Calling It Quits

Rain water dripping over a window

Even on this freezing morning, chirp, chirp, chirp was all I heard before pulling back the comforter and putting my feet on the floor. Those birds know spring is almost here, even though it doesn’t look (or certainly feel) like it. Masked by huge snowflakes, sleet and rain, new life is springing up behind the scenes. Still, those giddy birds have chirped every morning for the past week.

In an odd way, it reminds me of a time years ago, when Brian and I sat in a cozy room surrounded by friends, many of whom had children or openly shared their hopes for a baby. It was he who also spoke it aloud, but I just sat there with my mouth shut, wanting to store away that part of our journey. I’d been open about so many personal things, but for some reason this felt like too much. We want a baby, too.

Eventually, each of those couples surprised us with their creative version of happy pregnancy news, and we cheered. Many times, though, those joys came with a lurking heaviness. “Do you think God is playing some kind of joke on us?” I laughed bitterly at the irony. Each time we talked about going to a fertility specialist, something always seemed to get in the way, and so we just did our thing–sex on the right days, ovulation tests and temperature-taking. For two months, I tried Clomid, and it made me feel crazy-angry and annoyed at everything, with rashes and stomach issues, so sex was the last thing I wanted (and let’s just say Brian was a saint to stay instead of spending those nights at work or even in his truck in the driveway). Those days, I cried more than anything else. I blamed it on Clomid, but I’m sure the emotional release was exactly what I needed.

In the back of my mind, nothing seemed right.

Still, each month I got my hopes up, but either all the pregnancy tests and thermometers were broken or something was wrong with me (those days I felt like it was always me. He was fine, they said). Seriously though, when would it be our turn?

It was the when are you having kids questions that felt like too much from those who had no idea of our struggle (as if being a parent is the only way to live an adult life anyway). It was the well-meaning you can always adopt suggestion, as if we never knew that was an option. It was the baby showers that felt wildly different than in my 20’s (when most of my friends didn’t have babies). But in my 30’s, everyone it seems has kids along with multitudes of stories to tell about their water breaking, the birth, the best infant and toddler products–breast pumps, bottles, diapers, potty training and on and on. Having zero stories to tell can be tough, especially if you desperately want them. It was cruel irony that PMS and pregnancy signs can be practically the same. It was starting my period like a slap in the face before multiple baby showers, praying that I could be happy for the almost new mom and just be okay with me. I usually cried once I was back in the safety of my car.

I was furious at my body with all its rashes and stomach issues (continuing long after the devil Clomid days and proving there was more going on than I could see). “It’s so hard for a woman who can’t get pregnant,” I told Brian, who assured me I’d be surprised at how hard it was for men, too. All that trying for a baby began to feel like an expectation that unfulfilled, left us feeling like ashamed failures.

Yet…slowly, somehow our feelings and prayers for a child began to change. No longer was it

we want a baby,

we want a baby,

please give us a baby;

it was this– we want a baby if it’s right for us.

And over and over, I was reminded God created me a work of art, whether my body was able, ready or willing to have a baby. As that truth sunk deep into my soul, my face was red and splotchy with tears.

So after major downsizing and moving, Brian and I stood in the kitchen, lights low, as we dried the dinner dishes. We looked at one another, and I breathed a sigh of relief. This had nothing to do with dinner or dishes, it was more than that. It was peace, even though the water heater broke, the dead refrigerator was hauled away, and water leaked through the window while we were out of town. I’d realized an excitement, an odd stirring deep inside. I couldn’t explain it, but it was there just the same. Maybe the moving craziness had something to do with it? There was an awful lot going on then. After so much time, I just couldn’t believe it!

And I was scared, but I took a deep breath and said it, “What if we don’t try anymore? What if we just live and have adventures and be happy?”

And just like those birds, chirp, chirp, chirping on cold, rainy late February mornings, giddy about what’s to come…

I felt free. I felt worthy, unashamed and beautifully free.

