Things I Thought I Knew

In 2020, I was pregnant with my daughter Amelia. It was my fourth pregnancy, but my third baby (my first pregnancy ended in miscarriage). Cory and I had our doubts about whether we should even get pregnant again, because we already had a son and a daughter, and our family felt like it could be complete at that. But, some part of me didn’t feel done, and we ultimately decided to go ahead and have a third kiddo. We’re both so glad that we did, because life is better with Mia in it! 

Throughout that pregnancy, though, as I suffered through my typical pregnancy sickness and heartburn and general discomfort, I vowed many times that it would be my last pregnancy. I felt very confident and at peace with that decision, and so did Cory. During Amelia’s birth, I vowed “never again.” After she was born, I started seriously considering adoption, which I saw as our only path to adding another child to our family one day. Cory and I weren’t sure if that’s what we even wanted, but we did know that getting pregnant again was not on the table for us.

So many times, I said that that pregnancy was my last. And I really meant it. So then how is it that I find myself here, three years later, pregnant with my fourth child? 

Well, as it turns out, there are the plans we make and then there are the plans that God makes for us. Or, if you prefer, there are more potential futures for us than we can ever really know. Sometimes our path in life changes dramatically in ways we could never have imagined or foreseen. That’s basically what happened to me. 

Now obviously, it wasn’t all just “fate.” I made choices, and those choices are what led to me being pregnant right now. I don’t regret it—I am thrilled to be having another baby, and this time, another boy! Finley is very much wanted. 

But looking back, it’s funny to see all the things I wrote and truly believed at the time. 

By the time Amelia turned one, my life was already beginning to change dramatically. Cory and I had opened our marriage to polyamory, and I had fallen in love with a new partner, RJ. Only a few months later, Cory and I decided to end our marriage. 

Divorce was always something that I believed wholeheartedly would never happen to me. I was determined to make my marriage last. It was practically my biggest life goal since I was a little girl—and yet, here I am now, divorced. So how did that happen?

Well basically, I realized that I wasn’t in love anymore. And while I always believed that love was a choice, and I could have continued to love Cory as my husband if I was determined to, the change was that I was no longer determined to. I realized that there was more available to me—more passion, excitement, and romance. I realized that sex didn’t have to feel like an obligation or something that made me feel icky. I realized that I could choose whatever I wanted to in life, and I could change my mind about things (even big things), and that it was okay to do that. I realized that divorce didn’t have to be a negative thing. For me and Cory, it wasn’t. 

Really, giving myself the freedom to choose and change all started with my religious deconstruction. Because my beliefs about God and the Bible and church were my bedrock. Yet, I was able to change those! If I could change those, then what else couldn’t I change? Everything was a possibility at that point. 

And so it happened like a chain reaction. I deconstructed my faith. That allowed me to become polyamorous, something that I feel was always a dormant part of me. Being poly allowed me to understand how I really felt about Cory, and it introduced me to RJ. Being with RJ changed how I felt about having another baby. Which has led to me here and now: unchurched, spiritually questioning, divorced, and pregnant again. If someone had told me a few years ago that this is where I’d be, I wouldn’t have believed them.

So, what do I believe now? The truth is, I’m still trying to figure that out. 

I still believe in God. I don’t believe that God is a male—how ridiculous of us to put God in a box so small as gender! I believe God is our creator (through scientific means, not magic). I believe God is good, and present to those who seek, and powerful, and mysterious. I believe God is everywhere and in everything good, and that God goes by many names. 

I was taught to believe that the God of the Bible is the only true God, and that he can only be known through believing in Jesus. Yet, I found myself unable to believe that a good and loving God could refuse to be in a relationship with anybody who didn’t guess correctly out of a vast number of options for religious and spiritual “truth.” 

I was raised as a Christian, but what if I had been raised Hindu, or Jewish, or Muslim, or Atheist? How could I be reasonably expected to believe that Christianity was the truth while my own religious foundation was made up? Even more ridiculous to me was the idea that one had to be the right type of Christian to find salvation—Catholics, Mormons, and Jehovah’s witnesses were out, and even some types of Protestants weren’t quite on the right track to be certain of their eternal fate (according to my Evangelical background, that is). 

I began to ask myself, could it really be true that a good and loving God would condemn people who believe differently to an eternity in Hell? There is so much context behind what a person believes or doesn’t believe. And why, in the first place, is it even necessary for us to be saved by Jesus? Simply because we’re not perfect? Being perfect is impossible! How can we be punished for not doing the impossible? For me, it was equally impossible to make sense of all of that.

