When marriage becomes real life

My relationship with my husband started out like any good romantic comedy. We wrote love letters daily, had epic conversations under bed sheets, laughed about things only we could understand, serenaded one another with our guitars and handwritten song lyrics, ate meals by the glow of candle light and got it on to perfectly curated playlists. We were instantly best friends, co-adventurers, and crazy in love. And we woke up every morning unbelievably grateful for what we had.

e pics 23

Eventually, there was an intricate proposal and a beautiful wedding. We rode the high of our tropical honeymoon for a few months….and then the marriage began.

I somehow believed we would be exempt from any one of the typical marital stereotypes. Those things couldn’t possibly happen to us. We were different. We were so in love, so obsessed with romance, so happy.

But, on a day I can’t quite remember, I began to sometimes hate this man that I love so much. And I’m pretty sure he has hated me too, at times. Because, it’s hard living with someone who knows you so well….someone you know you have to stay and fight with (or have annoyingly long conversations with in the parking lot of the supermarket), because, really, you aren’t going to leave. Not ever.

Yes, instead of romance there is work. Things I need to work on, things he needs to work on, things we needed to work on. There is silence that goes on for too long, and times when it feels like we are murdering our relationship with horrible words we don’t mean.

I used to get legit tears in my eyes when I told this man how much I loved him, but when we became parents, there were instead times when I cried in my bedroom, with the door shut, wondering how we were going to keep this thing going.

At some point, I began to long for those carefree premarital days with my husband. The time before the six stressful months of trying to conceive a child, before the summer living with my mother-in-law, before two moves and home ownership, before pregnancy and adjusting to parenthood (**interesting statistic- did you know that 87% of couples go into crisis after the birth of their first child?). I missed those days when I was constantly overcome by I-need-you-I-want-you-NOW fits of passion just at the sight of this man. He could be wearing sweatpants or picking his nose. I just didn’t care. He was perfect and I did everything in my power to show him just how perfect he was back then. Now I’m the person who asks him demands he get a hair cut and shave before I have sex with him again.

We have changed, and I spent many months out of this last year of marriage wishing we could be the “old us.” That is, until one day when I said all of this out loud to my husband, and we realized together that the complicated (what feels like a) mess we are living right now is so much better. It is real…strong…reliable. The love we have now is on a whole new level that could not be understood by those crazy romantics from five years ago who had not yet experienced financial hardship, temporary homelessness or childbirth together. What those two (kids) had was fun, sure, but it was volatile and immature and could never compare to the stability of a real marriage.

Every fight, triumph, loss, struggle, joyful occasion…every peak and valley…is like another pass of a needle through cloth, threading us together and creating the unique, beautiful fabric that is our life. For this, we are happy and grateful.

family aug2

 

Marriage and baby: Not for the weak, Part VI

Conception, The Finale (Part IPart IIPart III, Part IV)
 
