Warning: Some explicit language, mention of miscarriage, and it is really long.
I feel a little like Marty McFly in this post. I took a look at my past to remind me of my future. I know that doesn’t exactly make sense, but if you keep reading I think I can manage to spell it out a little better. However, if you don’t know who Marty McFly is, then we can’t be friends. I’m sorry, but I can not have someone in my life that has never seen or heard of Back To The Future. Ahem. Moving on…
On the daily, my husband drives me crazy (not usually in a good way, either). For the past three weeks, it’s been the same exact thing driving me crazy. All I have heard about every night as we lay snuggled in bed (as I hack up a lung, thanks to a cold that seems to never end) is how nervous he is that his yearly evaluation is coming up at work. Now, the first few nights I was very sympathetic to his feelings of nervousness and insecurity. I could empathize that it is truly nerve-wracking to know that your performance for an entire year was going to be dissected and critiqued, and that based on that performance you would receive feedback and specific goals for all of the next year. That is kind of a big deal! I get it. But, I lost all empathy around the seventh day in a row. By then I wasn’t just hearing about it at night, I was hearing about it throughout the day. I heard about it every time he gave a quote, made a sale, or lost a sale at work. I heard about it on his lunch. I heard about it all the time. No longer was he just nervous, but now he had convinced himself he was going to be fired.
Let me stop there for a moment. I realize that in most cases, this assertion that he is going to be fired would probably be based on a guilty conscience. So, maybe he knows he is lazy or hadn’t done a very good job and he has reason to think that he will be let go. That doesn’t really seem to be the case in this scenario, though. My husband met the sales goal set for him by his bosses. Not only did he meet it, he surpassed it. He has also taken the initiative on several projects, and he has been assisting the new salesman learn and develop his sales techniques. He has used his freelance-writer wife to his advantage, on his own initiative, to develop marketing emails and other company literature that can be used to benefit him as well as the other sales associates. His direct supervisor makes it a point to let me, the wife, know that he thinks my husband is doing a great job and that he loves his motivation, drive, and attitude at every business dinner we attend. I think I am pretty justified in thinking that not only will he not get fired, but he will probably get a pat on the back, a good job, an atta boy at this evaluation. So, as the evaluation looms closer and closer (it is only a few hours away at this point), his nervousness isn’t abating but only increasing despite my best efforts at reassurance.
My husband, just a little bit ago on his lunch, expressed his annoyance with my constant focus on educating him on all things birth related. I had forwarded him an article (it was to-the-point, informative, funny) to read on his lunch. After I asked if he had read it, I could hear the eye roll that accompanied his answer to the affirmative. I was instantly aggravated. It is so typical of him to be all-consumed with worry over something that wasn’t even a realistic worry while completely ignoring something that is imminent! The birth of our child will happen whether he wants it to or not! Whether or not he is educated and prepared makes no difference to my body or this baby–birth will happen! I’m only 14 and a half weeks away from my due date, for crying out loud! Worry about the important things already!
So, this is when I took a deep breath and made myself remember all the reasons I married him in the first place. This is how I ended up feeling a little like Marty, with a slightly faulty watch. I tried to conjure up reasons out of thin air, but nothing was happening. I could only see my anger and frustration. I want this birth to be completely different than it was with Eva. I want a partner that is involved! All I could think of then was not why I married my husband, but why I wanted a different birth.
So, back to the past I went in an attempt to change my future. The end of April, 2008 was my first stop. I was laying in a hospital bed as my water was being broken with what looked like a giant knitting needle. My then husband, Eva’s father, was sitting in a chair next to the bed playing a game on his phone, completely ignoring me, the doctor, and everything else.
My next stop, which felt a little random, was August, 2009 as I walked into a local gas station and applied for a job. They weren’t hiring, but the manager seemed to like me, and he said he would keep my resume on hand. He also seemed impressed with the fact that I had a resume. This had been my fifth stop of the day in an attempt to find a job, and yes I am that person who brings a resume to apply for a gas station, minimum wage job.
