Today is my 55th birthday. I’m not one to fret growing older. I feel it’s truly a privelege that is denied to many. I have come to view this journey called life as a play in three acts. If I’m expecting to live until 80 or 90 years old, this is the last third of my life. I’m at the opening of my third act, and I’m excited.
For my first act, from birth through age 30, I got a great education and had a successful career after a pleasant childhood. I married my first boyfriend and we were happy. We bought a home and traveled together extensively.
Upon the opening of my second act at age 30, I started to have children. I look back on the first two years of my firstborn’s life as some of my happiest. I was able to be a stay at home mom and savor every minute. I’m sure I had a much greater appreciation than most for having a baby because it took eleven years to get through protracted fertility issues.
The fertility issues resolved themselves after the first baby. I became pregnant again when I was 34. I was planning to be super mom to babies two years apart.
Joyful anticipation came crashing down during the sixth month of that second pregnancy. The baby was due in the middle of April. I woke up on Valentine’s Day with a severe headache and was unable to move the left side of my body.
It was an extremely large cerebral hemorrhage caused by a congenital defect in my brain that could have ruptured at any time in my life, or not. Supposedly, the extra blood volume from the pregnancy compounded by the stress on it from the first caused it to bleed. 70% of patients do not survive a brain bleed, and those who do are often severely and permanently disabled.
I came out the other side of the life saving brain surgery with a paralyzed left side, unable to walk or use my arm. I was fortunate to be able to speak and think clearly. I delivered the baby normally while I was still hemiplegic at 34 weeks.
The next five years were an ordeal of struggling to return to some kind of “normal” life. I slowly re-learned how to walk with a cane and a brace on my leg. I had a two year old and a newborn who needed care. So much for being super mom. My husband struggled to adjust to life with the “new” me. He was supportive of me and my recovery for 16 years, then decided we should separate. It might have been a simple mid life crisis. I’ll never know. He was 55 years old as I am today.
I know what it’s like to think about the close of your second act, and to ponder how you will produce your third. At one point, my husband told me he “dreaded” retiring with me. This came at a stage when I was looking forward to our children being less dependent on us for so much of our time and thought about enjoying more “we” time”. I had also made a dramatic, if not total, recovery from the hemorrhage and had become an accomplished equestrian despite my physical challenges. I had developed an intense zest for life forged from the near loss of it.
It is with my joy at being alive and not being with someone who does not want to be with me that I look forward to my third act. I’m going to enjoy traveling, romance, horseback riding, my sons, being a writer and just the privelege of simply being here.