(I do almost all of my reading on the Kindle app for iPhone — I love it! I can carry a novel, a spiritual classic, my new testament, and whatever hefty nonfiction my husband has recommended all in my purse wherever I go.)
I just finished reading State of Wonder by Ann Patchett. I picked up the book for a book club with Amy Julia Becker, and I hope that she will weigh in as well, but I can’t wait to talk about it. As you may know from the reviews, the book revolves around the work of pharmacologists studying a remote Amazon tribe in which the women do not experience menopause and continue bearing children into their seventies. There are some great plot lines which lie over this main topic, including a mysterious death and lots of intrigue about employer and employee relationships, so the book works both on the level of engaging beach read and deep conversation starter.
I had my first child when I was 23 and I am now, at 33, pregnant with my seventh. In such a state, wondrous though it may be, I can tell you that 10 years makes a big difference, this pregnancy is harder on my body, but lots of things about my life are easier. My husband is further along in his career, I am more at peace within my family and relationships and even with myself than I was 10 years ago. Still, I am physically exhausted and I don’t quite have the “setting out into the deep” trust and excitement that I had earlier, I know too much about life to think that anything will ever be easy. I am happy to be welcoming another baby into my family, and I hope that I will be able to have more after this if we feel that we can handle it. Still, though I don’t know what the next 10 years will bring for my family life, right now I imagine that I will be fairly content to see my fertility begin to run its natural course in the next decade or so.
Personally and spiritually, I have seen major benefits from having children when we were very young. My husband and I were forced to grow up and get our acts together a little sooner than some of our peers, and we have developed on our journey of character and virtue through the self sacrifice required in parenting. I would not put that off for anything – why spend my 20s, 30s and 40s the way that I did my teens, thinking that the world existed primarily for my entertainment and pleasure? I am sure that there are ways to experience this sort of personal growth outside of motherhood, but for me that was the path. Still, as much as I have gained and grown from having children, and as hard as it might seem to face being “done,” I hope that at some point I will be able to face the next stage of my life with peace and trust and some days I really look forward to a time when I will have room for activities other than birthing and nursing, which I have been doing at a rather extreme pace for the past 10 years.
I recommend State of Wonder as an intriguing novel and a great book club pick, and I’d be very curious to know what other mothers think about this one, of many questions, which the plot raises: If you could stay fertile forever (or just for longer), would you?
Want to talk more about fertility and all sorts of other topics with a fun group of Princeton educated women? It is a little bit like joining a great book club. Come on over and visit me at Building Cathedrals.