January 1, 2020, was Chandler’s and my 10th wedding anniversary, and we have now been together 14.5 years. We met when I was in 8th grade and Chandler was in 7th grade. He was my first boyfriend — although I was NOT his first girlfriend, ha! I dumped him during the summer between middle school and high school because I did not want to be a high schooler with a middle school boyfriend. Karma/God/some higher power had a lot of fun with that one… we started dating again just WEEKS before I left for college and Chandler was still a senior in high school.
We’ve been through a lot of hard times in our years together. And I mean some really, really, really hard stuff. And yet… hands down, the toughest year of marriage was year 8 — the year Brecken was born.
Aside from the genetic disease I carry, everything about our pregnancy was pretty “normal” — whatever that really means. We were of the “appropriate age” to have children. We had good jobs. We owned a house. We had a dog. It seemed as though we were “ready” to take this on. (Spoiler alert: No one is ready.)
We had conquered everything life threw at us, together. Not with ease, but with confidence that we would make it through. (Aside from that one time I tried to divorce Chandler, but that was for what I had decided was his own good, ha!)
I’m convinced nothing can prepare you for those first few months of parenthood. People told me it would be hard. I read numerous blogs and articles about it being hard. I knew logically it would be hard. But it was so much harder than I expected.
We were good partners, always tag teaming getting up in the middle of the night. I was breastfeeding, so Chandler was responsible for all bottle and pump part washing. Brecken even had a pair of grandparents willing to take him for a night or two about once per month, meaning we actually had some alone time, too.
But our relationship still started to fall apart.
Now that we’ve come through it and I’m looking back (hindsight is
a bitch 20/20), there were several things happening that contributed to this:
- All of our focus shifted to Brecken. We didn’t talk about our work days anymore. We didn’t check in with how the other was feeling nearly enough. We got home from work, made dinner, played with Brecken, gave him a bath, put him down, washed bottles, prepped bottles for daycare, etc. By the time we sat down, we were exhausted and just wanted to zone out and watch some TV. We were not having meaningful adult interactions.
- We thought we could keep doing the same things we’d always done without consequences. Having a few whiskey drinks on a Saturday night used to not be a big deal. But if you don’t time it right (that’s a joke, there’s no such thing as “timing it right” with an infant), then your baby will have a sleepless night and one partner will come down with a stomach bug on that very same night… (yep, that happened).
- We weren’t paying attention to our emotional well-being. My dad died in January 2017, just 6 months before we found out we were pregnant. And, before he died, he had abandoned our family and we were not on speaking terms. But I was now dealing with the fact that there would be no chance of reconciliation. He would never meet his grandson. And it was tough. But I was so consumed with my day-to-day activities, that I didn’t pinpoint this as the issue for far too long.
Getting back on track wasn’t easy. But shortly after our 9th wedding anniversary, Brecken turned one. He was sleeping through the night regularly. He was more self-sufficient (not super self-sufficient obviously, but nothing like the newborn level of needy).
But what’s more than that, is that we started talking again. We reprioritized. We realized that our well-being as a couple had to come first in order to provide the best we could for Brecken. Don’t get me wrong, there are still hard days where all we can do is survive. But there are also days where we spend Brecken’s nap time talking about our lives, our hopes, our dreams. Those date nights that used to be spent looking at photos and videos of Brecken, are now spent really being in the moment with each other. We’ve learned to talk about the hard stuff, too. Having a conversation about something difficult is much easier in the long run than letting it boil up until it explodes.
We renewed our vows on our 10-year anniversary and the timing couldn’t have been more perfect. We’ve been through a lot, but we continue to choose each other every day. We had no idea what was in store for us when we got married. We were just two young kids in love.
But now we’re two not-so-young kids with a kid of our own, and we’re still in love. Are we done going through the hard stuff? Absolutely not. But we’ve made it a decade, and I can’t think of anything worth celebrating more than that.