Thursday, September 26, 2013

My thoughts on Marriage?

I have recently had this question posted to me from  a person I have been friends with for years. I realized, as this was posted on Facebook, that a simple response was impossible. She might regret asking my thoughts, but she should know by now that by asking my opinion, she might very well get more than  she bargained for. : )

What marriage advice would you give a newly engaged couple? (doing research for a paper)

Okay, so let's get into this. First off, I would like to make it known that I am by no means an expert on the subject... everything I say may not be right for you, but this is what works for us.

1. Be sure. Be 100% sure. When I met Mike in 2010, I told a friend I was with that first night, "that boy is going to change my world." Boy, did he. I knew there was something different about him. I knew this would be a relationship unlike any I had ever encountered. I could feel it in my bones. Even after he stood me up for our first date... even after we realized we would both be challenging. When he got down on one knee in front of me and my whole family and pulled out that ring.... everything inside of me screamed YES! I knew. I never doubted it, even when I was mad and said I doubted it, inside I knew differently. I never really doubted it.
Now let's flash back a few years, before I met Mike. This is something I don't like to talk about but I think is important to mention here. Something I wish I had known when I was younger. Just because a man proposes to you, doesn't mean you have to say yes. If he's not the one God wants for you to marry, you will know. You will have doubts. Major doubts. I was engaged once before, a long time ago. When that guy got down on one knee everything inside of me cringed and screamed, no No NO DON'T DO THIS. But then what do you do when this guy with a diamond is down on one knee, I heard the word 'yes' come out of my mouth... but I knew it just wasn't right. It would, thankfully, not last very long. I knew in my bones that he was not the one for me... it led to a bitter end of a relationship that should have ended years before.
You hear that cliche' "when you know, you know" ?? Well I believe that 100% Mike and I were only together 7 months when he proposed. We just knew. Without a doubt in my mind or my heart I married the one true love of my life.

2. Divorce is not an option. I'm not talking extreme circumstances... I'm just saying too many people divorce because "it's too hard" or "I'm unhappy" or "I fell out of love". Don't buy into the worldly view that if it doesn't work out, we will get a divorce, but for now we will be happy. Don't make divorce an option in your marriage. Don't even use the word. Even in the heat of the worst fights, do not use this word. Divorce is a virus that is running rampant and spreading evil throughout the world. Marriage is a covenant made before GOD. The two joined in this manner are quite literally becoming one in the eyes of their creator. [[See Mark chapter 10]]

And Jesus said to them, “Because of your hardness of heart he wrote you this commandment. But from the beginning of creation, ‘God made them male and female.’ ‘Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.’ So they are no longer two but one flesh. What therefore God has joined together, let not man separate.”

3. Staying on this subject, let's talk about love. People talk about love as if it is an emotion... and it is. BUT it is so much more. Love is an action verb. Love is something you have to commit to every single day. You choose to love. Every day when you wake up, say to yourself... I love this person. When you act "love" you feel love. Those initial feelings of "this person can do no wrong and the world is all butterflies and rainbows" WILL go away. When that happens, many people choose to throw in the towel. It IS a choice. You can choose to stop loving. Don't. Do something nice for your spouse to show them love as often as you can... no matter how big or small. My husband brings me flowers nearly every week, that gesture always fills my heart to overflowing with the knowledge that he loves me without even hearing the words.
I show love by baking something special, cooking for him or cleaning up after him without complaining. It may sound old fashioned, but when my husband comes home from a long day and has to work on homework for hours and goes to bed late, then gets up the next morning and finds all his work clothes already clean and ready to wear... he knows he is loved. Love is an action. Do everything you can to show love... not just the words or physical love... although those are very important, your spouse needs to know without a doubt that no matter what happens in your life, you will always be there to love them.
Loving someone sometimes means going to bed angry (despite what nearly everyone will tell you). It's much better to go to bed angry and wake up calm the next day than to say something unloving that you will later regret and that your spouse will remember for a very long time.
Everyone loves in a different way, learn what works for you and your spouse and do it. (I've been meaning the read The 5 Love Languages, a book about what shows love for different types of people). What works for me does not work for my husband and vice versa. You think he'd get all giddy over a flower? Please... but his cup runs over with knowledge that I love him when I hug him or kiss him on the cheek when he least expects it... or I randomly tell him I am proud of him and respect him beyond measure. And if he's reading this... I really do my dear husband... You are truly the greatest man I know.