Beyond my theological concerns, there were my objections to the teachings and practices of the church as a whole. The sexism, homophobia, ableism, and nationalism that are taught and encouraged within the church; and the ignorant and irresponsible responses to huge social issues like COVID, gun violence, racism, and sexual assault were all huge problems for me. The weight of these social issues and the church’s role in them became too heavy, and I had to leave. 

I have spent over a year now not being a part of any church, and not having really any spiritual practices in my life at all. I guess I needed a break to sort everything out. But now, I am at the end of my deconstruction period and beginning to feel ready to rebuild something spiritual in my life. I may even start going to church again—but if I do, it will be a church that is progressive and therefore in line with my own moral compass, rather than aggressively opposing it. 

Anyway. My point with all of this is that there are things that I thought I knew, and as it turns out, I didn’t know what I didn’t know. If anything, the past couple of years have taught me that nothing in life is certain or permanent. Things change, and we change, and that’s just life. We can all only do our best with what we know at any given time. 

My life has changed so much, and truthfully there are times when I still mourn for my previous life. I had a good thing going. Everything felt certain and settled and neat. I didn’t feel adrift in a sea of unknowns, wondering how I got there and where the hell I was going.

But I know that I can never go back to that life. For better or worse, I am on a different path now. I am doing my best to live a life that has purpose, love, and joy woven throughout it. Does it always feel that way? No. Especially not when I’m in the middle of an ongoing depression and an uncomfortable pregnancy. Nevertheless, that is my goal and I am doing my best, which is all any of us can do. 

A Look Back at 2022

Last year brought more unexpected changes to my life than any year I can remember. My family, my pets, my home, my location, my future plans—they all changed drastically this past year. It’s been a lot. And for me, the queen of change, that is really saying something. 

Let’s dive in. 

In January, I was still, technically, polyamorous. I was married to Cory and living at home with him and the kids, while dating RJ. But RJ and I were making plans for a more serious future together. We were seeing each other about every other day, despite the hour and a half commute between us. What our future together looked like was very much up in the air, but I knew that I wanted to live with him and I was hoping that Cory would be amenable to having him move in with us. 

Meanwhile, Cory and I were still trying to figure out ourselves and what we wanted our marriage to be. And unfortunately, he wasn’t ready to invite RJ into our family and didn’t know if he ever would be. Because of this, along with many other factors, Cory and I officially decided to end our romantic relationship. 

Soon after, RJ asked me to be his nesting partner—even though he wasn’t ready to make that a reality, yet, he knew he wanted that someday. His marriage was ending, and the future he saw was one with me as his life partner. But his separation and divorce process was much more tumultuous than mine, and he hadn’t yet made any official moves to get that started.  

For me, watching the toxic environment of his home life was painful. At the same time, I felt a need to gain more independence in my own life and I felt it was time for me to move out. I could only do so financially if RJ moved in with me, but I knew I could scrape together the money to live on my own for a couple of months while RJ got things situated on his end. More than anything, I wanted to give him a safe and happy place to live, and I acted with my typical speed on that goal. By the end of the month, I was in my new apartment and hoping that RJ would join me there soon. 

Not living with my children was a huge transition for me, but I was determined to stay positive. I chose an apartment only 10 minutes away from the house, and began setting it up so that the kids could stay the night there with me a few nights each week. I also designed my schedule so that I spent a lot of time at the house. I wanted the kids to feel that we were still a family, and I didn’t want the changes to make them sad or feel stressed. 

Looking back on those months, it is honestly hard to write about. At the time, I was focused on finding a life for myself that was happy, while still trying to ensure that my kids were happy too. But a year later, I find myself worrying about what I have taken away from my kids, and how it will affect them for the rest of their lives—that’s something that is hard to live with. 

One thing I do know is that at the time, I was doing the best I could. And, on a happier note, January is when I met and adopted my dog, Pepper. She quickly became my close companion and emotional support animal.

In February, I was briefly employed as a social media poster on a small startup platform, which I very much enjoyed. Unfortunately, the job was temporary and didn’t lead to a longer-term position. I spent most of that month setting up my apartment and settling into my new routines, as well as continuing to drive back and forth to see RJ several times each week. 

That month, Cory and I also decided to dog-swap with my parents. As weird as that sounds, it was the right decision for us! Our puppy Moosey was too much for us to handle, and their older dog Buddy was no longer a great fit for their more active, traveling lifestyle. We happily took Buddy and gave them Moosey, which has been a positive change for everyone. Buddy is wonderful, and probably the most gentle, patient dog with the kids that I’ve ever known. Even though he isn’t mine—he technically belongs to Cory now—I still love and care for him very much. And Moosey is also very happy in his new home!

