This week will mark my husband and my second anniversary. I still can’t believe it has been two years. I feel like we are still newly weds, and yet I feel like it was a lifetime ago and I never knew a life before being with him. I still remember our wedding day, how we stood in front of our friends and family and gave each other our vows to remain by each other’s side “for better or for worse.” Little did we know that the “worse” we were vowing about would be the loss of a child.
Before getting to how a loss can affect a marriage, I’ll take you back to how I met my husband. We all love a good romance. I had always dreamt of having a fairytale story to tell. After I graduated college and started out on my own, and by on my own I mean I lived in a tiny room at my sister’s place, I started doubting if I’d ever find “the one.” I mean, I never even had a boyfriend all four years of college, and that was when I was around hundreds of single guys my age. Now I was an adult in the adult world. There were not many single guys my age let alone guys I would consider starting a relationship with. My fairytale seemed to be slipping away.
It’s crazy to look back now, and I can’t help laughing. I literally saw my husband for the first time just a month after graduation. Of course, I was completely ignorant of the fact. We both worked retail jobs at the same mall. He was a salesman at Dicks Sporting Goods while I was a barista at Starbucks. We’d pass each other all the time, but I was too lost in my own thoughts of how lonely I was to ever look up and notice. Not so for him. He noticed me almost immediately.
The mall wasn’t the only place we saw each other. He also began attending my church I started going to with my sister. Originally he had just planned to come to the church one Sunday out of curiosity because he had never been to that church before. As he sat in the back of the church with his family, I walked right past him. I remember glancing over and noticing new people at the church. I gave a friendly smile, then moved on without ever really looking at them, and by them I mean my future husband. Again, my husband on the other hand noticed me. He’s told me many times that it was in that moment when I gave that smile that he knew I was the one.
Now, I will spare you the mushy details. Let’s just say it took a year of inching closer and closer to me. I say that literally. He began moving closer to me in church by sitting at the pew across from me. He also began casually striking up conversations. Unfortunately, despite him catching my eye, I was pretty bent on leaving the area and moving South to live at the beach with my best friend. I had saved up money and had all my plans laid out. Then, a month before I was supposed to make the move, in the beginning of April, he asked me out.
That first date, I knew I would one day marry him. I cancelled all my plans to move. I scrambled to find alternate housing within a month timeframe, and I settled in. We went on a few dates, and on April 24, he asked me to be his girlfriend. Six months later, he took me for a walk on Chesapeake beach, planted a note in a bottle along the shore that ended with the most important question: will you marry me? The rest is history. We were engaged for another six months before choosing the exact one year anniversary of his asking me to be his girlfriend as our wedding date. It was the only weekend in April that year that didn’t rain. Perfect weather for a perfect event, complete with a cupcake bar and cowboy boots. Yes, I was the one wearing cowboy boots.
Fast forward one year, and we decide it was time to start trying for a baby. Fast forward six months later, and we are in each other’s arms in a tiny ER room after being told our daughter didn’t have a heartbeat. How could my fairy tale end like this?
So many people’s marriages or relationships fall apart when they lose a child. The father and mother both grieve differently. The dad may distance himself from the loss to help with his pain, while the mother clings on to every little part of the loss because she doesn’t want to let go of her little one. The mother then feels the father doesn’t care, the father feels upset that the mother is constantly crying. Soon it can result in anger, things spoken that can never be unspoken, and eventually a relationship in shambles. Details may be different, but the story is still the same.
My husband and I had such a strong relationship. We were crazy about each other. But, in those weeks after the loss we were tested. I could feel strain and distance threatening us. Thankfully, I had enough support around me that encouraged me to keep communication open. They key was to understand how each of us needed to grieve, then support the other. The second part was to communicate how we were feeling. I had to understand I wasn’t the only one who had a loss, my husband lost his daughter as well. The only way we would get through was to get through together. So, we somehow were able to pull back together. We have become closer than we ever were before because of the loss.
I wish no relationship had to be put through the strain that a loss from a child puts on any couple. I wish the words “for better or for worse” were metaphorical, not literal. I wish our fairytales all had the perfect endings with our smiling little princesses and princes of our own. The truth is that every fairytale has a villain. The villain in mine was loss. Just because your fairytale has a villain, doesn’t mean it won’t have a happy ending. Just because what you have gone through has strained your relationship, doesn’t mean it has to end. You will change in your relationship. This loss will not be the only thing that changes the person you are committed to. If they are truly someone you see yourself with forever, then it is worth making it work. It is worth going to counseling, working on communication, and being open about your struggles and coping mechanisms.
This week, my husband took our anniversary off so that we can spend the day together somewhere. Just us two. We should be going out with a tiny two month old baby girl with my dark hair and his long arms. But, it is just us two. How much has happened since last year when my husband and I were walking along the boardwalk next to Niagara Falls, talking about how we were ready to start trying for a baby. Now, we will be having a small day just to ourselves. Instead of planning for the future and filling the day with hope for what is to come, we will be thankful for the present. We are thankful we still have each other. We are thankful that we made it through one of the worst experiences a couple could go through. We may not have had a fairytale ending yet, but our fairytale isn’t over. We still have hope for the future, but we now also have gratefulness for where we are because we know how quickly everything can change. We aren’t promised a perfect year, and who knows what will happen between this anniversary and next. But we do have this moment.