|Image by Leland Francisco|
In the fall of 2012, my 3 year marriage to the love of my life was moments away from being over. My wife and I had many heated arguments during which the dreaded word divorce was shouted with such anger that, to this day, I continue to wonder how we came out the other side.
But much like that dreaded first step into a cold swimming pool, I know it’s time I take a deep breath and step off the side of the pool if I ever want to enjoy the freedom and joy that comes from a refreshing swim. Yes, it’s going to suck at first, but in the end there is a much needed benefit. For me, right now, that the benefit I’m looking for is the unblocking of my mind, a release from the baggage that continues to weigh me down and impact my wellbeing. Allow me to back up a bit before we move forward.
Like many first time parents, that first year of my son’s life was really hard on the Wife and me. For reasons we couldn’t pinpoint, our history of meeting in the middle and balancing out one another, was eluding us.
We dealt with a great deal of stress during October-December of 2011. My Wife sadly lost her grandmother, we had a scare at 20 weeks where we thought our son was coming early, family drama throughout the holidays, and finally a couple we associated with gave birth to their son about 5 weeks before us, and named him the same name we were going to name our son. Yes, it’s laughable NOW to think of how worked up we got over the whole naming situation, but try explaining that to an almost 8 month pregnant woman.
Having some distance, I am able to look back and recognize these were simply excuses for our troubles. The real reason we were having issues is because we weren’t communicating. Simply put, we weren’t talking, our communication was broken. At least not about the things that didn’t involve sleep training, feeding and diaper duty. We neglected to communicate about the stuff that mattered most: Us.
So fast forward almost a year later. Our son was very difficult in his first year. No, that’s not fair to him. He was typical baby, maybe a bit more cranky than others, but normal nonetheless. It was his parents that were not well.
Unresolved stress from the prior year, was now growing with the addition of new stress. It all continued to pile up – stress of a cranky baby, a very difficult bout of postpartum depression, my own person life-long struggles with depression. And thanks to the continued presence of social media, it felt as if all we saw were other couples with children the same age as our son bragging about how awesome life was, and how kick-ass they were at being new moms and dads. I swear to everything holy, if I saw one more “#Blessed,” coupled with a pictures of an angelic baby with smiling, seemingly well-rested parents, I was going to go on a homicidal rampage.
We spent more time sitting around hating the kind of parents/people we weren’t while being angry at each other, that we failed to invest even one second in our marriage and, even more importantly, ourselves.
We tried, on occasion, to be that better person and support one another, even in our supremely broken state. Most days, unfortunately it was an exercise in futility.
But, even in all our brokenness we knew we still wanted us to work. So we took steps to fix us. We sought outside help, and dedicated ourselves to being better with each other. Was it easy? No fucking way. But nothing good, nothing that matters ever is.
I bring all this up because the Wife and I were having a discussion while out to lunch recently – a discussion that floored me.
Wife: You know, I’m kind of thankful for all the crap we went through two years ago.
Me: How in the hell can you say that?!? What good can you possibly have gained from that? We threatened each other with divorce.
Wife: Yeah, but we didn’t do it. And besides, look at all the good in our life now. None of that would be here if we didn’t go through the dark times.
Me: Oh, bullshit. I just cannot agree. You don’t think we would be happy or in a good place if we didn’t almost ruin each other.
Wife: In a way, no, I don’t. Neither one of us would be on the path we’re on now without our rough time.
I left lunch in a fog of confusion and disbelief. How could she see what we went through as a good thing? Our son was almost a statistic of a broken home before he even knew what a home was. But as I sat with it for a while, I got to thinking that maybe she had a point.
Since her bought with PPD my Wife has worked very hard at changing her career/life path. She is now tirelessly working on becoming a birth educator and eventually wants to open a center for women that will focus on every need during pregnancy and post-natal; she explained that this is a path she most definitely would not have embarked on if we hadn’t experienced the rough period, especially if our experience was similar to the #Blessed people because the motivation to help others would have not been there. She also pointed out my renewed desire for writing as an example of how things have gotten better. Yes, I was writing/blogging before my son, but I had little direction. Now I have found that direction, started my own website () and have even formed relationships with other mom/dad bloggers. Many of those relationship have helped me see that parenting, as well as cultivating a marriage, is a rough and sometimes messy process, but at the end of the day both worth the effort.
From time to time friends have remarked how they think the Wife and I are the perfect couple, and how they one day hope to have what we have. They wonder how we do it, how we manage to be so great. I just hope after reading this, they now understand when I simply answer with, “it takes hard work” that I really mean it.
My Wife made the point during our lunch conversation that we should celebrate the fact that we’re better with each other. Are we perfect? Not even close. Do we still have room to be better? Of course – there is always room for growth. But all in all we are a team again. Before the pregnancy funk we made a promise to each other to always value one another the same way we did before we found out we were going to have a baby. Just as we did the day we said our vows to each other.
Because at the end of the day, “we were” before “he was”.
Mike Cruse is the author of the very insightful Papa Does Preach. You can follow him on Facebook and Twitter.