Sometimes the happiest ending isn’t the one you keep longing for, but something you absolutely cannot see from where you are.–Shauna Niequist

On Marriage: I Wish I Had Known

Years ago, someone called marriage a blessed challenge,* and I’ve always liked that. It reminded me it’s necessary for things to be hard at times, but it’s amazing, too, especially after making it through all that tough stuff. Since I am not a relationship expert but quite the expert on my own marriage, the following is some of what I’ve learned over the past 11 years. I wish I had known all of this… well, 11 years ago.
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  1. Alone time is good for together time. During married years #1 – 3, we thought we would hurt one another’s feelings to get the heck away from one another, but now we have learned to say we need it when we need it. And then when we return after a couple hours (or days), we enjoy one another again even more. On the other hand, if we feel distant, we call it a no TV night and focus on quality time.
  2. Laugh everyday. It used to drive me crazy that Brian could make a joke out of anything. “Can’t you be serious?” I would say with a roll of the eyes. Now, I appreciate it more than ever because sometimes life gets way too complicated. I am thankful this man makes me laugh every single day, and he doesn’t even try.
  3. Making plans is a good thing, but flexibility and openness is better (which I re-learn everyday). We didn’t want children. Then, we decided we did and expected at least one by now. And now we are trying to sell our house because we haven’t grown into it…unless getting a second dog counts.
  4. The person you married will be different in the future (and so will you).  It stung to hear, “You aren’t the same person I married,” but he’s right. I’m less controlling, more authentic, stronger in the ways that count, and well, I eat differently. Years ago, the employees at the local pizza place knew our names AND our order! Now I juice and eat things like kale and beets, and he’ll actually drink a shot of green juice, too. I’m sure that’s what he meant.
  5. How you deal together during tough times makes all the difference. I hoped things would never be as hard as they were when we first married, that we would be immune like having chicken pox, and never face that craziness again. But tough times come and go and then come again. When words like hypogammaglobulinanemia and autoimmune became part of our vocabulary, Brian took my hand in his and said what was playing as he cleaned the garage. Hold on to me as we go/ as we roll down this unfamiliar road…(great song, Phillip Phillips).snowprints
  6. Listen. Trust. Speak what you love and value in the other person. I used to compete for final decision-making rights on practically everything. Several years ago, I realized my skepticism (words, yes, but even body language) tore Brian down little by little and took time to rebuild. But he is more than capable, and sometimes it’s less work to sit back, trust him and see what happens. Other times, we make decisions together. And when I see something amazing in him that he may not yet see and then speak it aloud, it is powerful and affirming.
  7. Appreciate the thought even if you don’t love the gift. I failed when Brian bought an old two seater bicycle after hearing me talk about the tandem bike I rode with my brother years ago (I didn’t exactly want one). But Brian listened to my stories, put time and money into the bike…and we actually figured out how to ride that heavy thing without falling OR yelling. And that is a marriage accomplishment.
  8. Having fun together is important, but so is doing what YOU love. Brian went skydiving and took two stand-up comedy courses. Both of these sound as appealing to me as having my toenails plucked off one by one. I watched him skydive, started a book club and meet with a writing group. We give one another space to grow by having an I-believe-in-you-even-if-it’s-not-for-me attitude.
  9. Schedule sex. Our society laughs about married couples losing the excitement of sex, but little is said about a solution that actually involves staying together. We tried spontaneity, but our schedules usually took over. So now, together, we put it on the schedule to be intentional, and everything else is bonus.
  10. Reach out to one another. There is something about sharing our fears when life requires moving into unknown territory and figuring out the next step. Brian going skydiving, fertility issues, getting and waiting for more diagnoses, surgery, waiting for our house to sell and knowing we’ll eventually move have all been big things. I can’t imagine wading through all of this by ourselves, so we connect with friends and talk to God about it, too. It’s hard to wait, but it’s brave to trust and see what happens. And you know, I didn’t always see it this way, but I am amazingly overwhelmed by our blessed challenge.*
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    We’ve come a long way…baby. 🙂

    *author unknown

Something Special Along Our Usual Path

“Are you going to be here soon?” I said into the phone, hoping he’d be home to walk the dogs with me. I crave this uninterrupted time with Brian. Like most marriages, we’ve had spaces when it seemed we’d rather be alone than together, but this is not one of those times. In the middle of what seems like a million unsettled things in our lives, being with Brian is home.

