Limbo

 

Last summer, we were living in a month-to-month rental in Missoula with every intention of returning to Mexico for the winter when we found out that I was pregnant. Suddenly, everything was up in the air. Should we have the baby in Mexico? Should we stay in Missoula, ‘settle down’ and live a ‘normal’ life? What would it be like to give birth in Mexico? Would we be able to keep working south of the border with a newborn? How would we feel if we gave up on our dreams?

Mark, Owen and Rosie at Rattlesnake Creek shortly after returning to Montana.

Mark, Owen and Rosie at Rattlesnake Creek shortly after returning to Montana.

Before finding out that I was pregnant, I’d made a little list of goals for the summer. Number one on the list was ‘Apply for Mexican temporary resident visas.’ This would allow us to stay south of the border for a full year instead of just 6 months on a tourist visa. After moving back to Montana for the summer, we were all realizing just how stressful it was to find housing and make a living in two different places. Acquiring the resident visas would also be the first step toward working legally in Mexico. While researching how to do this, I quickly realized that our family didn’t qualify. Mexico had just changed the requirements, so as a family of three we would have to show around $3000/month coming into our account in the States even while in Mexico. We have rental income from renting our house, but it sure isn’t $3000! I asked two different attorneys—one in Mexico and one in the States—and both confirmed it. I really didn’t want to return to Mexico again and work with just a tourist visa and have to cross a border after six months with a 2-month-old baby, a 6-year-old and a dog. So that decided it. We were staying. It was heartbreaking, but it seemed to make sense.

Owen and Rosie on Waterworks Hill in Missoula.

Owen and Rosie on Waterworks Hill in Missoula.

In the midst of all of this, we started putting out feelers to find a full-time, year-round job for Mark. He hadn’t had a ‘real’ job since 2010 when he’d quit as General Manager of the Western Montana Grower’s Cooperative to build our house. Since then, he’d been piecing things together, working seasonally doing ecological restoration to allow for our winter escapes south of the border. On one particularly fear-filled day, I approached someone to inquire about work with their business. Talk turned to meetings, and meetings turned to a sweet job offer. After much hand-wringing and discussion, we decided that he should take the job.

When I think back on last summer, I remember lots of stress. But there was also lots of this.

When I think back on last summer, I remember lots of stress. But there was also lots of this.

Before leaving Mexico, I had applied to be a permanent vendor at a market in La Cruz de Huanacaxtle. At the time, I considered it to be The Best Market in the Bay of Banderas. While we were trying to make the decision about the job offer, I kept saying, “I wish I could find out about the market before we decide anything.” Well, two days after Mark accepted the job, I heard that I’d been given a spot in the market. This alone was amazing news. But on the exact same day, I shot an email to my attorney contact in Mexico asking if having our baby in Mexico would change anything regarding the visa situation. “Absolutely” was the answer. She would be a dual citizen, and we could apply for residency without any problems. Unbelievable. I. Was. Giddy. But shit! Now what?! I knew what it all meant. It was crystal clear to me what it all meant. We should go to Mexico. But we didn’t decide to go for it overnight. Because staying in Montana seemed like the safe choice, the responsible choice. Maybe even the best choice.

Owen at Holland Lake with his boogie board.

Owen at Holland Lake with his boogie board.

Mark’s job wasn’t to begin for a few weeks, and this turned out to be a blessing and a curse. It meant that we had time to waffle back and forth and drive ourselves crazy trying to make a decision. It was one helluva summer and fall. Owen started Kindergarten to ‘see how it felt.’ (It felt okay.) We put our house on the market to ‘see how it felt.’ (It felt bad.) We decided to move back into our house to ‘see how it felt’. Well, on the night that we moved back in, I stared at the walls of the house that we’d planned for and built and painted and at the concrete floors that I’d stained and sealed and thought, ‘This isn’t enough.’ It wasn’t the bright colors of Mexico. Or the endless sunshine. Or the amazing street tacos. Or the smiles of Mexican strangers. Or the ocean waves or the beach or my son boogie boarding or the locals touching his ‘recitos de oro’ (golden curls). It wasn’t exciting or exotic or interesting. It was nice and comfortable but not right.

