Friday, Feb 12
I’m taking a break from making Valentines for my six sweethearts to update a blog post from a year ago. Just before Valentine’s Day 2015, a fellow catholic blogger and another Mary, invited anyone interested to link up to her blog post. The title was “Learning Love: A Lesson a Year in Marriage.” I ambitiously sat down to write a reflection on each year of my marriage and was somehow able to recall a particular lesson that I learned during each year of twelve years of wedded bliss. I guess I’m an overachiever because what was intended was for us to come up with 12 lessons for 12 years (or 5 lessons for 5 years, whatever the case may be). The result was a post that showed the arch of our marriage relationship. It was fascinating to me how many people read it and shared it, commented on it and complimented me for it. This is a little blog and my posts don’t tend to get a lot of attention on social media.
As I was jotting down blog post ideas on my weekly planner, I thought now would be a good time to re-publish this post with an update, since another year of our lives together has passed. So, the following is a copy of my original post with the update at the end. I hope that no matter what your marital status is, you find our story of what we’ve learned in love inspiring and honest.
So, here goes: Learning Love, or, What lesson have I learned each year of my marriage? No biggy. I can do this!
Oh my goodness. Just look at those two brand spankin’ newlyweds! You know what I see when I look at this, my absolute favorite photo from our Wedding Day? I see the joy of wedded bliss. I also see two kids who, if they knew all that lie ahead would burst at the seams, both with fear and excitement. Looking back, what I remember about this day forward until our first anniversary, was that we were bound and determined to seize the moment. This was our moment. We both spent our twenties seeking. We sought to do God’s Will, and felt that His will for each of us was the vocation to marriage. So we dated. We each dated, one of us more than the other, but we were open. Our hearts were open, and the doors to our bedrooms were not. It was fun! But I think, because we so desired to fully live out our vocations, once we met each other, and culminating with our wedded union, we went for it. We spent the first eight months of our marriage, before conceiving our first born living in love.
During our second year of marriage, we had our first born son. My labor and delivery experience was a bit rocky. It was hard. But it allowed me to see my spouse in a whole new light. To see him so worried and strong at the same time was beautiful to behold. To see him learning to care for our child and for me as I gave and gave and gave to our baby, it was beautiful. And together, we fell in love with our baby and our baby loved us back unconditionally. A baby is a manifestation of the love between a husband and a wife. They are the fruit of a man and woman’s love for each other. A human being is born out of love. How amazing is that? I learned so very many things about love that second year, but mostly, I just bathed in the baby love.
Oh my word, look at that cute, young couple! Wow. I had a miscarriage when our oldest was eight months old. Then, just about six weeks later, our little daughter was conceived. I’m newly pregnant with her in this picture. Our relationship went through a lot of changes in our third year of marriage. I don’t think we had any idea how much we were growing as human beings and as a couple as it was happening. But looking back, I can say that God was working in some pretty amazing ways, teaching us lessons on how to love better and how to love more deeply as we welcomed our second child into this world. Our relationship was changing from “us and him” to “us and him and her” and man, that’s a big change, as those of you who have two or more children can attest.
Our 4th year of marriage was all about making room. Beyond the obvious room I was making, we needed a home with more room, so we moved in our fourth year of marriage. Friends of ours were so generous to allow us to rent their beautiful home for two years while they lived overseas. It was such a lovely place to spend our days with two little ones, just twenty months apart. Little did we know that we’d be making room again, just twenty months after our second child was born for a third baby. What a time that was. What a crazy, hectic, busy, busy time.
Year five was the year of the fight. We were fighting so very many battles in the fifth year of our marriage. We battled cancer with my father-in-law. We battled fatigue with a new job far away from home. We battled consumerism, saving every penny we could to buy our first home. We battled the temptation to throw in the towel. We fought for our friendship. And thanks to grace and many, many date nights and honest conversations, we won.
In our sixth year of marriage, our third child was born: another boy. And when he was just six months old, we moved into our first house, just a mile away from The Hubs’ office. While I felt so incredibly blessed to be living in our first home, my husband so close to work, I was suffering from undiagnosed Post Partum Depression. Looking back, I obviously wish I had known. I think that the external circumstances of our lives at that time served as an explanation or even an excuse for my stress and anxiety. I was isolated and lonely, living in a new place with three children so close in age. Love requires suffering and sacrifice sometimes and this was one of those years.
At the beginning of our 7th year of marriage, we found out we were expecting our 4th child. We were so excited, of course, but we also knew what was ahead. Our oldest was just about to start pre-Kindergarten. He was just about to turn five. And our fourth child was on the way. Gulp. This was definitely the year when we learned the lesson that when God asks a lot of you, He also gives you the grace you need to make it through.
