Who am I?
Before my son was born, I had a career. It wasn’t a stellar, glamorous career but it was steady work doing something I’m good at, something for which I was appreciated and valued and which gave me a certain measure of latitude in my days and weeks. When I became pregnant, I was a very high-risk patient due to my age and my reproductive history of miscarriages and infertility. I was put on “modified rest” and highly restricted activity —definitely no thirteen hour days commuting into the city, managing the stressful details of running an office and juggling the demands of multiple executives. Through my entire first trimester, I managed to stay in contact with my office and keep things running as best as I could through conference calls and emails.
At the end of my first trimester, my new obstetrician gave me the thumbs up to return to work. I was relieved and felt a renewed sense of purpose each day. My plan was to return to work just a few months after the baby was born. Life, as it turns out, had other plans for me.
Nik was born at twenty-seven weeks. Because of a previously unknown uterine anomaly, his growth had been restricted and he was the size of a 23 or 24 week fetus. He weighed in at a whopping 530 grams at birth —including the breathing tube and apparatus to hold it onto his impossibly tiny face. One pound, two and five-eighths ounces of determined fighter. He turned my world upside down in ways I haven’t even begun to identify!
Two hundred nine days in the NICU, countless operations and ongoing interventions. It became glaringly clear that my work days were over for the foreseeable future. Nik’s needs were too great and the cost of childcare too steep. My fulltime job became “mom”; my new boss had me wrapped around his little finger. Somewhere along the line, I just assumed that I would return to the work force eventually —once Nik was “healthier” or when he went to school. My husband and I had discussed the fact that we probably couldn’t survive for long on just one income.
Fast forward six years. Many twists and turns in our journey have led us to a new home, a new career for my husband —who is about to return to school to advance that career further— and the unexpected decision to home school our son. His needs are still very great and the cost of specialty care is prohibitive. We cannot afford a private school but I am no longer able to juggle the constant demands of his safety and education with running a household, being a wife, being a mother and trying to make it all work. Something has to give.
That something, historically, has been me. Tonight, as my husband and I discussed the next stage in his career development, it finally hit me; I’m not ever going back to work in the way I once imagined. My husband’s school program will take another two to two and a half years at which point I will be nearly fifty. Ten years out of the work world. Ten years out of the loop of, well, everything that doesn’t somehow revolve around parenting a child with multiple disabilities or being a wife. Make no mistake, I do not devalue those things at all —they are a vital part of who I am.
However, tonight, it felt like the paradigm of my future that I’ve held for so long simply vanished in a puff of smoke. I am left feeling lost. Who am I? What will I do? Who do I want to be outside of my roles as wife and mother? Is this all there is?
I don’t have any answers yet; I suspect I won’t for a long while. But I do know that I need a plan for my here-and-now to make sure that something anchors me, fills me up. Something gives me a sense of self outside my family, a sense of purpose. Something to look forward to that is just for me.
They say necessity is the mother of invention. I say reinvention is the necessity of motherhood.