Monday, September 26, 2011
Building the Nest
Newly pregnant, Celia has a solid lead on a part time job that would at least get her into one of the local school districts. Rob is becoming more accepting of the unexpected baby news.
Celia’s brain was scattered; she could not concentrate on anything as she waited for her school district contact to get back to her. Everything felt exciting at this moment, from telling their families about the pregnancy (which Rob agreed they could do this evening) to being fascinated by her own body (even though it was not yet betraying its secret in any way), to the idea of working in a school district again. The bottom line, Celia realized about herself, was that she was a people person. Private piano lessons just didn’t energize her in the same way working in a dynamic, peopled environment did.
So she cleaned and organized the apartment; not that it was in bad shape, but she was driven to do things, like that nesting instinct of which she had heard tell was kicking in even before she had experienced a single pickle craving. But mostly she checked email about every five minutes to see if she was being offered an interview.
Wiping down the glass lampshade over the dinette table, she was astonished at how quickly she had rearranged her assumptions about the next few years, and with that she realized one more way in which she and Rob were different. Maybe it was growing up in a house with a pair of unhappy, arguing parents, but Celia could turn on a dime when new information entered the picture. By contrast, the stability Rob had grown up with had seemed to have inculcated him with the expectation that change is simply negative, at all times and in any form.
One of the assumptions that had been turned upside down was that at some point when she had children, she would stay home full time and care for them. That pregnancy happened years ahead of schedule likely overruled that plan in perpetuity; further, Celia understood that once you get into a school district, especially in this economic and educational age, you stay put. As a slogan she had seen recently put it, “Having a job is the new raise.” The next few years were going to be hard for Rob. Having graduated college three months before the recession of 2008, he was still unable to revise his assumptions about their future together, but until he could, he would live with the chronic anxiety that he was doing something wrong.
Still, he had seemed upbeat on the phone earlier, and not just because she had a job lead. Celia rinsed out the cloth she had been using, dried her hands, and checked her email again.
There was a request that she interview at the district office at 3:00 that day.
Her heart leapt. She would get the job, work a full semester before anyone even knew she was pregnant, and give birth right before the end of the school year, take the summer off with the baby… and figure out next fall between now and then. How cool could that be?
What happens next?
Thursday, September 22, 2011
In need of a fresh perspective (Joanne’s response)
I don’t know about you, but I have learned the value of “sleeping on it.” This has not always been a workable strategy for me, and there was a time when knotty issues would easily ruin a night’s sleep, or a weekend’s relaxation, or an entire vacation’s leisure. With life experience has come the ability to trust that whatever comes down the road, I will figure out how to handle it if I just take it one step at a time. I hope Rob is learning this skill. Today, he does not have to know how he will finance his child’s education. Today, he does have to take care of himself, his wife, and his impending child in the best way he knows how (Celia holds the same responsibility, of course). While that includes long term financial planning, Rob’s inclination has been to overlook today’s care because he has been hyper-worried about tomorrow’s. Let’s hope he can incorporate his experience this morning into a longer-term strategy that identifies which issue is today’s issue vs. those to which attention can be delayed, and grasp that the best time to problem solve is not right before bed. Scarlet O’Hara’s mantra, “After all, tomorrow is another day” is a strategy for personal resilience that applies to personal civil wars, too.
Monday, September 19, 2011
In need of a fresh perspective
Celia and Rob are newly pregnant but have not yet told anyone at Rob’s insistence. Panicked at this unexpected news, he wants to wait until they have “figured out their next step.” Celia is discouraged by Rob’s response.
Rob was surprised at what a night’s sleep had done for his outlook. He had awakened early and headed to the office earlier than usual, not that working more hours would increase his salary. But he had awakened with what felt like an adrenalin surge, which impacted both his energy and his mood. He did not anticipate his second shift at Starbucks tonight with dread as he had been. Further, the burden of providing for his family, which suddenly included starting a college fund for some faceless teenager who was going to expect an education in 2030, did not feel nearly as panic-inducing this morning as it had at home last evening.
For the first time since he had taken on the responsibility of marriage almost two years ago, Rob had a distinct feeling that everything was going to be OK. This, despite his having no idea how… but with this feeling he began to think about what was happening in new terms. Not just pregnancy. But baby.
He stared at the spreadsheets on his computer screen, aware of an emerging curiosity about whether their baby would be a boy or girl. His mother would be so excited—
Then Rob felt terrible that he had denied Celia the pleasure of sharing the news with her mother and sister, something he knew she had looked forward to, because he couldn’t handle it. He picked up his phone to call her just as it began to ring. Celia was calling him.
“I was thinking you could call your mom tonight”—Rob started—
“I got a phone call about a job lead”—Celia started—
They stopped at the same time.
“Sorry,” Celia said. “You go.”
“You should call your mom and Catherine whenever you want. I shouldn’t have said you couldn’t.”
“OK, maybe tonight. But I have a job lead”—Celia proceeded to tell him about a part time position shared by two city schools that had suddenly become available, weeks into the new school year. “Actually, my work in the afterschool program last year might make me more qualified, since I have worked with that population.”
What happens next in their relationship?