TTC Month Six
Alex and I were still in (attempted) relaxation mode this month so we had a string of road trips lined up to take our minds off of our crazy life. Up first was a trip to Vermont, where we stayed in the hotel suite we had stayed in when we got married. We spent a lazy few days reminiscing and reigniting our spark. But, we found it difficult, as we were right in the middle of deciding on a house and spent much of our time on the phone with our realtor.
By the end of the trip, we had a house. The price being the continued tension being Alex and I, as a couple.
We decided to try again. So, I packed up my ovulation kit with my camping gear and we headed up to the Adirondack Mountains. As Alex and I set up camp the first night, we suddenly felt removed from our life. We talked deep into the night by the camp-fire. I cried in the darkness of the forest, feeling so lost and distant from the man who sat beside me eating s’mores. This was the summer that was supposed to bring us closer together as we created a new life—a new town, new home, new child. But, there was distance. Our living situation and a bevy of enormous and simultaneous life changes had led us to escape into separate corners.
We longed for the simplicity of our newlywed days, which weren’t all too long ago.
We came together that night, sweating on top of sleeping bags, the lullaby of loons echoing all around us. The next morning, I peed on a stick in the woods…an ovulation stick, that is. Something felt incredibly unnatural about that, though. It was like a metaphor for my conception obsession. Having a baby was the most natural thing in the world, but I was chipping away at the naturalness of it by trying to force it. I mean here I was, in the mountains, surrounded by nature, with an ovulation kit in hand. In that moment, I wished that I had had the kit six months ago, I wished that I could have remained relaxed…I wished I could start over. I was fed up with the whole thing.
The next day I took my temperature when I woke up, like I had done all the mornings before it for almost a year. I grabbed an ovulation stick, but on my way to use it, chucked it in the garbage—partly in frustration, partly as a symbol of my surrender.
That day, we rented canoes and paddled through the mountain lakes. For the first time in many months, it was just me and Alex. Alone. And calm. We didn’t talk about babies or houses or moving. We paddled and laughed and let go in the summer sun. Eventually, we came to a tiny, deserted island and decided to stop there for lunch. As we sat on a fallen tree together, munching on cashews and homemade protein balls (no, that is not a euphemism), we delighted in the silence. We talked about how great it felt to be sitting on a small piece of land, disconnected from everything….and everyone.
Then, we let our clothes fall to the pine needle laden ground, along with all the pressure we had put on ourselves.
The next day, we packed up our camp and headed to Saratoga Springs to stay with Alex’s sister for a few days. I started to feel the twinge of pain I had come to know quite well. I was ovulating. When we arrived, I ran to the bathroom with my last ovulation stick and discovered that the egg was already gone. Alex and I gave it one more try in the bathroom, but I knew it was too late.
Although I desperately needed all the relaxation and to approach baby making in a more casual manner the past two months, there was still the part of me that was not okay. I still wanted a baby. So, that part of me cried, feeling regretful about “not trying hard enough” that month.
***
A week and a half later, back home, Alex and I were leaving a movie theater when I suddenly exclaimed, “I need a steak. Like NOW. Seriously, you need to find me some beef or I’m going to lose it!” This sounded incredibly strange to both of us, not because of its randomness, but because I don’t even like meat. And I don’t eat beef. Yet, I was obsessed and could not quell this desperate need. We spent an hour driving around trying to find a hamburger before I ended up in the Whole Foods prepared food section, inhaling a meatball.
The following week, I woke up before sunrise one morning, and did what was as routine as brushing my teeth at this point: take my temperature. I looked at the thermometer and to my surprise the number was much higher than I expected at this time of the month. Alex, who was woken by the sound of the thermometer beeping, told me to get in the bathroom and take a pregnancy test. No, I couldn’t. Could I? I had already cast aside any hope of a pregnancy this month given the lackadaisical manner in which we had sex on our camping trip. But, I got up anyway.
I crept into the bathroom and grabbed a test by the light of my cell phone. Then I set my timer to three minutes. I sat in the complete darkness of the bathroom, my stomach fluttering. Alex called out excitedly, “what does it say?! Babe? Hello?” The timer went off. I couldn’t look. I took a deep breath, lit the screen on my cell phone and aimed it at the test.
Oh my god!
I shot up and turned the lights on. And there it was. A faint, but very real, second line staring up at me.
I walked back into the bedroom and announced, “I’m pregnant!” as Alex pulled me into the bed in a giant hug.
“Finally!” he said.
We couldn’t imagine a more beautiful ending to our story: on a small, deserted island, Alex and I returned to one another, and our reconnection created a new life.

As I hugged my husband, the past six months faded away, and our life began to circle around the small ball of cells that now lived in my uterus.

Yay! I just made a baby…but I don’t know it!
Up next, pregnancy…
Soapbox afterthought: I am not a doctor, or an expert, and my recommendations cannot solve any medical problems, but I am a woman. And I have this to say…Your fertility is your business. Getting to know your body and cycles can make all the difference when you are trying to conceive. I highly recommend using an ovulation predictor kit. They are pricey to buy on a monthly basis, but you can also use them just once before you start trying to conceive so you know when you ovulate, which can vary from woman to woman (not to mention, it’s always good peace of mind to know that you are, in fact, ovulating). I used the Clear Blue Easy Ovulation test. I also highly recommend using an online tracking website. It does require you to take your basal body temp every morning and monitor your fertility signs, but the extra work results in an incredibly helpful analysis of your most fertile time of the month. The website I used is Fertility Friend, and though you can sign up for free, I opted to pay for the extra features, which include things like alerts when it’s go-time (green light-have sex today, red light-wait), an analysis of your chance of conception each month given the information you’ve inputted, and much more. Obviously there is no guarantee, but after I signed up for the paid features and actually read all the information on the website and USED it…I got pregnant that same month. Just sayin’. One more thing. Pre-Seed. It’s your friend. Saliva and lube are not. Happy baby making!

marriage and baby: not for the weak, part v

Conception, Part IV (Part I, Part II, Part III)

TTC Month Five


I decided to buy an ovulation predictor kit this month. I had restrained myself from making the purchase earlier, at the advice of the OBGYN I was seeing when we first began trying to conceive. This was the same doctor who, during that same time, very casually suggested that I might have endometriosis, which could severely injure my ability to get pregnant. When I questioned her about the statement that she made in a very unsympathetic monotone, she brushed off my concern like it was no big deal. She continued on to tell me not to try to get pregnant. She told me not to pay attention to my cycles, or get caught up in the particulars or spend the money on an ovulation predictor kit. “Just wing it for a while,” she said.

