Tuesday, July 3, 2007

here we go again

My wife has experienced a number of ailments the past 3 months, none of which are necessarily rooted in the fact that she's carrying our second bambino. She happens to be a little over 3 months pregnant, but the ailments are sort of coincidental. Bronchitis hit her for the first month of pregnancy. A pinched nerve is the latest plague on her existence. Needless to say, she has had a rough go at it this time around, though we are both thankful that morning sickness didn't make an appearance.

Our suspicions of a bun in the oven were born on a trip to Chicago. She was about a week late but wrote it off to the onset of what turned out to be bronchitis, saying illness has induced tardiness before. She knows her cycles, so I was not about to question it. On our last day there, we checked out of the hotel and killed some time meandering around downtown. On a quick Jewel/Osco fly-by for a bottle of water, we found ourselves in the pregnancy test aisle and decided to set the table for the moment of truth. Back on the streets, near a construction site I noticed a row of portable restrooms and urged her to administer the test in one of them. Sure it was a tongue-in-cheek request, but it would have made a good story. Naturally she brushed me off and administered the test when we returned home.

The announcement was not akin to any major event. I was chasing the Jackal around the house and almost ran her over when I turned the corner into the kitchen. The Jackal giggled and tore out of there, leaving the two of us alone.

"You okay?"

"Yeah and pregnant."

Naturally we hugged, kissed, smiled -- all the motions you go through when some wonderful news hits. Truth be told, the news was a shock, and we were not prepared for it. Still, hugging it out felt right, regardless of our initial feelings.

The aforementioned bronchitis made that first month a real challenge for her and left me wondering about my ability to be a long term caregiver. Whether we want to admit this or not (and it's not like I focus on it), as husbands and wives, a time is likely to come when one of us will have to play the residential nurse role for our spouse. It's one of those vows you make, one of those things you say in your wedding ceremony that you really don't grasp at the time. During her bout with bronchitis, my wife was a full scale symphony of coughs and gasps. I'm embarrassed to admit that after a couple weeks of this, there were times, at the onset of a coughing fit, when I would look the other way and bite my lip, cringe, or roll my eyes. Or for example, if she needed me to fetch a bottle of water from downstairs, I wouldn't always tackle the task with a jump in my step, a sparkle in my eye.

What does that say about me? I struggled with this question constantly that month. On one hand it says I'm an ass. On the other, maybe it says I'm human? I mean, I don't recall the vows instructing how to carry myself when confronted with the "sickness/health" deal. Don't get me wrong -- it's not like I loathed taking care of her by any stretch or that I was enslaved by the cause. I am really just saying that after a long stretch it was a drag. The fact that she didn't ask for this illness was not lost on me either. I think much frustration is born out of wanting your wife to get better so you can feel like a normal couple again.

Here's the thing -- this was just a case of bronchitis. If it were a longer haul, I wring my hands over how I would handle it.

Sadly, I have known a handful of people who have some first hand experience with this. In one particular case, the wife, for all intents and purposes, bailed on the husband when he got his eviction notice, and he didn't have her hand to hold as he skidded out of this world. Naturally all family and friends viewed this as completely objectionable, and it was. In another instance, a husband stuck with his perpetually ill wife for close to 15 years and became an alcoholic prick in the process. This is speculation, but I think he stewed and grew resentful over the sacrifices he made until he alienated other family and friends with his hateful actions and words.

Which of these is worse? One spouse bailed; the other became a monster. From the cheap seats it's easy to judge and cast sometimes self-righteous opinions. When you're living it, paying with your grit and tears, it's a different story.

At the end of the day, we can define ourselves or let others define us. The list of adjectives that we use to describe each other can be endless. Generally speaking I guess they all add up to one inescapable description: human. Being human is both objectionable and forgivable. What a raw deal! Sometimes it makes me wish I was a dog.

In closing, I can't help noting that this might be the most morbid vessel for announcing a new baby in the cards for us. Truthfully, I am excited and so in love with my glowing wife. It's true what they say about that glow. After watching her go through 15 hours of labor, without the aid of pain medication, to bring Jack into our lives, she became my hero. It absoultely squashed any questions I might have ever had about how much sense it would make for a woman to be POTUS. Face it, guys, women are way more advanced, and we're just arm candy.

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