4. Think twice before complaining about your spouse. Chances are the things that you are fighting about are silly and you will get over it before you know it, but bringing other people into your so-called problems will make them linger. I'm not saying you won't have legitimate arguments about important things or that your spouse will never seriously hurt your feelings... I'm saying, when you talk bad about your spouse or complain about them to your friends, they will remember it. They will also, mostly innocently, bring those times up again when they hear you complaining yet again. This action puts you on the "other" side of the team... you should ALWAYS try to stay on your partner's side. You are a team.... you are THE team. You should always always make an effort to uplift your spouse instead of putting them down, even if you think they will never know about it.
Everyone makes this mistake at times, it's just human nature to "gossip". Just try not to. Trust me, your marriage will benefit from the constant "lifting up" of one another, and soon it will be second nature to you... you will see your spouse in a different light than you see the rest of the world. They will never be perfect, but it is important to remind yourself (and those around you) that they are perfect for you.
When you do talk to your friends or your friends talk to you about their marriages, be supportive and understanding and never talk down their spouse. Yes, there are moments you will inadvertenly blurt out "no he didn't!" but try to avoid the "what a jerk" comments and instead say things like "I'm sorry you're upset" or "you guys love each other, this is just a rough patch". I can't even count the number of times that my best friend and I have reassured each other over the years through our marriages. Sometimes you do need an outside ear to listen, but be cautious about who you choose. Choose someone who you know will be rational. Someone who supports Team "Mr. and Mrs." Someone who understands the importance of keeping the integrity and closeness in your marriage.

5. I had a patient at work recently that had been married for 64 years. My favorite question to ask such couples is, "what is your secret to staying married for so long?" Her response? "I've just enjoyed it!" I could see the love shining from her face as she said those words. Seems simple right?
Often times life gets in the way, and you forget to simply enjoy your marriage. There are things to worry about, work to be done, bills to pay, disasters at every turn, children to take care of... infertility... miscarriage... a countless number of things that can make you actually forget to enjoy your marriage!! Have fun together... make special time for each other every week, even if it's something small. Mike and I like to go sit at the bar at firebird's, have a steak and a glass of wine and watch whatever game is on. We do this almost every week, it's our special little simple "together" time, time to unwind, leave all our problems behind and just hang out together. The time doesn't always have to be anything big like a vacation or anything romantic like a fancy date... it can just be laying together on the couch watching a movie. The intimacy of being able to just be with someone and relax is amazing and important. Be each other's best friend. What is better than getting to spend EVERY day with your best friend?!

6. Stop thinking grass may be greener on the other side. This is a dangerous way of thinking. Everyone's grass needs tending. No one's marriage is perfect, and every marriage takes work. Just know that marriage doesn't have to entirely be work!! It's dangerous to think there are perfect marriages because you will always feel like yours is falling short. It's not... life is what you make it. My husband's saying of "it is what it is" used to irritate and infuriate me, it seemed like such a blow-off... but there are things in life you can't change or always fix! And that is okay! The important thing is that you are willing to make the effort to tend your marriage's "grass". The more you nurture your relationship, the better it will be... and the "work" feeling will diminish. Whatever you do... do it together, and your marriage will be strong and healthy and beautiful... your grass will be beautiful. :)

