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What matters

Don’t you want to do this on our own again some day?  Remember? he asks me, his lips against the side of my head, his familiar body in an unfamiliar bed in a borrowed house on a foreign beach a perfect fit for mine, resting against his side. Remember Bali? Remember reading in bed until ten? Remember walking all day just to see what we could find? It is barely six and we can here the boys talking upstairs in the room next to Elise and Jeremy. Soon they will be too loud to ignore. Soon I will have to scurry up the stairs and bring them down so that they don’t wake the entire house. Our day begins, involuntarily, as light breaks over the ocean.

I do remember.

I remember stretching of my own volition at 6:30 a.m. and padding to a sunrise yoga class, getting to work early and sipping coffee while I laughed at the antics of Al, our office assistant, whose presence was useless because his work day never started until at least 10:30 or 11:00. I remember long, luxurious lunches in the heat of the tropical noon with no rush, no pressure, another round of sweet tea, please, the new lawyer from the AG’s Office just got here. It didn’t matter, I could work until 7 p.m. to make up the time and then wander across the street to the beachside bar to sip a beer and swat mosquitoes with my husband after he’d locked up the pharmacy. We watched the sun sizzle into the Pacific.

I remember loading the kayak on our rusted-out old police jeep. The roof leaked where the light bar used to be attached, the faded logo of its former life could still be seen on the side. We sniped angrily at each other when I couldn’t lift the boat high enough above my head. I remember the rain-rutted coral road to Lau Lau Bay where the silent gray beauty of the sea and the reef and the sky and the earth and the universe put an end to our crankiness and we just lay, mouths open, hearts full and watched the world spin.

I remember.  I remember riding bicycles in China. I remember closing down restaurants in Barcelona. I remember a time when a day of flying was a secret pleasure, the quiet, the time to read, the escape, not an exercise in child-parent torture.

I remember. I remember. I remember.  And I miss it so much.


The alarm goes off a short five hours after we landed at our bitterly cold home airport and half-dragged, half-coaxed our exhausted children to our sluggish, frozen Suburban.  I raise my head and groan, wishing in the dark to just not care, to stay here under the blankets and the goose-down duvet beside the man I have loved for more than half my life.

I rise and pull on my long-underwear. My jeans, my bra, my shirt, my sweater, my fleece. It’s not enough; I am still cold. It’s an unearthly cold, this early morning, a cold that can’t be fought with layers or inefficient heating systems or hot drinks. A cold that forms a strange, chill sweat under the useless layers of my clothes.

The appointment is at 7:00 and I don’t want to be late, though I don’t want to go.  They will look at my uterus with dye this time because I haven’t had my periods since Nate was weaned. A year now.  A year ago.  Because it appears that the surgery to deal with the chunks after Nate’s birth also caused scarring and adhesions that have permanently damaged that strong and delicate part of my body.

Does it matter? That’s what we keep asking. Haven’t we been discussing this very thing? Haven’t we considered permanently damaging this part of one of us for months? Does it matter? Does it?  I have loved this part of my life, but I have loved other things and I will love things yet to come that I haven’t imagined yet.

I remember snorkeling Three Corners in Palau, the reef sharks circling below me.   

Does it matter?

We fantasize about a loft in the center of some amazing, international city where direct flights leave daily for every part of the world. Where people linger in restaurants until midnight and read the Times over coffee until ten. Where our late-teen, early-twenty, know-it-all offspring will visit us.

Does it matter?

How is it that such different things can matter all at once?

58 Responses to What matters
  1. That Janie Girl
    January 23, 2011 | 6:34 pm

    You know, it does seem we lead multiple lives simulataneously. Seasons come and go, and when you're in one season, you transition to another. It won't be long before you transition again.

    It hurts, but it's joyful, too.

    Just like childbirth! ;)

  2. dearheart
    January 23, 2011 | 6:44 pm

    I think the glossy memories and future dreams rise to the forefront of our minds to give us hope – and courage – to accept change in our lives.

    I love your line about being in the city apartment when somebody's a late teen. Sorry bud, we couldn't wait!

