Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Whose life is it anyway?

Let me start by saying this. This first post will be unlike any of those to follow. But in order for you to really understand the path of self-discovery that this blog will document, you must first understand how it all began. And that, unfortunately, requires what we call a back story. So when you're reading this first post, don't think that they will all be this lengthy and biographical. They won't. But at least by the end of this post, we'll be starting on the same page.

Some days lately I wake up and ask myself..."Who am I?" I blame this identity crisis on the sheer incomprehensible speed with which my life changed and I became an almost unrecognizable version of my prior self. After all, a little over a year ago I was a 35 year old single woman, a registered nurse who owned my own home and all of my time and money were my own. I was very happily swept up in a tempestuous affair with an inappropriate man, much to the displeasure of my *cough* perfect family. And I had finally decided that marriage and children just weren't in the cards for me. And then one day, out of the clear blue nowhere, a visiting friend took me completely off guard by proposing. Now, you may be asking yourself, if I was so happy with my life, why change it? And the answer is, I have no idea. But I will admit that, on more than one occasion, the thought had occurred to me that maybe it might be nice to have someone to grow old with. But why get married? Well, if for no other reason, I've seen the women in my family age. It's not pretty. Legal obligation is the only hope we have of not dying shriveled up bitter old crones.

What I didn't realize, however, was just how drastically my life was going to change. I thought I would get married, but the rest of my life would stay the same. I would still work, make my own money, and therefore still have control over whatever ridiculous purchases I wanted to make. My husband was PCSing (otherwise known to us civilians as moving) to Fort Riley, KS. Now, Fort Riley is lovingly referred to amongst the military community as "the place where dreams go to die". This was not reassuring. The fact that the nearest town with a Target (which is an indication of civilization in my book) was Manhattan, KS was somewhat endearing to me since the Manhattan is quite possibly my favorite place on Earth. I was born in Memphis, TN. I lived there my whole life save for the four years I went off to college. And I bitched and moaned and complained every minute of it. I, like everyone else that hails from Memphis, wanted nothing more than to get out. However when I imagined my grand exodus, it was not to Kansas. But I also figured that I would be free to pick up and go anytime I wanted to travel. My new husband, a combat medic in the U.S. Army, was five months away from a year long deployment to Iraq. So I figured when Kansas got boring...*insert sarcasm here*...I would just pack up and hit the road. Little did I know that before the ink was even dry on my marriage license, the real life-changing event was...conceived.

Two days before my job interview at the local civilian hospital in Manhattan, I was overcome with nausea. And I do mean overcome. I couldn't move. I couldn't eat. I couldn't...smoke. I texted my husband informing him of this new condition. He texted back and asked if he needed to come home and take me to the hospital. I responded by saying I didn't think it was necessarily a medical emergency, but that I was at the very least concerned. Pregnancy was not something I even considered, since I had had an endometrial ablation a month and a half before. Apparently I misunderstood when my doctor told me I couldn't get pregnant following the procedure. Perhaps she should have said I shouldn't get pregnant after the procedure. When my husband left work at the clinic that evening, he took with him one of the free pregnancy tests that they give out to soldiers on post. When he came home and nonchalantly tossed it on the bed saying "let's just rule this out", I literally scoffed at him. Until I humored him and took the test. When the two pink lines appeared almost instantly, I walked out of the bathroom and stood, gazing in horror, at the positive pregnancy test on the bathroom vanity. He looked up and said "Huh?". I soon found out this is his response anytime he suddenly realizes he's being addressed. He jumped up and walked into the bathroom and, looking down at the two pink lines, said "oh look, you're pregnant."

The conversation that followed went something like this...

"I want another test."
"What, you don't trust my free test?"
"I want another test."
"Yes dear."
"Yes dear."

We drove to Walmart where I purchased the pregnancy test for dummies that actually displays the words "pregnant" or "not pregnant". We came straight home and once again, almost instantly, the result was positive.

"See, my free test was right. You're pregnant."
"I want a blood test."
"Yes dear."

The next day we went to the women's health clinic who sent me to the lab to have a blood test. By the time we got back to the third floor desk at the clinic the positive blood test was already in the computer system.

"Ok, now are you going to believe you're pregnant?"
"I want an ultrasound."
"Yes dear."

Now, considering my age, and the fact that I'd recently had the lining of my uterus supposedly burned beyond recognition and scraped out, the doctors at the women's health clinic were all too willing to do an ultrasound to confirm that I was, in fact, pregnant. And when I saw the little blinking dot on the screen that was my son's heart...beating, I wept. And not because I wasn't happy that I was pregnant. But because I had long ago given up hope of ever having a baby. I had always wanted to be a mother, and for years contemplated having a baby on my own. But it never came to pass. And when I had that ablation performed, I grieved for the loss of something I thought I would never have, and then did my best to put it behind me. And then suddenly, miraculously, I was staring at my son's beating heart. And it was a raging flood of every emotion I could have imagined. Joy, fear, disbelief, doubt...

The fact that I was deemed "high risk" changed everything. My husband and my doctors feared given the instability of my uterine lining that I might miscarry, and that for the entirety of my nine months of pregnancy I should just "take it easy". I called and canceled my job interview, and in that moment, my life changed completely. I was no longer a self-sufficient woman who could take care of herself and was only married because I wanted to be. Suddenly I was unemployed, too nauseated to even stand up and cook a meal much less work 8-12 hours a day. I was dependent. And to add insult to injury, I soon grew familiar with the army's view of spouses as mere appendages of the soldier. For all intents and purposes, I no longer existed. And what made things even worse was that I found myself in a strange new place, with no friends and no family, too sick to care for myself, and in five months my husband was going to be leaving for a year. I would still have four months left of my pregnancy, not to mention actually delivering the baby, and then would have 8 months of raising my son all by myself.

The months following my husband's departure were difficult. I left Kansas to stay with friends in Texas for the remainder of my pregnancy and the first two months of my son's life, then went to stay with my grandparents for the three months after that. Neither situation was...ideal, and I spent much of it feeling like an unwelcome burden. But somehow I managed to retain some shred of my sanity, and tried my best to come to terms with my new life, despite the fact that I was battling confusion, self-doubt, feelings of abandonment, depression and physical exhaustion. By the time I left my grandparents house I was desperate to get "home" to Kansas. Back to the place where everything still connected to the old me was waiting.

And so this is where my journey begins. It is from this place that I must figure out whose life this is that I am living. I was talking to a friend today and I said to him "I have to find a way to integrate the old me into my new life." His response was "Why not start living your new life as a new you?" He has these moments of Yoda-like clarity that more often than not take me by surprise. But he's right. Rather than dwelling on who I used to be and all the ways that I will never be that woman again, I need to figure out who it is that I want to be now. What kind of wife I want to be. What kind of mother I want to be. What kind of person I want to be. Hopefully the new me will find this new life as satisfying as the one that the old me left behind.

I hope that my journey down the yellow brick road will at the very least entertain you, and at best inspire you to look at life as an ever-evolving choose-your-own-adventure that you should live with great gusto rather than merely experience.


Anonymous said...

So I decided to start from the beginning. Your pregnancy test story was very entertaining. I also like the "choose-your-own-adventure" as a way of looking at life. :)

Post a Comment