Mid-Life Crisis

By Elizabeth O’Brien, M.A., LPC


I had my “mid-life crisis” at 30. I began questioning my journalism career, my life in New York, even my marriage. I was confused about the meaning of my life, and could not see continuing on the same self-absorbed path. What was my purpose? What sort of legacy—if any—would I leave on this earth? Was I making a contribution?
Then I got pregnant. At the time, I felt this complicated the matter. I hadn’t even figured out myself! I spent the next nine months in a relative fog, going through the hectic motions of workaholism, the standard modus operandi of Manhattan: negotiating the subway at rush hour, attending editorial meetings, researching story ideas, traveling every few weeks, eating meals on the run, seeing friends who were equally frenzied. I was able to “forget” about my condition almost until the end, since I barely showed.
Before I knew it, after swimming a mile at the health club and consuming a particularly spicy Mexican meal, I went into labor. Between contractions, I managed to take a shower, apply lipstick, and don my favorite dress and trademark string of pearls before speeding—by cab, of course—to Mount Sinai Hospital.
I was not prepared. After months of LaMaze classes and with several pregnancy books under my expanding belt, I was in such intense pain that I immediately begged for drugs. I was panicked, even on the surgical table, about this new person taking over my life. What was I thinking? I had a photographer husband who was always on the road, and our families were back in Tennessee. We lived above a Greek souvlaki vendor hub in a commercial loft off Canal Street. How would I manage?
But with one final, excruciating push, my dilemma was solved. The doctor placed Jesse Alexander O’Brien—a perfect, miraculous being—on my heaving, sweat-soaked chest, and I was reborn. “Oh, yes!” I said, under my breath, as I gazed at my tiny alien. “This is what all the fuss is about. I get it now.” And, though our three children are grown now, and in various stages of launching, I have never teetered again on the edge of that existential abyss.