Next stop in time–two weeks later. Now, I had a job at the same gas station. The timing couldn’t have been better because my first semester back to college had just begun, and my then husband had left me and Eva a short 17 (I have a weird memory that remembers numbers, but not important things like birthdays) days prior, taking all our money (which wasn’t much since I had taken the summer off to spend with Eva before college began) with him.
I jumped through time again, landing in January, 2010 as I was at work at the gas station. I had quickly realized that I couldn’t be too nice to the men that came in because many of them didn’t understand that the new cashier at the local gas station was trying to do her job with a smile, not get a date. In walked (at the busiest time of my shift) this kid with a thin, scruffy beard, lots of change, and an arrogance that didn’t mesh with his general appearance. He needed to get gas and cigarettes, but he didn’t even know what kind of cigarettes he wanted. He was annoying. I was being patient and distantly polite, until he leaned on the counter and asked what I was doing later. My patience ran out. I ignored his question and asked for his driver’s license instead. He was a whopping nineteen years old. Just as I thought, he was another local arrogant kid that thought I was an ideal target for harassment. Oh joy, let me count my blessings that I get to put up with this awful behavior four days a week for $7.50 an hour. At least I had time to do homework between customers for most of my shifts.
Skipping ahead a month or so, it was now the end of March, 2010, and the arrogant kid with the facial hair was back. I couldn’t help but compare his attempt at a beard to pubic hair. It really did look awful. I noticed recently he had been wearing what looked like a chef’s uniform when he would come in for gas. It wasn’t complimentary, either. Today was no different than most other encounters because he asked me again when I had my next evening off. Today was different, though, for me because I was in the midst of planning my daughter’s second birthday party which included arguing with her father about who would get her when. I had finally just offered that he could come to my parents’ house on her birthday for the party so we could both spend time with her on her birthday and she wouldn’t have to be rushed around to get from one party to the next. His response had been that he would be bringing his girlfriend so he expected my family to play nice. Someone gag me, shoot me, and take away my phone before I say something I shouldn’t, please! Now here stood this nineteen-year-old arrogant, pubic hair beard, chef outfit kid. He managed to be the straw that broke the camel’s back that day. His obviously appreciative looks at me combined with his urging that we should “hang out” was met with a lot more venom than it deserved.
I leaned over the counter getting closer to him and smiled and tilted my head. It was the closest approximation to a flirtatious move I could muster.
“Listen carefully, because I won’t be repeating myself,” I said, smile in place and a blush flooding my face. He smiled even bigger and leaned a little closer. “I am twenty-four years old, I am in the middle of a divorce, and I have a two-year-old daughter. I am a full-time college student living at home with mommy and daddy due to my current circumstances. That’s just the baggage I can talk about in public or without crying. The array of emotional issues and baggage that accompanies all of those things said and unsaid is more than any little boy such as yourself can begin to comprehend. I will not be ‘hanging out’ with you, which in my time here has been made abundantly clear to me does not mean ‘hang out’ but rather that you would like to convince me to fuck you. I am not a ‘challenge’ or playing hard to get. So, kindly keep your elbows off my counter, pay for your shit, and move on.”
His response made my barely-tethered anger break its leash completely. He continued to smile as he said without hesitation, “I like kids, and two is a great age.” He paid for his gas and moved on then, with that stupid smile still in place, as my anger silently blazed. I was very glad no one else was in the store at that moment. I was also very glad he at least had the sense to move along and not hang around. I think I might have thrown something at him.
I stop to reflect here and there through the next few months, as life continues. This same kid, who seemed unmoved by my ire and honesty and baggage and lack of encouragement, continues to come to the gas station frequently. I notice things about him, like that his friends call him Bubba even though his license says his name isn’t anything near Bubba. I notice that he still smiles at me, and he still asks what I’m going to do on my next day off, but now he asks if I will be taking my daughter to the park while the weather is nice, or if I have a day off at all between work and college. He also always makes it a point to invite me and my daughter to whatever event he has thought up this week. He doesn’t give up, but I don’t give in either.