And finally...
7. Do not make yourself or your spouse number one in your marriage.
Wait... What??? Yeah I know... don't do it.
Make GOD number one. Always. If God is the one leading your marriage, there is no way you can fail. Pray together, worship together, put your spouse above other people, but never EVER above God. I wish I had known this on the day we got married. I vaguely knew it but I didn't KNOW it, or at least I didn't know how to do it. This is something we have learned together over the years. We had to learn to follow God's plan for our lives (and our marriage) and it has grown better with every passing moment. It hasn't always been easy but... Relationships THRIVE when God is at the center of them. Growing closer to God individually and together will bring the deepest love and appreciation and happiness that you can ever imagine... sometimes even way more than you can imagine. Any marriage can succeed as long as God is leading the way of two willing hearts.

So, Lauren, I hope these are the answers you were looking for... probably way more than you wanted to hear, but these are my thoughts. At least part of them : )
The only thing I would say I would do differently had I known how our marriage would turn out, is to slow down. I would have concentrated less on what the wedding should be and more on what our marriage should be like. The best thing we ever did during our engagement was a church-based marriage counseling using the book "Love & Respect" by Emerson Eggerichs. We still look back at it from time to time when we are feeling frustrated and not understanding one another. Men and women will always react and/or think differently about almost every situation... so don't expect the other person to read your mind! Use your words, even when you feel like you shouldn't have to explain yourself... explain yourself anyways, you'll be amazed at how many arguments you avoid that way.
And to those readers out there who are thinking about getting married  or engaged? Pray for direction and guidance from God. You don't need luck. You just love. Love each other every day and thank God for every day that you get to spend together. The rest, you can figure out... as long as you're willing to figure it out together.

With everything that has happened in our time together, a little bad and a lot of good. I am thankful for every second of it, because I get to spend the rest of my life with this man.
For those of you looking for an update to our story... there isn't too much news, but one is coming soon.

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

The Letdown

For most things in life, the more you do them, the easier they become. I would have to say that miscarriage should be within the top 10 exceptions for that rule (or at LEAST the top 20). When you become pregnant it becomes an entirely new love, and therefore an entirely new heartbreak. You are never prepared to let that child go... you never WANT to.... and if you have to say goodbye it is nearly unbearable... at least that has been my experience.

People keep asking how I'm doing... the answer to this question generally is "fine" or "I'm doing ok," which isn't a lie... per se. It's more of a partial truth. Honestly even if I'm not fine I will tell someone I am because it is either what they want to hear or it is a time that I just don 't feel like delving into how I'm REALLY feeling at the moment. Most of the time I actually am ok, or at least as okay as a person who has lost three children can be. I get out of bed in the mornings, even when I don't want to. I go to work, I do my job to the best of my ability. I keep my house clean... I love on my puppies. I try to be a good wife. All in all, I am living my life, even when I don't want to. Life is funny that way, it keeps going even when you feel like you can't... so you muster the strength to conquer each day, sometimes only an hour or two at a time. If I had things my way, I would take my husband and my three dogs and move off to St. Lucia for a few months... or years. But the reality is, I have a job... and bills... and people and things to tend to. So that's what I do. I live.

I fight through the depression of each day without my children, my stomach now flat and lifeless... I laugh when things are funny... I cry when I get really sad. I let myself feel the spectrum of emotions that are humanly possible. I think part of the grace of God is that He doesn't let us feel the full burden of some pains because it would be unbearable. I am not mad at God for our situation. It is hard to write about though, that's why it has taken me so long to find the words to put on paper... well, on the screen. Some people say to give all your problems over to God, and that is true. But what they don't tell you is that just because you give it to God, doesn't make it hurt any less. The hurt in this instance is still palpable. I know one day I will heal, but the ache for my children will remain until I am united with them in Heaven.

When I wrote about our first miscarriage, it was easier... the words flowed freely. The lesson I needed to learn had become apparent, I could find reason in it. I was better for it. But now? It hasn't been long enough. I don't know what we are supposed to learn from this. Maybe we are doing something in our lives that we shouldn't be... or maybe we should be doing something that we aren't. We just at this point have no idea what that is, so we go on. Day by day... living the best that we know how.

