Every now and then, I’ll read something about a couple’s marriage that talks about how dedicated they are to each other because they remember a time when it was just the two of them against the world.
“Before they existed it was the two of us,” reads one such piece. “We were the beginning. We kicked this whole party off. Then these beautiful children came along.”
When I read articles where couples vehemently talk about the importance of preserving the “us” that created the “them,” I wonder a bit about my own marriage. Before there was really even an “us,” there was the baby that made us a family.
Before we were married, before we became parents, my then-boyfriend and I would talk about what our future would look like. We’d make pancakes and lounge about in our birthday suits all day. We’d eat ice cream in bed and watch movies all night. We’d build a foundation that would last a lifetime.
And then life happened, quite literally. As I rounded the corner on my senior year of college, I was throwing up in the parking lot as I picked out my wedding dress and sending out wedding thank you cards as I set up the nursery. Life instantly went into fast forward. Marriage and kids and jobs and adulthood kind of fell into what I now realize were our super young laps. I was freaking 21 years old when we got married, newly 22 when I pushed our first daughter out into the world, and honestly … I had no idea what I was doing. I kind of jumped in for the ride, hung on tight, and hoped I didn’t crash.
So when I hear about other couples who did things the “right” way — as husband and wife or dedicated partners before welcoming kids into the chaos, I wonder if some vital piece of the puzzle is missing for us.
Because when things get tough, I don’t have those warm fuzzy memories to fall back on. I don’t have that romantic movie flashback of my man winning me a giant stuffed animal at the fair to fondly remember when I want to stuff my husband’s carelessly discarded sock down his throat. I can’t recall how good we were together before children aged us 10,000 years in a day because we never had that time together.
I’m not lamenting the fact that life happened the way it did, on the contrary. I feel utterly and completely grateful that we were able to have a family on the timeline that we did. All I’m saying is that I know I can’t be alone in this weird space of wondering where our relationship fits in. Because the truth is, we fundamentally changed as people the second we became parents — and before we were wed together for all of our days.
I wonder if we would have been better parents had we had that time together first. I question whether our marriage would have been stronger. Would I have gone into this whole business of life feeling a little more grounded and a little less like floundering mess?
We were never “us” before we were three, then four, and then six. In many ways, it has been hard. We’ve had to carve out time for each other in the nooks and crannies of intensive parenting. We’ve had to come face to face with the fact that we are not the same people we were back then. We’ve clung to a lifeboat when it felt like we were drowning, without any real memory of what it was like to swim. We’ve built a masterpiece on a shaky foundation and hoped against hope that the patches we slapped on would hold strong.
It may not have been the ideal way to start a journey into marriage and parenting, but it has been our way. We may not have a foundation to fall back on when the going gets tough, but we do have the future to look forward to — together.