My mistake was listening to a woman that I didn’t even trust instead of listening to my own voice and knowing that I was in charge of my body (a lesson I have yet to forget since).

This OBGYN was a terrible doctor, but her advice about trying to conceive was not at all uncommon. You often hear, “don’t make it a big deal—just let things happen naturally” when you are trying to conceive. “Just have sex during the middle part of your cycle,” you are told. “Don’t worry until you’ve been trying for a year unsuccessfully” they insist. But, I’m not so sure there should be a one-size-fits-all approach to conceiving. 
It would be nice if baby making could be nothing but romance and exciting, spontaneous sex. It would be even better if none of us had to work hard to make it happen, and we could remain perfectly calm until we were successful. But, some of us worry. Some of us would like to have all the information—about our bodies, our health, the science behind conception—before we even begin so we can minimize the surprises and make intelligent decisions. Some of us cannot remain calm when we are shooting blindly in the dark. What about those people? What about me
Listening to a blanket statement is exactly what eventually led to my inability to let go and enjoy the process. Because I need information. I need to know when I ovulate and what signs to look for in my body just before I ovulate so I can have sex on the best days of the month. I don’t do well with estimations and no plan. In effect, allowing myself to be completely neurotic about something gives me the power to remain calm and centered. Granted, other people may not operate like me, but I’m sure I am not alone in wanting to get pregnant quickly. And what is so wrong about wanting to have a baby? Why is it not okay to be involved and hands-on from the beginning instead of waiting until you are frustrated, emotionally exhausted and afraid? What is the harm, really, in buying an ovulation predictor kit on day one of TTC?
So, I bought an ovulation predictor kit. And I joined an online cycle tracking website (basically inputting your BBT and fertility signs every day so the website can analyze your data and tell you when to have sex). I took charge of my fertility (which I highly recommend over leaving it up to anyone else) and discovered that I was ovulating much earlier than the average woman. This was somewhat relieving, because it simply meant we were concentrating our efforts around the wrong days.

***
It was fairly obvious that Alex and I were failing to relax and take our minds off of all of the enormous life changes we were trying to force. My body knew that my life was in flux, and that I felt protective and unsettled given my current life circumstances and living situation. 
This was about the time I had the run-in with our next-door neighbor. While it was difficult to have a complete stranger accost me in the driveway and ask me questions about my sex life, it was far worse to know that I now had an audience while trying to conceive—an audience that slept across the hall from me, and was very doubtful in my ability to procreate. 
I myself was doubtful that I could get pregnant under the current circumstances of my life at that moment. I was suddenly very aware of what I had wanted to ignore the months before: it would take a miracle to conceive under such massive stress. When we started our TTC journey, the timing was perfect. But, after a few unexpected twists in our plan, the timing quickly became less than ideal.  

At this point, I knew that I needed peace and stability before a baby was a possibility.

***

I used the ovulation predictor kit, which helped me determine exactly when I was ovulating, but Alex and I were taking it easy this month. We planned to spend as much time out of the house as we could in order to focus on reconnecting and recalibrating. We decided to go ahead with our annual pilgrimage to my favorite yoga and meditation center, despite our need to save money for a house. It was the perfect place to center myself and get away from all we had been through the past five months.

We were deep in meditation and heavily lost in restorative yoga poses from sunrise to sunset. And I ovulated in the dead middle of my spiritual recharging. We missed our chance to capitalize on the perfect fertile moment, but I think we both let it pass by on a semi-subconscious level. If it had been one of the months before this, we probably would have found a tree to procreate behind in the middle of our guided nature walk, but not now. We needed a break.

Although we failed to conceive yet again, I felt more confident and at ease (even if only temporarily so) now that I was armed with the forbidden ovulation kit and the tracking website. I understood my body so well after all that I had been through, which renewed my faith a bit. And I had another road trip to look forward to next month, right around the time that I would be ovulating. It felt like a new beginning. 



To be continued…

marriage and baby: not for the weak, part IV

Conception, Part III (Part I, Part II)

TTC Month Four

In the midst of packing up our apartment, moving into the in-law’s place, and beginning our housing search, my period was late. Very late and very abnormal for me. With the exception of a missed period, though, I didn’t feel pregnant. But, the days kept passing regardless. Alex constantly asked if I was feeling “different,” he patted my belly and hounded me to take a pregnancy test. Still mourning from the month before, I couldn’t bear the thought of taking a pregnancy test, so I waited.

