Count Your Many Blessings, Name Them One By One

It’s no secret to anyone who has read this website that my husband is my most favorite person in the whole wide world, and I’m pretty sure that many of you have reached a point where one more mention of how cute I think he looks in protective goggles is totally going to make you throw up already. Sometimes I make myself sick with how goopy I get when I start to talk about him, but it’s become increasingly hard to even think about him without silently gasping, my God, I am so in love with this man.

It’s criminally easy to love someone like my husband, someone with great hair, a working knowledge of CSS and the intricacies of multiple operating systems, soft skin, the ability to grow an authoritative beard, and impeccable taste in socks. He is a good person, someone who genuinely cares about other people and wants to see other people succeed. He loves his friends and his family, he doesn’t cheat on his taxes, and he can fold a dress shirt better than anyone in a Gap employee training video. Most importantly, he has gigantic, bear-like hands, perfect for opening stubborn pickle jars and for holding me tightly when I’m freaking out.

I like to think that I dated enough men and lived enough life in order to be able to appreciate what I have found in my husband. I know that when he rubs my swollen pregnant feet at the end of the night that I couldn’t ask for a better return on investment. He’s not only looking at my icky, puffy toes, he’s actually TOUCHING them, WITH HIS BARE HANDS, and he doesn’t even contort his face in pain. That is true love.

As the weeks have slipped by during this pregnancy and we’ve inched ever closer to the moment we will hold our child in our arms for the first time, the gratitude we feel about each other being the parent of our child has grown exponentially larger due in no small part to what we both have suffered in the past. I dated several dozen men when I was single, but there has only been one other great love in my life, and I don’t even think I can call what happened between me and that person love, at least not the kind I am lucky enough to know now. I can say, however, that what happened between us changed my life inexorably, and that the happiness I feel today is a direct consequence of the pain of that experience.

In the spring of 1997 during my last class at BYU I met and fell in love with a 26-yr old graduate student from Knoxville, Tennessee. He was a typical graduate student in that he loved to deconstruct everything, and I was particularly beguiled by his amazing ability to take any issue and argue all points of view whether or not he agreed with any of it. It was the most interesting thing about him, that he could enter into an argument with someone and in less than three minutes not only prove their point of view wrong, but also have them convinced that the opposite point of view was right.

He took great pleasure in being smarter than 99% of his peers, but it made him a difficult person to like, and his remarkable knowledge on every political issue aggravated my family to no end. I remember in the early months of our relationship sitting with my family in a Wendy’s restaurant when my sister innocently brought up Ronald Reagan and how she thought that he was the best president America has ever had. My poor sister had no idea that she was sitting across from someone who had read every book about the CIA and foreign policy published within the last 50 years, and he proceeded in a very quiet and blisteringly literate manner to debunk everything my sister had ever held true about the 80’s. When he was finished, she sat there struggling with whether or not to throw her half-eaten hamburger in his face.

He had the social graces of a wet pig, but I loved him dearly, particularly because he was at heart one of the most understanding and accepting people I’d ever met. And at that time in my life, a time when I was on the verge of leaving the Mormon Church and entering into the frightening real world — a world not shrouded in the safety net of the promise of eternal life and God’s protection — I really needed understanding and acceptance. He was essentially going through the same growing pains, of being unable to reconcile what his gut was telling him with what the Church wanted him to believe, and we left the Church together, quietly and unceremoniously, a few months after I graduated.

He was the first man I had ever dated for longer than three months, the first relationship of mine that had progressed beyond infatuation by either party involved. One night in the fall of 1997 we carefully orchestrated The Loss of Our Virginity, complete with store-bought manuals, clinical advice we’d downloaded from medical sites on the internet, and every light in the apartment turned on so that we could accurately navigate each other’s property. It was perhaps the most awkward, unromantic, technical display of ignorance ever inflicted on the sexual act, and I would have had it no other way.

Shortly after we moved in together at the beginning of 1998 our relationship quickly transformed into one of convenience and comfort, which is probably why it lasted as long as it did. He abandoned his graduate studies, for reasons I never understood, and stayed at home playing PC games online and collecting the rest of his student loans (which were supposed to be going toward the expenses of the graduate degree he’d just abandoned). I worked a dozen odd jobs trying to figure out what to do with a degree in English, and I liked that he was distracted enough with his online games that left me alone.

His online gaming continued even after BYU finally figured out that he’d dropped out, and soon we began receiving student loan bills in the mail. I was the only one in the relationship with a paying job — oddly enough, one can’t get paid for playing Age of Empires 20 hours a day — and because I believed that he and I would eventually get married I paid those bills in hopes that I wouldn’t marry into bad credit. By the time we moved to LA in 1999, after I got a job offer to do graphic design for an internet start-up, I was paying over $550 a month in his student loan bills.

