5.04.2012

# 28: THE TRUTH ABOUT MARRIAGE

PAGE # 28
Tuesday
12/13/11
Still Early Morning

The fight was brutal.  

Thank goodness the children were still asleep.  They were momentarily shielded from their parents' flaws, if only for a short time; for back then, I had no knowledge of the future:  that a crazy writer, posing as myself, would expose the less attractive details of our marriage for all the world to read about.  (Including the children themselves, who just might stumble upon this post someday).

But on this morning that I write of, the kids remained blissfully unaware of anything.  There was one casualty of the battle, however, and that was our dog, Jersey.  He trembled against a pillow, and if we did not already have a diagnosis, we might have misinterpreted the dog's terrible anxiety for a full-blown seizure.  I hoped the episode would pass quickly and not warrant a phone call to the veterinarian.

Jersey suffers from a chronic anxiety disorder called 'White Dog Shaker Syndrome.'  In case the reader is not well versed in canine psychology and/or thinks I am inventing some fiction in the interest of dramatization, I have included the Wikipedia link here:


An episode of white shaker dog is typically triggered by severe acts of God (i.e. thunderstorms), but also by acts of human celebration (i.e. fireworks).  Clearly, Tom and I had unveiled a third category responsible for inducing canine terror--good, old-fashioned marriage.


Moreover, I had lost the battle.  I fought hard using my superpower of extraordinary autobiographical memory, but at the last moment, Tom pulled a fast one.  He utilized the superpower of profound loyalty to his family of origin, when he should have stuck strictly to one superpower--the superpower of denial.  This was unjust.  I could not help but pull out my own additional aid.  I opted for a defensive strategy by selecting the severe case of moral indignation superpower.  It was a miscalculated choice.  Alas, the family of origin triumphed over justice.  I had lost.


What follows is a play-by-play description of the battle, but first, a short recap as to why we were fighting in the first place:


Our birth mother was about to deliver a baby.  Any moment now.  Tom had a work meeting in another state.  I did not think Tom should attend said work meeting.  I thought he should stay for the birth of our maybe baby.  Tom thought otherwise.  


The first assault came from my side.  Using my superpower of extraordinary autobiographical memory, I described in "as if we were there again detail," our most recent experience with childbirth:


On the morning after Sara's birth, I struggled to get her to latch onto my breast while Tom sat nearby in a hospital chair.
"How's it going?" he asked.
I was scared.
"Tom, there's something wrong with our baby!" I trembled.
"What are you talking about?" Tom said.  "She's perfect."
But Sara did not appear perfect at all.  She was struggling for air.  A strange, grunt-like noise accompanied her every breath, and then her entire chest seemed to collapse into a deep cavity.
"Oh my God!" I gasped.  "She's not breathing right.  Go get the nurse!"
Tom examined Sara.
"Relax," he said.  "All new babies breathe like that."
And with that, he left to go home and take a shower.  


I was terrified for my baby.  Moreover, during my epidural, the anesthesiologist had punctured the wrong spot.  I was suffering from a spinal leak and could not stand up without suffering excruciating pain.  With all the power that only a new mother has, I managed to place Sara back into her bassinet.  I "raced" down the hallway toward the baby nursery, my brain banging against my skull.  
"Hey!  Momma!" a woman called out to me.  
I couldn't tell if she was a nurse or just someone visiting another new mom in the hospital.  I didn't stop.  I had to get my baby to the nursery.  I had to find help for my baby.
"Momma!" the woman called out again.  "Your backside is showing!"
I was still wearing the hospital gown from delivery.  It was open in the back, but I didn't care.
"Momma!"  the woman ran up to me.  "Are you looking for the nursery?  I can take your baby for you," she offered.  And then, her voice fell to a whisper.  "Your butt is exposed and you are covered in dried blood, honey."
"Which way to the nursery?" I screamed as I pushed the bassinet.  "I'm not giving you my baby!"
By the time I rang the nursery buzzer, I could barely speak to the nurse who opened the door.
"There's something wrong with my baby," I managed to say.  "Her breathing..."
Several hours later, we learned that Sara had a spontaneous pneumothorax.  Her lung had collapsed and some of her organs had shifted.  She was in respiratory distress and it was an acute medical emergency.  She could have died without intervention.  Sara spent two weeks in the neonatal intensive unit and recovered fully.  Only long-term consequence:  Sara will never be able to go scuba diving.  We were lucky.


