One of the activities that my husband and I completed during premarital counseling was a questionnaire of our hopes and dreams for our future.
We answered questions on separate sheets of paper, and compared our answers together, discussing the similarities and differences.
The questions we answered included:
“How many children do you want?”
“Do you think giving money to charity is important?”
“Do you want both parents to work or one parent to stay home when you have children?”
It was an important exercise, and I am glad that we had already discussed these things and most of our answers were similar or even the same. We were on the same page, but we were also young and naive, and had no idea what we were getting ourselves into.
Six years and nearly three kids later, and I know that my answers would be very different, and I’m guessing my husband’s would be to. We both had answered “4” when responding to the number of children we wanted, and I would certainly change that today. As a soon-to-be bride I had not experienced pregnancy or childbirth. I had no business saying I wanted four children.
But there are many other fundamental and foundational changes we’ve made to the way that we’ve lived our lives.
As newlyweds we had very narrow views of what our marriage would look like, what womanhood and manhood meant, and the roles that we’d play. We didn’t understand the intricate details of marriage, the change and shifts we’d experience, as individuals and a couple.
For me, one of the biggest changes has been my view of what my purpose is. When I was young and newly married I thought my purpose was as a homemaker, wife, and soon-to-be mother. I didn’t want to have anything to do with feminism, I just wanted to rewind time and be a sweet and obedient 1950s housewife.
Today, all of that has changed.
In our six years of marriage we have experienced so much, and we have learned that we are equal partners in all areas of our lives. It took awhile for me to get over my feelings of failure, and accept that I was unable to “do it all” when it came to home and child-rearing, but I am so thankful for the sweet reprieve of a loving husband who is always eager to participate in the big and small details of life.
The reality of marriage and parenthood is much grittier then I thought, but it’s also much deeper and more meaningful.
Earlier this week, I felt very ill and knew I needed to get myself to the hospital. My husband rushed to my side and drove me to the maternity ward, where I was assessed and prescribed some antibiotics.
As I laid in the hospital bed, wearing the familiar maternity gown I’d worn many times before, I thought, “No, I am not ready to be here yet.”
At only 24-weeks gestation, my baby would have little chance of surviving outside of the womb.
I held my husband’s hand, thankful that he was by my side. Thankful that the husband of my youth had grown in maturity alongside me, and remained my steadfast support through dark and stormy days.
When we were released from the hospital, and as I rested on the couch, I thought about how these moments weren’t part of our premarital class. These are the hard moments that we speak of in our vows: they are the bad days, and the sick days, but when you live them they mean so much more than words repeated at the altar, void of meaning until they become reality.
Through life’s tough moments, our marriages get truly tested, and hopefully strengthened. When we are faced with real illness, like the fear of a child born before they’re ready, we learn who we really are.
When Daniel and I returned to our home and our children after being released from the hospital, we both put on a brave face; washing the dishes, reading bedtime stories, and sweeping old Cheerios off the floor.
But in our bed that night, we were able to truly be the man and woman that we knew we were, feeling the weight of our day, the reality of the pain we escaped, and the hope that together we’d make it through the storms and the trials, triumphant to the end.