The house.

The house.

Mark was simultaneously having a very different experience. After living in other houses and apartments for two summers, he was falling back in love with the solid, near-perfect house that he’d built with his own two hands. And who could blame him? He started talking about how the new job would allow us to _______________________ (fill in the blank) while I was wondering if the new job might get us stuck. There is nothing wrong with living that way: working 9-5, kids in school, etc. Unless you don’t want it. But I was also appreciating how we could have a nice little routine in Missoula for the first time in years. For the 8 years that we’d lived at 428 and 434 N. 1st St. W., we’d worked our tails off renovating the old house and building the new one while juggling jobs, a baby and all of the rest that life brings. Now, if we stayed, we could live more freely with just a job and no house projects. That sounded pretty sweet.

Owen and Rosie on Waterworks Hill in Missoula.

Owen and Rosie on Waterworks Hill in Missoula.

But then I started really taking stock. I imagined my days: Mark would go off to work all day. Owen would go to school all day. I would spend my days home alone with a new baby and maybe try to fit it my art. That didn’t sound like the worst thing in the world by a longshot, but it sounded damn lonely. We’d just spent a couple of years being together as a family like never before, living the life that we wanted and I wasn’t ready for that to change. Not yet anyway. One night it just all came together. I said to Mark, “You can go to work all day every day building someone else’s business and being away from your family. Or you can work with me growing OUR business, have whatever schedule you like and be with your family whenever you want.” That made things pretty darn crystal clear. We both knew then that we had to go for it. So he turned down the job. It felt exhilarating and scary and crazy. And really, really good.

And so we started packing.

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I’m Serious

I’m preoccupied these days. A major shift has occurred that, while not taking us completely by surprise, has made us surprisingly confused about the future. I’m pregnant. I was going to try to write a post about something else, because you’re not supposed to tell people that you’re pregnant when you’re early in your pregnancy. Right? But I couldn’t keep it a secret with #1, and I can’t with #2. It’s a really big deal, and I can’t pretend that nothing major is happening in my body right now. It kind of consumes my every waking thought.

baby owen

Minutes after Owen was born in our bedroom.

It is consuming my every thought, because The Plan was to return to Mexico in early November. And now, if all goes well, The Plan is to give birth in February in either Mexico or Montana. So here we are, trying to sort out our feelings and goals and concerns and dreams and see what shakes out in the end. I wish it were an easy decision. I really do. And maybe it will become an easy decision soon. But right now, I’m thrilled to be expanding our little family and utterly conflicted about what that means as far as Pursuing An Art Business In Mexico goes. It’s kind of a win-win situation, right? Mexico vs. Montana. Except that we were on this trajectory…

My fear is that all of this momentum that we created last winter will disappear if we don’t return. What if that’s it? What if we don’t make it back? On the other hand, I fear that I’ll underestimate what a Big Deal it is to give birth and care for a newborn and be sleep-deprived and that I’ll end up feeling overwhelmed in a foreign country with no family in sight. But then I think about the fish tacos at Bicho’s, and it’s like, who cares?! And I’m being totally serious! They’re that good.

salsas

This is making me drool!

I’ve already begun doing research on birthing down there: options, pricing, what to expect. Mark and I had an all-day discussion on Father’s Day as we drove a long loop from Missoula up Rock Creek, over to Philipsburg and back to Missoula, with some fishing and picnicking mixed in. It was perfect for talking it out. He’s torn, too.

owen with bubbles

Owen and his friend on Owen’s birthday in 2012.

So this is the very unexpected and exciting next chapter in our story. We’d been trying for another baby off and on since we first went to Mexico in the summer of 2011. The fact that it worked–finally–is a bit of a surprise! We told Owen recently, and he kept asking, “Are you serious?” over and over and over again. He was stunned, to say the least. I can’t even imagine what is going on in that sweet brain of his, but my guess is that he’s excited and confused, too.

Yes, honey, I’m serious.