Walking around my new city of Santo Domingo I felt overwhelmed at what I had just done. Did I really just get married a month ago and move abroad 7 months pregnant? I had a heavy weight on my chest that, for the first time in 6 months, was not heartburn. We had no car, no nursery, no family. My best friend had just recently broken up with me and this was promptly followed by my grandfather passing away after several years of hospital visits, pneumonia, and bed rest. I missed my mommy.
Everything looked strange. Everyone looked strange. And even though I speak Spanish, even that sounded strange. I was in nesting mode but couldn’t nest because I didn’t know how to get to Target. Wait… there is no Target here. Rats! I took cabs to Mike, my husband’s, new school and calling for a cab was an adventure in it of itself. And then the cab arrived… with no air-conditioning. Do you know what you get when you drop a very large pregnant woman on an island in its hottest months of the year without A/C? This is not a riddle. You get a very hot pregnant woman. And not the good kind of smokin’ hot. Just the hot mess kind of hot.
My first real friend here was named Julia. We became instant friends for no other reason than because she wanted to be nice to me, a prego-deer-in-headlights that probably reminded her of herself. She, a stay-at-home mom that had moved to Dominican Republic pregnant with her second child and gave birth here, knew the abysmal fear in my eyes even when my mouth was flapping away the worries that were building.
She picked me up one day for coffee and shopping. She had a car… score! As she was weaving through traffic and street vendors (Dominican driving is another adventure in it of itself) she told me about her life abroad. She seemed too young to be a veteran at life overseas but this was by my numbers her third country abroad, so vet she was. I listened.
As if she knew the question that had been circling my mind and was now digging its claws in, she said, “I heard once that it takes about 6 months to settle in. And from what I’ve experienced that is usually true. The first few weeks you’re just in panic. The next few weeks you calm down a bit. After that you start to settle in. Settle your apartment, settle into a routine. Figure out streets, where the best place to get produce is versus the best place to get shredded cheese. Things like that. And then at around 6 months you realize, you’re not so freaked out anymore. You won’t be an expert, but you’ll feel… normal. ish.”
I nodded, taking in that information.
She took her eyes off the road and sweetly smiled at me in her Julia, pretty, pouty-lipped way, “just wait.”
Wait, I thought, trying to remain calm.
And then realistically, anxiously rethinking, WAIT?!
I’m not really the waiting type. I’m the roll-up-my-sleeves-and-get-into-it type. The type that stays in a hotel for one night and unpacks her things into drawers. I had so much to do and prepare for and this pretty, pouty-lipped, veteran was telling me to wait?
Breathe, Jen, breathe.
So I waited. I waited for our cable. I waited for Mike to get home from school at 3:00 everyday. I waited for taxis. I waited to not look over my shoulder every time I walked down the street. I waited to feel secure enough in our neighborhood that I didn’t watch Mike from our balcony, face pressed against the metal bars, every night when he walked the dogs. I waited to not feel so tired. I waited to make friends. I waited for our baby to arrive.
All of that waiting and before I knew it, it was February. I had been living here for 6 months. I had cable AND a car. I knew what market I could buy frozen waffles from and what market I could buy frozen mangoes from. I no longer stood on the balcony with my forehead pressed so hard against the metal bars that I left an imprint on my face from hawkingly watching Mike walk our dogs because I knew that he was safe walking our dogs – because people here were terrified of dogs. Even when your dogs are poodles. Even when your dogs are small ones. With a mouth of missing teeth. I was a mother and had been for 4 months and 6 months seemed like a sneeze. Achoo! and it was 6 months later.
Sometimes it is better to roll up your sleeves and get into it. Unpack. Organize. Fix. But other times, it’s better to wait. To sit back and let something unpack you.