Poor Penn. He is on his third full day of jury duty selection, and they still haven't chosen the actual jury. It's been a very frustrating and inefficient process. We are just crossing our fingers that he won't get chosen for this four week criminal trial in downtown Seattle. He would have to spend his days at the courtroom and then cram his normal ten or eleven hour work day into about four hours in the evening. This is what he's been doing for the past few days and it has required leaving before Nicholas gets up in the morning and returning home after I've put him to bed. He's hoping to be dismissed this afternoon.
I can't help but blush when I think of the one and only time I was called for jury duty.
It was a few years ago. My group at Washington Mutual, the Innovation and Consumer Research Group, had just been "disbanded." I was "working from home" until my official lay off date. This involved checking my e-mail a few times a day and... that's just about it. So when I received my jury summons in the mail I figured the timing was perfect. Someone has to be on juries, and many people find it to be very disruptive to their schedules, jobs, families, and finances. Not true in my case.
I was almost looking forward to it. After all, it was my civic duty.
I went to our little local courthouse on a Monday morning in September. It was a three minute drive from our house. The wait wasn't very long at all. I hardly had any time to read the book I'd brought. We were speedily questioned and I was the first name called for the first jury. I felt kind of proud. Like I'd won some kind of good citizen award. The case lasted until Thursday, when we easily reached a unanimous decision. Guilty of DUI.
The only really terrible part was walking back into the courtroom after making the decision, and especially filing past the defendant trying to make the same casually friendly amount of eye contact I had all week. It was excruciating waiting for the verdict to be read. Imagine how he must have felt. He was very pleasant about it and even thanked us afterward. He didn't seem surprised at all. He was just... very humble.
That night, as I tried to fall asleep, I couldn't get him out of my mind. I couldn't stop seeing the expression on his face. I kept replaying every word he'd said in the trial. I couldn't shake the thought, "What if we were wrong!?" I had nightmares that night and slept terribly.
And, unfortunately, I had to go back the very next day to see if I might be selected for another jury.
I woke up early that Friday morning. And I realized something. Something I was expecting hadn't arrived. So I took a test, just in case. I didn't get my hopes up, as I'd taken dozens of these tests in the 15 or 16 months that we'd been trying to conceive. I'd been visiting my OB/Gyn several times a month for follicle studies and shots. The last visit had been the worst. It appeared that I hadn't ovulated at all that month, rather than just being way later than the average woman. My doctor was troubled and I'd sat in her office crying as she said doubtfully, "It's possible that you ovulated much earlier than usual... Stranger things have happened."
A blood test confirmed that I had, indeed ovulated. I held out a tiny bit of hope that maybe this month would be the month, but it wasn't likely. I couldn't even remember if Penn and I had timed things correctly, since we hadn't known we should be ttc so much earlier than usual.
It had been almost three weeks since that visit, and I'd already gotten a negative pregnancy test on Monday or Tuesday. But that Friday morning I decided I'd better take another test, just to be sure.
I don't know about you, but I can never wait the recommended two or three minutes, so I just stare at the thing until the results appear. Trying to will that second line to appear. This particular test was of the plus or minus variety. Before I could even go through my normal routine of mentally bracing myself for a negative response, it was positive.
My body reacted before my brain did. I was shaking and crying before my mind even recognized the symbol as a plus. I just couldn't wrap my mind around it. I thought of all the times I'd looked down at a negative test with tears in my eyes, wondering if I'd ever know what it was like to see that blessed positive sign or second line appear.
I was over the moon. Ecstatic would be a huge, huge understatement. Hysterical. Blubbering. Shaking. I was violently happy.
Penn was sleeping. I stumbled out of the bathroom and tried to control my voice, but accidentally scream-whispered "PENN!" (We had houseguests in the next room, by the way.) I attempted to regain my composure as I calmly screamed "PENN!!!!" and added "canyoulookatsomethingplease?" Penn literally JUMPED up out of bed with the confused and alarmed expression of one who is abruptly and urgently yanked out of a deep sleep. At first, he thought there was a big spider in the bathroom that I needed help with.
He was as overwhelmed as I was and we just sat on the bed looking at the test, screaming in hushed voices, crying, hugging, then looking at the test again. Repeat, repeat, repeat.
I kept saying over and over, "Let's not get our hopes up!" And, yet, I did. We called the 1-800 number on the box to verify that the light line was still a "real" line. We figured out our due date. We did a happy dance and jumped up and down.
Then I had to rush to get ready for jury duty.
That morning at the courthouse was not pretty. I was seated in the very first row, against the wall, so I was the first one called when they asked us to raise our hands if we would rather not serve on a jury that day. I was asked to stand and explain why.
"Um, well, see, I was on a jury earlier this week, and, um, I've just been kind of HAUNTED by our verdict, you know, just kind of questioning, what if we made the wrong decision, feeling very guilty about it, and very stressed about it, and I thought about it all night, and even had nightmares about it, and well, it's just too much responsibility for me, and I don't think I'm cut out to be on a jury, thank you."
As I stood there waiting for the the prosecutor and defense attorney to whisper amongst themselves, I realized I was kind of...well, crying, actually. I wasn't sure why. But... Yes, I was definitely crying. Perhaps no one had noticed. Being in the front row most of the other hundreds of people were behind me. I was pretty sure I was disguising my emotion fairly well. I started to calm down. Until the person behind me offered me a tissue.
And that just made it so much worse. I am a sympathetic crier. If someone else cries, for any reason, I will cry. Last night, for example, I cried while watching "Girlicious, the Search for the Next Pussycat Doll." One of the girls was homesick and crying, so I cried, too. The other thing about being a sympathetic crier is that if anyone shows any sympathy for me, as the crier, it will be ten times worse.
I tried so hard not to lose it. I had no real reason to cry. I was just so emotionally raw from receiving the biggest and best news of my life earlier in the morning. And the sympathetic look of the gentleman who gave me the tissue was just too much to bear.
You know when your mouth gets all sticky and your throat feels dry and tight and you wipe your eyes and can tell that your eyelids are all swollen? Almost like an allergic reaction. I could just feel the ugly cry face coming on.
The prosecutor continued to question me, although my answers were becoming less and less coherant. He paused and looked at me and asked, "Mrs. Hox, Don't you think that, because you obviously take this responsibility so seriously, it means that you would make a good juror?" (Or something to that effect.)
All I could say was "Noooooooooo!" sob, sob, sniffle
Relenting, he asked, "Mrs. Hox, Would you like me to ask the judge if he will dismiss you from jury duty today?"
"Yeeeeessssssss." sniffle, sob, blubber
He went over and conferred with the judge, who kindly said, "Thank you for your service, Mrs. Hox, you are free to leave."
I edged past the dozen people in my row, shoulders heaving, and walked out of the courtroom - facing all the other potential jurors in their rows - with tears and snot streaming down my face. It was so, so humiliating. A few of the people from my jury group waved at me on my way out. They must have thought I was emotionally unstable.
As I got in my car and tried to fix my face I said out loud to myself, twice: "Either I am pregnant or I have gone crazy."
I came home and took another test, and called Penn, my doctor, and my mother. Then I taped those two tests to the fridge. They served as a reminder - until it became physically apparent - that I wasn't dreaming. My mother even took a photo of me, beaming with pride, in front of the fridge by those purple pieces of plastic that revealed my destiny. Motherhood.
Next to the day Nicholas was born, that was the best the day of my life. Jury duty and all.