The day I grew up and my non-tattoo
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.
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.