Saturday, June 9, 2012

Lessons from Aidan: Marriage

Aidan's short life and death taught me a lot. 

This wasn't his job of course. He was not created or born and did not die in order to teach me anything. He was so much more, so much better than just a lesson or a 'sad event' to 'overcome' in my life and it probably goes without saying that I would give up everything he taught me to have him back.  But, I can't deny that I feel I am a better person for both the having of him, and the losing of him. 

Grief and loss teaches you things about yourself, about others, and about life in a way that getting exactly what you want or feel you 'deserve' cannot. The lessons you learn from loss are harsh. They are abrasive and messy and gnaw away at the deepest parts of you.  While I would not say that I am a completely different person after losing Aidan, I feel I have grown in ways that I wouldn't have if he was alive today.

One of the 'gains' (can I use that word? It's not exactly what I mean, but it will have to do) I feel I got from Aidan's death was the absolute certainty I married the right man.

During the years that we dated, I always joked with Brian that he must have been made of stone, since I never saw him cry. It seems silly now, but I thought it was kind of strange that he never cried, not even at our wedding. He never seemed to get very sad or truly emotional. I had a small worry that maybe he didn't really feel things as deeply as I did, if he didn't ever feel the need to cry.

That all changed the day I began bleeding only a week after finding out I was pregnant with Aidan. When I told Brian I feared I would miscarry...he sobbed. Here we were, only a week into a pregnancy that was visually only two lines on a stick and already Brian loved this little person, felt attached to him, and was deeply upset thinking he might be lost. It was both heartbreaking and wonderful to see how much he cared. I wish this had been the first and only time I had seen Brian cry over Aidan. Unfortunately it wasn't.  Not by a long shot.

The knowledge that your partner shares the same depth of feeling that you do and understands you and meets you on the same level about the big things in life is a great gift. It is something to fall back on when the little things in a marriage begin to grate. Through our struggles both before and after Aidan died, I had to lean on Brian a lot, and he on me. We supported each others need to hope, to grieve, to memorialize, and to begin to laugh again. Our grief wasn't and still isn't always experienced on the same time table, nor do we necessarily express ourselves in the same way, but knowing that we both carry the same love for Aidan, think about him often, and miss him dearly, is a great source of comfort between us.

Our relationship has been on my mind a lot this week because Thursday was our 4th wedding anniversary. While four years is not a long time in the grand scheme of things, those years have been tumultuous ones for us. I realized, and am proud to say, that not once over the course of it all did I ever truly feel my relationship with Brian was in jeopardy. I know I am lucky to say this. Not every couple escapes their child's death so unscathed.

Sometimes it takes a crisis to really make you aware and acknowledge the quality of the partner you have chosen. One hopes that out of this comes appreciation and love for all this person adds to your life, even in the wake of so much disappointment and loss. I can only imagine the difficulties a person might face if they woke up after their baby died and realized their partner was not someone they were going to be able to get through this with. Talk about a rude awakening.

It reminds me of something my Mom told me about my own birth years ago. She said that when I was born and she and my Dad learned about my heart defect they were both overwhelmed and devastated. I was sick and would need multiple surgeries. There were no guarantees. How were they going to handle it all?  But, my mom told me she remembers saying to my Dad at the time "thank goodness it's you that I'm in this with".  30 years later, I think they would both still agree.

So, if we have to be 'in it' at all, I'm glad it's Brian who's here with me.

Who are you 'in it' with?  Are you glad it's him or her?  How has your child's death affected your relationship with your partner?  Did you ever question if you were going to 'make it through'?


  1. LOVE your post today!The quote from your mom is spot on. I had not really thought of it that way (and I must remember to tell my hubby those exact words). I have to be honest and say that our losses have only made my marriage stronger. I think we took turns being "the crazy one" during our cycles of grief. One would be strong while the other one lost it. Neither of us would be half as mentally healthy today if we both were that crazy in grief person 100% of the time or the stiff upper lip person 100%.

    Lots of love today!


  2. We celebrate six years of marriage tomorrow. And like you said, we've been through a lot in six years. Losing Charlotte completely changed our marriage, but we're still in it together and I'm glad he's the one I'm in it with.

    Congratulations on four years!

  3. Celebrating 4 years next month and the tears have never been more real and more flowing than surrounding our sons. I 100% know I married the right man, too. Loss and struggle can really test a marriage and for some of us, thankfully, it's brought us closer together.

    We grieve differently, but we both grieve and love our babies.

  4. I don't think I knew how truly wonderful my husband is until I watched him father our dying daughter. Our grief is in many ways a stronger bond even than our marriage vows...thanks for this post.

  5. It wasn't the dead baby that rattled us, it has been the living babies that followed. I mean we are ok, we will be ok, but we grieved in the same way, and were always on the same page. We still are. But the living babies who came after sort of rocked us. I think the sleep deprivation hasn't helped. And I guess we've had different approaches to raising them. There has been nothing to bicker over with Hope. She's gone and we miss her and we want her back, so it is simple really.
    Happy anniversary to you both.