The memory of Sara's birth had me crying.  Of course, she was fine now.  But the feeling of abandonment and rage I had experienced toward my husband--it was fully activated again.  Tom had abandoned me then.  And I felt that he was abandoning me now.  
"You left me alone at the hospital!"  I screamed.  "And now, you are going to leave me alone again? I cannot do this alone."  I was devastated.
There was no way Tom could win this fight.  His superpower of denial would never overcome my painful memories.  He could not deny the truth of what had happened.  


But.


He could deny the future.  He could minimize the entire act of receiving a baby from another woman.  He could deny that it would be difficult.  And he did.
"I can't do it alone," I begged him.  "I can't do it alone."
"I have to go," Tom declared.  "I have to see this business transaction through.  You're going to have to man up and take care of this without me."
"I cannot man up!" I yelled.  "I am not a man!  I cannot be the mother and the father!"
"And I have to meet my father for this meeting!" Tom yelled back.
And with that, Tom pulled out his sneak attack.  From the bottom of his weapon bag, he grabbed the superpower of profound loyalty to his family of origin.


About a decade ago, at Tom's 30th birthday party, my father-in-law gave a speech in front of about a hundred or so of our friends.  In it, he referred to Tom as 'The Messiah."  While this was certainly humiliating for my husband, it amounted to a full blown epiphany for me.  And now, with Tom leaving me during this adoption process--I realized it was not about money or business or any of that.  No, this was an unconscious force, formed long before Tom ever even knew me.  This was about a small boy, cast in the role of the perfect son, doomed to abide the wishes of his (narcissistic?) parents, at any and all cost.  Cost to himself, his wife, his present and future children.  At least in my not so humble psychoanalytic opinion.  I'm sure Tom holds an entirely different, almost equally valid, perception of things.


Tom and I really do love each other.  This is just one of the dynamics in our marriage that we unconsciously enact, again and again.  I believe all married couples are cast in their own unique marital plot.  Sure the years go by and things ostensibly progress:  there are costume changes (fashion evolves), new scenery (people tend to move around quite a bit), and there are the exits and entrances of background characters (friends come and go--well, at least before Facebook). But the basic theme of a married couple's life is impervious to change.  Sometimes, we try to fight against it, and other times, we merely 'go with the flow.'  But inevitably, we are all doomed to recreate some aspect of our earliest relational trauma with our spouse.    


By the time I pulled out my additional superpower--that is, my severe case of moral indignation, it was far too late.  What could I expect?  By definition, moral outrage is never on time.  I was so mad at the injustice of it all.  How could the primitive bonds of early childhood still be impacting my current middle-aged life?  It didn't seem fair.


I took the only logical next step and called my mother.  


Mom booked the earliest flight she could find.  She would arrive the next day at noon.  I imagined her plane would pass by Tom's as he flew away in the opposite direction.


I thought of Kendra too.  Her husband was planning to abandon her as well--after the birth of her baby, just after the relinquishment of her very own flesh and blood.  He would be taking their two sons on a Christmas vacation.  And with his parents.  And Kendra was not invited.  It seemed clear to me that she too suffered from the devastating effects of a husband's profound loyalty to his family of origin. 


And so, I became more and more psychologically enmeshed with this mysterious woman.  It was one-sided, of course.  I have no idea what Kendra was thinking about me.  I only knew that I was emotionally identified with her, or my idea of her, and the more I thought about it, everything seemed to link me with Kendra.  It felt as if Kendra and I had been weaving our own separate lives, oblivious to each other's existence, until this adoption plan happened.  And suddenly, we found ourselves trapped together on the same sticky web.

5 comments:

Anonymous said...

OMG. GREAT INSIGHT AND SUPERLATIVE WRITING. CANNOT WAIT FOR THE NEXT BLOG.

Lucia and Jack said...

Did he really say "Man up"?

Lucia and Jack said...

Did he really say "man up"?

Lucia and Jack said...

Did he really say "Man up"?

Jennifer said...

Lucia and Jack,

Yes,Yes, and Yes! He did indeed. Luckily, he has many redeeming qualities, like enduring his wife's blog posts about him.