When I got pregnant in graduate school, the responses were mixed. “Pregnant? Really? Congratulations. Really?” I was one of the youngest students in my program at 24, but I had already been married for four years and had been with my husband for 8 years. It is true that we had no business having a baby in New York, while we were scraping three jobs together respectively, while I was still in my 2nd year of earning an M.F.A. in creative writing. There were only a few in my program remotely close in age to me who were even married, let alone thinking of children. No one seemed to get pregnant in New York until they were well into their thirties, with two high-powered, high-paying careers and a million-dollar apartment. In New York, there were parties and drinking and drugs I had never known, not even when I lived in San Francisco, and certainly not when I attended undergraduate school at the uneventful commuter school of Cal State San Bernardino. Here were rich kids at an Ivy League school with money and time and license to be “creative.” I had so much fun with these “kids,” who were mostly nearing thirty, but I did not belong with them, with my marriage and my pregnancy.
The thing is, I am a very boring person. I try to be as boring as possible to counteract my insane childhood. I met an amazing man, fell in love with him, and went to graduate school, with his support. One winter morning, we both confessed that we wanted a baby. There was no logic to it; we just yearned somewhere in our bodies for one. One month later, we were pregnant. We are a fertile people, my husband and me. My father has seven children, ages forty-one to five. The rumors about Irish and Italian people are true.
We had no plan. We had no health insurance. My program would be over in the spring, and we did not know if we should stay in New York or move back to California. We decided to move back to be near our families, but I was nervous about the move. I hated growing up in the Inland Empire—the hot, smoggy, conservative desert called the “armpit” of Los Angeles. I rejoiced when we had moved away to big cities, living and working in the gorgeous Bay Area and exciting New York for the past four years as my husband and I completed graduate school. I learned that people do not celebrate gigantic trucks and bigotry and fake boobs everywhere, that there are art museums and independent theaters and friends who like to discuss literature in this world.
But there were things about New York I was tiring of—the smattering of rats on the sidewalks on garbage day, the lack of solitude and personal space on the sidewalks and in the parks, the layers of clothing I had to put on to get a single item I forgot at the store, the lack of a visible horizon, the general claustrophobia. I was eager to go when the time came, but I kept telling myself that I would not stay in Southern California. That the move would be temporary. That I would keep writing after I had my baby. All of my friends put writing first, and I knew that they felt sorry for me in a way, I could hear this in their voices as they congratulated me; they knew I would have no time, that writing and raising a family in the Inland Empire just do not go together.
I am approaching my fourth year since the move back to the Inland Empire. That baby I was pregnant with, Benjamin, will start kindergarten next summer. And I have another one, Elliott, who is one and a half years old. Up until recently, we continued telling ourselves we would move back to the Bay Area. We compulsively looked at classified ads on the Bay Area Craigslist. We calculated what we could afford, what we’d have to give up. We taught part-time at several local community colleges, scraped by with no health insurance and criminal pay. My husband found time to write here and there, but I rarely did. And then a miracle happened: we got full-time tenure-track teaching positions at different community colleges. Our children bonded and depended upon our extended families. And then we bought a house.
Here we are. We are both college professors in the same discipline in the same region with full-time jobs. People tell us how lucky we are, that we hit the jackpot. I feel lucky. I have this beautiful family and a means to support them. I am living in the Inland Empire and I rarely write. My friends in graduate school might be saying, “I told you so.” I want to write more. I am trying to write more. The kids go to daycare twice a week, and they are there today. I should be grading essays, but I needed to sit down and write. And I feel the pressure of the unwashed dishes, the unfolded clothes, the toys strewn throughout the house, the rug that needs vacuuming, the lesson plans that need creating, the precious time alone that is sliding slowly away from me.