a reflection to heal.
Will you have this man/woman to be your husband/wife; to live together in the covenant of marriage? Will you love him/her, comfort him/her, honor and keep him/her, in sickness and in health; and, forsaking all others, be faithful to him/her as long as you both shall live?
We said, I do, understanding the vows we recited and promised carry weight of intention because life is not an over abundant fairytale; simply put, life is hard. Like most couples, we have experienced the clichéd references to marriage: ups and downs, good and bad, pretty and ugly, trials and tribulations, bliss and hard knocks… you get the drift. Each time a difficult event is hurled our way, we receive it with shock. We may even argue… No, we usually argue. We are a passionate people. Ultimately, we lean in; together. We just choose us. After the experience passes, we find ourselves closer and stronger. Each time, we are shocked by this intimacy as we felt pretty damn close already. I choose to find solace in accepting God’s intention is ultimately for us to become a poignant, fluid team.
The harsher aspects of life began affecting us just a few days after my husband proposed to me, this past weekend, three years ago. Even in our most beautiful moments, anguish is felt near the event. We have been tested over and over again through health (physical and mental), horrible arguments, outside variables (even before we even chose to start dating as rumor spread we were interested in one another & still to this day attempting to wreak havoc on our home), loss of loved ones, severed friendships, setting boundaries, our children’s hurt, almost facing death, almost losing a baby in birth, career alterations, natural disaster, material loss, financial blow, and our most recent – and most difficult – loss, our baby in a miscarriage. All of this heartache in just four years together. We are not alone nor special in our hurt. Everyone hurts. Plenty hurt more than us.
This last devastation rocked me to my core. I cannot speak for my husband, but I know how devastated he was, and I feel as though we were equally impacted by the loss of our fifth baby two weeks ago. Our individual and combined grace amazed me, however. We only argued once. Through these trying times, we have acquired the knack to force ourselves to locate the breaks we receive amidst the pain – the silver lining if you will – to maintain our balance. Our first reflection, every single time, is my husband and I are abundantly blessed with four beautiful daughters we blend with every fiber of our beings. He brought our oldest daughter – a loving dreamer – to our family; I brought two more girls – my dripping sweet first born and my curious firecracker – to the mix; and last year we gave birth to our baby girl – the happiest baby you will ever meet. 16 ½, 14, 8 ½, and 1. They keep us excitingly busy and jumping out of bed each day to be with and raise them. Our story has these keenly optimistic reveries resonating past the pessimism. It’s as though the universe is rooting for us.
I truly felt with this last pregnancy it was another one of those, “we choose you two” moments. Another sugary angle shouting, “go team!” The timing was right in the manner of being due for a, “huge win.” When we first discussed having a child together, three and a half years ago, we felt two together was the appropriate avenue with our youngest being almost six when we married. Whereas our older three are shared with their others, coming and going, it seemed fair to have two, close in age, to grow up together and have one another all the time. We began trying for our first child immediately, August 2015. We became quite confused when we struggled to conceive knowing our first three children came to us so swiftly. It just didn’t seem fair. After nine months of trying and growing saddened by our inability to conceive, we sought outside help through a friend of mine’s practice. We were in the first stages of IVF. We were to begin the second stage, but heading to Jamaica for nine days for our delayed honeymoon didn’t make taking needles and shots with us very attractive. We didn’t want to deal with that aspect. We wanted to eat, drink, and be MARRIED… literally.
