I’ve just come home from breaking the fast with my family – the Yom Kippur (Day of Atonement) fast. Which I did not do, obviously, because pregnant. But Rosh Hashanah (Jewish New Year) and Yom Kippur are a time of reflection – for the year that you just had, the kind of person you think you are and the year you would like to come, and who you want to be in that time ahead. I’m also in reflection mode because my time as a pregnant lady is rapidly running out. It’s both taken an age and also gone by in the blink of an eye. I’ve had moments of real personal struggle – of feeling so unrelentingly unwell, of massive energy drains and now the pain is starting to kick in. I’ve also become completely captivated by watching and feeling a living being inside me. What was at first quite confronting and weird, and uncomfortable, has become fascinating, and I guess magical. And I am starting to really look forward to meeting my kid. Weird as that sentence is to actually write.
I’ve been thinking a lot though about how this has also been our first year of marriage. Not long after the baby comes, we will celebrate our first wedding anniversary. And in some ways, I’ve been a bit regretful that I spent this first year, our newlywed year, pregnant. I didn’t know how I would be when pregnant, but I’ve spent a lot of it tired, sick, sleeping (I’ve slept way more this year than I usually do, even if I now can’t remember sleep) and a bit grumpy and short tempered. I’ve felt awful for a lot of it. And I guess I did always think your first year of marriage would be a bit more swoony than this.
On the other hand, there isn’t a day where I don’t think to myself, “I married the right man”. And I am so so grateful that we ever met. For such a long time I thought maybe that I would never meet the right person for me or that I was just destined to be alone. Or that I was too difficult or was being punished for some long forgotten heinous crime. And it took a long time to get over that wanting to not be single thing, to be ok being just me. And of course, when I did finally do that, C came along. C, who demands and expects me to be authentically me, and calls me out when I wander off that track. C, who has been patient and loving and supportive since the first day I met him, but especially so this year. C, who listens to me and hears and remembers what I say, who finishes my sentences and knows what I’m thinking. And who sits next to me and gently squeezes my hand when a conversation veers out into territory that upsets me, a squeeze that says, “I know this is offensive to you but it’s ok to let it slide this time.” Who helps me pick my battles and stay focussed on what’s really important. And who never ever makes me feel bad or need to be apologetic about who and what I am. And who challenges me intellectually and morally to be better and more.
It’s impossible to be superwoman – to have it all, at once. And this year it’s been rather quite confronting for me to actually have to face up that truth. I can’t both be in the labour ward AND at World Fantasy Con. Much as I would like to. The reality of having to make choices, of having to choose between things, and that it’s something that I as a woman am forced to do in ways that my husband is not. It’s been upsetting to finally have that moment come. (And to counterbalance that with being so very lucky, that at 37, I was still able to be in this position.) It would be extra hard for me to not be in Brighton, were I not going to be very busy right around that time. But it’s really made me have to think through what this means for me going forward. I am lucky to have other mentors around me – women who have done it before me, and have much to offer in advice and support. And I have a very loving husband who is prepared and capable who pulls his fair weight on this team. But there are some things he cannot do for me, or instead of me. And … that’s the really confronting bit. But when I bring him my dilemmas – what, for example, does this mean for next year, when I might still be breastfeeding? – he offers options and solutions. I’m very lucky and so very glad to have married this man. To finally feel like I am in the right place, with the right person.
I’m not really sure what I thought our first year of marriage would be like. We already lived together. We’ve already done the long distance thing when he’s been at sea. We are the very best of friends. It’s been in some ways no different to what it was before. And yet, this year has brought me all sorts of challenges – we travelled overseas together for the first time (and it was awesome), I finally came to the decision to quit my job and try this publishing thing for serious (something he’d told me a long time ago that he was prepared to support me when, and there would be a when, he said, I decided to leap) and when I needed to quit my job early due to morning sickness. And for all these things, C has been there as a sounding board, a support, never a judge, and never ever anything but my cheering squad. He gives me the confidence to believe in myself. And that I’m not in this alone.
We have this next big thing on our journey together coming up to round off this first year. And there is noone else in the world I would want here with me other than him. I don’t think I could do this without him. I’m scared – terrified to tell the truth – but knowing he’ll be standing beside me, squeezing my hand, it will be ok.