Recently during lunch with a friend, she happened to share that her marriage was in serious trouble (due to a number of reasons over a long period of time) and that divorce was the likely outcome. I could see that it pained her greatly to even utter the “d word” and that she still loved her husband. This couple had willingly tried counseling and were faithful in attending sessions. It was apparent that my friend did not want her marriage to end, but felt she had no choice. I felt so sad for this lovely woman and honestly didn’t know what to say, for fear of coming off like a series of platitudes. No one thinks on their wedding day that the marriage won’t last. All couples have hopes and dreams to share life together “until death do us part”. It’s the way it’s supposed to be and the way we want it to be.
My friend commented how Jim and I seem to have it together both as a couple and as parents. I quickly informed her that nothing could be further from the truth and things are not always what they seem. Jim and I are just like millions of other couples; imperfect people who often struggle daily to make our marriages work and to raise our children. Some days Jim and I fail miserably and other days we succeed victoriously. Many days it is the grace of God that gets us through because we just don’t have it within ourselves. The responsibilities we carry as partners and parents can be back-breaking, not to mention the unexpected curve balls that life can throw at us. Collectively, these things can wear us down and adversely effect our marriage. It can happen so very easily. I realize today there was a very good reason why I married later on in my life: I wouldn’t have had the fortitude and maturity that it takes to make a marriage work when I was younger . And even with those things, there are still no guarantees of a happily ever after.
Brian’s arrival into our lives, of course, was the real test of our character and faith within ourselves and our marital bond. Overall, we continue to do the best we can as parents and are a strong team together. Our marriage was also severely tested when Jim lost his job and I was diagnosed with colon cancer. I suppose if these things didn’t push us to the brink of divorce, then nothing would have. It was during those trials that we ultimately stayed strong and made a daily decision to persevere, even though we often didn’t feel like it. But what choice did we really have? Ironically, Brian was the one who encouraged us the most during this time , despite all of his challenges. I don’t think this was just a coincidence…
As a result of living through these situations, I’ve concluded in retrospect it’s better that the future is not revealed to us. I’m not so sure that I would have answered the call so willingly to be a special needs Mom, had I known ahead of time. I’m not so sure that I would have necessarily remained married either. We were both very aware of what a high- risk pregnancy meant and were willing to take on those odds because of our strong desire for a child of our own, but never anticipated exactly HOW a disabled child would change our lives forever . Jim and I were hopeful that the odds would have been in our favor for a healthy, typical baby. However, every step of my pregnancy had markers that indicated a baby with Down syndrome, so I knew in my heart ( when a hole in Brian’s heart was revealed at 19 weeks in utero), that our son most likely had the extra chromosome. It was devastating news- the only reasons why Jim and I were able to carry on was because we loved each other and our faith in God, the same faith that each of us were raised with in our respective families growing up. The one thing that we knew for sure was that Brian was meant to be our son: his life had a purpose, just like the rest of us, even if that purpose was not so evident at first blush. There is something to be said about couples being similar in the fundamental areas that are important when sharing a life journey. For us, our Christian faith, how we view finances, and the sense of love, loyalty, and commitment that we saw demonstrated between our parents, especially when the going got tough, had a huge influence on us. These gifts still serve us well in good times and in bad, and always will- without them, I do believe divorce would still be an easy thing to do. But I also understand that sometimes, love is not enough, some circumstances can’t be overcome, or one of the spouses may decide they don’t want to reconcile the marriage.
Jim and I have to make a deliberate effort and a daily choice to work at our marriage. There are major obstacles that constantly threaten to undermine our efforts, primarily, Brian’s endless needs, work, and home responsibilities. These things are always going to be there, so it comes down to choices and priorities. We are getting better at making wise choices with the limited free time alone that we do have. It took us a long time to realize why making time for ourselves was not only paramount for the marriage , but Brian would also benefit from a happier Mom and Dad. Whether it’s a formal date or just catching up over coffee, it’s important time that we need together. It strengthens the bond that we will need when life’s adversities come to call or to make the good times even better. I say it’s a good marital investment that can reap priceless returns. I pray that we will remain solid in our commitment to each other and to Brian, who is counting on us to be strong. With God’s Grace, I know that all things are possible, especially when it comes to the impossible. I have experienced enough miracles in my own life to know that this is true. It is this very hope that sustains me, my marriage, and my role as Brian’s Mom. Without grace and hope, life is too difficult.
May your marriage and family experience amazing grace in all facets of your lives. May hope reign supreme in your heart, especially when the chips are down and everything seems utterly hopeless: your miracle is just around the corner!
Until we meet again, thanks for reading!