“Don’t you think it’s a little irresponsible to be pregnant in a war zone?” an intelligence officer asked Elizabeth Rubin as they rode along in the black Afghanistan night in the back of a Humvee. Ironically, just a moment earlier he’d asked her — if they ran into trouble — to load the bullets into the machine gun.
Rubin balked. Four months pregnant, she hadn’t disclosed her pregnancy to anyone. That move gave her a few more precious months out in the field, but it also earned her a brisk refusal of her next embed assignment by a female colonel.
“How could a woman, particularly in the military, not understand why I would have kept my pregnancy to myself?” Rubin writes in an article for the Guardian. “Is it true that the toughest adversary for women is still other women?”
So begins her intriguing story, one that starts with her asking her doctor for pregnancy-safe antibiotics to take to Afghanistan with her and follows her to a middle of the night raid where several of the men she traveled with for two months are killed. And one that ends with her realizing that though all along she’d though a baby would put an end to the adventure in her life, the baby really was the adventure she’d wanted all along.
Border crossings require resolve. Getting on a plane, getting married, moving, taking a job, writing the first words. Babies cry themselves to sleep resisting the transition from wakefulness to slumber. Throughout my life I’ve kept a classification of the two kinds of people in the world: those who dwell in the land of ambivalence and those who give it a glance and drive on. Those who know where they’re going, and the perpetual rubberneckers. I had no idea what I was getting into when I flew up to the Korengal Outpost, met Kearney, and realised I’d have to stick it out for two months to tell the story I was after. But it’s no surprise to me that I ended up in extremis, completely distracted through the middle of pregnancy.
….In retrospect, I can see that the act of keeping a secret allowed me to forestall being pregnant, becoming a mother, changing my life. But whatever abstraction “having a baby” was up until that moment, it was over. I was besotted. Whenever she stopped hiccuping or kicking inside, I missed her. The next question was simply how I’d ever get on a plane again and go to Afghanistan without her.
We aren’t all built to follow soldiers around during wartime, just to get a story. But is there anyone who hasn’t, just for a minute, worried about the changes a baby a bring? And you don’t have to be a reporter to know that just being pregnant can have a negative impact on your job. Even considering her extreme career, we can all relate to Rubin’s incredible story.
Photo: The U.S. Army, Flickr
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