra more than ABCs. We are in a different season of life – and it's important to remember that parenthood does involve seasons.
Our family is perfect the way it is, my husband, my son, and I. We are the three primary colors, three sides of a triangle, a literary device known as the Rule of Three.
And like the Schoolhouse Rock song goes, three really is a magic number. Yes, it is.