We chose us for those nine days. We disconnected from everyone. We placed our cell phones in the safe. Our children were with their others chasing summer adventures and were excited for us to go, and we spoke to them right up until our plane took off. They understood why we were not going to be able to communicate. (Every marriage should take a trip at least once a year and disconnect from everyone else. Your marriage is worth the reconnection. Everyone else can wait. Even your kids. Your spouse is your number one.) The resort became our sanctuary. We were known as “D&D”. Everyone was rooting for the baby for us. It was surreal. We took a less touristic route and grabbed a cab with another couple and headed to the limestone river with an organic appeal and guide. He told us as we hiked the river the limestone had healing elements. He recommended we bathe our bodies with the limestone. He even joked, “if you want a baby,” and looked down at the limestone rock and wiggled his eyebrows. Donald whispered to me, “put some in your pants.” I giggled and said, “you put some in your pants, too.” Maybe we both did… We loved every bit of each other on that trip. We came back home euphoric. And, pregnant. Our baby came to us in Jamaica. The name we chose for her has several origins; my two fave meanings: female warrior and born of waves. Fitting.
The pregnancy was tough on my body. A few angry health ailments reared their ugly heads aggravated by the pregnancy hormones coursing through. I was pulled from work early. My aspirations in the classroom were ultimately compromised. As if that was not enough, we dealt with outside variables and heartache coinciding with the duration and post pregnancy. Each of our children needed us more than ever before (if that is even possible or fathomable). We found ourselves in a custody battle in the last trimester. Life just kept coming. When it was time to deliver, we experienced complications in delivery. We almost lost our baby. We almost lost me. An emergency c-section was called for. My husband literally felt as though he was about to lose every one of his girls; all five of us. The chord was wrapped around our baby’s neck three times. NICU was on stand by. They were miraculously not needed. We won that day. She survived. I survived. The week in the hospital was a haze. We were emotionally drained, experiencing a bit of PTSD from the scary delivery, stressed over the custody battle, and bouncing into a state of pure bliss at this beautiful, happy, angel of a baby girl. A few weeks after her birth we were ultimately granted long overdue boundaries and protected time as a result of the custody battle. We felt relief, again (Worth. Every. Penny.).
When we went home after the hospital stay, people visited, provided dinners, and many brought personal time to sit with us. The question eventually came by my cousin’s husband, “are y’all still gonna try for another.” I shocked myself and my husband with my immediate, “no!” They were shocked, too; my response was quite loud. I explained the delivery simply scared the hell outta me, and I felt we were lucky to have her and our other three. My husband – knowing my emotions tend to take a drive before settling – quietly added, as he stroked my back, “we’ll see. Let’s give it some time.” About six months later, I was ready to consider trying for another one and brought up the conversation. He firmly said he was done. We revisited this topic often, arguing about it, often. He admitted he was too scared for me and didn’t want to risk losing me, again. I recommended we shelf the convo until our baby turned one.
Six days before she turned one, we found ourselves with our cook-off team for four days and three nights. Sidenote: These folks are not just a cook-off team. We are framily: a blend of family and friends. We are there for the celebrations of each other’s family and heartaches each other feels. Another Godwink in our lives as these are shared friends prior to our marriage that are now joint friends of ours. They have been a constant these last four years.
It was the biggest cook-off of the season. None of us had our kids on this weekend as our tent is full of guests, and we are all just too busy working, cooking, serving food and drink, and having a damn good time. One of the ladies told me, “you have just stopped nursing, you have no kids, no baby, and you have your husband all to yourself. I better see you enjoying this food and these drinks and crawling back to your camper every night.” My husband and I decided we would remove caution for the weekend. We did not anticipate anything as it took eleven months to conceive our baby with the first step of IVF and a Jamaican limestone river. Funnier, all weekend, when anyone would joke about us getting pregnant again, my husband was a definite, “NO!” I just laughed and would say, “we’ll see.” He would laugh at me. The weekend was especially epic as one of our couples were married in our tent Saturday morning officiated by another member with all of us standing up with them. A whole bunch of love.
