It’s the story of my life: I’m perfectly fine. Until I’m not.
I was driving the kids to school, inching through traffic on the H1 a little after 7am and just about to get off at my exit. We were listening to music, war-gaming occasional strategies to facilitate the making of “good choices” and avoiding boo-boos. I was to drop them off and then head straight over to Kalihi for my very first week of leading a small group in Bible study. I was vaguely nervous, but assumed all would be well and that, as when I taught the composition classes in grad school, as soon as I got in there (many times after putting together a lesson plan literally 10 minutes beforehand in the bathroom) I’d manifest, The Persona: I’d magically come up with confidence I didn’t feel, trains of throughout I’d not prepared in the least, and an extroverted personality that exuded charm, inclusion, and the appearance of intelligence and authority on the subject on which I was supposed to be well-versed. (At least, that’s how I always felt. The students’ impressions of my charm and intelligence are irrelevant.) However, I fully expected to feel ill the few moments before going in. Every time.
But I was still on the H1 exit ramp. I hadn’t even completed Phase 1 of the morning. I was not supposed to be ill yet–this was still prime denial of responsibility time.
Yet, there I was, now at the stop light before the first of four ridiculously long stops, sandwiched between cars with nowhere to pull over, and feeling I had to go to the bathroom, throw up, and dump a bucket of water over my body at the same time. And the prickling… Son of a…I was going to pass out. Soon.
I drank from my water bottle. I bounced my legs up and down. Cranked up the AC full blast. Placed my wrists against any cool surface. No dice. I prayed to make it around the corner to the extremely sketchy road with several abandoned residences and overgrown parking “lots” of various failed businesses. LONG feeling story short, I was able to jerk the minivan across oncoming traffic to get off the road.
Raise your hand if you’ve been nearly 7 months pregnant and tried to put your head between your knees…
I managed to stay conscious and get the kids to school, where I had to put my head again between-ish my knees before calling my people to tell them I didn’t’ think I could make it to Bible study. I was going to the hospital.
And why not? Since Sam’s surgery and my last appointment it had been nearly nine days since I drove around the Tripler parking lots cussing like an HBO character that there were no places left. I almost missed it.
Still feeling distinctly “off” but considerably less likely of killing anyone due to unconsciousness, I set off for the H1 again. This was not my first rodeo–I’ve fainted more than a few times in my day, in several exotic locales ranging from a Dominican marketplace to Heidelberg Castle’s ballroom, and at least once during each pregnancy–so I wasn’t so worried about that. It was the other sensation I had. One that I remember being present each time I went into labor. As I was driving I was struck by how freakishly calm I was. I even, purely as a social experiment, tried to spin myself up:
The baby isn’t ready. If this is labor, we’re in trouble, Precious.
It’s going to be ok.
You’re bailing on your very first week as a leader. That’s a great first impression. We told you last year you weren’t able to do this. See? This is what happens when you overextend yourself.
I’m not overextending. It’s the only thing I’m doing and both kids are in school now. It’s fine.
You’re not calling Sam. Why? Is it because you know something is wrong and you can’t handle seeing it confirmed on his face? It is, isn’t’ it.
I’ll call him when I know for sure. I don’t want to scare him for no reason.
You’re scared, aren’t you? You should be. This is the same feeling and it’s too soon. Something is wrong. You’re going to lose him too. Accept it now and then it won’t be so bad later.
I’m not scared. I’m really not. I don’t know why, but I’m really not.
As Labor and Delivery is on the opposite side of the hospital, and it was a special occasion, I paid for valet parking. That, my friends, is money well spent.
