Today's post in the series comes from Caitlin of the darling ABC blog. Caitlin is a Catholic wife, mother, and homemaker living in Seattle. Ever since we started reading each other's blogs, Caitlin has been a constant voice of common sense and good advice. I hope you enjoy getting to know her through her blog as much as I have!
My husband, Adam, and I will celebrate our third wedding anniversary this summer and welcome our second child this fall. Like any family, we’ve had plenty of ups and downs over the past three years. Two rough patches stand out in particular. Upon reflection, we’ve realized how our reactions to these external events improved or worsened the situation. It is our hope that we will be better prepared for the next time things are more down than up and that by sharing our stories, you might be too.
We are high school sweethearts. We were married shortly before my senior year and Adam’s junior year of college. I graduated in May of 2011. At the end of the summer, we were thrilled to find out that we were expecting our first child. We welcomed our daughter, Claire, in March of 2012. That is where our story begins.
One day, when I was thirty-six weeks pregnant, I noticed that I hadn’t felt Claire’s usual sharp kicks to my ribs and immediately grew worried. Our obstetrician asked us to come in for some fetal monitoring. Less than half an hour after we arrived at the hospital, Claire was born via emergency c-section. She was very, very sick and was immediately whisked off the NICU.
Without a doubt, Claire’s birthday was the most traumatic day of our lives. However, it was not at all a strain on our marriage. I have never felt closer to my husband than when we held hands and stared into each other’s eyes as he sat next to me on the operating table. We said the Hail Mary over and over, both praying for our daughter to just make some sort of cry. Her birth united my husband and I to each other and to Christ like never before.
Two weeks later, we brought her home from the hospital. A month after that, Adam graduated from college. We spent a glorious summer together, visiting family and getting acquainted with our baby girl. At the beginning of July, we moved across the country to Seattle for my husband’s new job as a software developer. All at once, everything went downhill.
Claire wanted to eat and eat all day long, but wasn’t gaining any weight. She refused to nap for longer than fifteen minutes. I spent the vast majority of my day chained to the couch, feeding her. The rest of the day was occupied with begging her to nap so I could unpack the mountain of boxes in our new apartment. She was overtired and grumpy all the time, as were we. We knew absolutely no one in Seattle and I was so lonely. Adam has a degree in math, not computer science, and thus faced a huge, stressful learning curve at work.
We apparently learned nothing from the circumstances surrounding Claire’s birth, because the very first thing we did was stop praying together. Since the early days of our marriage, we have prayed together right before we go to sleep and right after we wake up. When we are stressed or get thrown off our normal routine, that time together is always the first thing to go. If we’re not careful, it quickly grows to include our individual moments of prayer throughout the day as well.
Next, we somehow forgot that everything is better when we work as a team and turned against each other. We both had long, frustrating days. Rather than encourage each other at home, we found ourselves constantly snapping at our spouse. If there was ever a time when we needed a date night, this was it, but since we knew absolutely no one in our new city, that wasn’t exactly an option.
Our situation would have been vastly improved had we focused on remaining united to each other and to Christ. Regardless, two months later things were completely different. Claire was a chubby, happy baby with a dependable sleep schedule. We were settled into our apartment and had gotten involved with our new parish. Adam felt much more confident in his responsibilities at work and I was beginning to have some semblance of a social life. What happened?
Although it’s not always the case, usually in a tough spot there is something that can be changed. Following the advice of Claire’s pediatrician, we started supplementing with formula and used the Ferber Method to help her get the sleep she so desperately needed. After she’d put on some weight and realized that naps weren’t the worst thing in the world, Claire was a completely transformed baby. It was really, really hard to buy that first formula canister and to let our daughter cry it out, but we knew that something had to change. And it did. Things got so, so much better. When the baby’s not happy, trust me, nobody’s happy.
We also just learned to give things time. We worked slowly but diligently at the various new situations that were causing us stress and eventually we found our way back to normal. Thanks to Claire’s newfound napping abilities, I finally unpacked the last box and started serving something besides frozen pizza for dinner. Before he knew it, Adam no longer left work feeling frustrated and confused. At least most of the time. We joined a nearby parish and put ourselves out there whenever we could, but we realized that we weren’t going to find best friends overnight.
By far, the friend thing required the most patience. In Seattle, there’s not exactly a plethora of early twenty-somethings that are married with multiple children. When we first started discussing trying for our current pregnancy, I was really worried that we wouldn’t know anyone to watch Claire during labor and delivery! After lots of persistence in our efforts and in prayer, things ultimately turned around. Just this week, I am driving a friend to the airport and that friend is babysitting while we go out to dinner for Adam’s birthday. It makes me so happy to have someone to ask for favors and to do favors in return. I hope to never take that for granted. I like to think that during our move here last summer, I wouldn’t have been afraid to ask for or accept help, if there was any opportunity. Not knowing a single soul really makes you realize how life-giving friendships can be.
So, what do I wish I knew before getting married? That hard times are going to come. You can’t prevent it, but you can control how you react. You can remember that your spouse loves you and wants to help you. And so does Christ! Don’t turn away from them. Usually, you can implement some sort of change to improve the situation, even if it means that things get a little worse before they get better. More often than not, you’ll probably get to practice the virtues of patience and humility quite a bit. If nothing else, I hope this long-winded reflection illustrates the truth in the saying, “the couple that prays together, stays together!”