  3. MommyTime
    January 23, 2011 | 6:48 pm

    It matters because all of those things are part of what make you who you are. And for deeply thinking people, it is impossible to turn off or erase those prior selves.

    When I asked a similar question once, about how it was possible to feel so strongly such conflicting things at once, a man I knew read this passage of De Quincey's to me in response:

    What else than a natural and mighty palimpsest is the human brain? Such a palimpsest is my brain; such a palimpsest, O reader! is yours. Everlasting layers of ideas, images, feelings, have fallen upon your brain softly as light. Each succession has seemed to bury all that went before. And yet in reality not one has been extinguished. And if, n the vellum palimpsest, lying amongst the other diplomata of human archives or libraries, there is anything fantastic or which moves to laughter, as oftentimes there is in the grotesque collisions of those successive themes, having no natural connexion, which by pure accident have consecutively occupied the roll, yet, in our own heaven-created palimpsest, the deep memorial palimpsest of the brain, there are not and cannot be such incoherencies. The fleeting accidents of a man's life, and its external shows, may indeed be irrelate and incongruous; but the organizing principles which fuse into harmony, and gather about fixed predetermined centres, whatever heterogeneous elements of life may have accumulated from without, will not permit the grandeur of human unity greatly to be violated, or its ultimate repose to be troubled in the retrospect from dying moments, or from other great convulsions.

    I fell in love with De Quincey that day.

  4. Robin
    January 23, 2011 | 7:03 pm


    My photography is available for purchase – visit Around the Island Photography and bring home something beautiful today!

  5. Kirsten
    January 23, 2011 | 7:58 pm

    The inner battle. It matters more because you and Matt *weren't* the ones to choose whether or not you were done.

    I, too, miss those days of only having to think of myself. Getting to spend the days doing things that directly benefit me and using the money we make on all things fun and carefree. Those were glorious days. And even though we go through parent-child torture, it's worth it. It makes no sense.

  6. Marinka
    January 23, 2011 | 8:03 pm

    Oh, honey. It matters, it all matters. All the things that we love, the times in our lives that have passed and the memories. I hope you get the answer that you want. love you.

  7. Pamela
    January 23, 2011 | 8:10 pm

    Commenting so that you know I read this… there is a lot of power in this post.

  8. Ann Imig
    January 23, 2011 | 8:13 pm

    Devastating beautiful. You have so many posts you could read for LTYM, but this one should be among your top choices. IMHO.

    This makes me think of a post Anissa Mayhew wrote that really helped me. She talked about how her family was always changing shapes but the whole always worked itself out.

    I love how you love all your changing shapes, and grieve them all at once. xo

  9. King of New York Hacks
    January 23, 2011 | 8:20 pm

    The things to come, what you leave behind, and all the random acts infinitely matter, especially for all that lies ahead….like your next post. :-)

  10. Maggie May
    January 23, 2011 | 8:23 pm

    When you live intensely with love, it does all matter, and letting things move as they do can be painful. Beautifully writ. I hope your appointment was easy.

  11. Anna See
    January 23, 2011 | 8:42 pm

    Oh yes they do, they do. I love how you painted this picture with your words. I am so glad you have these memories. I can't seem to remember what it was like, so I really don't yearn for it at all, But I want to, you know?

  12. Amelia
    January 23, 2011 | 9:03 pm

    Of course it matters! It's one thing to be considering something, have discussions, decide with a rational mind. But to have your choice taken away, because you are injured? It matters.
    This was beautiful.

  13. Christy
    January 23, 2011 | 9:07 pm

    It just does, doesn't it. I've had that dye through that part of my body. Not fun. I hope you find peace with whatever the outcome is…and thank you for sharing this post. I just loved reading it, twice. Made me sad and happy and sad again. Your writing is just so amazing, lady!

  14. Laura Lee
    January 23, 2011 | 9:52 pm

    so true… that is in my heart too.

