I've been around the world but never in my wildest dreams
Would I come running home to you
I've told a million lies
But now I tell a single truth
There's you in everything I do
"Bet My Life"
"Bet My Life"
"Are you happy?" he asked me tonight, and it caught me by surprise. I paused, which he took as a bad sign--but it wasn't, I was just reflecting. I was thinking about happiness, and my definition of it, seriously considering whether the current state of our lives, and the current state of myself, fit within the realm that I judged the word 'happy.'
I had been staring at sweet, sleeping baby Claire when he asked me this question, listening intently to her breathe. She is 5 weeks old now and has come down with her first illness, and I had been debating all day whether or not to take her into the doctor. I'm not in a good place when my small babies are sick, it brings up old feelings of fear that I have to work hard to fight my way out of. Luckily her breathing was soft and quiet, clear of the mucus-filled cackles I had been concerned of earlier.
I looked up at him, sitting across the room, running his hands through the thick hair he had been begging me to cut for weeks. The glow of the lamp next to him cast a soft light on his brown eyes.
"You know, I was thinking about our life this week," I began, "and how I'm really not a very romantic person. I don't need flowers and gifts and big romantic gestures, though those are nice every now and then. But what I am, is a sentimental person. When I step out of my daily life for a few moments, and pretend I'm someone outside of our home, peering in the window and watching us, my perception changes. When I look back through pictures and think of our memories, I'm overcome with emotion. I remember when I was younger, picturing what I wanted--writing a list of things most important to the least. On the top of that list was being married to a good man, and the next one was being a mother to a lot of kids. I know when I wrote that list, I had no idea what marriage would be like, and knew even less what motherhood would be like. I was so naive, back then. But I'm no longer naive. Marriage and motherhood can be incredibly hard, and most of the time I'm so caught up in the tantrums of our children, what I'm making for dinner, or the never-ending laundry piles, or the constant compromise and teamwork that marriage requires, that I forget to step back and peek into our windows. Right now, I am living my own dream, with you being the good man you are, and these four incredibly beautiful, amazing children. So yes, I am happy."
He nodded and sat quietly, soaking in the words I had spoken. Then came the next question.
"Will you still love me in 10 years?" This was another that I took time to consider. It wasn't because I wondered whether or not I would still love him, because I easily knew the answer to that. I was taking time to remember why I love him now, and how there could not be doubt of the knowledge of my love for him continuing through my life, well past 10 more years.
Memories of us flashed through my mind. There were so many--of us at our best moments, and of us at our worst--but one was more vivid than all of the others.
5 weeks ago, I was in the middle of the most painful labor I had ever experienced. I had been dilated to a 9 for four hours, but the baby would not drop down into the birth canal because my water hadn't broken yet and was so big that the baby couldn't move past it. My midwife was concerned--if they broke my water and the baby's head came down first, I was okay. But if the umbilical cord came first, I would immediately have an emergency C section. So they waited, and adjusted my positions, hoping it would help either move the baby or break the water.
In the meantime I could feel every contraction, and my back was in such excruciating pain that there were moments I couldn't focus on anything else except the blackness of it. I cried and tried to breathe, and visualize the baby moving down, but each time the contraction started up again, the blackness returned. I felt like I would lose my mind to the pain, and honestly came to the point where I was convinced I would die within it. The only thing that brought me back from the dark that threatened to consume me was the feeling of Ben's hand gripping mine, and the sound of his voice:
"Okay, here's another one....this one is really big, but you're almost at the top of it....okay, you're at the top, you'll start to go down soon.....breathe, keep breathing, you can do this.....okay! You did it, you're going back down now.....you're almost there....you did it. (a few moments later) Alright, here comes another one--I know, I know, it's okay.....It's okay, you can do this, you can do this, keep breathing, in through the nose, out through the mouth, okay you're climbing to the top......"
He could not take the pain from me, but he was there inside of it, with me. I focused on his voice and his hand, and fought the waves of blackness.
As I thought of this memory, it was symbolic to me of our 12 years together--through all of the mountains we have had to climb, we have been each other's constant. Our voices offering laughter until we cried, words of love and support, sometimes frustration, but continuing to see the best in each other. Our hands gripping tightly, holding on as we faced some of our best accomplishments and biggest demons. Together we have been the one temporal thing that has stayed the same through the darkness and the light.
I tried to picture replacing his voice with another's, his hand with someone else's, and could not do it. I knew I loved him now, more than I ever had, and that in 10 years my love for him would hold another decade of memories and depth.
"Yes, of course I will love you in 10 years. You are not only what I hoped to find, you are more. I love you, Ben."
"I love you, too," he replied.
We stared for a few minutes at the newest miracle we had created together, watching her tiny chest rise and fall. With God as our guide, we had come through another year.
And I knew we would continue through many more.