Sometime early in the year, Cory also got a roommate when he started renting out the spare room to a friend of my brother’s named Dean. He has a daughter who is a year younger than Abi, named Odessa, and they both became a part of our extended family throughout the past year. My kids have loved having Odessa around and playing with her just like they would a younger sister. 

In March, RJ moved in with me—but the defining moment of this was actually quite murky. He started spending more and more nights at the apartment and bringing more and more of his stuff there, but there wasn’t one day where he officially moved in. He started contributing to rent that month, so that’s when I consider him “moved in.” In March, we also got our second cockatiel, Eevee. Pikachu was very happy to have a new friend!

In April, nothing much was going on with me from an outside perspective. But emotionally it was a very challenging time for me. RJ and I were going through the beginnings of a very rocky stage in our relationship, and I was suffering from severe depression. I decided to start therapy (again), and for the first time I also started taking antidepressants. Their effectiveness, for me, wasn’t exactly obvious—but they didn’t not help, so I continued on them until I became pregnant and decided that the potential risks didn’t outweigh the benefits for me. For the first time in my life, though, I found a therapist who I can confidently say is helping me. I have continued to see her, and am very thankful for her. 

In May, RJ and I went on a trip to Las Vegas. We wanted to do something special and romantic to celebrate our commitment to each other, but since we weren’t divorced yet, we settled on a wedding-like commitment ceremony. We kept it just between us, but it was very meaningful even so. That month, RJ and I also took all the kids camping one weekend, and Cory joined us. That was significant to me because it was the beginning of our family truly blending together.

In June, I brought home my first foster kittens, who I named Gremlin and Scout. Gremlin was ugly and hairless, but very sweet. Within a few weeks, she started growing her hair back, and then within a few months she became a beautiful gray cat with a lovely coat of long, soft fur. We changed her name to Remi, and adopted both her and her brother. They are very sweet, well-mannered kitties.

In July, RJ’s daughter Penny turned 9. I also celebrated my birthday that month, and after turning 30 years old, I made a poor life decision and brought home a litter of four more foster kittens—who I was determined, at first, not to adopt. But alas, each kitten was claimed by one of our children as their own. And, after bottle-feeding them and nurturing them back to health for several weeks, we were all attached. I admitted defeat and we adopted those four, as well. Their names our Peanut, Milo, Dusty, and Stormy. Because of them, I have six cats. (For the record, Leo is also still around! He belongs to Cory now, though.) They are very friendly and sweet—but they are also extremely mischievous, and it can be quite stressful managing them at times. 

July was a particularly difficult month for my relationship with RJ. After spending most of our relationship up to that point being monogamous, we decided to revisit the possibility of being polyamorous again. After all, to me, being poly was a big part of my identity and something I wasn’t ready to give up. Unfortunately, since meeting me, RJ no longer felt that being poly was a part of his identity. For him, monogamy had become non-negotiable. We struggled with the issue for weeks, and our relationship barely survived. Ultimately, I chose to stay with RJ and give up poly, but the damage to our partnership was severe and we spent the next several months in couple’s therapy working through that as well as other issues that came up throughout the rest of the year. 

In August, Cody and Abi started school for the first time. Cody went into second grade, after being homeschooled up until then, and Abigail started Transitional Kindergarten (TK). They have thrived throughout this school year, and it has been a very positive change for them—and for me! Having the pressure of homeschooling taken off of me has been a big relief. In August, RJ and I also took a trip to visit my parents and he met them for the first time, which went well. At the end of the month, Cory turned 30. 

In September, Abi turned five and RJ turned 29, and we unknowingly conceived our baby, Finley. Also sometime around that month, Cory’s roommate Dean started dating a woman named Kendall, who has a toddler-aged son named Kaiser. They started to spend time in the house a lot, and it was always fun to have them around. Our blended-extended family was growing!

October was a big month. I found out I was pregnant, which (as already stated) was unplanned, but not unwelcome. It was shocking to me since I’ve never gotten pregnant unintentionally before. It was also well before our planned timeline for having a baby (which we did want to do, eventually). Nevertheless, we were still happy about the news. We decided on the name Finley right away. In October, we celebrated more birthdays as Cody turned 8 and Mia turned 2.

Much less happy events also happened in October, unfortunately. My dog Macy started attacking Buddy, unprovoked—and she caused serious damage to both him and Cory when he intervened. The first attack actually happened in July, but we thought it was a one-time thing until it happened two more times in October. That was the point at which we decided we had no choice but to put Macy down. We’d already attempted to rehome her, searching for over a month with no takers. After that, we put her in a board-and-train program for aggression rehabilitation, and the results seemed promising—until the next attack happened. 

