December 6, 2017

My Marriage Hasn’t Been the Happiest Years of My Life

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It was a normal evening. We’ve decided since becoming a family of five, that after the kids go to bed, we give ourselves 30 minutes to re-set the house for the next day and when the time is up, we stop and leave whatever mess is left behind.

We were in the final sweep, picking up random objects our two-year-old re-distributed on the living room floor, when my husband Andy said to me, “I saw a friend post on Facebook about his anniversary. He said the last eight years have been the happiest of his life. Our married years have not been the happiest of our lives.”

You may think this was a start to a gut-wrenching marital discussion. That may even be the opening line of someone broaching the subject of divorce. That’s not where he was heading.

Our eight years of marriage have often times been tough. The first four years were spent with him in dental school and me working a fast-paced TV job with odd hours for little pay. There was no time to do the things that typical young married couples do. While our friends were spending their weekends at big city concerts and festivals, Andy was studying and I was working. The years were defined by work and working out the beginning marital kinks.

If you follow this blog, you know what the last three years have held for us: a Down syndrome diagnosis, an open-heart-surgery, a miscarriage, a lower urinary tract obstruction diagnosis, a clubbed feet diagnosis, a month of living at Ronald McDonald House, a high-risk delivery, a NICU stay in a city far from home, a severe casting injury and on-going health issues for our youngest.

These years have not been the happiest of our lives. And yet.

Our marriage is a happy one.

I think we’ve taken the word hard and likened it with bad. 

We live in a world marked by instant gratification. Every indulgence can be satisfied in a timely manner with the latest apps and services. Don’t like something you ordered? Fine, there are hassle-free returns.

We can placate most of our desires easier than ever, but it doesn’t work that way with matters of the heart.

In western culture, we often assume, maybe even unknowingly, that our lives should be without hardship. We are told if we work hard, we will get where we want to go. In America, this can work when it comes to career goals, but not always life goals.

We can confuse our right to “a money back guarantee” with our marriage vows. We mistake the ease of acquiring things that have no real value, to the things that actually do.

Our married years have not been that happiest of our lives. So far. And that’s okay.

We have found joy among the hard and among the sad. When those hard and sad times were at their darkest, that’s when we held each other the tightest. And when the clouds lifted, our bond was stronger than it was before the rain started to fall.

 

Midweek Moral Wrap-up. So, why did I write this piece? Because I realized that after Andy said this, his statement would have crushed me years back. I didn’t understand that your life can be good even when times aren’t the happiest. I wonder how many of us throw relationships (not just marriages) because we feel that things should be better? I worry that we actually believe when we walk down the aisle that life will be “happily every after” and when it doesn’t work out that way, we think something is wrong with our relationship- that our relationship should be so happy that it should mask whatever else is going wrong? I think I may have told myself this lie when I was younger. Despite the hardships and maybe even because of them at times, we have a really good life and a really good relationship. 

unhappy marriage 

July 24, 2017

Dear Daughter, Marry the Man You Can Suffer With

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Dear Daughter,

When we talk about marriage, we use phrases like, “happily ever after,” but life isn’t always happy. There are plenty of times characterized by sunshine and still, clear waters. And daughter, as your mother, I wish these times would follow you all of your days. But the truth is, is that no one leaves this earth without having to cross turbulent seas. When dating, when considering marriage, I want you to choose someone who makes your happy times even more so, but I also hope you’ll think about who you can suffer with.

Your father and I had a quick and pretty magical dating life. I knew he was the one in the middle of the ’07 blackout game versus Auburn. His joy was contagious that night.  He told me days earlier that he could make me happier than my long-time boyfriend, I realized that night he was right. I could tell my life would be filled with more laughter with him in it.

But there were other things about your dad that I saw in him before that night. He was gentle, he’d go out of his way to make others feel important, he was positive, also serious and incredibly caring. I could tell he was the kind of person who did something with his whole heart. And he chose me, he adored me.

I didn’t think about going through bad times with your dad when we were dating, but his qualities and his devotion to me, made it so I knew that he would do anything for me and in turn I for him. He would put me above himself and I for him. He would fight to see my dreams come true and I for him.

I’m going to say something that isn’t popular-yes, marriage is absolutely about the work you put into it, but it’s also about finding the right person for you. Don’t settle. Don’t settle for someone who is comfortable. Take healthy risks in love. Choosing your father was the most dangerous decision of my life. I left the one I knew, for someone who would love me the way I needed to be loved.

