sharing the journey

by eringoodman on April 7, 2010

in essays+reflections, love + marriage, parenting

The roots of Lily’s tree, which we planted along with her placenta, shortly after her birth. This week the kids and I are tucking the roots, which have been scratched bare by our chickens, back into the soil. While we work, we talk about how this tree (as well as Quinn’s) has grown and changed as we have grown and changed.

Before John and I had children, we rarely fought. We weathered an incredibly fierce storm (one that I have alluded to a few times but not yet shared publicly) the year before we married and for the most part everything after that tunnel of darkness felt like sunshine and rainbows.

We have similar values. We spend money in much the same way. We have many overlapping interests – from music to movies – and we generally support (or at least tolerate) each other’s outside interests (his - football and politics; mine - yoga, farming and whatever new age-y books / classes /workshops strike my fancy).

There just wasn’t a whole lot to fight about – other than the occasional roommate-type squabbles about toilet seats or dirty dishes.

Fast forward a couple of years. I’m home full time with a toddler and a baby. John’s working two jobs trying to keep a roof over our heads. I’m exhausted all the time. He’s exhausted all the time. Everything in our house is breaking in rapid succession and there is no money in the budget for repairs. (Hell there’s not even a budget at this point. Just paycheck-to-paycheck prayers that somehow the checks we’re writing are not going to bounce.) I’m nursing around the clock. Nobody is sleeping through the night.

And you know what?

We quickly found things – many things – to fight about.

And the more we fought, the more stressful life got and the more we pulled away from each other and focused on “surviving” our days without any help from the other. And the more we pulled away from each other the more the little roommate-type squabbles, hissed under our breath so that little ones would not hear, became just about the only words we exchanged. 

I’m not going to detail some of the darkest moments that we experienced during this time – the kind of moments when bags get packed and a couch at your parents’ house feels like a better option than the life you are living.

Because somewhere in the midst of all the pain and anger we found each other again. Somehow we were able to step back and look at the path we were on and realize that we didn’t want to go where it leads. And that slowly, and ever so tenderly, if we began taking baby steps back towards each other and the love we once shared, we might be able to find our way through the muck.

And for the last year-and-a-half or so that’s just what we’ve been doing. Talking to each other. Loving each other. Checking in with each other.  Working together as a team. Making decisions together. Doing small things to brighten each other’s days.

And finally – once again – seeing and bringing out the best in each other.

This past weekend was absolutely nutty. On Saturday, while John and our friend changed the water tank in the basement (only to discover that unfortunately that was not where the air in our pipes is coming from), and attempted to repair the washing machine and dryer, I was at the Laundromat with the kids doing eight loads of laundry.

We did not make it home ‘til after 9 p.m. and once the kids were finally asleep in their beds and the chicks were all settled into their new pen (wait…have I even told you that we have 12 little balls of fluff living in our living room?) John and I looked at each other for the first time in days.

He smiled and my whole body instantly softened. 

For the next couple of hours we sipped wine, worked on rhymes for an Easter morning treasure hunt, and caught up on everything.

The second half of our Florida trip. The five hours I spent at a walk-in clinic getting drugs for the plane ride home. The tree-cutting adventure he went on last weekend. The death of a family friend. The floods. My parents’ basement. His mother’s basement. The backhoe we may need to rent to search for the leak in the water line. My new (quickly-expanding) job at our friend’s farm and the cows I will be milking very soon. The much-anticipated parents-only road trip we will be taking this summer. On and on the conversation (and the wine) flowed.

What a trip this whole marriage / parenting / homeowner / being a grown-up gig is. So glad I am once again sharing the journey hand-in-hand with my best friend.

{ 28 comments… read them below or add one }

renee @ FIMBY April 7, 2010 at 7:22 am

Unbelievably lovely and vulnerable Erin. I love family life and marriage and I am so happy for you that you feel back on track with the love of your life (and that you had the guts to share it wasn’t always so peachy).

You know those early baby years can be so hard. I loved having babies, giving birth, nursing etc… but the exhaustion and strain that puts on a marriage – nope, I don’t miss that at all. There must be a better way of doing it but our society seems to isolate families in the stage of life rather than supporting them.

Anyway, I have more I could share on this but I don’t want to write a blog post! Walking hand-in-hand is one of life’s most precious treasures on this sometimes difficult grown-up gig.

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Michelle April 7, 2010 at 9:13 am

Beautifully written and touching. It certainly resonated with me in a variety of ways. Thank you so much for sharing.