Though I doubted that my missed period meant I was pregnant, Alex’s excitement took hold of the part of me that so desperately wanted him to be right. I had gone a significant amount of time with no period in sight…which is why I began furiously scouring the Internet, looking for cases of other women who were symptomless and did not feel pregnant, but were

Eleven (long) days later, I got my period in the middle of viewing houses. When I began to bleed, I began to consider the possibility that I might never get pregnant. 

Rational or not, I could no longer keep my calm. Instead, I became obsessed with conceiving—reading hundreds of stories on message boards, studying every aspect of fertility and conception, monitoring every minute change that occurred in my body on a daily basis.
I had reached my threshold for being relaxed and letting things happen naturally. Four months may not seem like a long time, objectively speaking, but when you are trying to conceive, time is not the same “time” you are used to. When you are trying to conceive you go from believing you just need to have a bunch of sex all the time to knowing an egg must be fertilized within 12-24 hours of it being released or it will die…..along with your dreams of being a parent.

There is also a lot of waiting involved, and that further distorts time. First, you wait for that holy time of the month when you are fertile, then you wait two weeks (give or take) to either bleed or take a pregnancy test (or maybe both if you are like me and you don’t even trust a period anymore, because what if it’s implantation bleeding or you’re one of those random people who still get a period, or or or?!). Then, if you fail to get pregnant that month, you start the waiting game all over again.

And again.

And again.

I used positive visualization and meditation to try to will it to happen. I painted paintings of pregnant bellies and babies. I imagined the moment I would see two lines appear on a white stick, probably several hundred times. I read books. I googled all things conception-related, reading the same material over and over, and researching new possible reasons for my lack of bun-in-oven status. I tried to make my body less acidic and more inhabitable for sperm. I tried glutting myself on full-fat dairy products because that can help protect against infertility. Alex and I had sex every day. Every other day. Every 36 hours, on the dot. I made an emergency appointment, sure that I had some sort of infection that was keeping me from getting pregnant, only to have a midwife swab my cervix, put my cells under a microscope in the same room and report that the only thing living inside me was a very abundant population of sperm, which was equal parts relieving, embarrassing, and semi-gross.

I wanted to step outside of the body I had been living in all my life, because it was empty and not doing its job. I would stare at women carrying their babies in slings in the grocery store, wondering why they were able to do what I could not. The sight of swollen bellies was almost too painful for me to bear. Yet I was constantly looking for signs of pregnancy. 

My skin is breaking out. I must be pregnant! I’m feeling crampy. It’s got to be fertilization! I’m tired. It must be the teeny, tiny baby in me sucking all my energy away! 

Then there were the pregnancy tests. I went through so many boxes of them, I’m fairly certain I ended up making money on them given all the rebates and coupons I collected over the months. I never trusted the results, or maybe I didn’t want to believethe results, so I rarely took just one. Regardless of the frequency of my test taking, though, the suspense existed each and every time. Those moments before you pee on a stick are the safe zone. It’s the window of time after you’ve already done everything you could that month to conceive, but before the timer goes off and you have to actually look at the test and know whether you succeeded or failed. Every month, the anticipation became incrementally more intense during that window, and the subsequent disappointment of one line compounded by all the months of one line that had come before it.

There was the all-too-familiar hug that Alex would be waiting with outside the bathroom door. I’d silently bury my head in his shoulder, a few tears falling from my eyes, and he’d tell me that everything was fine and that we’d have a baby soon.

I tried talking to friends who had children to find perspective. There were the friends who tried for years, rather than months, before they conceived, but their stories didn’t erase the impatience and fear. Consequently, there were the friends who got pregnant after only two months yet they cried and feared and 100% lost it during the entirety of those two months. Every couple had a different story, and a different emotional reaction to the process. As much as I wanted to find some sort of solace in it all, I knew that none of it could predict what would happen to me.

***

Our sex life began to change drastically once we moved into mom’s place. There was no more baby making on the kitchen floor, it was much trickier to have sex at the specific time intervals suggested by my OBGYN, and there was the total awkwardness of having sex in your mother/mother-in-law’s house. Sure, it used to be fun to occasionally do it in her guest room, but that was when we were visiting, not living there.

Long gone were the days of romantic, exciting, fun procreation. Now, the reality was mom walking by our bedroom door, or coming home in the middle of the day when she had told us she’d be out late. It looked a little something like…

“It’s time.”

Sigh.