Somewhere in this period of time, I went by the gas station to pick up my paycheck with my daughter in tow. He happened to stop by as we were preparing to leave. My daughter, who always got a free candy bar from my boss every time I brought her in, had just settled into her car seat and began munching on her candy while I walked around to the driver’s door of my car as he approached. For some reason I instantly felt panicked. I didn’t have a counter to hide behind, and I had my daughter right there with me, so I couldn’t use anger to repel him. I would have to be polite. As soon as he got close, I indicated that I had my daughter and we needed to be leaving. He further frustrated me as he immediately ignored me and focused on her. He introduced himself and asked if her candy was any good, to which she smiled and took another bite and then tried to talk with a mouth full of chocolate. She held up money she had found on the ground and told him about it, and they carried on a conversation as my panic continued to rise. I wasn’t even divorced yet, even if Eva’s father had already moved in with his girlfriend, my daughter was not the way to my heart. I wasn’t ready to be vulnerable yet! He told my daughter to have a good day, and went on his way with a wave and a “see ya” to me. I released a sigh, and climbed in to my car. My daughter, still smiling, so naive, so sweet, so innocent, asked me if he could come play at her grandma and grandpa’s. I don’t remember my reply, I just remember wanting to cry. How was I ever going to have a meaningful relationship with anyone and keep her out of it? And how was I going to have a relationship at all if I wasn’t willing to open up a little? Not that that damn kid was relationship material anyway.
My next stop in the past was a few weeks after this, when I had just been in a car accident. My car, which I had just purchased with great effort three weeks prior, was totaled. I had no health insurance, and I didn’t have full-coverage insurance on my car. I wasn’t at fault for the accident, but I also didn’t have the money for doctors or prescriptions up front. I hadn’t sold the piece of junk I had previously been driving, luckily, or I wouldn’t have had transportation, either. I couldn’t afford to miss work. We were barely surviving on what I made. I couldn’t imagine missing a day. I went to work the next day after the accident, only to discover I couldn’t lift my left arm high enough to stock the top shelf of the cooler or refill the ice hoppers. Just as I was almost in tears trying to lift a five-gallon bucket of ice over my head, who would happen to come inside other than that damn annoying kid. Without much comment, he took the bucket and finished the job. He then did it again and again until both ice hoppers were full. He asked what else he could do, and hesitantly, I pointed out the few top rows of the cooler that needed restocked. He didn’t ask what I was doing on my day off. He didn’t ask me for my number. He didn’t even pry into my obvious injury. He just did what I couldn’t.
May 19th, 2010 was my next stop. I had finished my finals, and I had done well in each class. I suddenly had a huge hole of time that I wasn’t sure how to fill. My daughter and I were spending lots of time outside playing. The problem I had was when she went to her father’s for three days. Work could only fill so much time. So, I caved. He came in the gas station that day, clean shaven, and before he could say anything to make me change my mind, I asked him for his number. He smiled and he asked why he couldn’t have mine instead. I raised an eyebrow and said something along the lines of I didn’t trust him to not drunk-text me and I hadn’t decided to actually use his number yet. He asked me instead what I was doing two nights later. We made plans.
On May 21st, 2010, we went on our first date. He was quite obviously nervous. It made me smile and much more comfortable to see his discomfort. He didn’t even try to kiss me on our first date. All of that arrogance was gone.
Time moved on, and we continued to see each other. I learned things about him, like that he had come from a broken home, and that his high school girlfriend had aborted their baby without his consent, and that his baby girl would have been a year older than Eva. I learned that despite his age, he had been through just as much heart ache as I had, and he understood way more about my hurts than I would have ever guessed. I learned that no matter how much I tried to push him away, he wouldn’t budge. I also learned that when I wasn’t pushing, he was just as constant. I slowly brought Eva around him. When I did, it didn’t matter what he had wanted to do or what I had wanted to do; the only thing in the world that mattered is what did Eva want to do. If she wanted to watch Cars for the eight time that day, then we would watch it. If she wanted to go to the park, then we would go to the park. If she wanted to play blocks, then we would play blocks. Not only had I found someone reliable, but she did, too.
My father disliked him. My best friend hated him. My mother just gave me that look she has that says she trusts me to know what I’m doing. My aunt threatened to kill him if he hurt me or my daughter. I don’t blame them, because I had the same reaction to him initially. He can be so arrogant and obnoxious, to say the least. Time moved on, and eventually we moved in together. The divorce had been finalized, and I was ready to move forward in life.
