Tuesday, June 24, 2008

What does it take for a marriage to survive?

When Tim and I were planning our wedding, the advice we received from many people was "if your relationship can survive the planning of your wedding, your relationship can survive anything". At the time, we thought that was pretty sound advice and it made sense. Fortunately, Tim and I both have similar taste and we wanted a very simple and small wedding. We survived....but then again, it only took us 3 months to plan our wedding. Got engaged in May 2002 and got married in August 2002 (after 7 years of dating, I just wanted to get the show on the road...well, that and my ovaries were rotting, as my eggs had started to lose hope of ever becoming fertilized).

As we ventured into the first few months of our marriage, some of the advice we received was "if your marriage can survive the first year, then your marriage can survive anything". I wasn't so sure about that advice though because I had been married before and that marriage survived the first year. It was in the second year that it went to hell in a handbasket. But I was willing to give that advice the benefit of the doubt, this time around. At the beginning of our marriage, we decided to sell my condo (it wasn't exactly "our" condo since I had bought it the last time we had broken up and I saw no hope of us ever rekindling our relationship again). We started looking at new homes, while we got my condo in good shape to be sold. A former co-worker of mine, who I felt was very wise and always had great advice, told me "if you can paint a room with your husband and not kill each other, then your marriage can survive anything....oh, and don't even attempt to wallpaper together because that will definitely be the end of your marriage". I had no idea how true that was until Tim and I painted the kitchen in my condo. We were at each other's throats constantly because we each had a different way of doing things. But we managed to muddle throught that and got my condo sold and moved into our beautiful new home, which we left completely unpainted on the inside and it still is to this day. I don't think either of us is ready to deal with that little adventure again. So we survived the first year of marriage...barely.....

During our first year of marriage, we decided to start a family but unfortunately we were not having any success and finally had to turn to infertility treatments. At the time, a few people who knew we were dealing with infertility gave us some advice, "if your marriage can survive infertility, your marriage can survive anything". When we first began infertility treatments, we seemed to be closer than ever...we were on the same page, willing to do almost anything it took to have children. But soon enough, with the stress of the treatments and the financial strain, we started to drift away from each other. There were times we'd be sitting in the same room but I'd feel a million miles away from him. I lived and breathed IVF but Tim didn't get it. I remember one time in particular when I was crying (yet again) about how unfair this all was and I said "I'm just so tired of the fight", referring to the fight it was taking to becoming parents. And he looked completely irritated and screamed at me "what fight? what are you talking about?" He just didn't get it. There were so many times I fantasized about sneaking up on him in the middle of the night and stabbing him in the ass with a 22-gauge needle, while laughing hysterically as he writhed in pain.

Finally, we became parents....I was thinking "wow, we've been through a lot and our marriage has survived. We can make it through anything". But the first month of parenthood was anything but easy. Our twins were in the NICU for the first 3 weeks of their lives, which would often leave me in tears after returning home from a NICU visit and Tim shaking his head, not knowing what to say anymore to console me. And then there was the huge fight over breastfeeding. I wanted to breastfeed more than anything but because of a breast reduction I had had several years earlier, I wasn't able to produce very much milk. But I pumped and pumped round the clock to give them what I could, even if it was 2 oz within a 24 hour period. Tim didn't think it was worth it. I'd cry to him about the responsiblity I felt to provide breast milk for my babies and he just didn't get it (again). He'd say "I don't know what the big deal is....they'll be fine on formula".

Then the babies were finally home with us and Bella's hemangioma began to ulcerate and we would experience periods where it would bleed profusely, which scared the living daylights out of us. We were fortunate to have an amazing pediatrician, who also doubled as a dermatologist. During one of the visits in which I took Bella by myself, Dr A asked "so how are you and Tim holding up?" and I couldn't help but start sobbing. I told him about our huge fight over breast feeding and how I just felt like we were at each other's throats constantly, mainly due to severe sleep deprivation. Nothing, and I mean, nothing can prepare you for life with newborn twins....everyone can give you all the advice they want but until you've lived it, you just can't appreciate it. Dr A then confided in me that he and his wife (who have 4 children) almost divorced during their first year of parenthood. He said it was the toughest year of their marriage by far. Then he said "if your marriage can survive the first year of parenthood, your marriage can survive anything". I didn't know whether to laugh or cry...every time I thought we had gotten through a rough stage of marriage, here was another person telling me "oh, you ain't seen nothing yet until you've gone through _____(fill in the blank)".

After a couple more years, our marriage was finally getting back on stable ground and then Garrett and Landon came along and surprised us (our therapist likes to refer to them as our "disastrous miracle"). Initially, we were shocked, then excited and then we both kinda got stuck in the "oh shit" phase, where we realized how close to the breaking point we became after our 1st set of twins. What would happen after the 2nd set of twins? I don't think we've ever come out of the "oh shit" phase...we kinda got stuck here. Although we don't take ourselves as seriously as we used to when Cole and Bella were first born. There was one day specifically where before Cole and Bella were potty trained and we had all 4 kids in diapers, it seemed like we were running an assembly line, changing diapers every hour. I knew it was bad when we were actually trying to out-do each other with "I changed 4 poopy diapers in the last hour" and "oh yeah? how fast were you? I changed 4 poopy diapers in 10 minutes yesterday...and got puked on 10 different times, to boot...can you top that??"

I guess it's good that we still have our humor....I'm sure we would've killed each other by now without it. Of course I still have days where I find myself looking at real estate online to see what I could afford if I were to split with all 4 kids...and I know it's bad when I think of Tim's brother and his wife who share custody of her son with her ex-husband and Tim and I say "they have it totally made...they have every other week off from childcare responsibilities".

I was talking to a good friend the other day on the phone and venting to her about something Tim did and she said "well, considering everything you've both been through together, it's amazing you've gotten this far".....and with that, I had to agree.


Kim said...

I'm new to this blog ring, so am surfing around reading all the great stuff. Love your writing. A big high 5 to ya on raising two sets of twins!

Jae said...

I had three in diapers - I hear you on having to keep your sense of humor for your marriage to survive. It's honestly the only way it will!

I've been reading around - you are blessed, brave and super mom!

joy said...

The divorce rate among kids with special needs is over 80%...with a son with autism we joke about how we have no chance of making it considering we met on the internet and married when I was only 18 years old (which I'm guessing would up that divorce percentage even more) but going on our 7th year, I feel confident there will be many more. You and Tim have overcome so much, you should both be proud of that.

I figure that if the children are alive when my husband gets home at the end of the day, I've done my job.

----Roseanne Barr

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