Life on the Outside

Reality, however Utopian, is something from which people feel the need of taking pretty frequent holidays.- Aldous Huxley

Within weeks of returning home I began suspecting that I was pregnant. Remembering back, that air conditioned cabin had afforded some additional creature comforts… A test confirmed that we would be welcoming a little one sometime the following April. I was crazy happy to be pregnant again. We seemed to be congealing, the three of us, and I was excited to be moving toward the vision of ‘family’ that had been rebirthed as Hubby and I built dreams of our life together.  Any indication that something was amiss stayed tucked inside that mental filing cabinet

We were both smokers back then and talked about quitting often. We had agreed that if / when I was to get pregnant, we would quit together. One of the things that tipped me off to the pregnancy was the repulsion I experienced when I smelled cigarettes so for me, quitting was a piece of cake – nothing like vomiting as negative reinforcement! For Hubby, quitting was not as easy and he continued to smoke. It became a true and sizable bone of contention between us. When he arrived home at night, I would immediately know he had just had a cigarette, I would gripe – a lot. Eventually he stopped telling me the truth but the smell was always a dead giveaway as my nose had turned into an ultra-sensitive olfactometer. And then – my grumbling and nitpicking became more intensified. I was a pregnant woman who had been let down and lied to – no combination of those aspects were good together. I was turning into a nag about the whole smoking thing.

I continually tried to explain that the odor of cigarettes in any capacity was difficult for me to experience while I was pregnant and couldn’t be close to him if I smelled it. I stopped kissing him. Not only did I feel let down because of the broken promise but no matter how many times I had said something was a problem for me – it didn’t change. I felt unsupported and insignificant yet again. The absence of greeting him with a kiss – and in fact I would often stand five feet away – when he came home in the evening, certainly wasn’t behavior supportive of a good relationship. However, I didn’t feel as though I was simply being ‘stubborn’, I had a true physiological response. It wasn’t long before he noticed how much physical distance I always maintained and that I wasn’t kissing him. He wanted to know what ‘my’ problem was.

I didn’t exactly enjoy the bodily changes that my physique went through during pregnancy but I cherished the experience of feeling the baby move, knowing that life was growing inside of me, and the anticipation of loving our little angel. My body began to change, I started gaining weight – a lot of it – and Hubby’s libido suddenly disappeared. He swore it wasn’t personal, that it was him – that he felt weird during sex – like the baby could somehow know what was happening.

Something didn’t make sense. We went from having sex literally, daily – to nothing at all. I talked with my mom. My step-dad talked with him and ultimately we had a ‘family talk’ about our sex life. “This happens sometimes” my mom says. Umm. I am thinking, you don’t know my husband. After being with him for two years, what I felt sure of, was that this behavior was odd – definitely off from what was normal for us. And, while I realize that everyone is different – it was quite contrary to my prior experience. My pregnancy with Francis might as well have been an aphrodisiac for both Rocky and me. No matter how he tried to rationalize this shift in our lifestyle, it didn’t compute for me. I wondered how his needs, the ones that I perceived to be insatiable, were being met. I grew fearful that he was going to look for alternate avenues. I started to play detective and challenged any information that felt off… he thought I was losing my mind.

It seemed as though my belly grew in tandem with the gap in my marriage. Each morning as I showered and dressed, I would allow my mind to wander to the Playboy magazine collection that swelled by one each month – and the women in them. It would wander to the Victoria’s Secret clothing that was delivered to the house as a gift for me (pre-pregnancy) but always a size or two smaller than I actually wore. It would wander to random comments I heard from time to time about men who should divorce women who got fat. During a time when I should have felt loved and cherished, I felt rejected and rebuffed. I ate an amount of food commensurate with my sorrow and gained 60 pounds over the course of my pregnancy.

There were dramatic behavioral changes in our sex life. The smoking / distance thing that had become ‘my fault’ (at least in my mind) created emotional distance between us. Then there was my body, the weight gain and pregnancy metamorphosis. All in all, it took a deep and rugged toll on my self-image. Any gains that may have been made over the last couple of years felt as if they were being swept away. I found myself once again doing anything necessary to experience approval. I cooked better meals, I worked to save us money where possible, I attempted to initiate physical contact as much as I could. I wanted to be loved. I wanted to be desired. I wanted to feel important to my husband. I didn’t feel any of those things.

I tried to immerse myself in activities that would occupy my mind, to make sure that I had a never ending supply of ‘busy’ work so that I didn’t think too much. I was a Den mother for Francis’s Cub Scout troop, I sewed a lot of clothing, I decorated and crafted as our budget allowed. I worked at organizing Hubby’s business, helping with paperwork and motivation whenever it was necessary. We continued to build visions for our business and I signed up to sit for a licensing exam that would offer us more opportunity.

I focused on the activity that kept my mind occupied. When emotions arose that didn’t fit the construct of my life vision, they were chided by my outer self. I couldn’t help but think that I had rushed into this thing – that I deserved to be in this predicament because I had been so impetuous. I was afraid of being labeled a fool if I were to acknowledge it wasn’t working. Duh…. They would say… that’s what you get for being so spontaneous and reckless or perhaps that was my own mind talking, scolding, and criticizing.

On the outside, life was great. We were good (and became experts) at projecting to the outside world, an image of ourselves and of our family that fit into social and familial expectations. My subconscious began the slow and delicate separation between the life I wanted to live and the life I was actually living.

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