The Everyday Miracle of Marriage

Five years ago almost to the day, I sat on a park bench with my husband just outside of Anchorage, Alaska. The weather was perfect, the setting idyllic. We had just completed an incredible kayaking trip and hike. Denali was off in the distance, and if you’ve seen it, you know that there are no words to describe its beauty. I should have been struck speechless with awe and wonder.

But I wasn’t.

My marriage was not in a good place, and I couldn’t see anything else. It was as though I was viewing the world through blinders. My husband and I were physically on the same trip (ironically for our anniversary), yet in every other way, we were miles apart.

***

Our tenth anniversary is in a couple of weeks. We took a trip to the Grand Canyon and Sedona, Arizona, to get away, to remember, to celebrate. This isn’t where either of us thought we would go if you had asked us five years ago, but then again, this isn’t where either of us thought we would be five years later. Quite honestly, I didn’t think we would still be married.

Grand Canyon

***

grand canyon 4

Our sweet neighbors will have been married for 57 years later this summer.  My grandparents were married for almost 50.  My parents just hit 35.  These long, successful marriages seem like miracles to me.  And they are!  But so is ten.  So is every day past ten and every day since July 11, 2009.  It is miraculous that God took the two most opposite people on the planet (quite literally, we are polar opposites on both the enneagram and Myers-Briggs personality tests) and brought us to a place where we are not just still married, but we actually really like each other.  Somehow we opposite humans sleep in the same bed, raise small humans, and have built a life that we love.  The miracle is in the everyday motions of walking hand-in-hand toward this long road that leads to heaven … together. 

Just as I couldn’t see the beauty of Alaska, our eyes can be blinded to these commonplace miracles of which marriage is one.  My counselor told me that many people see this and other anniversaries as just another day.  (More on why everyone should go to counseling in another post.)  It is and it isn’t.  Knowing that the sun rises every morning makes it no less spectacular to watch.  Technically, the day of our anniversary won’t feel any differently than the day before did, but it’s a huge milestone for us.  We made it, and amazingly, we are better than we have ever been.

grand canyon 2

***

While we were in Arizona, we hiked all the way down to the bottom of the Grand Canyon and back up in a single day. We didn’t plan that, and the park rangers don’t recommend it. We had intended to hike seven miles and actually did close to twenty. Going all the way down was difficult, but it didn’t feel terrible. Coming back up was brutal. I have run marathons that seemed far easier, and my muscles have never been so sore in my life as they were the next day.

Looking across and down into the canyon from the top was spectacular. Everyone says that pictures can’t capture the vastness of it, nor the colors, and all of that is true. We watched the sun set at the Grand Canyon the night before our hike and saw it rise early the next morning. Both moments took my breath away. But I didn’t cry until we looked out at the canyon from the top for the third time, after we had made it all the way back up from our hike. Its vastness and beauty were all the more impressive after having been at the bottom.

colorado river

This is also the story of our marriage.

No one recommends hitting rock bottom and sticking your feet in the Colorado River, as it were. They advise you that it can be done, that people do make it back up, but most do not. Because we are crazy or stupid or naive or maybe a little of all three, we didn’t listen. And somehow, through time and outside support and lots of conversations and prayer and ultimately the grace of God, we took every grueling step back to the top. We made it, and not a day goes by that I am not surprised and immensely grateful that we did.

Andrew, here’s to ten or twenty or fifty more … together. Oh, and let’s not hike the whole thing again.

I didn't bond with my baby.

Our youngest turned two last week.

There are a million things about sweet Caroline that I adore.  I love her ringlet curls, long eyelashes, inquisitive nature, free spirit, gravelly voice, and willingness to try any food put in front of her.  I love the weird habit she has of chewing the noses off of her favorite stuffed animals.  I even love that she loves to make messes.  I could go on and on.  If you know Caroline, you could, too.

I fell in love with my daughter the moment that she was born.  Not a moment before.

I didn't bond with my baby while I carried her.

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I couldn't say that out loud for a long time.  

I so wanted to feel some sort of attachment to the little wonder inside of me like my friends did with their babies.  

But I didn't.

When I found out that I was pregnant with Caroline, the feeling was euphoric.  However, my elation settled after a few days and was replaced by an underlying worry that all was not well.  Because so many things had gone awry in the previous 4+ years of infertility, I was sure that disaster would strike this baby.  Subconsciously, I distanced myself from my growing fetus in an effort to shield my heart from disappointment.

As a former gymnast and recovering calorie counter, I struggled to accept my ever-changing pregnant body.  The desire to care for my unborn child constantly grated against my fear of gaining weight.  Often, I gazed into the mirror and cried, resenting the babe who was making me "fat" (a lie straight from the devil himself).  I continued running, if you could call it that, throughout my pregnancy, but I was frustratingly slow and angry that my body could not obey my mind.

Furthermore, I never was able to reconcile how such a tiny clump of cells could cause me to be so ill that I vomited over the kitchen sink multiple times a day for 20 weeks and hated coffee and prime rib.  I knew that I should be grateful for the opportunity to carry a child, and I was, but pregnancy itself was a generally unpleasant experience.

I thought that discovering Caroline's gender and giving her a name would help me to bond with her.  

It didn't.  

I continued to see her as a miracle and a blessing, but I could not see her as the person that I knew her to be in my head ... until I could.

On August 4, 2015, at 1:38 a.m., I fell in love with the daughter who I had carried for 40 weeks.  The idea of her became a reality, and as I took in her tiny toes and full cheeks, I thought I might explode with joy.

I am a visual and auditory learner.  Much to my husband's dismay, I connect very little through physical touch.  This explains how I could feel Caroline's kicks and hiccups in my belly and simultaneously feel nothing.  It also explains my lack of enthusiasm toward breastfeeding.  (Maybe more on that another day.)  But show me my kid's face or let me hear her tiny baby noises, and I'm undone.

I'm not less of a mom because I didn't bond with my unborn baby, and you're not alone if you don't, either.  No need to fake attachment or carry guilt over a feeling that isn't there ... yet.  Love will come.  

It may just need a face.