“I read that I should be lying perfectly flat while we do it so just….no….that’s not good….”

“Wait….move this….no….I mean….WHAT do you want me to do?!!”

“Shhhhhh!”

“Shhhhhh!”

Sigh.

Perhaps the joy would have been slowly sucked out of the process at some point even if we had been doing it under our own roof. I don’t know. But, it was happening now. We were stressed out, feeling a little creeped out about our sex life at mom’s, and not sleeping at night on account of the insanely bright city street lights, transparent blinds, and bus line that ran all night outside our window. This is when the fighting began.



Not having a job or home was overwhelmingly stressful for Alex, but moving in with his mother was somehow a much greater challenge. He had always had a combative relationship with her, and found it difficult to remain calm in her presence. 

We were both on edge and uncomfortable in our “home” and it became difficult for us to connect. Connecting had always been the easiest thing in the world for us to do, but we were suddenly living in a PDA-free zone, feeling awkward or unable to express our love or talk privately. Our weekly dates and summer road trips were a thing of the past now that we had to save money for a house. And other than having sex, the only time we spent alone was when we took our morning walks through the park, during which we mostly vented about our living situation.

Despite the fighting and regular bad moods, we were still committed to having a baby. We began following my OBGYN’s recommendation to have sex every 36 hours, rather than the somewhat lax approach to that rule we took earlier on. We set up a calendar in our bedroom that marked the days and times we were scheduled to get it on. Though this was far from the romantic daydreams we had had about conceiving a child, we were getting nervous. What if something was wrong with one or both of us? All the books and doctors and well-intentioned friends told us not to worry until we had been trying for a year, but that seemed like such a long time. 

To be continued…

marriage and baby: not for the weak, part III

Conception, Part II (Part I)


TTC Month Two 


Alex and I were still relatively relaxed about baby making, though we had anticipated it happening right away. After believing I had to work very hard to not get pregnant all my sexually active years, I felt as if eliminating all those efforts would immediately result in a baby. I had also been pumped full of confidence and hype from all angles. Doctors were telling me my body was the picture of health. OBGYNs were telling me that my uterus was screaming to get pregnant. Friends told me I was the ultimate mother goddess, born to conceive. I pretty much felt like all I had to do was hold hands with Alex and boom! I’d be with child.

Outside the bedroom, we planned to move out of the city to the quiet country. Alex began applying for boarding school positions, which would provide us free housing as we grew our family (and our savings). We were open to moving anywhere in New England, upstate New York, and a few states out west. To us, that felt like a wide enough territory to ensure our perfect plan would unfold with ease. So, we waited for the job offers to trickle in, like they had the last time Alex had applied for a new position.

This is when the economy fucked us.

TTC Month Three 


I was certain I was pregnant this month. I felt a rush of joy and was consumed by a knowing feeling that I was pregnant while waiting the obligatory few weeks before taking a test. But, just a few days after my period was due to arrive, I started to bleed. The bleeding was much heavier than usual, and painful. I felt mournful as I walked to the bathroom every hour or so. Though it could just as easily be written off as a bad period, I recognized this feeling from years before. I felt like I had lost something….or someone.

So, there we were—still no baby. Meanwhile, panic began to set in as Alex had only been offered one job, which he passed on, because of the location. Yet, we only had a month left on our apartment lease. We needed to find temporary (and free) housing given our impending homelessness so we decided to move in with my mother-in-law for the summer (or longer if it came to that).

While we were moving into a very lovely home in a very nice suburban neighborhood, and we were going to enjoy being bill-free for at least three months, we couldn’t ignore the facts: in our 30’s, married, trying to get pregnant, and moving in with mom.

Three weeks before we moved in with mom for the summer, Alex was offered two more jobs. Neither of the jobs was at a boarding school, though, which meant we had to find our own housing for the coming school year, and pay for it (something we had not planned for). To complicate things even further, the location we ended up choosing was a very rural area with no rental market so we were now on the market for a house…and we had two months to find one, go through the bidding process, and close. 


Our simple life plan was growing exponentially more complicated by the day. We were changing every aspect of our life, and the pressure and unsettling stress of it all began to take its toll…

To be continued…

marriage and baby: not for the weak, part II

Conception, Part I

It was July, and after four months of trying to conceive, I was not pregnant. Alex and I were pulling up to the front of his mother’s Connecticut home, where we were living that summer. Before we even stepped out of the car, the middle-aged woman who lived next door was waving frantically and approaching us. We had never met, yet immediately upon introducing herself to me, she launched into a very personal conversation about my sex life. I stood bewildered and sweating in the 100 degree heat on the sidewalk as she explained that she was an OBGYN and that my mother-in-law had come to her looking for help.