We knew that it was likely that any future home would be unprepared for her aggressive behavior, even if we warned them, because she was so incredibly sweet most of the time towards both people and other dogs. Her attacks were unpredictable and vicious. We knew that the safest thing for her and everybody else was to end her life in the most peaceful and humane way possible. It was a horrible decision to have to make, and a horrible thing to have to do. I miss her very much.

The silver lining is that Buddy has made a full recovery from his injuries and is much happier and carefree now. He will be able to live out the rest of his years in peace and safety. Cory has unfortunately suffered permanent damage to his hand from being bitten, and Cody experienced emotional trauma from witnessing the attack and losing a pet he loved very much for a tragic reason. So I couldn’t say that the events were all for the best, not by a long shot. All I can say, confidently, is that I believe we did the right thing. And it wasn’t Macy’s fault. She didn’t deserve to die. It was simply the only safe choice for everyone involved. Part of me believes that she may have had a neurological problem that we could not detect, because her aggression was completely out of the blue when it happened. But whatever the reason, she was still a good dog and I will always love her. 

In November, RJ and Cory and I took all of the kids on a road trip to the snow. We had a great time! Then we came home and had Thanksgiving, which was also lots of fun. We were able to enjoy our delicious feast this year as a blended family, including our extended-roommate-family—six kids in all! It was a special Thanksgiving this year, which I will always cherish. 

In December, RJ and I, as well as Cory and the kids, all moved back to Orange County. It was a decision we’d all made together months before—Cory’s idea, and RJ’s eager request after I told him about it. Being able to live near his daughter again has been a dream come true for RJ. Moving over an hour away from her was extremely difficult for him, and I know that both him and Penny are much happier now. Cory is also very happy to be able to spend more time with his parents and brother, as well as have a stronger support network as a single dad. 

For me, the move was emotionally and physically challenging. Since about five weeks into my pregnancy, my nausea has been in effect in full force. Handling a move while managing pregnancy sickness was no easy task. In addition, the city that I left was the city that I chose and loved for the past 10+ years. Leaving it was hard for me, and I will probably always miss it. It felt like home.

Nevertheless, I knew that moving was the right choice for everybody else, and the importance of me being in the city I prefer pales in comparison to the importance of RJ being close to Penny and Cory being close to his family. I will adjust to being back in the place where I grew up, and I’m sure I will learn to love it. It may not feel like home yet, exactly, but at least it’s familiar. 

On Christmas Day, RJ finally (officially) asked me to marry him. While we were already planning on getting married, and have discussed it in detail many times as well as picked out our rings, I was still waiting for the “formal” proposal. He asked, and I said yes, and we exchanged rings. So now I can call him my fiancé—yay!   

Last but not least, to end the year with a bang, I had to make one final questionable life decision; get a puppy! RJ and I brought home a tiny 1 ½ pound Chihuahua puppy and named him Nugget. He has been a joy, and I am so glad we decided to get him. (Despite the fact that I already felt at-capacity with pets… I got that puppy fever and gave into it. Fortunately, he’s been a positive addition to our family.)

We closed the year with a party, which was also our first time spending intentional time with RJ’s ex-wife and her girlfriend. The relationship between RJ and Amber (and myself) has been difficult over the past year, but I think we all want to build something more harmonious for the future. And we started that off at a perfect time—celebrating the New Year together, and hopefully, the beginning of a new, more positive year ahead. 

Honestly, 2022 was a hard year for me. I experienced a depth of depression that I haven’t been to since I was a teenager, and it’s something I’m still wading through and trying to pull myself out of. My relationship with RJ has been anything but easy, and many of the changes in my life recently have been stressful and emotionally difficult. 

This was a year in which I made a lot of big decisions, doing my best to make sure they were the right ones. And yet, so many times I’ve looked back and felt that somehow, they were all wrong. Worse, it has felt like any decision would have been wrong. I’ve felt trapped, confused, broken, and stupid. I’ve felt that I have ruined everything. It is a good time for a new year, for me—clearly, I need a fresh start. 

But you know, that’s the thing about the New Year. The date on the calendar changes, yes… but it isn’t magic. Everything is still the same as it was before the clock struck midnight. So while, for some people, celebrating New Year’s fills them with a sense of hope and optimism, for me there is also a sense of defeat. If every choice I make is wrong, what good is a new year? It’s just one more thing for me to fuck up. 

On the other hand, I’m still here. I’m alive, and I have a lot to stay that way for. All I can do is my best, and keep moving forward. And so in that spirit, I have set some goals for the year. My focus is on bringing Finley into the world, taking care of my family, and hopefully, finding some peace for myself. (And maybe, just maybe, trying to avoid making any more changes or big decisions for a good long while.) I am hoping that 2023 is a better year than the last.