Sunday, March 08, 2009

10 Years Ago Today

I only have one story when it comes to overcoming challenges in my career, because for the most part, I have been extremely lucky. I don't have tales of long separations from my husband because of the two body problem, because we were only apart for a few months when we were first married. Those times were not easy, but it was short. I have also been lucky to not to be touched by tragedy in my personal life. My story is different, because nothing bad actually happened to me- it was a challenging and tough time, but the outcome was a very good one.

During my second year as a PhD student, I made plans to finish my required coursework, take (& hopefully pass) my written and oral exams and reach the status of ABD. In fact, when I was out for New Year's Eve and it turned 1999, I yelled "This is the year that I will be ABD!" That much was true, but a lot of other things changed in 1999. In 1998, I had worked in a department outside of my own for my research assistantship and had met some new people in that department. One of those people was H. We had talked in the computer lab a few times and agreed that we should go out to lunch some time (with other grad students).

We started dating in early 1999 and on March 8th (10 years ago today!), I found out I was pregnant*. We decided that we should have the baby and H even suggested getting married. When we shared the news with friends and family, everyone was shocked. My mother stopped speaking to me and sent a nasty email accusing me of having unprotected sex. Her reaction seemed more fit for a pregnant 17-year-old than a 28-year-old PhD student, and she even called my dad**, who proceeded to call me and leave a message- which I didn't return for weeks, because I knew he had nothing good to say. Why all the hoopla? Well, maybe I forgot to mention that H is black- and (to make matters worse in their eyes) actually from Africa! What could be more scandalous?! I even had a good friend from high school who told me to be careful because H might just be using me to get citizenship.

Wow. Was I feeling supported by my family! During all of this, I started having morning sickness (at a conference & during my morning classes) and by April I was taking my written exams. Four of the five were take-home-and-write-over-two-days kind of exams and during one of them, H got a tenure track job offer at a U that was almost 2000 miles away. I also threw out my neck at this point and it was excruciatingly painful to even lift my left arm (and no ibuprofen for me, either). Once we settled on H taking the job and me staying behind for the first year so that I could finish my proposal and have this baby, things calmed down a bit. I finally called my dad back, who alternated between telling me that "they're a different breed of people" and "I'm sure they treat their women really well"*** and "you're still in the honeymoon period and not making rational decisions". I was so glad to have that phone call over with. We haven't spoken since.

I passed my writtens, although one was not what the committee member had wanted, and my oral exam was scheduled for early May. I was still hanging in there with my classes and everything and H and I looked for a house to rent for the next year so that we would have more room for the baby. My oral exam lasted three hours and when I finally was told to leave the room, the discussion went on for quite a while. I was later told that one of my committee members said "Addy doesn't seem very excited about her research." He didn't know I was pregnant at the time. The truth is that I was so tired by the end of that oral exam, I just wanted to be finished! I passed, so it was all OK, but had no family members to call and share the good news with. To be fair, my brother was still talking to me, although he was in shock about everything, and my stepdad was always supportive. He told me that my mom would come around- which she eventually did. 

We got married that summer- just a few weeks before H moved to Bible Belt State. My mother-in-law came from Very Distant Country to be at the wedding (at the court house), as did H's brother (who was living in the Midwest), and some of my very excellent friends from Adopted Home State. We had a party/reception at a friend's house and it was very nice. When it came time for H to move across the country, I drove with him in a rented cargo van (I was 6 months pregnant at the time) and flew back alone. Before he left, my stepdad flew in for just one day so that he could meet H. My mom had started speaking to me again and I went for a visit over Labor Day (and she threw a surprise baby shower- the only one I had). 

When D made her appearance (almost three weeks early), H was almost 2000 miles away and he didn't get to meet her until a week later (the same day that he also met my mom, her husband, and my grandma). He likes to tell D that he met at the Circle K, because it was where the airport bus dropped him off and I had brought her with me to pick him up. He was able to stay for 10 days, then went back for about six weeks, and came home at Christmas break- we've been together ever since, since I decided to just move in January instead of staying until May. I was very lucky to get a three year fellowship that started the fall that D was born, so I never worked until I got my job here at Small College Town U. I was able to stay at home with D, while finishing my dissertation. I defended in June 2002 and we moved here in July. 

Now ten years have passed since that fateful day that I went for a follow-up appointment and they thought I should take a pregnancy test. It was surreal when the nurse came back in and told me that it was positive. I was just stunned. Things have worked out amazingly well for us and I consider myself extremely lucky. Even when my family wasn't supporting me, I had H and some wonderful friends (including the three friends who were at D's birth!) to keep me going. 

*We had a contraceptive mishap early on and I had taken the morning after pill, so this came a real shock to us both!
**My parents divorced in 1977 and don't speak to each other.
***Ironic comment coming from someone who was physically abusive to my mother.

14 comments:

Seeking Solace said...

What a beautiful story of triumph and love. You and H and a testament to true love. And you have D to prove it.

Screw the naysayers. You have a beautiful family!!!!

Addy N. said...

Awww... thanks, Seeking Solace! I can understand why everyone was skeptical at the time since we had just started dating, but it never seemed that far-fetched to us!

TiredProf said...

What a wonderful story with a happy ending, despite the trials. Thanks so much for sharing this: you brightened up my day considerably!

Super Babe said...

Loved the story... And though not nearly as crazy, I can somewhat relate... except that I would be H in this case ;)

USJogger said...

Great story! Congrats to you and H, and many more years to come!

ScienceWoman said...

What an amazing story Addy. And with a wonderful happy ending. :)

Amelie said...

Thanks for sharing, Addy!
I'm sorry about your parents' reaction. Glad you had friends to support you.

Addy N. said...

Thanks, everyone! With the exception of my dad, my whole family now loves H (as soon as they met him), so things worked out fine. My stepmom told me that my dad even used to tell people that he had a daughter he disowned. What a weird thing to do- and to even tell people about it is weirder in my opinion. I think my stepmom hopes that we'll reconcile one day, but I have no interest. I already have two other sets of parents- my mom & her husband, and my stepdad (mom's 2nd husband) & his wife!

ScienceGirl said...

What a story! Wishing you and your family many more happy years!

chall said...

wow. I have never commented (I think) but this was a wonderful happy story. I wish you many many more happy years together!

Sometimes peoples' reactions baffle me. I have had people say "you are only with him for your green card" and I just stood there... huhu.

JustMe said...

what a wonderful story :o)

Shiny said...

What a lovely, glee-inspiring-ending story, thank you. Perfect for a Sunday morning read. I'm so glad I stumbled in here, oh-so-randomly x

Laura E. Mariani said...

Thanks for sharing this story (I found you via Scientiae). I'm happy that you and your family are doing so well today, despite the initial struggles. This provides me with some perspective to come back to when I start thinking that I'm having a tough time in grad school.

microbiologist xx said...

Great story. I love the happy ending.
I haven't spoken to my biological father since I was 9. My dad adopted me when I was 12 and I wouldn't trade him for the sperm donor for anything in the world. I figure we are the lucky ones since we chose each other.