Physically my body is healing. I look like it is back to normal and I hope that I will be soon. I had retained products after the D&C which means that there was some tissue that was left behind after the surgery that I had to pass naturally. The d&c is a blind procedure which means there is no imaging, such as ultrasound, guiding the doctor to remove the sac of the baby (or in my case sacs). I've had a ton of blood drawn to do various panels of labs that test for recurrent miscarriage causes. I also have to re-do some testing that was previously done. My doctor wants to re-examine the possibility of my uterus having a septum. Right now, we know practically nothing. Except that my beta HCG (the pregnancy hormone) has not completely dropped to zero. This level will be rechecked weekly until it bottoms out. We have no current plans to do another transfer any time soon. Between the expense of IVF and the fact that we only have 2 frozen embryos, we want to know everything we can and try to have ideal circumstances for our next transfer, it will likely be our last. I can't even think about that right now, though. The fear of it far outweighs the excitement at this point.

We need a break. After all of our next testing is done we plan to take as long as we need to finish healing, physically and mentally. Maybe do some traveling. Have some fun as a married couple. If we had a bigger house we would probably get another doggie. : ) They bring so much joy and love into our lives... always full of kisses no matter how bad of a mood we are in.

My birthday is on Saturday. I will be 29. I feel so much older though. I always dreamed that I would be done having children by the time I was 30. My parents were so young when they had us, I wanted to be able to have the same kind of bond as we do... the young parents that are so often the "cool" parents. For now, my dream of being a mother feels so far out of reach, it's heartbreaking. I see it happening all around me... even to people that don't want it to happen, but for some reason, it is still not my time and that hurts so much... but I have no choice but to live with it... and make the best I can out of it.

I bought myself the new Tenth Avenue North album "The Struggle" today. It couldn't be more appropriate for how I'm feeling. So far my favorite song on the album is called "Strangers Here"


"Strangers Here"
I know you’re tired of the hurt and the heartache
You feel like giving in, you feel like walking away
And I know it’s difficult feeling so out of place
But this is not how it’s gonna be
Your pain is temporary

We’re all strangers here
So it’s alright if you can’t
Stop the tears that you cry

‘Cause some day we’ll touch the face of our God
And the sorrow will disappear
Until then, we’re strangers here

That’s hard to hear if you want to keep chasing
This broken world that only keeps your heart breaking
So if you’re scared ‘cause you think that you’re missing out
This is not the ending
No, this is not the ending

We’re all strangers here
So it’s alright if you can’t
Stop the tears that you cry
‘Cause some day we’ll touch the face of our God
And the sorrow will disappear
Until then, we’re strangers here

This is not the homeland
We can see the lights from here
He’s making us a city
Where there are no fears
And it’s drawing near

Until then, we’re strangers here
We’re just strangers here
We’re all strangers here
So it’s alright if you can’t
Stop the tears that you cry
‘Cause some day we’ll touch the face of our God
And the sorrow will disappear
Until then, we’re strangers here

I don't know what life will be like from here on out, but I do know that it will be okay. I will survive. I will get through each day. I'm comforted knowing that I have the love of an amazing man that I get to come home to every day. I'm so lucky for that. He really is the best thing that has ever happened to me. I hope he knows that. I thank God every day for him... and my dogs... and my whole "thankful" list. The power of positive thinking right? I'd be lying if I said I didn't have a lot to be thankful for... but we always want more don't we? We want our babies. We want them here on Earth with us. We take as much comfort as we can in the fact that they are safe, in Heaven... they will never know pain and sadness. They will forever only know love and happiness. That's really the greatest thing any of us can wish for our children.

I know that God will ultimately use this experience for good, for His Glory. I can't wait to see what He has planned... praying for the strength to see this through...


Dear babies,

We miss you so very much.

With all the love our hearts are capable of,
Mommy and daddy.