  15. AmazingGreis
    January 23, 2011 | 10:01 pm

    It matters!! You know I don't have kids and still have freedoms and relaxing airplane flights and all the in between, but hopefully ONE day I'll experience all of your chaos with a kid or two of my own. And then I will totally be calling you for advice!!!

  16. annie
    January 23, 2011 | 10:09 pm

    It does all matter. It's all a part of who we were/are/hope to be. When I had my hysterectomy, my gyn asked if I would mentally be ok with it. It was different for me because it was taken out to be able to gain access to a tumor that threatened my life but it did give me pause. It permanently ended a phase of my life.

    But, it gave me hope that I'd be here for the next phase, the one where we get to see how our children turn out. The phase where we say goodbye to them but hello to being a couple again.

    To be able to appreciate where their stories continue seperately from us and ours picks up where we left off. Alone again but so much richer for it.

    It matters. All of it.

  17. Galit Breen
    January 23, 2011 | 10:29 pm

    I have chills all over-again. Your writing is divine.

    It all matters. Every little bit of it. I'm sending good thoughts your way. Mostly that you hear what you want- what you need- to.

  18. Jeanne
    January 23, 2011 | 10:51 pm

    I was thinking the other day about how moving from one stage of life to another is eased by the fact that we stop wanting the old as we move to the new. When I started liking boys, I stopped liking Barbies, and now that I'm in my 50's, I no longer wish to dance til dawn.

    To your point, it's not always quite so tidy, though.

  19. msprimadonna67
    January 23, 2011 | 10:59 pm

    You're speaking the words of my heart right now-the words of my own circumstance. I wish both; I want both. Ultimately, though, the choice may not be mine–and that's the part that matters to me.

  20. butwhymommy
    January 23, 2011 | 11:38 pm

    It does matter. You want your life to be your choice. It will work out in the way it is supposed to but sometimes that is little consolation. Hugs dear friend.

  21. Vodka Mom
    January 23, 2011 | 11:57 pm

    every bit of what we do and who we are matters,

    every bit.

  22. TMCPhoto
    January 24, 2011 | 12:16 am

    It matters because that choice may no longer be yours to make, because you aren't in control and it's out of your hands.

    The rest of it, your fantastic history, the wonderful life you've led matters because it's where you have been. The life you are leading, the one you are heading into, the dreams you have for your future matters because it matters.

    You have my thoughts

  23. Shannon-
    January 24, 2011 | 1:30 am

    I've only been a mom for a year— and I'm soooooooo relating to this right now… ahhh

  24. Alexicographer
    January 24, 2011 | 1:50 am

    Oh dear. The other commenters have said it better than I, but yes, it matters. I hope the dye will turn up things that are OK, or can be OK.

    Your writing is beautiful. As for me I just repeat over and over in my head: "embrace ambivalence." Those two words are all I've got, but they carry me a surprisingly long way.

  25. Kate Coveny Hood
    January 24, 2011 | 4:57 am

    I understand. I plan to never be pregnant again (for real – no question about it), but when I was offered a tubal ligation during my c-section for the twins, I declined. I just don't like the finality of that. It's almost like it stops being my decision at that point (which makes no sense because THAT would be THE decision right?)

    No matter what you want for yourself and your family and the limits that are required for it, there will always be magic in possibility. And the unexpected.

    Whatever comes of this, I know that you will weather it and wear it with grace.

    Thinking of you.

  26. G
    January 24, 2011 | 6:53 am

    I know that feeling of wanting to know, and I want you to know that I hold your heart tightly at every step. I love you Xxxx

  27. Rebecca
    January 24, 2011 | 12:38 pm

    Beautiful…never knowing what direction to turn…parenting at its best and worst.

  28. Wendi
    January 24, 2011 | 5:26 pm

    I second what Ann said. This was just beautiful and so many of us can relate to all of it.

  29. Lady Mama
    January 24, 2011 | 5:34 pm

    This is such a beautiful post. It does matter, all of it, because it's our history and our future, and sometimes it's hard to imagine.

  30. Issas Crazy World
    January 24, 2011 | 6:16 pm

    Love this. Love you.

