Waiting to exhale
I spent a lot of 2014 feeling blocked. When I started this blog in 2008, the internet was wild and free, and I could write what I wanted without thinking of a specific audience, other than what I was interested in. After we found out last year that it was not as free as we thought, I couldn’t write anything without thinking about how it would impact A) My family B) My career and, most importantly, C) Whatever profile of me was already out there, knitted together out of hundreds of Facebook posts. I’m a pretty private person in real life, but when I write, I want to write the truth. Instead, I was completely and utterly self-censored every time I opened a browser window, and it made me want to scream.
Not only was I self-censored in my online writing life, I was also stumbling along in real life. Sometime in 2013, I was startled to find that the world as I understood it stopped being interesting to me. Reading books became boring. Our trip to Italy was boring. We booked tickets to Hong Kong for the fall of 2014, and even that seemed bleak and uninviting, even though I have never been to Asia. Sitting in coffee shops for hours with Mr. B became a chore instead of a pleasure. All the colors and joy leached out of my life.
Something was missing. I knew what it was.
I wanted a baby.
Out of all the things professional women don’t talk about in public, wanting a baby is close to the top of the list. It ruins your career, this desire, this shift in focus. So I definitely did not talk about it online, or at work, or in the job interviews for my dream position that I was going to.
And I definitely did not talk about it with any of my family. My family (and friends) have been insistently, consistently asking us when we are going to have children since we’ve been married, a question that, to me, is as invasive as it is insulting. Telling them we were thinking about it would have started a fire I could never have stopped.
So I kept this wanting to myself and Mr. B alone. We held desperate conversations late at night about how we thought it would all play out, “what-ifs” echoing in the dark with no one else to bounce the scenarios off of.
And, I sublimated my yearning to write and my need to have a baby into other things to make sure I didn’t explode. I traveled to Montreal for work and learned just as much about people from Berlin, Colorado, California, and Oregon as I did about Python.
I taught a SQL class to women who have never programmed.
We went to Miami for Geriatric Spring Break.
I took hours and hours of useless MBA classes.
I tried to get my typewriter to work.
We went to Soviet-themed restaurants in New York.
I went out to eat with friends. I cautiously ordered enormous sushi boats, both loving and hating that I could still eat them.
I bought hundreds of books and read them.
I was trying to hard to live like I normally live. But during the time I was doing all of this, there was a frantic little hamster running in the cage in the back of my mind. Kids, kids, kids, it whispered. Write the truth about how you want kids. Do something about it. Do it. Do it. Do it. But I couldn’t, and so I was going insane stewing in my own introspection.
And then everything happened at once.
I got a new job. Several weeks later, I found out I was pregnant. A week after that, I started summer classes, and a week after that I gave a talk at WordCamp Philly on the power of stories.
The irony was that I could not talk about any of this to anyone, to friends, to family, because I was afraid for my career, I was afraid of the enormous change, and most importantly, I was afraid for the health of the baby. I read the forums. I knew what could happen.
So I waited, listlessly spending the summer in a bout of nausea, intense heat, and permanently stuck to the couch in between the work dayshift and the class nightshift. I waited in silent misery until I was finally, blessedly, halfway done.
Then the real waiting began in earnest. Each week of pregnancy is longer than the last, by the laws of physics, but I got up and put on my pants one leg at a time, still afraid, still hopeful. My mind trained itself to split in half. Half was always on my work and schoolwork, and half was always on what was going on inside of me, soft, squishy, nebulous, terrifying.
In between all of that, Mr. B’s grandmother was in the hospital, my grandfather had open heart surgery, and my parents moved to Philadelphia, a move they had been preparing for for several years. Remembering how miserable and lost I had been when I first moved, I threw all my remaining energy into helping them.
So now my mind was split five ways, with no outlet, stewing silently. I couldn’t make myself write about any of this, because it was so personal. Because, was it really my story to tell?
And then, suddenly, it was somehow October and my last set of classes was upon me and now November and our baby shower happened. It’s around this time that I read just as much of The Bump forums as I did my Goodreads list. But still I couldn’t write anything.
And now it’s December and then it was Hanukkah and then we put up the New Year tree and I finished up an important work project, and somehow 95% of the things on my baby to-do list are finished, and now we are, alarmingly, in the home stretch, and once the clock hits 12:00, finally, finally, I can start the long, anxious exhale of breath I’ve been holding since last New Year.
But I’m releasing it very, very slowly and waiting until January 19th (hopefully sooner!) to exhale (and also find a new place to take pictures that doesn’t include my bathroom and 500 rolls of toilet paper.)
I’m looking forward to an exciting 2015 of the sheep, and hope you are, too. Happy and Healthy New Year.