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Kate April 7, 2010 at 9:14 am

Like Renee, I could comment on so much in your post!
It’s lovely to read this, because having children just a bit younger than yours, my dh and I have gone through the EXACT same thing.

Just the past couple of months I’ve made a very committed effort toward LOVING my hubby unconditionally again (like before kids!) and WHAT a difference it’s made!

LOVE this post and could relate to EVERY WORD!!!

Love you, Erin!
.-= Kate´s last blog ..My Everyday MUSIC Magic 4/7/2010 =-.

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renee ~ heirloom seasons April 7, 2010 at 10:32 am

So good of you to share the story here. Mu husband and I rarely fight, I guess you could call them more disagreement/misunderstanding/hurt feelings kind of moments, but we have certainly been through our share of challenges, much of our years together (12+) we have been in survival mode, it can get tiring to say the least, but we survive! So much we have survived, we are pretty proud of that, and it helps us know that we always can! And so what a gift really for you and your husband to be where you are now in your relationship, stronger for sure!
Lily’s tree is beautiful, how special that you have that. I cannot believe that I am going to confess this here, but we still have the placentas of both of our daughters in the freezer! And Chloe is almost 10 years old!
Lots of love to you Erin!
.-= renee ~ heirloom seasons´s last blog ..happy moments =-.

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Emerald April 7, 2010 at 10:40 am

Its very reassuring to know that my husband and I aren’t the only ones who have sat at opposite ends of our kitchen table hurt & angry but unwilling to find out what comes next down that path. We have such a great marriage that our friends and family think we just rode off into the sunset of our happily ever after. When in reality we wake up every morning and choose to be together, choose to be the best possible version of husband/wife we can be, and choose to ease each others pain (ala Buddhism for Mothers, Sarah Napthali).

Thank you for sharing such a personal journey with so much grace and love.

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Devon April 7, 2010 at 10:56 am

BEAUTIFUL post, Erin!! I tell my doula clients all the time that struggles in the first few years of parenthood are NOT a reflection of the quality of their relationship. I may be directing them to this post in the future!!

Love you :)
.-= Devon´s last blog ..Love Socks for Kids! (I think) =-.

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Ivy April 7, 2010 at 11:06 am

Beautifully and powerfully written Erin. It took courage to share this and courage to find the right path.
I spent so much of my childhood and teenage years longing to be a grown-up only to discover that it really isn’t all that fun/exciting/wonderful. No actually it is a lot of work, and a lot of worry.
Good luck on your journey.
.-= Ivy´s last blog ..Nine Times Around =-.

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Denise April 7, 2010 at 11:54 am

oh wow. this is so good. more moms and dads need to write this. I hope you plan on sharing it in other places. Really. Many relate but never talk about it.
.-= Denise´s last blog ..messed up =-.

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Denise April 7, 2010 at 11:54 am

oops – read this not write this. typing too fast.
.-= Denise´s last blog ..messed up =-.

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Nicole (Frontier Dreams) April 7, 2010 at 11:57 am

Beaitiful, beautiful post! You give me hope for my husband and I <3

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Elisabeth April 7, 2010 at 12:23 pm

Brought me to tears… we are in the thick of it right now (a five-year-old, two one-year-olds, one who has several disabilities, and a husband working hellish hours) and are trying to be gentle with each other and not let ourselves drift too far apart during this trying stretch of our journey. We’re doing pretty well so far, but it is so much harder than we ever could have anticipated. I keep reminding myself (and him) that this is an endurance race, not a sprint.
So nice to hear others’ stories of making it to the other side. Thank you for this unexpected moment of peace and hope in a hectic day.
.-= Elisabeth´s last blog ..So much to report =-.

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gardenmama April 7, 2010 at 1:08 pm

Thank you for sharing so much of yourself in this space Erin. I just read Lisa’s post at Earth Mama speaking of similar things in this journey of life… I think you would enjoy it too.
.-= gardenmama´s last blog ...: A Simple Process :. =-.

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Tricia April 7, 2010 at 1:13 pm

So many of us live or have lived what you described there Erin. Thanks so much for sharing it and reminding me where I have been and could return to when I lose touch with what I am feeling, forget my needs and forget the feelings and needs of my husband. After nearly 19 yrs of marriage and 15 raising children I’m FINALLY at peace with the grown-up thing. Took awhile, but I wouldn’t have it any other way :-)

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Irene April 7, 2010 at 2:37 pm

Erin,

That was beautiful –so true and real! I was really choked up after reading it. Something any couple can relate to at various stages in their relationship. Thank you for sharing this! I’ve shared this with a few people already!

