School has begun again and can I just give a big old, “WE MADE IT!”
Truthfully, I feel guilty that I want to gleefully dance on my rooftop while I whoop with joy. I’d rather emulate my own mom, who mourned the end of breaks as much as we did. I wanted to end this summer feeling like we soaked up every fun adventure and every opportunity to explore and have fun and do things together. But that was not this summer.
This summer was plain old hard, and I wasn’t anticipating that. Partly, it was Jude, no longer colicky, exactly, but not super content, either. He and Isla both needed naps on varying schedules, and juggling those with the rest of life plus a tired mama and a bored 9-year-old was overwhelming. I always felt like someone was getting the short end of the stick. Gabe, I’ve more fully learned, is intense, and when you throw intensity into small, closed quarters with little structure to channel the energy, the situation is combustible at best. Then we traveled for threeish weeks, and that was just a lot. I don’t mean these to be complaints so much as…facts. They just were. These were the things that made it hard.
We reached Labor Day weekend with a little sadness, but I harbored a little bit of hope for relief on the horizon – the relief that only comes from structure and predictability and known expectations. Sure, none of those things can make Jude sleep regularly, but they can’t hurt, right?
As it was, Jude’s sleep ended up being the impetus for a new layer of tumult, one that caught me completely by surprise.
Saturday night into Sunday morning was a difficult night for Jude (and me, by extension) – lots of crying, lots of frustration, and lots of sleeplessness. I had developed a plan in my head that involved me handling things until 7:00 AM, at which time I hoped Tahd would get up and take over so I could sleep for an hour or two before I tried to put Jude down for a nap.
When 7:00 AM rolled around and Tahd got up, interrupted sleep had taken its toll on Tahd, too, and he snapped at me, angry and frustrated and confused.
Like many married couples, Tahd and I have a handful of arguments we’re drawn to revisit, and there’s one that touches an especially deep nerve in me, one that leaves me feeling inept and foolish and disappointing. In fairness, he always says he didn’t mean things in the way I receive them, but it’s still a very tender spot in me, and it was this particular nerve he hit Sunday morning, and I disintegrated.
Choking back tears, I whisked Jude out of the room and out of the house and into the stroller, where I set out on a neighborhood walk to burn off my frustration. It wasn’t my most stellar moment, leaving without telling Tahd where I was going, but I didn’t know what else to do and fell back on my “Urgent! Withdraw from Conflict!” tendencies.
I came back about 40 minutes later, and we started the painful process of pulling at the string, unraveling the layers of the problem bit by bit – a process that took us several days between family gatherings and errands and first days of school.
The more we pulled, the deeper things went, and when we’d finally pulled out all the loose string into a pile at our feet, we found bits and pieces of the pain that grew out of lost babies and hopes and dreams and four years of attempted healing from miscarriage and infertility.
I didn’t expect that. I didn’t expect that four years later, the aftermath of a very painful miscarriage would result in that much ongoing relational pain. It had been there all along, I suppose, and we’d both spoken of some nebulous, underlying resentments in our relationship that we couldn’t quite put our fingers on. But I didn’t realize there were such concrete, clear-cut issues at play until this weekend.
When I miscarried our baby, I tumbled into the lowest pit I’d ever seen, lower than the ones I’d been in previously when I was “only” dealing with infertility. I’d tried to claw my way out of my infertility pits with minor success, and when the hole got deeper by way of miscarriage, I suddenly tapped into a new vein of determination in which I refused to live the rest of my life as a victim of painful circumstances. Come what may, I would learn to throw myself headlong into a full, rich life, even if it wasn’t the life I’d originally hoped to have.
Tahd, on the other hand, didn’t tumble into the same pit as I, and the meaning he created from our loss took on an entirely different form. I didn’t realize this, and couldn’t understand why he wasn’t making the same changes I was making–why he wasn’t pursuing a lighter and more joyful side of himself. As such, I judged him for this, and I’m sorry to say I wasn’t always kind or very full of grace. I didn’t hold space for him to be who he was and become who he needed to become. I didn’t trust the process, I didn’t trust him, and I didn’t trust God.
This parallel process resulted in unaddressed hurts, hurts that turned into irritations that festered beneath the surface, eventually resulting in our weekend.
In the middle of exchanging a few emails with Tahd, I thought to myself, This is hopeless! We’ve broken this beyond repair. How can we ever go back? It’s worth noting that statistics on trauma in marriage support the idea that these thoughts are not unreasonable. Couples who experience traumatic things like infertility and loss do, in fact, experience higher rates of divorce. Recovering from loss produces necessary growth within each individual, but that growth does not always propel the couple toward each other. It sometimes drives them apart. I am no longer the person with whom Tahd fell in love sixteen years ago, and according to the statistics, I am less that person because of our loss than I would be if we hadn’t experienced it.
At each of the most desperate moments of my life, I’ve found myself alone in my living room or car listening to a song that became my anthem for that struggle. When I absentmindedly surfed through my phone for an encouraging tune, the lyrics to this Ellie Holcomb song stopped me in my tracks. I knew God was giving me my song for this situation. Here’s a slice (and listen to it here)…
I take all the gifts that You have given
and I stake my claim like they’re my own,
Will you help me when I forget to remember
the good I’ve got is yours alone?
Oh, ’cause I don’t wanna tell some arrogant story,
or let myself believe I’m you
Will you help remind me of what is true?
The only hope I’ve got
Well, it’s only by your grace that I heard you whisper my name
And I don’t have the power to save, to change a heart
So won’t you come and change my heart.
So, that’s exactly what I did. I asked God to change my heart and change my actions and change Tahd’s heart, too. And every moment since then that I’ve panicked that I was too far over my head, I’ve remembered that there is hope, not because we hold that much promise in and of ourselves but because we know Hope Himself.
(I also read point five in this post I wrote last year, and it hit me between the eyes as appropriate for this situation. Hope is always worth it. Not just during infertility.)
I’m thankful to be married to a man of his word who honors what he said when he gave me his vows. When we reached the bottom of the pile and realized what we were dealing with, we reaffirmed our commitment to one another and to our family and decided on a course of action. I’m thankful for a God who is bigger than four years of hurt, and for the hope in knowing that the One who created the intricacies of the universe and eternity is not overwhelmed by two broken, imperfect hearts. I’m thankful for love and new mercies and second chances. And I’m (somewhat begrudgingly) thankful for fussy babies, because without them I’m not sure I’d ever get tired or frustrated enough to face the important stuff running underneath it all.