Alex and I had intentionally kept our TTC (trying to conceive) status to ourselves, but somehow his mother had not only found out, but she had also decided we were infertile. And she was on a one-woman quest to “help” us get pregnant. 

This is not what I expected on my road to expectant, but it is my story…


TTC Month One

After six months of (therapy-free, medication-free) marriage, Alex and I were  more obsessed and in love with one another than ever. We came home from our honeymoon unable to physically or spiritually detach—our fingers always intertwined, a hand on the other’s knee, goodbye kisses when we were only leaving the room for a moment. Knowing we were joined for life only compelled us to want even more. It was the perfect time to craft a five-year plan, and nestled sweetly at the beginning of that plan was procreation.


***


At first, trying to conceive was fun. It brought a fresh, new energy to our sex life. We tried to restrain ourselves from our usual high-frequency sexcapades in order to give Alex’s baby juice time to recover to a potent level, but being told (by my doctor) that we should take little breaks only gave us a rule to break. So, we broke it. On the sofa. On the kitchen counter. Against the vanity in the bathroom. We were both lifelong overachievers, and man, we were going to get this right. We were going to make. this. baby.

I would lie in bed for a half hour after we had sex, with two pillows under my hips and my legs in the air (in an attempt to usher the sperm to their final destination). I’d get bored and call Alex in to chat, but he couldn’t have a serious conversation with me in that position. So, he’d mock me a little, and then I’d ask him for a magazine to bide my time. Afterwards, I’d mark the box for “yes, I had sex today!” on my basal body temperature chart.

I don’t even remember where I heard about charting your basal body temperature, but now I could give a lecture on the subject. Seriously. It started out as a way to track my body’s progress as I adjusted to life sans birth control….which, by the way, was like having the worst nightmare PMS for months! But, it would later turn into an obsession.

Meanwhile, I was reading everything I could find in books and online about conceiving a child, while monitoring everything that Alex and I were doing with our bodies. I exercised daily, took prenatal vitamins, put fertility-boosting maca powder in my oatmeal, ate an obscene amount of produce, stopped drinking, quit coffee, practiced yoga for relaxation, and regarded Alex’s junk as a personal possession. 


marriage and baby: not for the weak, part I

This post will be the first of a mini-series so stay tuned…



Engagement


Hi, I’m Alexa and I’m a recovering addict. My drug of choice was…relationships, and I was addicted to them and rarely without one for most of my 20’s. A few times I was even offered something more potent than a relationship—a marriage proposal. But that was always the point when I’d cut off emotionally and walk away. So when Alex, my now-husband, proposed, I had no idea what I was about to go through in actually accepting and wanting to get married. And what happened was that I lost my shit.



*****

Our relationship was fast-moving and fiercely passionate from the start. There was very little inhibition or caution. Both of us had some pretty sizable wounds from past relationships, but we were two similar souls, with flames burning so brightly that it was impossible to see the darkness that did indeed lurk in our depths. Nothing was going to stop us from having the kind of love we had held out for as lifelong romantics and dreamers. 

We were consumed by and with one another. We never tired of each other’s presence, spending nearly all of our free time together. We were lovers, buddies, road trip warriors, music makers and enthusiasts, adventurers, talk-until-the-sun-comes-up-a-la-sal-and-dean-from-on-the-road kind of crazy 20-somethings. We loved intensely, and we fought intensely….our suppressed pasts spilling out into the open as we navigated the many phases of our relationship—acquaintances, dating, love, long-distance relationship, cohabitation. We had never felt so vulnerable and exposed, and we were terrified. But, we kept going.


I had survived past relationships with hefty doses of suppression, denial, and dishonesty. Sure, there were the occasional blow-ups that mostly looked like me trying (and failing) to explain the pain I was feeling so intensely, sobbing uncontrollably, and then the inevitable stand-off that would last anywhere from a few hours to a few days….to a few weeks in the later part of my dating history. In comparison to the version of myself that I would uncover once I started dating Alex, the old me was quite adept at swallowing her emotions and making sure no one, not even herself, was privy to their whereabouts.

I had never experienced something as wild, tumultuous or expressive as I experienced with Alex. The first few months were your standard bliss-fest and arguments seemed so impossible to imagine ever happening (remember those conversations you had when you first started dating someone like, “I can’t imagine ever fighting with you. I mean what in the world would we have to fight about?!….um, EVERYTHING). The bliss quickly melted into a real relationship, but our spark was unendingly ablaze. Reality was no match for our crazy kind of love. And so, that December, on our one-year anniversary, Alex asked me to marry him. It was the single-most perfect moment of my life.

