16 March 2013

Lucky Number Seven: Marriage and Disability

I've been wanting to write about marriage for awhile.  Not on marriage between people with disabilities and delays, we have long time before that will be a topic of discussion in our household!  Instead, I've wanted to address how it changes the marriage between parents of the child with said disability and/or delay.

I met my husband through a friend of a friend when I was 19.  I was attending college about an hour and a half away and happened to be home one weekend, went to our local Applebees with friends and met him there through a common friend.  My first impression was that he had a good sense of humor and an engaging smile.  That particular night, my friends and I ate dinner, went home and I returned to college on Sunday afternoon.  I saw him again a few years later when I was out with friends at home and later that summer our friends of friends group hung out some... we went canoeing and rode four wheelers and that was that - innocent fun amongst friends. Eventually, I transferred to a college closer to home and Dustin and I started dating.  Finally after a romantic proposal and a beautiful wedding, we settled into married life.  Typically that meant that we went out to eat much too often, both bought new cars, and did the kind of stuff you do when you don't have kids... go to see movies and attend concerts, we went to see our favorite local band when we could, we hung out with friends, and at times we'd drink a beer or two or three... all normal stuff.  Eventually, a few years into our marriage we began trying for our first child and after three and a half years of "trying" we still didn't have a baby to show for our efforts.  To make matters worse, our relationship was beginning to feel somewhat strained for the first time.  Fortunately, we sought medical help and soon after, learned on December 17th 2010 that we'd be having a baby!  That Christmas was so special for us and we spent the next 9 months preparing to welcome baby Matthew, who arrived a week early on August 19th, 2011.  After we had such a difficult time getting pregnant the first time, I remember thinking almost immediately after Matthew was born that I was ready for another baby.  We agreed that while we weren't ready to begin trying again, if it happened that we'd be okay with it.  Fast forward a few months, in early may 2012 (May 6th to be exact) I had a suspicion that something was going on and we drove to the store to pick up a pregnancy test... when we were finally home and I read the positive result, the first thing I did was to cry and then I sat on the floor and started laughing... and then I cried again and then I laughed... Dustin wasn't too thrilled at first, Matthew was only 8 months at the time and he thought it was too soon.

As summer approached, my belly began to expand and excitement began to grow between both of us.  We had some other issues happening within our extended family that were changing the way we saw our future, but we clung to the hope that God had given us for a good life in the form of our pregnancy.  We thought it was so awesome that after we went through all of the heartache that came with conceiving Matthew that this time was so easy for us.  We knew that this baby was going to be a very special gift.  Then we learned of "the news" and things changed.... everything changed.  The timing wasn't great and it came as we were making an offer on a new home and after it was accepted, we spent the next few months packing our old house, painting and making improvements at the new one, caring for our one year old toddler, working full time jobs and then eventually moving, unpacking and trying to get settled in the final days before Luke arrived.  The combination of normal pregnancy hormones and the abnormal emotions that came with the prenatal diagnosis and then me physically overextending my large and very pregnant body resulted in my spending the final two months of the pregnancy in a lot of pain.  I had pregnancy induced carpal tunnel, the kind that woke me up multiple times at night due to my hands and elbows being asleep, being in severe pain at the office while working at my computer keyboard and at times crying while driving and having to hold the steering wheel.  In addition, I did something to my lower back and threw it out the week that were set to move, which left everyone else responsible for moving my stuff and kept me stuck in bed with an ice pack, a heating pad, a bottle of muscle relaxers and a lot of tears.

The final two months of the pregnancy were the toughest days I've ever experienced.  To begin with, I could hardly do anything because of my carpal tunnel and the back issues, so I felt mostly helpless and I was constantly in fear of doing something to make the problems worse.  While we had an overwhelming amount of help from family and friends, my inability to lift, bend, grasp, etc put a lot of pressure on Dustin to do all of his normal work and most of my daily tasks too, not to mention all of the stuff we had to do to get ready for baby.  I know I was miserable to be around and I'm so sorry to admit that was me for a few months.  I've read that having a child with a disability can ruin a marriage.  The divorce rates for parents of children with disabilities and/or delays is much higher than the normal population, I'm sure because of the additional stresses that come along with the diagnosis.  Dustin and I have been through a lot together and fortunately, I think right now we might be at the best place we've ever been in our marriage.  We have both defined our responsibilities towards each other and for our kids and I think we both feel like we're contributing to making our lives and our boys' lives the best they can be.

In a few months, we'll be celebrating our seventh year of marriage.  I hope seven is a lucky year for us, especially as I write this on the eve of St. Patrick's Day 2013!  I don't know the secret recipe for marriage, but some of the pretty simple things I've learned that make it stronger include: attend church together, be honest, do nice things for your spouse and together do nice things for others, play with your kids together and pick up the slack when your spouse needs help.

As I think back on that first night I met Dustin, I would agree that he can still make me laugh and I've decided that the best part of his smile is the wrinkles he gets around the corners of his eyes...

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