Real Simple Magazine Essay Submission
Today as I was flipping through this month’s Real Simple magazine, I noticed a call for essays. The magazine asked for the writers to finish this sentence in an essay, “I never thought I’d…”
My first thought that came to mind was, “I never thought I’d be a stay-at-home mom.” I was inspired to write an essay and this is what I wrote:
We had our lives perfectly planned. First I would complete my PhD program, followed by a short time as a post-graduate in an international lab, then a year or two after I settle down in my research career we will finally start our family. I never once considered an alternative plan to becoming a neuroscientist, and why should I? We were well on our way to a beautiful future ahead complete with personal success, fabulous careers, and eventually children who we would be more than able to provide ample opportunities and financial support for.
Did I mention that I am deaf? Despite my deafness that I was born with, I lived my life knowing that I could achieve anything that I set my mind to. I embraced any and all challenges with welcome arms. I was full of passion and fire to use my life as an example for other deaf children so that they can achieve their own dreams. Deafness brought me a sense of enriched character and unbridled ambition to change the course of history by becoming the world’s first deaf neuroscientist. Deafness also brought my husband into my life- a husband who fully understood and supported my all-consuming educational ambitions.
I had spent an entire lifetime dreaming of become a world-famous scientist. At the age of 18 I kissed my mother goodbye and headed off to college as a first-generation college student to make my dreams come true. While other students partied and lived the good life, I tolled away in the library studying for hours to stay on top of a heavy coarse-load. When I wasn’t studying, I was either in class, sleeping, or working one of my three jobs to support myself without resorting to student loans. I took every opportunity that came my way. One such opportunity was a chance to complete a masters-equivalent type of program as an undergrad. The program allowed me to quit all but one job thanks to a stipend and freed up more time for me to work on my research of which I later published at the tender age of 21. Publication and research experience in hand, I applied and was accepted into one of the nation’s most prestigious neuroscience PhD programs, all expenses paid. Little did we know that our world would come crashing down on us, crushing our perfect, well-planned futures in the process.
A year into graduate school, I woke up to excruciating abdominal pains and my husband whisked me off to the hospital. I only remember bits and pieces of the conversations that followed. The doctors uttered scary phrases such as “Going into shock”, “life-threatening”, and “We must do sugary now or she will die.” The next thing I remember, I woke up in the ICU where my husband anxiously waited for me to gain consciousness. He explained to me what happened, saying that part of my bowels looped around itself, cutting off the blood supply and resulting in tissue death and a massive infection. The surgeon performed life-saving emergency surgery and removed a large section of my intestines. My first response, in my dry, rough voice, was that I needed to get better so I could get back to the lab. To my surprise, my husband smiled while stroking my hair and said, “Looks like you’re going to be just fine.”
Unfortunately, things were not fine. Following the surgery, I quickly realized that even the smallest amount of stress caused my intestines to spasm painfully. My surgeons informed me that if I return to graduate school that the stress would probably mean more surgeries. These spasms could possibly cause another episode like the one that landed me in the ICU. Having further surgeries would mean not being able to carry a pregnancy without serious or even possibly fatal consequences.
I spent the next few weeks of my recovery alternating between blissful numbness and sheer panic about my future. . I found myself struggling to answer the following question: how much is it worth to you to have the opportunity to feel your baby moving within you? To nurse him from your own breasts? To be able to say that you knew him for those 9 miraculous months while he grew in your own womb?
Eventually, I realized that I had serious, life-altering choices to make. I could continue with the program and risk more surgery, which would mean the end of my dreams of carrying a child in my womb. Or, I can withdraw from my dreams of becoming the world’s first neuroscientist and embrace a radically different future of which would certainly include motherhood.
The death of my dreams would spell the birth of my first child. A little over two years after withdrawing from the only life I knew, I gave birth to a precious son and to a whole new future together as a family. I am now a stay-at-home mom and would not have it any other way. Each day I marvel at this little life and I feel a sense of pride that I created this beautiful child. All of the publications and awards that one could ever hope to achieve could never make me feel as complete as I feel from having my son.
In the end, the choice that I made was not an easy one. I had spent my whole life in one single-minded pursuit toward my career and felt completely lost without my dreams and goals anchor and guide me. However, this loss of my life-long dreams is nothing compared to the loss of a chance to birth my own child. During my pregnancy, I would feel my son quicken inside of me and I knew that I had made the right choice. In the end, I changed the course of history not by becoming a famous scientist, but instead by bringing a beautiful new life into the world.