Tuesday, November 9, 2010

What 6000 Miles Can Mean

For the past 10 days, Matt has been in Amman, Jordan. The trip is mostly business and partly pleasure, and it marks the longest amount of time that we’ve spent apart since I got pregnant. I spent a few days in Denver around the 16th week of my pregnancy, but there’s something inherently different about Denver and Amman. I think it’s probably the 6,903 miles that separate the two cities, but I could be wrong about that.

Matt was a mess before he left. I couldn’t figure out how to help him, how to calm him down, how to make him see that this trip would be an incredible experience, an opportunity that he simply couldn’t pass up, and one that truly couldn’t have come at a better time in my pregnancy (namely, before the baby was born). The night before he left he tossed and turned, anxiety crippling his features in a way that I have never seen in the 11 years we’ve been together. It was almost too much to bear, and I complained to Julie that I wish he’d just LEAVE already, because it was too hard to not understand what he was going through and not have any power to help him.

But I was talking to an old and dear friend about it over the weekend, and she was so insightful. “Being there for you is pretty much the only thing that Matt can DO at this point,” she said. “When he’s not there, then it’s almost like he’s not part of it, because he’s not growing that little person, not feeling the aches and pains, not going through the changes that you’re actually going through.” And all of a sudden Matt’s anxiety made sense. The one thing that he can do to usher us safely through this pregnancy is to help usher me safely through this pregnancy. It’s awfully hard to usher when you’re 6,000 miles away.

But the strangest thing about Matt being gone is that it’s forced me to spend some time alone with my own thoughts about pregnancy and motherhood. A few weeks ago, this would have been a very bad thing. I would have thought about all of the ways that I was already a terrible mother, because I was likely doing something terribly wrong to hurt our little bean. But now, a few good appointments under my belt, regular movement in my tummy, and the occasional visible-from-the-outside kick near my belly button, the thoughts aren’t all anxiety-laden. Even as I sit here licking the remnants of a Milky Way from my fingertips, I know that I’m not (yet) a bad mother.

But what I realized the other night was just as shocking to me as if the bean had screamed “I hate you!” from inside my uterus. I realized that I was okay. Rather, I realized that even with Matt not there, I was doing alright, and that the bean and I are a new lumpy little unit.

I can’t explain why this realization was so jarring to me, except to say that I will look back on it as the first time that I realized that I am actually going to be somebody’s mother. The mother to somebody who will need me for most moments of their first few months, somebody who will expect me to calm their fears, exalt their accomplishments, and be present for the little and big moments of their life. Someone who will have every right to expect my unconditional love, and who will someday shout at me for smothering them. It was both a terrible and an amazing realization, because it made me feel wonderful to feel so needed at the exact same time that it made me feel terrible for needing Matt a little less.

I haven’t shared any of this with Matt yet, so when he reads this post he’ll probably feel sad. It flies in the face of what it is that he probably feels like he can do to make this pregnancy easier for me. If I don’t feel like I need him when he’s gone, then what can he give me while he’s here?

The truth of the matter is that by leaving for Jordan, he gave me something he couldn’t have given me if he stayed. He gave me confidence. He reminded me that I’m strong enough to weather a long-distance relationship, that missing someone (for a little while) can be a good thing, that I can be the type of partner who recognizes a great opportunity for her husband when she sees one. But more than that, by leaving, he made me realize that I will be the kind of mother I want to be, the kind that fails (by her own standards) many many times, but succeeds many times too. I already know exactly what kind of father Matt is going to be, because he will be the man that I married, the man who loves me and our someday-bean unconditionally and feels anxious at the thought of not being able to be there for us. I am starting to realize that together, we’re going to make a pretty good team.

Matt will be home in 2 more days, just in time to celebrate my 32nd birthday. I can't wait for him to come home, can't wait to hug him and kiss him and see his face as he marvels at how much my belly has grown in the 12 days he was gone. I have no intention of being apart from him for the rest of this pregnancy; I AM better off when he's around. But in the interest of donning a pair of rose-colored glasses, of looking on the bright side (finally), I think that this trip was a good thing for all of us, for me, and even for our growing little bean.

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