After I gave birth to our fourth child, our second daughter, I quickly slipped into Post Partum Depression. I’ll never forget the day I realized that something was wrong. It was our baby’s Baptism Day and I was sitting in my glider, nursing her. My parents came over to me to kiss me good-bye and I started to weep. I felt as though the weight of the world was on my shoulders and the walls were closing in on me. As they left, I cried hot tears and felt nothing but anxious. I was holding this precious little bundle, with three other children to care for and nothing was going to be okay. This time, The Hubs saw quite clearly that all was not well. He saw to it that I got every bit of help I needed to get better. His love for me was so strong during this time. He was a rock and I felt totally dependent upon his guidance and strength. My husband’s love for me was The Father’s love for me. I could see it clear as day and it was beautiful.
Towards the end of our ninth year of marriage, we really hit our stride with four children. We had each other’s backs. I was strong when he needed me to be, and he was strong when I needed him to be. Nothing dramatic was going on in our lives, which was nice. As parents, we were feeling less like we were being side-swiped by a Mac Truck everyday and more like we were in control, as much as two people can be in control of four very young children. We were reaping the rewards of perseverance, I guess. The challenges that we faced together were fading into the background and we were both feeling the graces of the Sacrament of Marriage and seeing its fruits before our eyes.
Our tenth year of marriage was filled to the brim with fun. It was like we were dating again! We took a trip without the children, we went to concerts and on dozens of dates. Work was good. The kids were great. The Hubs was happy. I was happy. This time in our marriage was a reminder to us of our first year, really. We had so much to be grateful for, and we were filled with joy as a result. But you know what can happen when you get cocky about love, don’t you?
Yup! Baby #5 was born just five days after this picture was taken. Here we are, right after we renewed our vows on our tenth anniversary. What a beautiful way to embark upon the next leg of our journey together! Our marriage was blessed and we felt those blessings. I had had four Caesarian Sections at this point, and so our 5th child’s birth was supposed to take place at another scheduled C-section on July 3rd. Our precious fifth baby, our third girl decided she was ready to come early! Having gone through Post Partum Depression with the previous two babies, I was bracing myself with this one. I admit it. I was scared. But the love between The Hubs and I, and the love in our home, busting at the seams with children, it surprised me. I was peaceful. I was happy. I was so surprised! It was so healing to have such a positive and joyful Post Partum experience with our Little One. Love really conquered all with this one.
I never could have imagined, in a million years, that I would have a family big enough to need a big mamma twelve passenger van. Okay, so there are only seven of us, but hey! We need our space. When I drive this silly vehicle around town sometimes I am painfully conscious of the fact that I look ridiculous. And in those moments I try to remind myself why I am driving this big van: to accommodate my family! Isn’t that great?! It is great. Love is bigger than we realize, that’s what I’m discovering. It is a big and powerful force. Sometimes that force can overwhelm us, and sometimes that force can set us free. But one thing is certain:
For some of us, depending on what our childhood experiences were like, or maybe as a result of a bad relationship somewhere along the road, bad habits can form. Sometimes those bad habits show themselves in a marriage in small ways. Or perhaps they don’t become an issue until a major life decision has to be made that requires total trust. In my marriage, my spouse is in charge of certain duties to keep life running smoothly, as am I. I wouldn’t say that we’re an old fashioned couple necessarily, but each of our strengths lend themselves to traditional husband-wife roles when it comes to responsibilities. He goes to work each day, tirelessly providing for our family, selflessly commuting into D.C. for ninety minutes each way, four out of five work days a week. I stay home and hold down the fort, so to speak. Cleaning, cooking, scheduling, carpooling, doing laundry, shopping. Over the past ten months or so, we’ve been discussing and debating major life decision questions that will directly impact our marriage and family, hopefully for the better. For weeks on end we went back and forth, sharing with each other all the things we were doing to move toward making this dream we have a reality. He would go off to work, and when he could carve out some time, he’d make phone calls and send emails. I’d stay home and do the same, in my own way. Then, at night when the kids were asleep, tired and stressed, we would share all the hard work we’d done that day to get another step closer to clarity.
You would think this would be an excellent way for us to appreciate each other’s gifts. Instead, because of pride and bad habits, we started questioning each other’s approach. “But what about this?” or “Why are you attempting to do that?!” and “You should have asked me first.”
By the end of the conversation/argument/fight what we concluded was this: We need to trust each other. Updates are great, but trust is better. We made a list of our separate duties and resolved to trust, one in the other, that everything we said we would do would get done. End of story.
The result so far has been peace. I am whistling while I work, checking things off my list, and he’s emailing me once a week, listing the items he’s accomplished as well. Neither of us has anything to prove. Our actions speak louder than our words. We are on the same team, bringing to that team different gifts, and we can trust each other.
I would love to be more specific with you about this dream and plan we have for our family. Suffice it to say, it’s big and I’ll be blogging about it all in the very near future! Can’t wait.
Happy St. Valentine’s Day!