  31. mosey
    January 24, 2011 | 6:24 pm

    sigh. It does all matter – every memory and every choice, whether self-directed or made without our say-so. Doesn't make it easier going forward sometimes. love you!

  32. Mom24
    January 24, 2011 | 6:36 pm

    I'm so sorry. To me, it matters because it's about choice, or at least perceived choice. No one wants to feel like that choice is taken away from them.

    Hope everything's okay.

  33. Holly at Tropic of Mom
    January 24, 2011 | 10:19 pm

    Yeah, those two parts of our lives, they can collide so violently in our minds that it hurts sometimes. I hope everything turns out to be OK for you, with those tests/scans. Hugs.

  34. Christy
    January 24, 2011 | 10:43 pm

    It matters. More than anything.

  35. Mr Lady
    January 24, 2011 | 10:57 pm

    Oh god, it always matters.

    I FORCED my husband to get a vasectomy and then BEGGED him to not do it.

    Two years later they took my uterus, because they had to, and even though we already can't, I can't believe I can't. I still pretend we can.

    It ALWAYS matters.

  36. Gayle
    January 25, 2011 | 12:31 am

    When I think it doesn't matter, it really did; and when I am passionate about something, I shouldn't have been. It's a balancing act we try to do to keep our world from falling down. Sometimes we succeed and sometimes we don't. I hope you find your balance.

  37. Sharon
    January 25, 2011 | 1:43 am

    Control has much to do with these emotions. Under your terms is easier to handle than on someone elses' terms. Find peace if you lose the control to make this decision, because you will have so many more decisions anyway. And, every one matters.

  38. Errin
    January 25, 2011 | 3:41 am


    (I had to delete the last comment because I had a typo in my one word comment that I couldn't stand to look at)

  39. Sally
    January 25, 2011 | 4:23 am

    I love this. I love it all. I wish I could get the thoughts out of my head and onto this keyboard. You are fabulous, and this post makes me want to sob. For myself and my husband. Because you so beautifully expressed how I feel. This is so perfectly said. Thank you.

  40. MommyNamedApril
    January 25, 2011 | 3:34 pm


  41. Lyndsay
    January 25, 2011 | 4:02 pm

    Sigh. How do you manage to capture thoughts and emotions I don't even know I have?
    Love, love, love this post.

  42. Tracey - Just Another Mommy Blog
    January 25, 2011 | 9:26 pm

    I have never been to Bali… Sigh.

    I remember the simple things like eating my own meal. On my OWN. Without sharing a single piece of sausage or the best bites of garlic bread…

  43. Elizabeth @claritychaos
    January 25, 2011 | 10:02 pm

    Ann and Maggie May said just what I wanted to say.

    This is gorgeous, and I get this, and I hope you find some peace in the answers or the not-answers. Big hug.

  44. Lisa L
    January 25, 2011 | 11:49 pm

    omg…this just breaks my heart. i know how you feel about another one. am hoping the dye test turned up some positive answers for you.

  45. swonderful
    January 26, 2011 | 3:12 am

    it's all beautiful and it also all makes me ache. i hope your appointment was peaceful and good.

  46. Jill
    January 26, 2011 | 8:21 pm

    I remember many years ago asking my cousin if she was "done" having kids. Her answer of "yes" flew out of her mouth so fast it smacked me in the face… however, it was followed up with, "when you're done you JUST know it."

    Fast forward to May, 2009, and the birth of my baby boy … and the absolute understanding of my cousin's emphatic reply.

    It's so hard to be in a place when life apparently makes a decision for you … that you're not so sure you're ready to make.

    Hope your tests turn out OK. Do tell if you hear of Asherman's …. your symptoms sound familiar.

  47. Ellen
    January 26, 2011 | 8:37 pm

    People always said that same thing to me "when you are done, you just know it". Well, that never happened to me. Five kids later and the only way I know I am done is because I am too old to have another one. It makes me sad but there are so many new chapters ahead for me. I plan on just enjoying every single stage (but always missing a new baby!!).

