This afternoon I am reviewing neonatal examinations and also cardio-respiratory and CNS examination while pinging e-mails back and forth to LH. We had one of our strange weeks the other week, where I go completely off the rails into scary territory and he looks on in bewilderment and waits for the dust to clear.
I think sometimes, that I wonder too much about the “what ifs”. The “where I would be if I hadn’t got married or had children”. These what ifs always seem to strike at a time when I’m particularly stressed about work, and probably stem from some envy of those that are footloose and fancy free at those times.
When LH and I got married was one of the most stressful times of my life and indeed our whole relationship. It was my first year back after having had the Elfling and the first time I’d had to do uni while juggling someone else’s needs that were more important than my own. 2nd year medicine is widely regarded as the hardest year, and the exams are legendarily difficult. So we decided to plan a white wedding for nearly 100 people right smack bang in the middle of it. Even just recalling it is welling a sense of panic up in my chest. So much responsibility, so much stress, so many things to do. To make it even more fun, this was the year of the worst job that LH ever had, where he would at a moment’s notice be sent overseas for work (with NO bonuses, overtime etc etc). Two weeks before our wedding, one week before my major end of semester exams, LH was sent to Qatar. Here is a map showing Qatar.
Yes, as in the Persian Gulf 5 billion miles from home. With a stressed out, freaked out, already skittish, commitment shy fiancée at home with their baby daughter. I can remember crying to him on the phone and him crying too just a week before the wedding, unsure of when he was going to be home and me being out of my brain. I wanted to jump ship then and run far far away from all this commitment and responsibility and just act like a regular 23 year old whose biggest decision was “vodka or Midori?” at the pub next weekend (Vodka obviously – Midori is VILE). I thought about running away with a friend of mine (just a friend – we were never “involved”) simply because it just seemed so much easier than dealing with all of this.
I have a selfish streak and when I am stressed I seem to resort to it. Even though LH is my best friend, at that time, even though none of it was his fault and he was even more stressed than I, it was easy to blame him when I was trying to study through tears as I got a call from daycare saying that the Elfling couldn’t stay there being as she had conjunctivitis. I wasn’t one of those dreamy, ethereal, mooning brides spinning fairy castles in the sky. Even on the morning of our wedding (he got home in time!) I wasn’t calmed down yet, and driving there I was still tempted to jump out of the car and run away.
We got to the park in our polished vintage cars in the brilliant mid winter sunshine with me in my beautiful meringue dress and elbow length veil and I took a deep breath as Dad arranged the filminess over my face. I thought about all the reasons I loved LH and all the reasons why I needed to walk down this pathway to where 80 or so people were gathered around a pagoda facing out onto the sparkling river. The breeze lilted gently off the water and my 2 bridesmaids swung the Elfling down the “aisle” as we proceeded to Pachebel’s canon in D played by a string trio. And with every step I took in my brand new ivory coloured shoes under the heavy brushed satin skirt with my hands clutching the simple but heavy bouquet of trussed red roses I wondered if I was doing this for the right reasons. Was I doing it because it was all arranged and I had to? Was I doing it because of some stubborn obligation?
As I sang the words to Canon under my breath (it was my favourite choral piece of music from the days when I sang regularly in choirs) I reached LH’s side just as the music canons with hallelujahs. As they reached crescendo around us we were silent – looking at each other, and at that moment there were no other people on Earth. Just him and I, surrounded by the haunting music of the cello, separated by a translucent pearly veil. LH reached forward and lifted the veil, and with it went all my fears and trepidations. As the music ended, and all that could be heard was the birds in the trees, all I could see was LH’s eyes, emotion welling up in them, and suddenly I felt the prickle and sting of tears hit my own. There was no doubt, there was nothing there but pure unadulterated love for the man in front of me and there was nothing I could do but bite my lip hard to stop the tears cascading down my face and ruining my very expensive make up.
The ceremony was simple and brief and poignant as we held hands in front of the celebrant. We didn’t write our own vows and we didn’t want to do rehearsed, tacky, “symbolic” kitsch. The symbolism was in the fact that we were making promises to each other in front of people we loved, and in the incredibly plain and simple matching gold bands that we exchanged. We had two short readings (1:13 Corinthians and Shakespeare’s 116th sonnet) and in the shortest possible time I was able to finally move into his arms and be kissed as his wife.
The rest of the wedding day is but a mere blur. I remember going through the paces of having photos taken and picking at our fantastic lunch and listening to speeches, but all I really wanted was to be alone with my husband. To escape from all the well wishers that were taking my attention away from him and our magical little locked kingdom that only we had keys for. Of the utter relief of getting into our taxi to go to the hotel, and the joy I felt at walking into our luxe room where it was just him and I. I remember the shyness and strangeness we felt as we looked at each other, a mix of love and lust and some sort of undercurrent as well. We’d thought that being married was merely a formality, but standing here, in our winter finery in this plush suite it was the start of a new beginning. Our new beginning.
Sometimes still, when I am snowed under and stressed, I revert back into the selfish “if only” mindset. Wishing for the lack of responsibility and the lack of people who depend on and rely on and love me. If pinned down I will start thinking about escape plans and how life will be when I don’t have to worry about everything and only have to worry about one thing at a time. And I am so lucky, because I am sure that some husbands, when confronted with a freaking out, implode-y wife would dust their hands or would start throwing out lassos to tie me down and force me to behave. But I married the most patient, beautiful and loving man on Earth who trusts me above all else. Who when asked why he doesn’t come down on my behaviour and force me to act like a mature responsible adult ought, simply says that I am free and he will never cage me. That I have to make my own choices and he will never be the one that I have to rebel against. And it is this simple trust, this simple unswerving faith that he has in me that forces me to behave myself. To love him more fiercely and to be even more protective of this special (Nat calls it sickening :p) relationship that we have.
Even last week, the scene of my last meltdown (in spectacular style – I don’t like to do things by halves), was met with his steadfast clear statement that we love each other and that we will get through everything. As I lay on my back with my head in his lap under a tree and the tears coursed down my face I thought about how lucky I am and how no one else I will ever meet will have the strength that he does. It’s funny because so many people see our relationship and think I wear the pants and run the show and whatever other dodgy clichés are out there. But the truth is that he does. He always has. While I am headstrong and passionate and free flying and spontaneous and visible, he is the rock that allows me to be the best that I can be. And for that, and the two most perfect children that ever existed (because of course, they were made from us) I am the luckiest woman on Earth.