A couple of months after we had moved in together, my dad become terribly ill. He was in the hospital for 16 days, and then he was home but still not back to normal. He had physical therapy appointments to attend three times a week, a doctor appointment to attend at least once a week, a visiting nurse to change his dressing on his hand, a PICC line (a peripherally inserted central catheter which was a direct line to a major source of blood flow) with heavy-duty antibiotics due twice a day, and he couldn’t even figure out where he was half of the time. He had also been my babysitter for Eva prior to his illness. Now I was down a babysitter and terrified my father would die while my mother was at work. My wonderful boyfriend encouraged me to quit my job. He made enough to pay the bills without my income. I called my mother, who had maxed out her sick time and vacation time at work and was pushing the boundaries of kindness of her boss, and told her that I would be quitting my job. I told her I would be available to take care of dad, to take him to appointments and keep an eye on his progress. She was so relieved, and so was I! Except for my time in class, which wasn’t much at that point because I was part-time that semester, I was free to take care of Eva and my father.
I had my first panic attack two weeks after I quit my job. I was so sure that I was placing an unfair financial burden on this kid that I now saw as a man that I lived with. I managed to work myself up to a brand new level of anxiety. And still, he was steady and constant. He wiped my tears away and told me to suck it up, which was exactly what I needed to hear.
I hate to make things sound like they just worked out, because they didn’t. The thing I never hear divorced women talk about is how difficult is it to try again. Most divorced women talk about how awful the divorce was or the reason for the divorce. Most leave out how much it sucks to open yourself up again. Living with him and then being financially dependent on him was the scariest experience of my life. I know how ridiculous that sounds, but I don’t know how else to say it. The amount of trust needed to be in such a committed relationship…man, I am at a loss for words to describe that feeling. I had put my emotion well-being at risk by being there, with him, in a strongly committed relationship. This also involved my daughter’s emotional well-being because she lived there, too. She had fallen for him as her Bubba. Her playful giant that could never tell her no. As if that isn’t enough to make every divorced mother run away in terror, I had also added the one thing I had only ever trusted to one other man in my entire life–my financial well-being. I felt as if my heart and checkbook were teetering on the edge, staring at a never-ending abyss every day.
We definitely had our moments. I had a lot of pride and fear. He had a lot of pride, too. He also really sucked at saying what I needed to hear. I pushed him away so often, I still can’t believe he stuck it out. I tried breaking up with him repeatedly, giving him a way out. He never took it. He would just squeeze a little tighter and remind me that Eva and I were all he wanted, and all he needed. He chose us; he wasn’t stuck with us. He would tell me those words so often, but the best part is he would back them up with action. Even when Eva was still in diapers and had diarrhea and I accidentally flung poo all over his arm and chest in an attempt to get the diaper in the trash before the liquid poo overflowed on to the carpet, he still came back for more. He wasn’t angry that I was in danger of dying from laughing as he cleaned poo off of his arms and threw one of his favorite shirts in the trash. After he quit gagging, he laughed along with me. Still, I gave in to the panic that would clutch me as he settled further into my heart.
After living together for about seven months, Eva and I moved out. It was around June, 2011. He and I had began to argue about money. I say argue, but it wasn’t even an argument. He had put me in charge of the money and the bills, because he really did not do it well. Unfortunately, though, he would still want to buy all kinds of things we just couldn’t afford. At this point, I was back to work and my father had recovered, but it didn’t matter. The things he wanted were just not within our budget. He also didn’t feel the need to clean anything, ever. The money argument combined with feeling like he was not doing his part sent me running. I thought for sure that moving out would be the final nail in the coffin. Surely he wouldn’t understand that the problems I had already discussed with him multiple times over many months were truly important to me. I wanted a partner, not another child. I wanted someone that could and would take responsibility for themselves and all that entails. I informed him of my decision, and I gave him a date on which I planned to move all of my stuff and Eva’s stuff. He didn’t take it very well, obviously. He was quite angry and upset. The next two weeks before I moved were the chilliest two weeks of our entire relationship. I knew this was the end. My heart broke a little each day as the moving day approached.