With the exception of a ring on my finger and conversations about wedding plans, everything felt the same…until it didn’t.

I had been so restrained, so closed-up and controlled before Alex. Occasionally, I would fall to pieces while alone, but mostly I spent my time keeping it together so the world outside would not see the mess that I felt inside. Alex changed that. My well-honed relationship tactics and coping mechanisms were totally obvious and unusable on him. He asked what I was thinking and feeling, and would not let up until a real answer erupted from somewhere deep within me. We had met our alter egos. We were the same, but in opposite gender bodies (or so we used to say). We could not hide from one another at all. And so, the truth finally came flying out of all the suppressed corners of our beings. And my emotions became completely out of control. I was explosive and unpredictable.

I suddenly found myself with an enormous past that demanded to be addressed and healed on or before my wedding day. For starters, my parents divorced when I was in first grade. Their relationship was incredibly turbulent and left me with memories that still wake me up panicked and afraid in the middle of the night. But then, there was also the string of subsequent marriages/long-term relationships/engagements that they dragged me through. Relationships have been forming and dissolving around me all my life. How could someone like me make a relationship, let alone a marriage, work? How could I be happy without ever being shown a roadmap? I hadn’t been taught to communicate, to cooperate, to love unconditionally, to be loyal or committed.

But, I had one thing that I had been clinging to since I was a kindergartener. While most kids were busy playing, I was busy thinking. And one of the earliest memories I have of actually sitting alone, pondering life in my bedroom, was a promise that I made to myself. I was sad and scared, and I didn’t like what was going on between my parents downstairs. So I decided in that moment, with afternoon sunlight streaming across my blue and white flowered Laura Ashley wall paper, that I would never have their life. Of course, all of this was on a rudimentary level, but I have a very distinct memory of when this thought began and the many times I repeated it to myself until I was an adult. I still repeat this to myself.

Along with the wounds of divorce, my childhood also left me incredibly codependent thanks to generations upon generations of alcoholics and codependents occupying my life. This issue alone had left me feeling completely incapable of maneuvering even the most basic parts of daily life. I had known nothing but a diseased, unhealthy, warped, addictive way of living from the time I was born. When I left my home, just a month after I turned eighteen, I was not only faced with the task of adjusting to the independence of college, but also began to learn all the lessons—how to behave, and be, and interact with others—that I should have learned as a child. I made many, many….many mistakes along the way. My mistakes and codependence, of course, were most notable in the romance department—Alex was no exception. But, I was so aware of myself with Alex that I began really dealing with these issues. I had been a recovering codependent for ten years prior to our relationship, but I was now on some crazy, fast track to health, which was incredibly relieving and empowering, but incredibly messy.

An epic story all its own, my surfacing issues also had a ripple effect throughout my life leaving me temporarily estranged from my family, adding to the pain of already being motherless.

So, here I was, engaged and planning a wedding by myself with an overwhelming number of ghosts lurking in the shadows of my insides. Ironically, the fact that all of this began to make itself known to me was a positive. It was a positive, because I was really, truly healing at last. And it was a positive, because I was with Alex. I had never felt safe, loved unconditionally, or totally supported before so I relied on so many coping mechanisms that allowed me to look like I had my shit together. I didn’t need to cope with Alex. I was finally able to let go.

Regardless of the positives, though, my mini enormous breakdown was hard to bear—for me, and for Alex. I had to fall apart to somehow become whole, it felt like the only way. And fall apart I did.

I had been going to upwards of five support groups a week since just after Alex proposed in December. I was totally dedicated to my recovery and my efforts felt like enough until summer came around. The closer we got to the wedding, which was planned for October, the more anxious I became. I begged Alex to elope numerous times. While Alex clung to the idea of all our friends and family gathering to celebrate, I was sure that was exactly what would push me over the edge to a place I feared with my entire being. I began to have panic attacks, often daily.There were days I couldn’t get out of bed. I started to feel unstable in a way that frightened Alex to such a degree that one hot day in July, he suggested we call off our wedding and reschedule it for a date yet to be determined. I felt like I had failed in that moment, like I was so broken that it was just too much to ask anyone to love me. But, Alex did. Although I spent the rest of that day sobbing, and thrashing underneath the covers of my bed in complete disbelief, it was a turning point. Alex and I started couple’s therapy the following week, and I started on a cocktail of medication.

