Nelson and I will be celebrating our seventh wedding anniversary in a few weeks. As I make plans for a celebratory weekend stay in Boston, I feel giddy with excitement over the prospect of hanging out with my husband—sans children—for 2 glorious days. There's no doubt that every marriage needs care and attention—and this means reconnecting as a couple without kids. We're planning on getting massages, eating at our favorite romantic restaurant, trying a new restaurant or two, and lounging in bed until lunchtime.
That being said, as I look back on our years together (13 in total), I can say that it's the time we've spent as parents that has strengthened our relationship the most. Sure, there were those monumental times we shared before our kids came along: the years working together at Logan Airport or our adventure living in Enid, Oklahoma while Nelson attended Pilot Flight Training for the military. And then there as my father's death—which, because of the myriad of ways Nelson showed his love and support for me and my family, made me realize just how lucky I was to have him as my husband. But it was when I became pregnant for the first time that our relationship developed into something much deeper.
Being pregnant made me feel an eternal connection to Nelson. It made our love seem important beyond ourselves. And I think Nelson must have felt some of that too. He was attentive and devoted in a new way. When the day finally arrived to have Julia, I remember feeling so scared. My water had broken at 5:30 in the morning. Nelson was about to board his airplane for a nine hour mission. Luckily I got a hold of him before he left. I asked him if we should meet at the hospital, which was halfway between where we both were at that particular moment. But we said, no way. He would drive the 2 hours from New Hampshire, pick me up, and drive us back up to Boston. It was my first labor, so we had enough time for that.
When we arrived at the hospital, I felt blissful. I wasn't having painful contractions. Instead I was the happiest person in the world. I was about to have a baby! Of course, the pain finally did arrive, and I endured three hours of pushing without an epidural. I retreated inside myself. I don't remember much of anything other than the pain. But I do remember Nelson being right by my side. He was as solid as a rock, like he's always been when it comes to supporting me. Even though I yelled at him and rejected his touch, he stood right by me the whole time. And when Julia finally came out, I felt a swoon of love so intense not only for this tiny new life but for my husband. I had just accomplished the most difficult task of my life. Sharing that with Nelson, bound us together in a profound way.
Four years later, as I think about all of the many parenting moments that have changed us as a couple, I still regard pregnancy as one of the most special times in the life of our marriage. Even though Nelson said he was scared to talk to me during the first trimester of this pregnancy (in fear of an emotional outburst from me) or that I feel guilty for pushing so many of the household responsibilities over to him, or that I sometimes feel annoyed that he's away so much, I nevertheless feel the same intense happiness that I first felt with my first pregnancy. It feels like a force greater than the two of us is helping to weave our shared destinies into a story that will live well beyond our own lives. Knowing that you are bound to someone in this way makes you feel protected and truly blessed. It's hard to believe that it's only been seven years of marriage. Since our kids have arrived it feels like we've known each other for seven lifetimes. And I mean that in a good way.