I can’t sleep.
It’s only 10:38 my time, so I know that hardly qualifies me as an insomniac. But I usually go to bed early and fall asleep fast. Something is on my mind, and I don’t think I’ll be able to rest until I get it out of the way.
This month is probably going to be hard for me. A year ago, unbeknownst to me at the time, my husband started an affair with a coworker. It was short-lived, as these things go, and only lasted about a month. My journals from that time are full of questions – I could tell that we were distant, but I attributed it to his preoccupation with work (a stressful rotation at a different hospital than usual), to a rough patch with our then-8-month-old, to something I was doing wrong. It never occurred to me that this unthinkable, unspeakable thing could have happened.
Not in my relationship! I really thought we had it made – we met and fell in love in college. Endured Gruff’s diagnosis and battle with testicular cancer. Made it into medical school and moved to a new state. Dealt with seeming infertility and miscarriages and an eventful pregnancy. Celebrated parenthood and graduations. This was a marriage that had been through so much. Even though we’re young, we’re mature (or so I thought, last year).
So to tell the story – he had the affair in October. In November, I get my “normal” husband back, and I feel relieved that it was just a rough patch, a hard time at work, a blip in the radar. Around Thanksgiving, I find out we’re unexpectedly pregnant. At Christmas, we tell our families the good news. In mid-January, I miscarry.
As if my heart wasn’t broken enough, two weeks later –just one day before my son’s first birthday– I see that Gruff has left his work email open on our home computer. An email is displayed from a woman. It’s not remarkable in any way, except that it makes my stomach drop and my heart lodge in my throat as some part of me, an intuition that comes from who-knows-where, realizes this is VERY. BAD. INDEED. I click on the “sent” folder and see dozens of emails to this woman – one from that day, and the rest from October. I only have to read a few to know what has happened.
I call Gruff and demand that he come home immediately. I hear panic in his voice – he thinks something is wrong with our son, or that I’m physically sick again. I say no, no, we’re fine, just come home now. He says that he can’t waltz out of the hospital for no good reason. I say, fine, tell your attendings that you’ve been cheating on your wife and she just found out. He says he’ll be home in a minute and hangs up.
In my previous blog life, I was a NewDotMom. I loved that space — I felt so free to write about my life, my fears and my feelings, my joys and my worries. I had friends there – Mrs. Chicken knew me back then. I’d planned a big, happy post about Smooch’s (aka NewDotBaby’s) first birthday for my 100th post. And then my world exploded.
For one thing, there was the immediate lack of reasonable time. I went through those days in a wooden, numb, robotic way. I cared for my little boy, I got out of bed and went to the grocery store and the park. But as soon as he was asleep, I fell apart in a panic. I had panic attacks. I would cry myself hoarse, I would pound and kick my bed, I would collapse on the hallway floor, I would lean against the cold tile in the shower until the water ran cold. I stopped eating (not an ideal way to lose the last of that baby weight, by the way). Gruff and I entered counseling immediately – literally, the day after I discovered his infidelity. So I had less free time in that sense, too. When he was home, we were in deep, raw, angry or sad or horror-stricken conversations. He was certain that he wanted to stay married. I wasn’t.
How could I write about this? How could I sit at my laptop and put any of this into words? Our therapist made me keep a journal, and made me write about my actual feelings — it turns out that I “tend to hide behind my intellect… I focus on analysis and debate rather than expressing my uncomfortable emotions” — and doing that daily writing was draining me to the point that I was afraid to go near my blog.
So. I dropped off the face of the blogosphere for a long time.
In the last eight months, Gruff and I have had numerous counseling sessions. We’ve had arguments and conversations and reconciliations. I’ve asked every question that I want to know the answer to. (Bad grammar but good point – it can be tempting to ask everything that comes to mind, but it can be damaging to know all the details. You have to figure out how much you can handle, how much you truly want and need to know.) He has answered them all – some in front of our therapist, so I could feel more confident that he was telling the truth.
He cooperated completely with me, from the beginning, in everything I needed him to do. For starters, that was sleeping on the couch and becoming meticulously accountable for his whereabouts every second and giving me all the passwords to all his email accounts. As time has gone by, he’s no longer on the couch, but he still calls several times a day to check in with me. I have his passwords still, but I don’t feel the urge to check his accounts multiple times a day. I stopped doing everything I considered part of my “wife” role in the beginning – no cooking, no cleaning, no laundry, no physical touch that made me feel wierd. Today, I’m back to cooking most of the time, but now he sometimes helps clean up after meals, and he always thanks me for the work that went into it. I do a lot of the cleaning around here, but he does a lot more than ever before – including “his” bathroom completely. I still don’t do his laundry, and that’s working for us. I have enough to manage with my clothes, Smooch’s clothes, and towels & linens. He keeps up with his clothes and towels, and every time he trudges a load up and down the stairs I know he appreciates the work I do around here. Physically, it took a long time. We had to build a lot of trust and communication, and it’s worse than starting over with a stranger – you’re starting over with someone you love who has hurt you in the deepest way possible. Once we worked through the issues of the affair – and the underlying issues that, unwittingly, made him (us) susceptible to an affair – we’ve gotten to a place where we’re comfortable and happy and doing well. And this is a PG-rated blog so that’s all I’m going to say about that.
I’m going to bring my NewDotMom posts over here soon. I hadn’t planned on it when I started Fizzledink, but now I think it would be a nice gesture of healing. That’s not to say that I’m healed – this isn’t perfect. I know that my emotions are going to be a little wacky this month… and probably around the anniversary of the discovery. All the books I’ve read tell me that’s normal. But, I have come so much further than I ever thought possible. At first I didn’t think I could even live through the destruction and insanity. And now, look at me. I lived through it. My family is still together. I can honestly say that I love my husband – I can even say I have forgiven him.
NewDotMom will never get that 100th post, but that’s okay. I’m not that person anymore. I’ve changed – I’ve grown from this (terrible, horrible, no-good, very-bad) experience. I’m a new person. I’m Fizz, and I think I can embrace both my new self and my old self.