before-kids and after-kids: two halves of a marriage

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We’re about to tip the balance of our marriage, my husband and I.

This weekend we celebrated our sixth wedding anniversary. We enjoyed an elegant dinner on china and crystal once the babies were asleep upstairs. Watched a whole movie from start to finish without interruption. Indulged in sweet rolls for breakfast and ice cream in the afternoon. Took a long walk downtown and watched our boys play in the sunshine.

Darn near perfect.

And in a few weeks, we’ll celebrate our son’s third birthday. He’s already a-twitter about a cake and a party, so plans are on the horizon. As is preschool, further confirming that our firstborn is no longer a baby, no longer a toddler, but on his way to becoming a Boy.

All of which led me to realize that our marriage now stands evenly balanced, for a blink of an instant, between our years with children and our years without. From this point on, the days when we were partners but not yet parents will start to slip farther away, becoming a distant memory – like sleeping in past nine and spontaneous date nights.

I loved the years of our early marriage. For some they are the hardest, but for us they were full of joy and laughter. We loved getting married, loved being married. No, we weren’t perfect. Far from it. We had to work through plenty of annoyances and adjustments to living with each other, like every couple does. We had to learn how to be in relationship in a whole new way. But for whatever reason – the clicking of our personalities or the constellation of life experiences that led us to each other – we have been blessed with a deep delight as the foundation of our life together. I have thanked God for that gift every day since.

So when parenthood proved to be harder to come by than we expected, in the midst of those lovely early years, it was tough. No, overdone steak is tough; algebraic equations are tough. Infertility simply sucks. It is a profoundly depressing and upheaving and table-turning and gut-wrenching experience. You slam up against your own limits and find yourself powerless. You can do nothing but try and hope and pray and wait and see.

For us, infertility ended. For many, it doesn’t. And that daily reminder, our sheer sense of blessedness at having the chance to have a child, has wrapped our experience of parenting in a sense of wonder and gratitude that has forever deepened our relationship. Watching each other become parents has been touching and tender and terrifying and transformative. Our children have changed us, changed our marriage, in ways we’re only beginning to understand.

Last week we finally started hanging pictures in our new home. One of the first to grace the walls was our wedding portrait. We stood in front of the frame, late afternoon sun reflecting our silhouettes onto our former selves, and laughed that someone must have let sixteen year-olds get married, because how could those fresh-faced kids possibly be us, just a few years back?

I drifted back to that Saturday in July, the same sweet burst of stargazer lillies floating in from the vase in the kitchen, faithfully filled by that same groom. I thought about the two halves of our marriage and the turning point of a baby’s arrival that changes everything.

And I realized that the further we get from our wedding day, the more our marriage becomes more than us, those two grinning goofs in the photo. It’s about our two boys, too.

So while I sometimes long for those early years of our marriage, the spontaneity and simplicity of pre-kid days, I know that where we are now and where we’re going is exactly where I want to be.

And who I want to be with.

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8 thoughts on “before-kids and after-kids: two halves of a marriage

    g said:
    July 9, 2012 at 12:27 pm

    *gah!!! what a great post!!! so glad that i have you and f to share a witness of love and marriage and life! looking forward to celebrating s’s b-day!

      mothering spirit responded:
      July 9, 2012 at 12:30 pm

      I am so excited that you will be with us on the GOLDEN birthday! Cake for him, wine for us? :)

    HomemadeMother said:
    July 9, 2012 at 12:38 pm

    Happy Anniversary! Your boys are so lucky to have such kind and devoted parents. Beautiful post.

    Nell said:
    July 9, 2012 at 10:44 pm

    That’s a really lovely contemplation on marriage with & without kids. Thank you for sharing! And glad you’re hanging up photos in the new place!

    Lauren said:
    July 10, 2012 at 10:04 am

    So beautiful. So very, very beautiful. I can’t believe it’s already been six years. I remember at orientation how you said you had gotten married the summer before we all started. You were delighted and excited and happy.

    That you are still delighted and excited and happy–what a gift.

    There are several couples I know that are so right, so comfortable. They aren’t perfect or ideal or insulated. They have their issues, but the issues pale in comparison to the foundation, as you say, of the deep delight they take in one another.

    You and F are one of those couples.

    I echo G’s gratitude for your witness. Sending you all heaps of love!

      mothering spirit responded:
      July 11, 2012 at 9:43 am

      Thank you for this, Lauren. Your words are pure gift whenever you stop by this place…

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