Well, twelve days later, I received a positive on the pregnancy test. (I am pretty sure I took about 10 tests that week out of pure shock.) I kept the secret to myself. I became quite nervous to share the good news with my husband. He had been so adamant about not wanting to have another and wanting me to remain healthy and safe. Plus, in a man’s perspective, he just got me back, all to himself. I knew the news would give him great pause. As another cook-off weekend approached, I began to look up ways to surprise him of the good news. I had already scheduled my first appointment with the OB/GYN and was considering waiting to surprise him with the ultrasound picture at the end of the month. We don’t have secrets, though, so I was struggling having this one to myself. Come Saturday, sitting in the camper with my sister and baby, I shared the news with my sister. I had told my mom the previous morning. We began to brainstorm how to surprise him of the news. I put a call in to my best friend. Then, it hit me. We conceived on a cook-off weekend; surprise him on a cook-off weekend. It was early, just about four weeks along; two and a half weeks from conception. Our other children were not present, nor were all of our families. There was just something about me having less worry with this pregnancy.
We took great care in announcing to our children and family when we were pregnant with our first baby. We bought t-shirts to announce it to our three older children. My husband eloquently explained, “you are bound by blood from now on,” after they opened the shirts and the squeals had calmed. Tearjerker! The girls wore the shirts to church to announce to our family, and we sent pictures of them in their shirts to the rest of our family. I did not feel we needed to be extravagant this time. This was our second baby; our fifth child. I just wanted this to be about him, my husband. I knew we could FaceTime the girls right after; just as we did the morning after he proposed to me. I knew we could text all our family to ensure they found out at the exact same time and to prevent someone else slipping the news, since we were in a public setting with the announcement (our family is HUGE… it’d be like 20 phone calls otherwise). My sister and I grabbed two of our cook-off gals, and we began the creativity. We knew if we told all the girls, the husbands would figure it out. There are ten of us ladies, so… It was hard with just four of us knowing for those few hours. My husband knew something was up, kept sneaking up behind us, and started asking all the guys, “what is going on with the women?!”
Just before awards, to pump up the team, we decided we would make the big announcement. About 30 minutes prior, I hesitated for a moment asking my girlfriends if it was “too early? You know, am I being careless in this announcement.” They – in a unified stance – said, “hell no!” One calm friend – my cousin’s wife – added, “No worries, girl. Like you said, enjoy this!”
In keeping with the theme of cook-off and our team, we decided we would project an image on the tent wall and the TV. With the guys being referred to as Cookers, and us ladies as Hotties, we incorporated these names in place of a boy or a girl. Our team is, High Pressure Cookers, and our colors are green and black. Rather than blue or pink, we chose black and green. Rather than saying, “baby due,” we chose “turn in” (There are set days/times food/drinks are turned in for tasting by the judges). The image was built. A riddle if you will:
We allowed this image to remain for about a minute and a half. The riddle was solved. The few fellas it could have been were looking pretty shocked. Everyone was trying to guess which of us women it was. Highlighting our approach to becoming a family of 7, to solve the puzzle we displayed this image:
The team exploded in cheers, shock, jabs, and a bunch of “holy shit! 5 kids!” My husband made a bee-line for me. He was wobbling a bit walking towards me. I opened one arm, as I held our crying baby just startled awake by the cheering in the other. I wrapped my arm around him and whispered, “it’s going to be ok, Daddy. We can handle this.” He kissed me several times. He kissed the baby. His voice went up a few octaves. He later told me, when he saw our faces displayed on the announcement, all he could think was, “get to her.” He said it felt like a movie. Everything around me went dark. There was a circle of light just around me and our baby. He felt as though he was going to pass out, hence the wobbling.
We called our daughters immediately. There were mixed emotions of excitement from all three and instant fear from my first born for me. We calmed her down by reminding her of our faith in God’s great plan and how strong I have always been. We text our families. In God’s great way of winking at us, several of my close girlfriends visited our tent shortly after, so we shared with them, too. Two of my folks arrived as well. My Momma bought me a t-shirt: Mom written in 5 different ways in a medium (instead of a small) for me to have room to grow in). My husband became doting pretty instantaneously.
We were in shock, but we were accepting and excited to have another baby together, especially for our baby to have a sibling close in age to grow up with.
To be continued…
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