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I have a friend who has said about her husband, "He's in a totally different relationship than I am. He's married to me." Ever since I heard this, I've probably considered it weekly--both for the sort of funny trippiness of it, and because Lord, I wonder how Aron and I end up agreeing on things as often as we do.
I can't imagine being the person who wanted to be married to me--and here I was going to recite a litany of my bad points, until the good angel on my right shoulder reminded me that maybe you all have had enough of this, and anyway? We all have our bad points. I'm starting to understand this. But let's just say that I consider the man my soulmate, but not because we're totally alike. I think I would've left someone totally like me sitting at the bar on our first date, stirring the ice cubes around in his cocktail, as I shimmied out the ladies' room window like the heroine in some bad 80's movie.
Knowing that the things I so love about Aron are often the ways in which we're different has not meant, however, that there aren't times these differences can make him seem less like my soulmate, and more like a stubborn tourist from another planet who refuses to learn the language--a planet called You've Got to Be Kidding Me, in a galaxy called Incomprehensible, and a universe called I Can't Believe What I'm Hearing.
That's how it was when he told me that there was a chance he could go to Africa for two weeks any day now.
Lamaze breathing finally comes in handy
At first, when it seemed not very likely that this would actually happen, I was fine about it. Like it was something someone not married to me was telling me, someone who has no role in my life as a very pregnant person with a 3-year-old. But when the idea of his Africa trip came up at breakfast the next day (Sylvia saying, "You going to apricot?"), it felt more like... more like he might actually go. And that's when my useful internal doomsday device woke up from "sleep" mode.
I should explain here that this trip would not be a jaunt around town with Angelina Jolie, but a career-enhancing opportunity which would make him very, very happy. He would make decent money, visit countries he's never been to before, and probably even do some good for humanity. But still. Africa. Two weeks. Third trimester. Waah.
I'll spare you the back and forth--my hardheaded negotiation tactics inspiring Aron's stubbornness instead of his acquiescence (one of our favorite "we've-been-together-for-14-years-and-this-has-never-worked-in-the-past-but-HEY!-let's-try-it-again" dynamics), his stubbornness inspiring my disbelieving frustration, and on and on, finally resulting in some quiet actual listening to one another, and trying to imagine things from the other's perspective. (This is a new trick for us. We're still trying it out. I'll let you know how it goes.)
In the end, it's not a sure thing that he's going. But I've given my official blessing, with the caveat that he has to be home by 14 days before my due date. My permission (of course) then inspired him to question whether or not he actually wanted to go. We're leaving it up to fate, and the bureaucrats who are actually making the decision.
What my problem was, anyway
I made a list of Pros and Cons about this trip. The cons were about four times as plentiful as the pros, and included things like "my own work commitments"; "getting bigger every day, have difficulty with household chores"; "I get impatient with Syl"; "feeling lonely." The pros included "because he wants to."
The last time Aron went to Africa, Sylvia was a little over a year old. It was mostly okay, if you overlook that she got sicker than she'd ever been, and I mixed up the doses of ibuprofen (Note: pay very close attention to whether your doctor advises infant drops vs. regular liquid medicine.) But we persevered, and if anything, I felt I learned a lot in the process--about myself as a mother, about what I was capable of without Aron to back me up.
So what's the deal this time? Yes, it's true: I am 7 months pregnant, I have a lot of work right now, and Sylvia is a typically demanding 3-year-old. But is there anything I inherently can't handle? I realized that I kept coming back to the idea of being pregnant, of being the mother of a 3-year-old, of having a lot of work to get done in the next couple of months, and having a husband who picks up and leaves for two weeks, with nary a glance backwards.
Which of course not how it is at all. Aron cares deeply about Sylvia, about this baby, and about me and my comfort. He goes out of his way to express it constantly. And it's also the case that I'm not really as handicapped by my pregnancy as I imagine myself to be. I can still pick Sylvia up when I need to; I can still be creative about getting my work done; I can still be in touch with Aron every single day. And then there's all of the willing and able help that's there for the asking, from friends and family. Now that I've gotten more used to the idea, it's sounding like more of an adventure, an adventure that I'm finding myself willing to live up to--not run away from, which was my first instinct.
But I'm human. So I'm still crossing my fingers that the trip doesn't come together until after Aron is teaching this coming semester, rendering him unavailable for it; or that suddenly the funding will fall through (and then, because I'm not that evil, my hope is that the funding is magically restored over Labor Day weekend); or he'll decide, of his own volition, that he just can't bear to go. But I also know that if that last one doesn't come about, it won't be because he's any less devoted a partner or father than he would be if he stayed home.
I'll let you know what happens.
Join writer Emily Bloch each week as she chronicles her pregnancy.