To my utter amazement, the day prior to the designated moving date, he moved all of my stuff and Eva’s stuff while I was at work. We were moving back to my parents’ because I was going to start nursing school the next semester and I would need their help with Eva. During my eight hour shift, he lovingly packed all my things, leaving only one night’s worth of my stuff behind, and took it to my parents. He then lugged all my furniture to the second floor of my parents house. He also set up all of Eva’s things (she was at her father’s that weekend) in her room. That night when I got off of work, we both cried. I thought he was finally getting rid of me, even though it had been my idea. I thought he was making sure things ended on his terms and that was why he had moved me out a day early. Instead, he assured me that he wasn’t going anywhere, and that he was going to miss both me and Eva more than he could express. He knew that moving back to my parents wasn’t something that was easy for me, and he didn’t want me to have to move myself piece by piece. He knew it would be hard for me to do, emotionally and physically. He also assured me that he would be over to visit as often as we would let him. I still didn’t believe him. Words are so easily said.
Again, he backed up his words with actions. He stayed true to his words, spending as much time with us on our terms as our schedules would allow. I also noticed something else radical happening–he was cleaning! He was paying his bills and struggling to manage his money, but he was still doing it. There were several mistakes and a few overdraft fees as a result, but he was learning and growing. Something else happened I never would have expected–he told me I was right! He said he quickly realized how much I had been doing around the house, and that he had not realized how much we had been spending on things he wanted instead of things we needed. I could not believe that this man I had thought of as a kid not only had an emotional depth carved out of life experience, he was also willing to be a grown up. He was striving to grow and change and better himself. I still just didn’t believe it.
That fall, I had a surprise. Just before nursing school was to begin, I discovered I was pregnant. I had had strep throat and had been taking antibiotics. Unfortunately, I had also put the wrong date that I began taking the antibiotics in my phone. I was two days off, which resulted in ineffective birth control pills. I knew I was pregnant just as I had with Eva. I also knew about a week early. I was beside myself with fear and trepidation. I come from a family that strongly believes in marriage before babies. I also knew during nursing school was a horrible time to have a baby. As I began to get over all the reasons why I can’t be having a baby right now, he was filling my heart with hope and joy. He was so excited to hear the news! He wanted to tell everyone and anyone who would stand still and listen long enough right away. I had began to feel hopeful that maybe this could be the greatest thing to happen to me since Eva when the bleeding began. I lost my baby. I was a mess for a while. He was so sad, too, and I didn’t have the emotional energy to push him away. So we bonded a little closer through our grief.
In October of 2011, though, he almost pushed back too hard. He asked me to marry him. Cue my second panic attack. I said yes with the caveat that he would not pressure me to choose a date. I didn’t pick a date, either until the end of 2012. We were married in May of 2013, with a lot of supporters in attendance. Everyone that had previously disliked him was there, and strangely enough each of them had been instrumental in my ability to say I do to him.
As I would find another reason that he couldn’t possibly be right for me or Eva, my mother, my aunt, even my father, would gently remind me that actions speak louder than words. His actions clearly showed his love and commitment to me and to Eva. His actions clearly showed his willingness to grow with me, to learn how to be a better partner and step-father. His actions clearly showed he could and would put up with me, even when no one else wanted to put up with me. He could deal with my fears and baggage.
The single, most important thing about him that I have to remember every time I feel like I am at my wits end with him–he is a great dad. Eva’s biological father moved far away when she was two and a half, returning for a few months that spring before moving back to the west coast. For Eva, her dad was her Bubba. She has always called him Bubba, and I would bet that she always will. He loves her like a father should. He was right here with me, crying while Eva spent four weeks over the summer with her biological father.
So, at the end of my journey through time, I reminded of one thing that is so important. He was right for us because his actions speak louder than words. So what if he hasn’t read any of the books I want him to read to prepare for the birth of our son? So what if he rolls his eyes every time I forward him another blog post or article about his role in birth? His actions always speak volumes about how he feels about me. I know that I can trust in that with certainty and peace of mind.
By the time this post was completed, he has already had his evaluation at work. Let’s just say his actions may be relied upon, but his wife is always right!