I jolted awake with a start to the sound of desperate crying in the darkness. Rolling over painfully, I looked through swollen eyelids at the dim glow of my watch. From some far corner of my mind I read the time vaguely: 3:00 AM.
“You’re kidding,” I thought. The thought was immediately followed by a sound from my wife that I quickly translated as, “Can you get him?” Moving as if my whole body was weighed down by armor, I threw the blankets off and stumbled my way out of the bedroom. In the room across the hall, I was greeted by the wailing of our son, John Paul.
He was standing in the crib, gripping the edge with his pudgy hands and bouncing furiously up and down while making it very clear to me how unhappy he was. After fifteen minutes or so (but really, who counts the minutes that late at night?), I got him back to sleep and was back in bed. No sooner had I closed my eyes then I heard the dreaded sound of an awake and unhappy child. The cycle was about to begin again.
From the time of our wedding to the time my wife Jenn went into labor, we were happy being “just us.” We spent time doing pretty much whatever we wanted individually and as a couple. The day our son was born changed all of that. Now our entire lives revolve around this tiny human and his needs.
No matter how much my wife and I prepared for our marriage, we could not have prepared perfectly for the task of raising a child. The honeymoon period of our marriage is largely over as the realities of our everyday life together set in. Now we are faced with the sometimes harsh realities of broken down cars, a mortgage, home repairs, and most importantly a beautiful but demanding son.
But you know what? I don’t think I have ever felt more at peace with my life than I do now. My wife feels the same way, and I firmly believe it is because we prepared for marriage with the right state of mind.
If we had gone through our marriage preparation thinking only of the wedding day, everything that has happened since then would have been a total shock to the system. But we took the time to ask ourselves hard questions during our engagement. We addressed big questions about our relationship before we faced them in real time. Questions like:
- Are we still working on our relationship?
- Am I serving my wife/husband the way she/he needs?
- Do I find myself putting my desires before the needs of my family?
Through these questions, we were conscious early on of what is needed to maintain and grow our relationship. Entering marriage with the knowledge that hardship is inevitable and sacrifice is necessary has enabled us to endure many difficulties already. I also feel that by making the decision to love has transformed these tough times into beautiful moments that have served to deepen our relationship. Despite our radical lifestyle change, I have found that I love Jenn even more deeply as my wife. I’ve watched her emotionally and physically give herself up to provide for the wellbeing of John Paul—a sacrifice that has increased my already profound respect for her even more.
The decision to love my wife and care for my son as I should is not always so easy when my ego or laziness gets in the way. The jungle is still there, and I find myself hacking even harder at the vines of my imperfections, wrapped around my feet that trying to trip me up.
Despite this, I have never been happier because this is what we prepared for during our engagement. Our wedding day was a beautiful celebration of our love for each other, but the years after the wedding are the ones that really reveal the lifelong commitment for what it is. They are the years in which new lives are created and nurtured. When I stood in front of the altar with Jenn across from me, we both knew this was true. And that understanding has constantly opened up new adventures for us as we continue to journey through our marriage.