Eleven years after meeting the man I would marry, I look back and see that we’ve been through a lot together—from losing a child and jobs, to stress and depression, to sickness and moving. We have fought against each other, but we have always fought together to defend our love, our marriage, and our friendship.
Our journey together started when we were young. Tom proposed to me when I was 16, and on my 17th birthday I found out I was pregnant. We were excited: we knew we wanted to be together and have a family. But the reality of adult life and parenthood had not yet set in, and we didn’t realize how difficult it would be.
My pregnancy had many complications. We were expecting twins, and I went into pre-term labor and was put on bedrest for eight weeks in the hospital. At 25 weeks, we lost one of the twins, our baby girl Alexis. That was the first time I ever saw my husband cry. He had played with her each night, sang to her through my stomach, felt her kick. She was his baby. What do you do when you are 17 and you find out your baby has died? It is a feeling you can’t describe, like a deep dark hole.
Yet somehow, it brought us closer together. I was still at the hospital on bed rest, but Tom came whenever he wasn’t at work or school and stayed by my side. Seeing Tom vulnerable and at a loss made me love him all the more and made me want to take care of him and be there for him. Tom was my rock in those heartbreaking weeks. He was going through this journey with me and understood the heartbreak. He saw me at my worst and weakest.
Losing Alexis was extremely hard, but it also changed me: it made me realize that life wasn’t guaranteed, and that I wanted nothing more than to make my family work.
At last the day came when the C-section for our other baby was scheduled. I remember lying on the operating table with a curtain blocking my view, and I remember the joy that welled up in me when I saw the nurse lift up what looked like a small bluish-purple ball. Madisyn was just 4 pounds, 2 ounces and 16 inches long, but she had a headful of jet black hair. She let out a faint dainty-sounding cry, and I had instant tears. I knew that she was mine, and mine forever. It was a moment of pure ecstasy. It makes me tear up just remembering it.
I’ve heard it called “the magic moment of birth.” But over the next several years things didn’t always feel so magical while we were thrown into life as parents and students and employees all at once. I was tired and agitated from going to school and working full-time and getting up at night to feed the baby. We took turns living with our parents until we could afford a place of our own, and Tom joined the Army and was gone for a year, which was stressful for our family.
We’ve learned a lot. We’ve learned that love isn’t always easy. Sometimes you have to choose to love your partner even when you’re angry and full of hate. Life never goes as one plans or expects and sometimes you just have to make the best a bad situation.
But I’d say that the most important thing we’ve learned about keeping our marriage together is forgiveness. If you can forgive and move on then it helps to keep your foundation strong. And related to forgiveness is trust: without trust there is doubt, and doubt destroys relationships. That’s why it’s so important to not only forgive, but to go through the hard work of rebuilding and fortifying trust. It takes time, but it’s so worth it.
In the end, I know that I wouldn’t want to spend life without Tom. I want my happily ever after with him and him only. When I heard him cry after we lost Alexis, it assured me that we were meant to do this together as husband and wife, as partners in crime. And I couldn’t imagine any other person to make my family with.