I swore I’d never do it.
But there I was on a gurney, begging my doctor to please, for the love of God, give me a flipping epidural right this minute. It was the birth of our third child, Lilly, and up until that point, I had insisted on enduring labor pains without medication.
Ridiculous, I know. Something a crunchy California nurse had said during my first prenatal classes had me believing that epidurals caused prolonged contractions and emergency C-sections. However, twelve hours into labor number three, I discarded my fears, scruples, and dignity, and begged the doctor to inject me with something — morphine, vodka, battery acid, anything! — to stop the pain.
Life is funny like that. One minute, we think we have it all figured out, and the next thing we know, we’ve changed our own rules. Milestones like marriage, childbirth, military service, teen parenting, and financial responsibility present us with new sets of circumstances requiring new standards.
Before marriage, I rolled my eyes at those couples who I’d see canoodling in public. “They’re faking it,” I thought, and believed that people in real relationships didn’t give each other eyelash kisses and lick ice cream off each other’s noses. I thought I’d never be corny like them.
But then, I met my husband, Francis.
Within weeks, we became one of those annoying couples who couldn’t be in each other’s presence without fingers laced or limbs intertwined. We would stare into each other’s eyes, sniff each other’s hair (Francis had hair in those days), and pick little bits of lint and crumbs off of each other’s clothing.
During pregnancy, I proclaimed numerous “I nevers” that were eventually abandoned. I said I would never nurse my baby in public, change his diaper while in an airplane seat, let him cry it out, strap him to a toddler leash, let him watch two Disney movies in a row, give his binky back after he dropped it in the dirt, or scream like a lunatic at his pee-wee soccer games. Oh, well!
Military spouses make rules to stay organized and deal with stress. Some proclaim they’ll never live on base, join spouses clubs, or let the kids eat Fruit Loops for dinner during deployments. But at some point, “I never” tends to turn into “Don’t knock it ‘till you try it.”
Desperate to make new friends after moving overseas, I did something I never thought I’d do — I joined an Army spouses’ bowling league. A typical Navy wife, I thought bowling was just a cover for to chitchat, beer and pizza. Little did I know, Army wives were serious about their bowling. After one wife complained that I stepped into her lane and laughed too loudly, I straightened up. Ironically, my team, which we named “Great Balls of Fire,” came in second place at the end of the season, and I had made new friends after all.
Parenting teenagers crushed my edicts like walnuts. Despite my many prohibitions, I eventually gave in and let them use electronics in their rooms, watch R-rated movies, and wear jeans to church. And I’ll admit it — I often use my cell phone to call them for dinner, even when they’re in the same house.
Now that we feel the pinch of college tuition bills, I’ll push my Aldi cart a half mile across the parking lot in a torrential downpour just to get my quarter back. I’ll wait around at the commissary for a rotisserie chicken to be reduced to $3.99. And after going to the movies (using a military discount, of course) I’ve even found popcorn in my bra, and eaten it.
Reality drives us to do things we previously thought tacky, lazy, or negligent. But we must remember that life’s challenges and milestones can also reveal courage, strength and character we never thought we had.
So, whether pondering whether to eat a smoked turkey leg while wearing a bathing suit during a family outing to a water park, choosing between a minivan or a sports car, or deciding whether or not to stay in the military for twenty years, experience instills this simple life lesson: Never say never.