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The day I grew up and my non-tattoo

September 14, 2010

All weekend, I’ve seen dozen and dozens of American flags flying at half-staff to honor those who tragically died on 9/11. All weekend, my heart swelled at that bitter memory, but on Monday, September 13, my heart swelled for a different, sweeter reason.

September 13 is the anniversary of a major turning point in my life. It’s the day I learned I would become a mother.

Nine years ago, in another life, I was a reporter at a small newspaper covering local education issues and incidental soft-news features. That spring, my husband and I talked about how we’d like to start a family one of these days. People did that, we’d heard. It was the next step, we’d noticed. First comes love, then comes marriage, then comes. . . well, you know the rest.

But those people didn’t like their jobs as much as I did. They didn’t get to chat with interesting people every single day and look at the world from a variety of perspectives and constantly consider new ideas and possibilities and then hold and admire their handiwork every morning and know people across the valley were also inspecting and thinking about their work. As a newspaper reporter, I got to do this. The possibility of surrendering any aspect of it—the deadlines, the by-line, the buzzing atmosphere of the newsroom–seemed almost unreasonable.

The night of September 10, I stayed at work until nearly midnight finishing a huge feature on back-to-school teen fashion trends. It was hardly the cutting-edge journalism I’d once dreamed of, but the piece was tight, the photographers had done their jobs better than imagined, and my editors and I polished it up into a shiny package everyone in a 50-mile radius was sure to read and enjoy. I went home exhausted but pleased with my work and collapsed into bed.

The next thing I knew, my phone was rudely ringing. It was my boss editor.

“Turn on the TV. The World Trade Center has been bombed,” he said.

“What?! What channel?” I said foolishly, still groggy.

“Any channel. Get into work right away.”

And just like that, the hardest day of my news career began. To say it was busy doesn’t even begin to describe it. It was manic. We needed every possible angle on the story ten minutes ago. Nerves were frayed, eyes were red, and I had to call teary people and talk about it. Again and again.

No one cared about teen fashion trends that day, least of all me.

Well after lunchtime, a merciful editor ordered pizza. The reporters sat somberly in the conference room chewing pizza and pulling ourselves together for the next round of difficult stories we were supposed to tell.

I went home that night feeling pathetic. Bad things happen, and it was my job to tell everyone about them. That wasn’t my whole job, of course, but that day in the newsroom left me feeling sullied, like I was covered in ash and grief that would never wash off.

That night I knew I wanted my life to be different. I loved the newspaper and always will, but that night I grew up. I realized I wanted to do more than chase headlines and feel pleased with my by-line. I wanted to do something vitally important, and somehow put some kindness back into a world that suddenly seemed so, so mean.

I wanted to be a mom.

Two days later, on September 13, I learned I was pregnant with my first baby.

The following May, my first son was born. I marveled—and continue to marvel– that God would be so good to me.

That sweet child left me with a souvenir of sorts for carrying him: two stretch marks just below my navel. They are vertical lines, each three inches long, a half-inch from each other. A number 11.

These marks are a permanent reminder of the day my perspective on life changed. They are the tattoo I’ve never gotten. Every time I see them I remember how I felt on September 11, 2001, and then how I felt on September 13, 2001, and how I feel now. Because of that tragedy, I learned how urgent it is to love, and how joyful it is to be allowed to love.

Every day as a mother I get to chat with interesting people and look at the world from a variety of perspectives and constantly consider new ideas and possibilities and then hold and admire my handiwork.

It’s a great job.

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10 Comments leave one →
  1. September 14, 2010 4:25 am

    oh my, what a beautiful totally powerful amazing story.

  2. September 14, 2010 5:11 am

    just beautiful.

  3. September 14, 2010 10:49 am

    Wow. Yes.

  4. Allumer permalink
    September 14, 2010 11:43 am

    Not many words in which to thank you for this post. Would saying that my eyes got prickly and I remembered my own sweet baby (2 months younger than yours!) be enough?

  5. Zpurpleify permalink
    September 14, 2010 4:09 pm

    Powerful stuff.

  6. September 14, 2010 6:52 pm

    again, i have to say how much i love this story…

  7. September 15, 2010 3:32 am

    Wow. I love this story too.

    I am realizing at this point in my life, after having spent so much time being single and free, that I have become more and more attached to my freedom and out-in-the-world activities, and more reluctant about the future possibilities of spouse and children. It is good to know that another passionate work-and-world-engager feels that way about her children and family. Good, good, good. 🙂

  8. Kaimalino permalink
    September 15, 2010 4:09 pm

    Awww, thanks guys for being generous with such a personal and self-indulgent post as this. It’s been strange the last couple weeks to see people processing 9/11 all over again. I feel not just grief but also peace as I remember, “Oh, yes–that was the day I got my head screwed on straight and realized what actually matters.” I could never be glad for tragedy, but I am deeply grateful for adjusted perspective.

    I don’t think it was just me–I was commenting with a friend that third grade classes (with kids turning 9 this year) are all larger than the second or fourth grade classes at the elementary schools here. Made us wonder if nine years ago everyone suddenly felt like family was urgently important. (Or, as my husband rather rudely speculated, everyone needed a snuggle.)

    Erin, I could do another post on living the “unexpected life.” An LDS leader, Shari Dew, gave a now-famous talk a few years ago about how she didn’t expect to be middle-aged and single, but she was, and she had decided a long time ago she would be happy living whatever kind of life she was given. She was living the unexpected life, she said, and it was more important to *live* it than to lament about how it didn’t match her expectations. Her whole talk really had an impact on me because I am also living a life that is very different from the one I expected. Didn’t think I’d marry young, didn’t think I’d live in a houseful of boys, never thought I’d be a full-time mom. But I’m now in the ninth (!) year of my six-to-twelve-month experiment with being a stay-at-home mom, and while I sometimes miss the good ol’ days of speed and efficiency, I have no regrets. I still have a finger (not THAT finger! ha! OK, only sometimes.) in the newspaper biz with a lightweight column and I feel even more passionately engaged with the world than ever, because it all matters more than it ever could in my pre-family life.
    I really believe whatever experiences you have now are preparing you and qualifying you to face whatever joys and challenges come later. Maybe that’s cliche, but it keeps getting truer for me.

  9. September 16, 2010 3:03 am

    kai, i really love what you wrote about the unexpected life, what shari dew said… such a powerful thought. i didn’t expect my life to be like this in any way. some parts are tougher, and parts are better than i imagined. but it’s all good because it’s all my life.

  10. Karyn permalink
    September 16, 2010 3:27 pm

    Oh, I love this post. I love that it reflects a conversation (perhaps many conversations, in fact) that we’ve had, but feels so powerful and beautiful put here in writing (with that beautiful picture, I might add!).

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