When I was around 20 years old, I had hopes that I would complete college, marry my sweetheart, and that we would have 3 kids before we turned 30. It was a nice dream, but instead I went to graduate school, we broke up, and I continued on to a doctoral program after completing my Master’s degree in Music Performance. Serious relationships took a backseat.
Just before turning 30 years of age, I moved to the Washington, DC, area to check out the performance opportunities. I wasn’t concerned with finding ‘the right man’ and starting a family, instead I was working on building a successful freelance career which was really picking up nicely when I first experienced an attack of optic neuritis. Until I was diagnosed with MS five years later, things were moving along smoothly.
Shortly before the MS diagnosis, I was introduced to ‘the guy.’ Of course I didn’t know that Rob would become ‘the guy’ until I had known him for a little while. Rob was there when the MS diagnosis became official; he was there for lots of tears and hugs; and he was there when I woke up in the middle of the night screaming and crying in pain from early RA symptoms.
I was 38 when I was finally diagnosed with RA and one of the first things we (my doctor and I) did was begin a medication for which pregnancy was strongly warned against (ie., methotrexate). This was a little late in life to consider starting a family, but it wasn’t TOO late. Women are having children even in their 40s nowadays.
Sometime after my RA symptoms were brought under control, I did run a small experiment to see whether or not I might consider going off treatment to prepare for a potential pregnancy. I stopped taking my methotrexate for a short period of time. Unfortunately, it was only a matter of 2-3 weeks before symptoms began to return. Knowing how AWFUL the pre-diagnosis, no-treatment time period was for me, I started back on methotrexate immediately.
I was a little disappointed, but children was low on the list of priorities, or rather dreams, at the time. Heck, I wasn’t even married yet much less thinking too far into the future. By the time Rob and I did get engaged, I was 43 and had achieved a nice mild-disease status due to consistent treatment over a period of years. Shortly thereafter, I even decided to stop worrying about not getting pregnant and got an IUD.
I’m happy with our situation now, especially being happily married and able to do things on a moment’s notice. We have a freedom that many others our own age do not. However, I do help to take care of my mother who has complicated health issues and we have a cat who has her own medical needs and takes pills twice a day.
Life is good…and predictable. But recently I was cleaning out some closets and drawers collecting items to donate. One thing that I found elicited a strange ache in my heart.
Many years ago I was on a trip and looking through a collection of beautiful hand-made quilts. I found one which was smaller than the others and featured the alphabet and quilted animals. Such a fun quilt, I loved it. I liked this quilt so much that I purchased it ‘for my future children’ if I were to be so lucky to have children.
Rediscovering the quilt made me so sad, like unearthing a long-lost dream. I thought about donating it, but couldn’t bring myself to do so. I thought about sending it to my brother and sister-in-law who had their fourth child this past year. I didn’t do that either. Instead I gently folded up the quilt and returned it to my sweater chest for another time, and cried.
So I wonder. If MS and RA had not interrupted my life, would I have found ‘my guy’ earlier? Would we not have waited to get married because of sincere concerns for an uncertain future? Would we have jumped in and said, “let’s get this family started!”?
I don’t know the answer to any of those questions, really. But it doesn’t matter because none of us have a time-machine to fly us back in time so that we can take a different path. I do know that if we DID have children right now, it would be very difficult to take care of them and myself at the same time. I have enough on my plate as it is and…
I enjoy my life.
What about you? Are there things you would have done differently if you could have looked deep into your crystal ball and foreseen the future?