Aurelia and Deathstar have both recently written frank posts about their marriages, & the difficulties involved in trying to hang on to your relationship through the rollercoaster ride that is infertility. I've been thinking about their words as we approach that day devoted to all things romantic (not to mention chocolate!!), Valentine's Day. And although my dh (a) is a private guy who doesn't like it when I write about him on the Internet & (b) reads this blog sometimes, I felt the day called for some musings about him, romance, loss & infertility.
My dh & I have been married 22+ years, together 26. We were probably apart longer than we were together before we got married -- he was from Toronto, I was from small-town western Canada. We met at university, but spent the next three years conducting a long-distance romance (on a student budget for telephone calls, postage & travel -- e-mail still being a good 10 years away!) as we finished our studies at different schools & then worked for a year while planning our wedding.
I thought that was probably as challenging as life would get for us, and that if our relationship could survive those long months of separation, it could survive anything. I'm sure neither of us ever dreamed that infertility & stillbirth would be part of the equation when we finally made those vows "for better or for worse."
I've always liked to think that losing Katie brought us closer together, that we survived because we held on tight to each other. And, several years later, when faced with the decision, I knew that we could make a go of childless/free living -- because we'd had a pretty good 16 years of doing it already. I figured that, as long as we had each other, we'd be all right. (Ironically, the first song we danced to at our wedding was "You & I" by Crystal Gayle & Eddie Rabbitt... with the repeated words, "We'll be all right... Just you & I." )
For the most part, I still believe that. And for many, many years, we've been the couple that everyone else rolled their eyes at -- the inseparable lovebirds who held hands & sometimes got caught sneaking a kiss at a family gathering (while everybody else was chasing after their kids, lol).
But it hasn't been all sunshine & roses, the last several years in particular. At 47 & 51, I suppose we're both prime candidates for midlife crises, and we both exhibit some of the classic signs. While loss & infertility has brought us closer together in some ways, I can see that it's also taken its toll on us both. Part of the problem is our very different ways of coping with the things that frustrate us. I seldom get truly angry, & when I do, I cry. I tend to bottle things up & pour out my feelings to my support network of friends, both real & in cyberspace. Dh tends to explode verbally when he's angry or frustrated, & I often have a hard time dealing with that. Think repressed Scandinavian (me) & emotional Italian (him). (Stereotypical, but in many ways, true.) I will be honest and say there have been days when he's been in a bad mood & I've thought, "Is THIS all I have to look forward to?? Is it always going to be this way??"
I've read that people who have children often focus so much on the kids that they neglect the relationship -- only realizing it, perhaps, when they become empty nesters & refocus on each other again after many years. For those of us who don't have children & have been empty nesters all along, the relationship is all we've got to focus on -- so perhaps we expect too much and depend on each other too much and obsess too much about it. Somewhere, there must be a happy balance between the two models.
It's not easy. But then, who said marriage would be? And we're still hanging in there. Because at the end of the day, we still love each other madly, even when we're driving each other nuts. Because he's still the one who makes my heart go flip-flop when I see him walking across the concourse of our office tower at the end of a long, hard day at work. And because no matter what else happens, we will always be Katie's mommy & daddy. He would have been -- he is -- a wonderful daddy.