Today, your dad and I have been married for eight years. We’ll be celebrating our eighth wedding anniversary at the bedside of your brother who in an intensive care unit.

When I cascaded down a grand staircase in my lace wedding dress eight years ago, I didn’t know how many trials would greet us in our first few years together. I didn’t know building a family could be so hard. But I did know that because of the love we had for each other, we would make it through anything.

Dear daughter, marry the guy who loves you so much, that he hurts to see you hurt. Marry the guy who will hold your hand, with tears in his eyes when he sees you in pain.

Marry the man who will care about your happiness more than his own and in return you will feel the same. It won’t always be easy, no matter how compatible you are or how deep your love is. But marrying the right person will make life easier when inevitable tough times come your way and will make your life even more enjoyable in the good times. 

I love your father above anyone and above anything else. I love looking back at our happiest and most care-free times. But I also enjoy remembering how he has loved me through indescribably hard times.

I’ll never forget the tears in his eyes when he asked me to marry him or the laughter we shared as a poor newly wed couple trying to make our own fun, or how he looked at me in awe when I gave birth to you.

But I’ll also never forget how we took turns holding each other when we found out your brother had a genetic syndrome that we never saw being apart of our story. Or how he took care of me after we had a miscarriage, even though he was in just as much pain. Or how he held my hand as doctors performed surgery on me so I could bring your other brother into this world- both of us tried not to cry for each other’s sake.

Dear daughter, my point is this: find someone who loves you so completely, who you love equally as much, so that when bad times come, you can hold each other together when it feels as if everything else is falling apart.

Choose wisely, my love.

Medical Update: 
We are still waiting for doctors to perform the second VCUG on our son. This will tell us if baby Preston has Posterior Urethral Valves, the original diagnosis we received. Preston is doing well, he is off of IV fluids and is eating consistently. His labs are coming back pretty good. We are hoping this test will provide us more answers as to what is going on with his lower urinary tract. For frequent medical updates, follow us on Facebook. Start the beginning of our high-risk pregnancy journey, here

To Andy,
My love, I thank God every day for you. I’m not even upset we are in the NICU on our anniversary. The way you advocate for our son is inspiring and makes me love you even more. I love doing life with you, even when life is incredibly hard. 

 

 

 

 

February 16, 2016

Our Parenting Vision Statement

 

Our parenting vision statement for our child with Down syndrome and our typical child.As I mentioned several weeks ago, I am in a six-month long course called Partners in Leadership. It’s a class designed for people with disabilities and for parents raising children with special needs.

This month’s homework had us create a vision statement for our child with a disability. Instead, we wrote a parenting vision statement. Since we plan on treating our child with Down syndrome the same way we treat our daughter with the typical 46 sets of chromosomes (generally speaking) this is for both of them.

To Violet, Anderson and any future kids we are fortunate enough to have—we know we will not always live up to this ideal. But we want you to know we love you and will always try to do what’s best for each of you.

Our Parenting Vision Statement

We want to raise children who are not afraid of asking, “why?” We want our children to think for themselves and not take things at face value. Instead we hope they can take an idea, use their knowledge, morals and take time to research if this is something they should agree with or not.

We want to raise kind children. We want our kids to embrace people’s differences, including their own. We will teach our children to love their neighbor, not only through our words, but hopefully through our actions as well.

To steal part of a mantra from a veteran mom, we want to raise our children to live in the real world—not the special needs world and not a world that especially centers around them.

We hope our children will be confident. We want our kids to know who they are and what they believe.  We want them to understand they are no better than anyone, but they are no less than anyone either.

We want to be as open as possible with our children, in hopes they feel like they can come to us about anything.

In our house we will love on another. Because the world outside our home’s walls can be tough enough—inside we will love each other.   We will teach our children to love others as well. They will understand that love is not an emotion, but an action. An action, like a muscle, that needs to be exercised regularly.

We want to teach our children to take healthy risks. We want them to be level-headed, but know when it’s time to pick the other foot off the ground. When it comes to who they will love, where they will live or what they will do, we hope we can instill this lesson from our own lives: don’t settle for comfort.

We want our build a home that is full of joy. We want our hallways to echo with laughter.

We know trials will come and when they do, we will sometimes face them together. Other times, we will choose to stand in the background and watch our kids navigate the choppy waters. But even when the storm clouds build up above, we hope to teach our children how to dance in the rain.

 

If you are interested in seeing if your state has a similar course, click here.