I know that my paying his student loan bills seems profoundly stupid, and I haven’t even told you about the part where he refused to look for work, or the part where credit card bills in the amount of thousands of dollars started showing up in the mail, but by that point in our relationship I felt deeply responsible for his well-being, not unlike what I imagine a mother feels toward her children. And if there is one thing I learned about life in that relationship it’s that if you enable certain people to take advantage of you, if you allow certain people to exploit your good will, they totally fucking will.

I honestly didn’t think that he could take care of himself — he never once did his own laundry — and I continued to make up excuses for him to convince myself that being in that relationship was right. After seven months of living in LA during the height of the dot com boom when the lobotomized shell of a human carcass could find work as a project manager or account executive, he finally found work as a technical writer for a design firm and spent his first paycheck on a new monitor and hard drive, just two days after I’d written a $1500 check to pay off one of his credit card bills. When I confronted him about the whole situation he broke out his rhetorical genius and made me believe that I had no right to nag him and that I just needed to lighten up.

I understand that there are two sides to every story, and I’m sure he would say that I derived great pleasure from being his care-giver, and he would be totally right. Perhaps I felt latent guilt for leaving the church, or perhaps it was a holdover from childhood when I felt like I had to care for my grieving, divorced parents, but I thought that by taking care of this grown man I was somehow justifying my existence in this world. And I will say it again: I ENABLED him to take advantage of me.

So when I found out I was pregnant in October of 1999 you can understand that I was a little bit freaked out. I was freaked out because I had only missed two days of the pill and statistics had never applied to me. I was freaked out because I immediately realized that I didn’t ever want to have kids with this man, freaked out because this man would never step up to be a partner, let alone a father. I was freaked out because this man was really the only friend I had in a big, unforgiving city, and I realized that our relationship wasn’t one in which I could tell him that I was freaked out.

For two excruciating weeks I freaked out in silence, continuing to work 14 hour days at the internet start-up, trying to figure out how I was going to rearrange my life to accommodate a baby. I knew that I would eventually find the right way and the right words to tell him about the pregnancy, and that he would probably deal with the news by staying up all night playing Ultima Online. For two weeks I lived with the news alone — sick and terrified and hopeless — and then, as unexpectedly as I had found out I was pregnant I had a miscarriage in the 15th floor bathroom of what used to be the E! Entertainment building on Wilshire Blvd. It was the most horrifying experience of my life.

I can honestly say that living with the thought of an unexpected pregnancy was infinitely easier than living through a miscarriage, and however scared I was at the thought of having a baby with that man, nothing could have prepared me for the sorrow or horror of losing a pregnancy. I sat in a bathroom stall for several hours staring mortality smack in the face, unable to scream or yelp or cry out loud. My body felt like a demon, at one moment growing life, at another moment taking it away. I remember thinking that it couldn’t be real, and at the same time feeling that nothing in my life had ever been so real.

It took several months for me to be able to talk about what had happened, and by the time I told my boyfriend about it I had already made the decision to move out and move on. I cut off all my hair, found a new job, moved into my own apartment and purposefully started living my life differently. I can’t say that all of the decisions I made in the year afterward were very good or very wise decisions, and many of my friends could tell wild stories about Heather going off the deep end, but I don’t regret having made the decision to make a change.

In these last few weeks and days of this pregnancy I don’t know how much time or energy I am going to have to update this website. I had originally written about the miscarriage several months ago, but I didn’t know whether or not I wanted to publish what I had written because sometimes I feel like I’m being so goddamn dramatic. But the closer I get to my due date the more I feel like I should communicate just how grateful I am that I have had a healthy and safe pregnancy. I know that my pregnancy posts have been riddled with complaints and gory descriptions and the hormonal ramblings of an unstable nitwit, but underneath all the cynical exaggeration lies a fundamental gratitude for the magnificence of this responsibility. I possess a very real appreciation for the beauty of this experience because I have lived through the pain of having had it taken away.

I also know that I am even luckier to have had such a wonderful partner to see me through the whole nine months — someone who held my forehead as I puked in the toilet, someone who was willing to forsake hours of sleep to push over my whale-like body in the middle of the night, someone who held me when I freaked out. I know that many women go through this alone or with partners who’d rather not be a part of the whole process, and I can’t thank my husband enough for gaining a whole five pounds just to make me feel better. I finally get to have his baby.