Monday, September 12, 2011
Believing in God’s Timing
Rob and Celia, newly and unexpectedly pregnant, are trying to find their footing in life and in marriage.
Celia wondered what to do to first as her natural inclination was to let things follow their natural course, but thank God for the internet and its helpful hints. She called her doctor to schedule an appointment. She put prenatal vitamins on her shopping list. Rob would approve of these steps and hopefully her doing them would encourage him.
Beyond that, there was little to do but to wait, at least as far as she could tell. She checked out the websites she had been using to apply for jobs, but she was unsure what to do about that – did Starbucks really want a pregnant barista? Did she really want to work as a waitress while pregnant? She resisted asking Rob his opinion because he would get caught in a loop of trying to be supportive while attempting to conceal his real concern, which was and always would be how the pregnancy would impact their long-term financial viability. Not only was that unpleasant, but every time Rob went there Celia’s ability to imagine living with Rob for the next several decades felt sorely challenged, as if her resilience took a permanent ding every time he panicked.
At least Rob was trying to be positive, having commented that at least they had nine months to figure out their next step – but until they had figured out their next step, he had requested that they delay telling anyone about their news.
Again, their different approaches to life clashed. Her first pregnancy was once-in-a-lifetime news about which she was excited to tell her mother and sister, and she had winced when Rob made it clear that telling his family now was “a really bad idea.” Though their pregnancy was new, already Celia was tired of feeling like she had done something wrong by being young, married, and fertile.
Sitting at her computer, she surfed her email contacts and then her Facebook page for the names of anyone who might be able to refer piano students her way. She found no one she had not already hassled, and anyway, most of her music friends were in a similar boat to hers.
Going back to her email, there was a new note from a former teacher who worked in the local public schools: “Hi Celia. Are you still looking for a job for this year? I might have a lead. Call me today if you’re interested.”
Celia’s heart leapt and she dialed her friend’s number immediately.
“I am definitely interested,” Celia said, when she reached her on the first try. She did not want to think about what it meant that she was newly pregnant and applying for a job, but then again, this wasn’t the 1950’s.
“Excellent – a pair of city schools share a part time music teacher that they just lost – sad circumstances, though – but they need to fill it immediately. Can you send your resume again right now?”
What happens next?
Thursday, September 08, 2011
Making your love unconditional (Joanne’s comment)
OK, Rob and Celia are admitting together that they are pregnant and are tentatively moving forward. They have agreed that they love each other and are in this together. That is something, and for the moment, it is enough. There are many months ahead of them to figure out the rest. Couples who face pregnancy with mixed feelings risk relationship stress at a time when they need nurture and resilience more than ever. Right now, they need to remember that they love each other while tolerating that their comfort levels may evolve at different paces. They may need to seek out other people to process their stress—right now seeking support from one another to talk about their worries may not be the best choice. Readers, share you own “just got the news” stories here!
Monday, September 05, 2011
Making your love unconditional
Having just discovered they are pregnant, Rob and Celia cannot figure out how to connect with one another when they have such radically different responses to the news.
Dinner was on the table, but Celia stood at the sink chopping celery, because it was there; it was something to do with the adrenalin that flooded her the moment Rob reacted badly to news she found exciting, hopeful, and even mysterious.
She chopped, and she wept, terrified that if Rob couldn’t handle this, he could walk away, leaving her to handle it alone.
She heard Rob enter the kitchen, slowly. She chopped harder, throwing the scraps into the trash, and tossing tiny celery cubes into a container. She thought she ought to say something, but some deep defensive place did not allow her to – if she spoke first he might never take initiative again. She needed him to.
Finally, she had to stop chopping to blow her nose, and she did so, grabbing a paper towel and doing so, highly aware of Rob just standing there.
She turned around.
“The worst thing for me at this moment,” she said, “is that I really don’t trust you.”
Rob didn’t say anything.
“Your dinner is on the table,” Celia said, just to fill the silence, since Rob did not seem capable of doing so.
She heard him swallow. “Actually, I think you’re the one who needs to be eating, right?”
Celia nodded briefly before she broke down in tears, sobbing into the paper towel in her hand; at least with this comment he acknowledged what was happening. Maybe they would be okay.
Rob stepped toward her and took her in his arms, and she continued to sob against him. At the very least, his body was strong.
“I need you to say something,” she said, into his shoulder.
There was a long silence. “I love you,” he said.
“I love you too,” she sobbed back.
What happens next?
Thursday, September 01, 2011
Avoiding The Marriage Meltdown (Joanne’s comment)
Unplanned pregnancies stress relationships, even stable ones that include children as part of the eventual plan (to which Harold’s last comment attests) . But as the prophet John Lennon said, life is what happens when we are busy making other plans… and Rob is certainly a planner. Being one myself, I empathize with Rob, but I fear that he is confusing “plan” with “blueprint.” A plan is rougher and allows for unforeseen information, whereas when a blueprint hits an unexpected snag (like a construction blueprint) it is expensive and time-consuming to remedy. Rob is burned out and has no margins right now. But he’s going to need to step up and recognize that Celia is trying to embrace that life, literally, is happening, despite his plans.
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