  48. Michelle
    January 27, 2011 | 12:02 am

    Why is it that almost any post you write gives me goosebumps. Fingers crossed that all is well with you – and I so get the finality and the not making the decision yourselves and … the angst. Oh the angst. No matter what you were talking about first.

  49. the mama bird diaries
    January 27, 2011 | 2:28 am

    It absolutely matters. You want it to be on your terms. Totally get it. And feel exactly the same way.

  50. csmith
    January 27, 2011 | 3:18 am

    This post is so timely for me! After my daughter was born two years ago I got an IUD which later perforated my uterus. It required a surgical removal which seems to have damaged that "strong and delicate part of me". My DH and I were already discussing getting snipped and I am so enjoying the sheer beauty of a child who sleeps through the night every night, so I think "does it matter"?. BUT when I rock her to sleep and her little head nestles so perfectly between my jaw and shoulder I think "am I ready to never do THIS again". It's certainly a dilemma, to say the least.

  51. Enjoli
    January 27, 2011 | 5:04 pm

    Thinking of you and still reading during my third maternity leave in as many years. I was told that pregnancy after my second would be a death sentence due to adhesions and scarring. I opted out of a tubal because I didn't think two children — a girl and boy — was it for me. I delivered my second son in December and happily had my tubes tied. Having a choice and being able to make decisions about your body matters.

  52. Jessica {Team Rasler}
    January 27, 2011 | 9:51 pm

    I don't know any parent who hasn't felt this twinge. We miss our lives, our selves, our partners. And yet. What is life without a tiny hand clasping yours? Without sticky fingers? Having no choice is hard. Having a choice is harder. I'm not sure which I wish for you because whatever way today's appointment turned out, you will want to shed tears for what could have been and feel that little thrill of what will be. You have had an incredible life, and I love that you know your future will be, too.

    You made me sit back for half the day (whenever I wasn't chasing a child) and ponder my own past, present, future. Thank you.

  53. lbswmom
    January 28, 2011 | 6:35 pm

    I don't have any babies that are lap babies anymore. My "babies" are too big to cuddle at 10 and 13. Most of the time I am GREATFUL that they are approaching independence… but sometimes, just sometimes, I wish for one more. I wish that we hadn't closed that door so early in life.

  54. Nis
    January 28, 2011 | 10:50 pm

    I, too, struggle with this…and cannot bear to close the door. Thank you for writing it, Stace. Thinking of you.

  55. Mama Cas
    January 29, 2011 | 3:38 am

    A few years ago, I wondered if we were "done." I wondered how I would make peace with that final decision. Turns out, when my 4th one arrived, I was done. D.O.N.E. I didn't want another pregnancy, delivery, and recovery. I wanted to see a light at the end of the tunnel, for lack of a better phrase. I love holding and cuddling babies…I often wonder if I could get a job doing just that. But I am thrilled to be done with that phase of my life. My youngest is 3 1/2 and I am in love with my life right now… diapers, strollers, bottles, sippee cups, and pacifiers. When someone I know announces a pregnancy, I cringe because I'm imagining how much I don't ever want to be there again.

    That being said, I'm at peace because it was my own decision. I can easily imagine how painful it might be to have that decision taken away. I hope everything works out the way you want it to. I hope the decision gets to be yours.

  56. Ali
    February 17, 2011 | 12:53 am

    It is a difficult place to be. I know, having once, five years ago sworn myself done having babies, not knowing that my future held my sweet, kind, second husband and all of the possible dreams that come from having a second chance at life. Unfortunately nature is not cooperating with me this time around, and so what once I would have chosen myself, I now find myself grieving over. I wish you choices to make, because not having them is so difficult.

  57. Life with Kaishon
    June 9, 2011 | 3:02 am

    I am so sorry for what you are experiencing. You wrote about it perfectly. Praying for you tonight.

  58. Lady Jennie
    June 23, 2011 | 10:46 am

    I can't form a coherent comment.

    This was beautiful.
    I have a lot of similar memories.
    I'm glad I've "lived" before having kids and hope to "live" again after they are grown.
    And when I am very in tune, I find that I am living right now.

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