And so, he arrived just as the pups and I were ready to walk out the door. It was one of those beautiful spring days when being outside was heavenly, so the warmth of the sun on our faces and bare arms was welcome. We started out on our usual path, which seems to bore Glory (it’s like walking a turtle on a leash). Walking Journey is just the opposite. Getting distracted by everything he sees, he kind-of skips along, wanting to see everything now. And that’s another good reason for the four of us to walk as a pack, I like to say. There’s safety in numbers, right?

Talking about something serious like the negative effects of childhood bullying on adults,  we had one of those meaningful I. love. you. moments that seem to come out of nowhere. So with dogs in tow, right there on the side of the road, I flung my arms around him and hugged him. almostkissingAt that very moment, a black SUV slowed down right next to us. The driver stuck her head out the window, smiled at us and said,

“I love your love.”

Then, a couple days ago she passed us, calling us her favorite couple, and I wondered. All this time, all these years we’ve walked our usual way, and I’ve hardly thought twice about what others think when they see us. Apparently, she has noticed us with our slow-as-can-be turtle and perpetual puppy. What is it she sees? The way we hold hands? Our smiles and laughter? I’m guessing, she hasn’t witnessed our disagreements on many of those walks or maybe she has. I’ll probably never know specifics unless I go to her door and ask her (and well, that might be uncomfortable).

Really, it doesn’t matter. What matters is this began a conversation, a speaking out loud of our gratefulness for one another.

Everything else might be unsettled still, but, it’s right here in the middle of this complicated life that four powerful words nudged us to more fully appreciate the joy of being together, being part of a pack.

And that’s home for me.

B&meThanks for reading!
~Jen

 

9 Thoughts About 9 Years

Tomorrow, Brian and I will celebrate our 9th anniversary! We spent our first having a living room picnic of Chinese take-out, while watching the riveting DVD of our wedding. Sounds romantic enough or downright boring. I’m sure that was Brian’s idea. 🙂

We don’t really give one another gifts for the special day (who can keep track anyway? Is it the year of paper, cotton, glass…?). Instead, we do something we both enjoy to mark the event that, yes, we have beaten the odds for another year.

So instead of listing the top ten things that I love about Brian or 10 things that will make marriage great or the hardest things about marriage, this is 9 thoughts about our (almost) 9 years together.

1.  He is never surprised that I can bruise myself by bumping into stationary things like door frames or table corners. I am no longer shocked that he takes a lot of time to decide on which new TV or camera we should buy. The thing is, we always end up with the best TV or camera with the most 5 star reviews. I just end up with a bruise.

2.  He likes golf. I hate it. I like playing Bananagrams. He hates it. That’s okay. Every now and then I think about wandering back to try it again, and so does he. We might even do it. That’s give and take, right?

3.  Neither of us likes yard work, but our yard usually looks fine (thanks to Brian). We have walked past a dead bush in front of our house for at least 3 months. We really should do something about that bush. So, now someone we hired is going to do something about that bush…and our overgrown hedges. Happy anniversary to us!

4. Three words can change the course of our day. After numerous times of using 507235198741 words to argue a point, we have found this to be true and much easier. The way I-am-sorry-period stops craziness shocks both of us. Period.

5. Three months after getting married, we wondered what in the world we were doing. We knew there would be yuck. We just didn’t know we’d be swimming in it. Love and counseling and lots of prayers got us through it.

6. I have learned to just. be. quiet (well, sometimes). Every day, this is a hard thing for someone who craves control and always wants to be right. I’m sure Brian appreciates and might even be stunned by my (occasional) silence.

7. The cooking schedule I wrote up months after our wedding was AWESOME! We each cooked twice a week and went out or had leftovers the other times. But he found it constraining. I tried to change his mind. Now neither of us cooks. We figure it out together, literally, almost every night, or we go to Moe’s.

8.  Job layoffs, location changes, grad school, career moves among numerous other things have all been hard for us. He usually deals well. I tend to cry and stress and resist. Later, I realize it’s all ended up better than I thought it ever would, and I am grateful that he is calm and steady.

9.  The grass is not greener anywhere else. It is greener here because our marriage has been dumped with manure, and the storms have come. In between those times, seeds of grace, joy and peace have been planted. The sun has warmed us, and we have grown to love one another with a fierceness that encourages, supports and protects.

I think this gift might be better than we ever imagined.