Valentine’s Day is mostly about my children. I think it’s because my first child was born in late January and Valentine’s Day was the first holiday I celebrated with her.
She was 9 weeks premature and was in the NICU for 5 weeks. Valentine’s Day was a chance to have a celebration with her while she slept under heat lamps. Her dad and I cuddled and warmed her tiny 3-pound body, careful not to dislodge the wires and tubes in her. What a terrible experience it was — brightened momentarily by Valentine’s Day, when we dressed her and shared cards with other parents. And unlike some, we had a happy ending. She turned 14 a few weeks ago. She’s healthy, brilliant, ambitious, creative, talented, and challenging.
When my son was born one year later, our family was complete. The circle of love was complete. I felt it the minute I saw him. He is, even today, love incarnate. His presence is calming, so much so he’s the only one some days who can get me laughing rather than shouting, or sleeping rather than stressing. By 2004, I was living within a bursting circle of love. I knew my good fortune but didn’t yet know how to live it. It took time to settle into my new life with new priorities.
I was 40 when I had my first child. I had lived 40 years knowing all kinds of love but not motherhood. When my brother had his first child, he told me he had no idea that he could love so much. He told me the love I had for my dogs, my family, my friends would never compare. At the time, I thought he was full of shit. How could he know how I felt? How could he put my love in a hierarchy in which he decided the pinnacle? Now, having experienced it, I agree. No other love compares — for me. But I know that not every parent feels this way. I know a person can love things that may seem odd to me, but for which they will lay down their lives and their principles.
There are romantic loves, family loves, pet loves, friend loves, religious loves, country loves. I don’t know if these experiences compare to the love I feel for my children. I know only that for me, none of them do. It’s not a decision. It simply is. My kids are the loves of my life. If all I’ve ever done or will do matters not at all and I’m simply here to have created these two children, it will have been enough. More than enough. It will have been the best life I could have imagined.
But that’s not the end of my love story
Before I could ever have been a mom, I had to meet someone who made me want to have children. When I met my husband, I was 37. No plans to have kids. I knew nothing about children. I had done little babysitting as a teen. I was always the youngest in a group of kids. I was the “fun aunt” for my siblings’ kids.
I had just ended a relationship with a woman who essentially conned me. I had a knack for attracting survivor types, abused and abusive in turn. But he was so different from anyone I had dated. Within a month of dating, all I knew is I had to keep him alive forever, and that meant having his children. This man, who was, you know, a man…and so much younger than me…and whom I barely knew…was absolutely mesmerizing to me. I couldn’t bear the thought of losing him from this earth. I remember fearing he was going to die — I can’t say why — and I had to do something to keep him here. I wanted his baby. And I told him so.
He was incredibly honest and open. He wore his heart on his sleeve. No pretension or artifice clouded who he was. He was smart, ambitious, hard-working. He was just so…himself. And he loved me so thoroughly.
He has taught me so much about love. He has taught me through his patience, his acceptance, and his effort. Yes, love takes effort, especially with me. I guarantee that. Somewhere along the way, he made a decision to love me and to continue loving me no matter what. And the “what” was a roller coaster he could not have imagined. His love has pulled us through more than anything I have done. He is my sun. His love is life to me, and everything grows because of him.
And still, that’s not the end of my love story
Of the many changes to our fifteen years together was the opening of our marriage. Although I’m happily married to a man, I don’t feel straight or even bisexual. I still identify as lesbian. Having an intimate woman partner is vital to me. Marriage and motherhood consumed my time and soul for years, but I came to miss that feminine connection. My husband’s view of the world was different from mine. And our family and friends, too. I was living in the suburbs of a conservative state. Mainstream America tells us that love is a commodity. Romantic love, we’re told, demands choices. Only one to a customer…
Two years ago, I met my moon. Like my husband, she’s also younger than me, and in the same fascinating way, she is solely herself. No pretension, no vanity, no manipulation. Just a vital young woman in love with life. Hours pass in reverie when we’re together. As much friend as lover, she has also become part of our family, sharing our holidays and movies, chores, even shuttling our kids. The unique polycule we live seems effortless now. Her husband is our friend. Even her cat likes me, and cats never like me. I know it’s not effortless but the result of her unique self-awareness, emotional insight, and the effort to love that anyone needs to have in order to stick with me.
Here is where it started
The openness to love is itself a gift. It’s a gift I got from my mother.
Who would imagine a woman born nearly eight decades ago into desperate poverty among rural evangelicals would be a champion of unconventional love? But she is. Her life has been at times a tragedy of love lost, and she knows what matters. This is why I know what matters. It’s not the pedantry of bored or frightened critics telling everyone how to live as unhappily as they do. What matters is love. And love is limited only by you.
I love my two children with all my heart. Not one more than the other. Don’t tell me I have to choose. In the same way, I love my partners, my sun and moon.
Thanks, Mom, for showing me how to love and putting no limits on me.