We spent almost three months in therapy. After our first appointment things felt bleak and we weren’t sure how we were going to get through such a challenging time. It felt like we had invited a third party in to add to the already long list of issues we knew we had, and though she never said it, we feared she didn’t believe we should get married. But, at some point in the midst of hours upon days upon weeks of talking, we saw the light. We suddenly worked through what had felt impossible so quickly, because we were ready and because we worked hard. Where we could have folded, we found strength. And it became abundantly clear to all three of us in that tiny corner office with the uncomfortable, musty old couch, that we were ready to get married.

The night before our wedding I had three different pills lined up on my nightstand, I had lost a noticeable amount of hair and weight, and my eyes were dark and tired. I was far from looking my best. But, the next day was the most effortless and joyful day of my life. As much as I had hoped to look my most beautiful on my wedding day, there was beauty in my resilience, and the resilience of my relationship with Alex. I hadn’t experienced my engagement the way I had once envisioned, but it had a purpose. Where we once carried glossy daydreams, we found real life. It ultimately created a relationship that was steady, healthy, and that could stand up to the challenges we would face in the coming years.


Up next: trying to conceive…


the bond of pregnancy



Pregnancy is a funny thing. In one way, it is a very isolating experience given you are the only one who can go through it. No one can join you in all the aches and pains, the worries and fears that keep you up at night, the months of nausea, the magic and bonding between you and your unborn baby, the bizarre sensation of all your body parts stretching, moving, and morphing into a completely new arrangement, the crazy impatience and excitement, or the intense odyssey that is childbirth. Sure, you can look to others to emotionally support you through all of that, you can find hands to hold and shoulders to cry on. But, ultimately, it’s all yours. 


At the same time, pregnancy bonds you to others in a profound way, a completely unique way, an ever-lasting way. You may feel more connected to and appreciative of your own parents. You may feel closer than previously possible to the women in your life who have children. You may feel a deeper kind of affection for other people’s children. And then there is your spouse. This is the person who is in the trenches with you, the one who shares those hilarious/gross/surprising/troubling moments when your body does something unexpected, the one who witnesses the ebb and flow of your insane hormones, the one who brings you a glass of water after you regurgitate your supper, the one who hears that tiny heartbeat for the first time with you….the one who has given you the gift of half their DNA, the one whose love melted with yours to create this little being that only the two of you can share a similar experience of.


I was reflecting back on the experience of conceiving and being pregnant with my husband the other night as I prepared to leave for a 4-day trip up to Saratoga. As I mentioned last week, I was run out of my house by an insanely invasive construction project that made this a completely unmanageable environment for a pregnant lady. But, it was so hard to leave. My hormones were shouting “don’t leave your nest!” and my heart was aching in a way that felt familiar, yet somehow entirely new. The whole time I was away I needed to hear my husband’s voice on the phone 3 times a day in order to remain sane.


My husband and I have been ridiculously attached to one another since our very first date. We admittedly don’t like to spend much time away from one another and have a rule to never be apart more than 5-7 consecutive days, which honestly very rarely ever happens. And when we are together at home, we can usually be found holding hands, hugging, snuggling or the like at constant intervals (this is, of course, broken up by us spending time alone doing our own thing because, ironically, I would go nuts without my space and time alone). But, since I’ve been pregnant, the dynamic has shifted. I seem more detached, less affectionate, more introspective and less talkative to my husband. The interesting thing is, though, I’ve never felt more attached to him. I may act more aloof, but I need him in ways I cannot explain. He is the only one who has seen the cumulative experience, the one who understands (as much as is possible) my current (yet constantly changing) emotional state, my needs, and my limitations….and more importantly, he doesn’t pass judgement on any of it. He is the one who talks to this baby as much as I do, the one who knows what my pregnant body looks like naked, the one who cooks my meals and rubs my back, the one who has become so protective of me and his unborn child.


My trip away last week brought me back home to my husband. It was a chance to reflect on this journey, and realize that we’re doing all right despite the craziness that is our life. Things have changed, for sure, but we are in this together regardless of whether we fall asleep spooning or with me pushing his arm off of me because my pregnant body needs space. And we love each other in a way that we couldn’t before all this began.  


Relationships change when you have a child. That I knew. But, what I’ve experienced is that they begin to shift and change from the moment you decide to try to conceive. Every relationship I have now feels different—it’s a wonderful, confusing, life-altering, surprising thing. I feel as if my life and environment are being stretched, moved and morphed into an entirely new arrangement along with my body parts. And somehow, I just know that all of these changes are setting the foundation for a new life to begin—not just the life of my unborn baby girl, but the life I was meant to live. My relationships with others will never be the same. Nothing will ever be the same. This is the beginning, and I wouldn’t want to have anyone other than my husband by my side.