They (the doctors, not the valets) did all manner of tests on my blood pressure, blood, heart, baby–all perfectly fine. And despite my not being dehydrated, over the next couple of hours I was obliged to drink an inexplicable amount of water, just for kicks. Surprisingly,the extra gallon or so of water did improve my levels of whatever they were monitoring. Next they had me lie down and then stand up at several intervals. Again, blood pressure was fine, but my pulse was too high. There was an impressive sounding medical term for it, but the doctor explained it as my “fight or flight reflexes are very sensitive.” I was instantly ready to go. Now–apparently this isn’t as awesome as it sounds. My first thought was, “Great! Maybe I WOULD survive the zombie apocalypse!” because my current plan for any sudden plummet into a dystopian society is to shoot MYSELF in the head simply to avoid the stress of having to figure out how to survive…
I would much rather run away from something, or better yet, hide somewhere in a manner requiring no physical or mental exertion, than fight it. Public Speaking. Leadership of any kind. Confrontation. Expression of true feelings to someone’s actual FACE…no thanks.
Hawaii has had other plans for me. For the past six years I’ve been day-dreaming about the day when both kids are in school and it will finally be All About Me again during the day. Reading! Painting! Writing! K-Dramas! Haircuts! Shopping in stores full of breakable objects without anxiety!
Since they’ve entered school, my days could not have been less about me. I still have chores to do. I still run the same errands. Sam was still at home for the first month to make me feel a bit guilty about going out to do fun things on my own. Friends have been in crisis. Little old ladies have literally needed rides home from the doctor. I’ve become a leader of a group and have responsibilities associated with grown-up stuff which include making PHONE CALLS.
And I’m just so hella tired all the time that after I do the things that need to be done, I’m too drained to pull out old stories I’ve never finished or set up the paints.
It’s ok to be a coward. As long as nobody can see me, right? As long as nobody calls me on being a coward. If I can foist it off on, “Oh, I’ve got WAY too much going on right now.” “I think I need to just take it easier on myself, ya know?” “Well, with the kids at home/at school/breathing, and Sam being injured/recovering injury/just getting back on his feet, and (ace in the hole) being pregnant…”
It’s ok to have it be All About Me. Just for a little while, see, not forever.
I’d convinced myself it was fine. It was more than OK to focus on myself. I deserved it, dammit. It wasn’t so much selfishness as it was self-nurturing.
I convinced myself it wasn’t an ugly thing. It would look ok–much like this designer maternity dress I’m wearing today. It was marked down from 190.00 to 7.00. I ask you–how could I NOT buy it!? Well, the fact that it isn’t really my size, is a bit risqué on the top, rubeun-esque from behind, and has a pretty significant, though faint, stain down the entire left side could have factored into the decision-making process. But if I just wear it around the house… The problem comes when I have to leave the house to pick up the kids. Am I going to change? I honestly haven’t decided yet.
If it ever IS All About Me, that would be fantastic. But then when it stops being All About Me I will be quite resentful. And, if I really think about it, when it was truly All About Me before we had kids, Sam was in Iraq, and I didn’t have to work, it got old pretty quick. Alone with my thoughts. Perfectly lovely, as long as they were good thoughts. It was fine. Until it wasn’t.
So, I’ll probably have to leave the house at some point and decide how I’ll be dressed when I get out there.
We have been in Hawaii for one year. They’ve closed the main gate we use to get off the housing area and funneled everyone allllllll the way around the reservation, adding more precious traffic-battling minutes to an already frustratingly long drive. And when that one re-opens, they’ll close the back gate–my secret passageway to the Commissary, PX, and God help us all, Target. I’m going to have to work harder to get places for a while. Commies.
Being forced to go this new way puts me smack in front Tripler Army Medical Center, resplendent in its pink facade on the mountainside as I come down one of the hills. Yesterday was a dark and overcast morning. I came up that hill and saw Tripler as we coasted down, and as I always do, immediately associated it with our first two months living in the lodging there. Which, if you might recall, sucked.
Next week will be one year since the second miscarriage. I remember thinking then that in a year everything would be different. We’d live in a house. We’d have friends. We’d have a life. We might even have another baby or close to it.
As I saw Tripler on that dark morning mountainside I also saw a huge arching rainbow right over the building. Perfectly centered. Perfectly symmetrical. Almost like it had been put there on purpose or something.