Sometimes I can't help but wonder if the world is demanding that I choose: I can have a career as a lawyer, or I can have children. But I can't have both.
The feeling started developing a little over a year ago, on May 14. I was about eight weeks pregnant with Baby Cude, and was scheduled for a hearing that Friday morning. The hearing was to be my first pre-trial hearing as an attorney, though I'd been admitted to the bar nearly six months before. I woke up with cramping and bleeding. The miscarriage of Baby Cude had begun. I went to the hearing and was out by 9:30 AM. Ben picked me up at the courthouse and rushed me to my doctor's office, where an ultrasound revealed that there was no longer a sack. Baby Cude was lost.
That summer the Public Defenders contacted me for an interview in August. I went to the interview, but found out later when I didn't get the job that there were over 90 applicants to fill four positions. I couldn't feel bad about my interview or not getting the position when the odds were so against me. Then one month later, I was pregnant with Gabriel and I thought that I just wasn't meant for the job just yet.
On January 31st, 2011, I woke with an exciting day ahead of me. We were 21 weeks along with Gabriel and scheduled for an ultrasound that morning, and that afternoon I had yet another interview with the Public Defenders' office. Our excitement was cut short when we were given Gabriel's devastating diagnosis. I was in a daze as I dressed for my interview that afternoon, wondering how I would get through it. I was just starting to show and unable to button my suit jacket. Ben told me I didn't have to go, but I insisted, saying this might be exactly where I was supposed to be right then, and that even if I didn't get offered a job this time I couldn't ruin my chances for the next interview by skipping out on this one. I felt confident in my interview, and even offered to the panel that I had named my dog Gideon Wainwright, after the Supreme Court case that is credited with establishing the Public Defender's office, because I was so passionate about the job. I knew I'd given the best interview I could under the circumstances and the rest was in the panel's hands. Again, when I didn't get the position I told myself that I was just supposed to focus on our baby, who we had yet to know as our son, Gabriel.
I continued taking small cases here and there. A couple of DUIs, a restraining order, and most recently an unlawful detainer, plus four shifts a week at the bar kept me just busy enough so that I didn't completely lose my mind, but still allowed me plenty of time to think about and get to know and love Gabriel. Meanwhile, my unlawful detainer case required us to go to hearing, and I foolishly scheduled it for June 20th. Labor was going to be induced on June 8th, I assumed Gabriel would be born on June 9th, and that by June 20th we would have had a chance to bury Gabriel and there would be no conflict with the hearing. To my welcome surprise, Gabriel survived ten days, but the morning of June 20th there was a conflict indeed. I had planned to go to my hearing that afternoon, as Gabriel had been stable and even seemed to be doing well. But that morning Gabriel took a turn for the worse. I frantically called the court, and a friendly clerk (they are few and far between, these days) e-mailed the judge but suggested I get someone to appear for me. I called my client, who had already been made aware of our situation, and then called my mom who told me she would find a lawyer to appear. All during these phone calls, Gabriel was fading before my eyes. Before the hearing even took place, Gabriel was gone.
Today, just four days after Gabriel's funeral, I received a letter from the Public Defenders' Office again offering me an interview. Some might say this means they really want me, but in fact I have an outstanding application in with the county for this position, and every time one becomes available their computer mindlessly spits out a letter to me, along with multiple other applicants. Some might say it's perfect timing, but there has been nothing perfect about the timing of legal practice for me.
I still believe wholeheartedly in the work of the Public Defender's Office. A criminal defense attorney is the only type of attorney I can see practicing as full-time. Still, the idea of making such a drastic change in my life, going to work full-time as lawyer, is the least exciting prospect I can think of right now. In fact, it terrifies me. Ben and I just experienced the greatest change of our lives. I don't know if we're equipped to make another significant change. If I go to work full time, probably twelve hours a day to start, and Ben returns to work also twelve hours a day, how often will our paths even cross? What is the likelihood, then, of another baby in even a year from now? The pace of the PD's office is not going to slow down anytime soon for a new hire and I can expect that at least the next five years of my life would have to be committed to that, and Ben's career is just taking off. This seems to be not an exciting opportunity, but a crossroad, and I don't think I'm ready for it. It is overwhelming, and scary, and not something I feel prepared to deal with.
Except now the interview has been scheduled. July 11, at 8:00 in the morning. Coincidentally, that is the day I will return to work at the bar. I'm asked often why I would go to the trouble of going to law school just to go back to work there. The answer is simple: I love it, and it makes me happy, and I feel that it could make me happy for a long time. I loved my life before Gabriel was born, and as I try to adjust to life with him in Heaven instead of with me, I am eager to return to my life that I loved. If it is not a coincidence that this week I received this letter from the Public Defender's Office, it is also not a coincidence that this week the pizza parlor next door to The Wright Place is closing and being vacated, and that Ben and I have been talking more, and in more concrete terms, about what his opening a restaurant would require and what it would mean for our family. We are both on the brink of something, we're just not sure what.
So I'll go to my interview, as I feel I owe it to my family to do, and then I'll report for my closing shift that evening. Ben and I will continue to trek our way through our grief and our new life following Gabriel's birth and death. But I have a feeling nothing is going to turn out the way we planned before we got married. We're already too far off course, headed in a direction we never foresaw. Somehow we have made it through even the things we never anticipated, and I suppose we'll just keep making it, somehow.