janis was wrong

by kristin

when i was in my classic rock phase, i used to ponder janis joplin’s lyric, “freedom’s just another word for nothing left to lose”, trying to understand what she meant. i was young and freaked out about making those big decisions i could see looming on the horizon, the ones that require choosing one thing and saying goodbye to all the others. but i also knew i didn’t want to be one of those people she was talking about. the ones who sat on the fence of their lives because they were afraid, never committing to anything because they wanted to keep their options open.

jump forward fifteen years, one marriage and two kids later:

yesterday my husband had a vasectomy. i went with him to the appointment and saw the insides of his balls (he thought his vas deferens looked like this super-disgusting photo of a guinea worm and i must agree). after i set him up on the couch with a bag of frozen peas, we got excited about the prospect of all that booming sex. and then we both felt a little sad about the baby that we’d never have, as expected. more surprising was the revelation we both had that a vasectomy isn’t fully about freedom. it actually feels like we’re more committed than ever. i can’t just up and leave with a clear conscience (not that i was planning to, but it’s nice to pretend i have the option). seeing him lying on that table, i realized that he can’t just start over and make a new family with someone else. and not only that, he did it for me. so now, we’ve really got to make it work.

oh janis, what a twisted web you weave.

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8 Comments

Filed under kids, marriage, relationships, sex

8 responses to “janis was wrong

  1. “seeing him lying on that table, i realized that he can’t just start over and make a new family with someone else.”

    Interesting thought – makes me wonder what goes through the mind of a man as he watches his partner go through childbirth. It ain’t pretty.

  2. autumnbeth

    that same line has haunted me for the past few days.

    ‘seeing him lying on that table, i realized that he can’t just start over and make a new family with someone else.’

    As an eternally single woman I am now finding myself embarking on a lifetime relationship. The man I am with has a family that he started before he met me.

    This line made me question myself more than ever. I wonder if I am wrong for loving him and in such taking time away from his kids and his family, and think that maybe if I am going to be with him I don’t deserve to have children of my own as the ‘first family’ is the one that is important.

    But as I sit down and write this, I realize the real power lies in the fact that you find yourself more committed. It is beyond the sticking to it for the kids adage, it is the promise of giving yourselves to each other because this sacrifice proves to you there isn’t any chance of starting over.

  3. exactly. in the early years of making and raising babies, it seems like we had to give all our energy away to the kids. and now, as our sex life shifts away from procreation and back to recreation, i do feel a new focus on our relationship outside of the kids. and a deeper sense of commitment because he can’t have kids with a different partner now.

    it’s really interesting to me to read your comments on this – you’re the woman i’m talking about! how would you feel if your partner had a vasectomy? would you still build a life with him?

  4. autumnbeth

    the most interesting question. would i still build a life with him?

    i have to say that first and foremost i am committed to him. he is my partner. and commitment means no matter what. this does not come easy. i often question how he could have meant it before and now the previous commitment is broken so what did it mean to him?

    but in the aspect of no matter what i think we have to realize we are human and we will make mistakes. commitment takes work and energy and sometimes shouting and tears. it means not walking away when the other hurts you and it means forgiving and nurturing and growing together.

    whether i would build a life with him if he could not have kids is not nearly has daunting as facing a life with him because he already does. it scares the hell out of me to think about how i will always end up sharing his previous family and will never be accepted by them or fit in. i can love them but only from a distance as an outsider.

    the other thing is, i do want to have a family, but at 37 having never been pregnant, i don’t even know if i can have a baby myself. for me, since i never met the right person before, i have always known that maybe i don’t get to have my own kids and have often considered that when i was finally financially stable enough i would take on foster children on my own.

    i think the profound thing with your statement is that you found a deeper realization to what commitment means. and part of it is focusing on your life as a couple again and not only on being parents together.

    i wonder if my partner had had a vasectomy, would his wife have had your realization? i know that there was a lot of distance and pain in their relationship caused by both of them. they were mere co-parents for years – taking shifts in getting the kids to and from school and activities. they were no longer nurturing each other. i think that the hardest thing for me is to think of them growing apart.

  5. i find being in an active commitment with another person requires such grace, forgiveness and endurance. it pushes me past what i think i can do sometimes. i feel my commitment to the husband most when i don’t want to be in it anymore. i can’t just walk away because i’m mad or bored. i have to hang in there because i said i would. and then we work through it, get to the other side, and we’re stronger and better for it every time. and another day, month, year passes and we’re still together.

    but at the same time, i feel how fragile it all is. there’s no guarantee of anything, even after marriage and kids and a vasectomy. when i think about it from this perspective, maybe that’s what makes things between us dynamic and keeps it interesting. there’s that risk, the possibility that we might not stay together. and i don’t want that to happen, so i’ll do my part to keep us together every day.

  6. i woke up this morning wanting to hear more about your thoughts on this: “it scares the hell out of me to think about how i will always end up sharing his previous family and will never be accepted by them or fit in. i can love them but only from a distance as an outsider.”
    i have a friend who just had a baby with a man who just had a baby with another woman. it’s really challenging for these three people to figure out how they’re going to be an extended family for the kids. how to navigate all the heavy emotions flying around – guilt, jealousy, anger, love. any thoughts on how to do this?

  7. autumnbeth

    I know that your friend must be going through so much pain and confusion right now. On top of having a new baby with all of the added stress and hormones and craziness that must bring, she is probably feeling insecure about this other woman. Jealousy and blame are impossible to avoid no matter who you are. I know in my own situation, I often look to blame my partner’s ex so that I can feel that I am okay. I want to say that she was a bad wife and the past is all her fault. It is hard to accept that this man I love had any part in their split. And I know that she in turn blames me for everything. She is at the moment forbidding their children to meet me or spend any time with me. Yet every time they see my partner they ask about me. They are curious. I am saddened by this for so many reasons, especially when I think of the day that they inevitably grow up and meet me to find out that I am not the root of all evil. I hate knowing that she may suddenly loses credibility in their eyes because she is trying to control her world through them. At the same time, I feel responsible for the well being of these children. Financially and emotionally.

    We all have the urge to stand up for what we believe is right and to fight back when we are unfairly (or even maybe fairly) blamed. But I have found that as hard as it is, we are better off not feeding fires of jealousy. The best thing to do is to accept what is happening with as much grace and silence as possible. Succumbing to jealousy and rage just feed the fire and keep it going.

    The thing is, whether she likes it or not, this other woman and baby are connected to her now. They are going to be part of her family. It is a two way street, all of the grown ups have to come to terms, but the well being of the children is the most important focus here. I think generally parents do try to do what is best for their children, and despite best intentions, everyone makes mistakes. But children are resilient and adaptive. They overcome things tossed in their paths and turn out to be remarkable people.

    Wouldn’t it be great if in a couple of years they could all go on a picnic together or to the zoo? I have a friend who just met his half brother for the first time. They are in their late 20s. And now they are best of friends. Why wait 20 years? We are in an age where society is open minded to all sorts of families. I just hope for happy ones.

  8. Janis Joplin sang it, Kris Kristofferson——- ( Rhodes scholar/country music outlaw )wrote it, so it has country roots. Nothing left to lose is to be taken literally. You obviously had & still have a lot of things, none of which should be confused with a freedom to choose, which you can afford to lose.

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