Love,
Irene

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Luciana April 7, 2010 at 3:19 pm

Lovely to read your post, Erin. It all sounds so familiar. I’m glad you and John were able to re-connect with each other beyond the strains of family life. Thanks for sharing with such honesty.
.-= Luciana´s last blog ..Just practising =-.

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6512 and growing April 7, 2010 at 4:02 pm

Erin, your honesty is a balm. Thank you so much for your well written words. Sometimes, when my husband and I get a short date together, we just look at each other like “oh it’s you!” I love that you and John gave yourselves time to drink wine and catch up. It’s amazing how, when the deep love is there, it doesn’t take much to reconnect.
Brava to you!
.-= 6512 and growing´s last blog ..April wind =-.

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lily boot April 7, 2010 at 7:45 pm

Oh Erin … I so understand your words and am so in awe of your bravery sharing them. I have been in such similar situations and really struggled with what I’m supposed to do next. Often it is so easy to simply THROW myself into the household chores, and making things for my family and cooking and hoping that this will provide the glue that will bind us all together. But it just isn’t. You are so right when you say, we need to take little steps towards each other and sit quietly and lovingly in the evenings, when all is calm, and just enjoy each other’s presence without the interference of all those other things that can consume our lives. Your new job sounds FABULOUS! I hope you love milking those cows and that it becomes the beginning of a marvellous and enriching adventure for your whole family. And I also hope the flight home was good … I was thinking of you sweet friend, and wishing for you, strength and courage and a smile on your face. I know it’s hard … and I know we can do it :-) Have a lovely day :-)

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Suzanne April 7, 2010 at 8:09 pm

Erin – this was a wonderfully real piece from the heart. It struck some major chords in my heart -thank you so much for sharing this.

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Rose April 7, 2010 at 8:31 pm

Oh these words are so gorgeous and ring so true. I imagine all parents have been through this. My husband and I just started re-connecting in November and it has been positively amazing. Like falling in love all over again.
.-= Rose´s last blog ..Sick, sick, and more sick. =-.

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nicola@which name? April 7, 2010 at 11:38 pm

you made me cry. enough said.
huge, warm hugs, erin.
nicola
.-= nicola@which name?´s last blog ..corner view: vending machines =-.

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Molly April 8, 2010 at 1:30 am

Beautifully written and expressed. Children do certainly change things and I came to our marriage with a 10 year old (and added twins now 7 and a 3 year old) Thank you for your heartfelt post, it helped me so much to know that what we are going through is “normal”. I loved what Devon said “that struggles in the first few years of parenthood are NOT a reflection of the quality of their relations”. An important fact I wish I had known when our girls were born. Thanks again!

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Jerilyn April 8, 2010 at 10:02 am

Thanks for sharing and for your vulnerability.

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Hannah's Harvest April 8, 2010 at 10:34 am

yes.yes.yes.

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Carol April 8, 2010 at 2:50 pm

What candour. My husband and I floundered/raged through the very early years wondering where the love had gone. It was very hard. Your image of the couch at the parents’ place packed a punch for me.

We are on a much better page now. For us, it took making some very big changes – husband quit his job to be at home and I work part-time – easing the time and work stressors made a huge difference. Our kids are still small and life is not perfect but we are back to being a team. Thank goodness. Great post.+
.-= Carol´s last blog ..Downshifting Update – Six Months In =-.

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Adrienne April 8, 2010 at 2:58 pm

Strange how people will share how tough it is with the children at first but no one really tells you how tough it will be with your spouse. (save vague illusions to having “date nights”) Feeling good to be through the worst of it myself…

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Jill Dockray April 8, 2010 at 8:26 pm

I have no idea what you’re talking about… hahahahaha… beautifully written Erin. I’m a total fan!

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Karen Reed April 9, 2010 at 9:22 pm

My college sweetie and I have been married for 30 years, and are recently empty nested after raising 4 fab kids. Whew! What a journey it has been. I remember those crazy, exhausting times when it was hard to keep perspective! But those challenging years were full of such richness, fun, and growth! Hang in there, girls, and be sure to savor the moments. They are all too fleeting. And the reward is that you’ll end up with kids who you can sit around the dinner table with and chat about world events, hopes and dreams and the fun you all had growing up together!

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mandy April 13, 2010 at 2:22 pm

thank you so much for sharing this. it’s so hard to put ‘these early years’ into words and you have done it so well and touched on so many things i have tried to put into words in my journals.
wiping away a few tears,
thank you so much for sharing
.-= mandy´s last blog ..At the Table =-.

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