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For Us, First Came Baby, Then Came Marriage — and I’m Glad It Happened in That Order

Image Source: Bailey Gaddis
Image Source: Bailey Gaddis

The fact that I’m recently engaged is exciting, but not life-changing. You see, I’ve been calling my fiancé, Eric, my “husband” for a while now because we’ve been together for six years and have been raising our child together for the last three years.

We’re those “backwards” people who decided to check off life’s boxes in the order that felt best for us versus the order people told us to do it in. Heck, we almost decided to skip the marriage box altogether, but thought it would be a good excuse to have a party in Nicaragua.

Since the announcement of our engagement, I’ve been asked if I’m nervous about planning a wedding, whether I think my relationship will change after we’re married, or if we’re getting married so we can have another child. I’ve said no to all of those questions.

We’re getting married because we’ve lived through enough of life together (birth, death, new jobs, lost jobs, international travel, fights started and solved, graduate school, natural disasters) that we’ve settled into a knowing that we can move through some of the most intense situations life can sling and still really love each other.

As the landscape of relationships and what society views as normal shifts, it’s important for us all to encourage others (and ourselves!) to choose our own paths, knowing that sometimes they may be different that what used to be viewed as the “right way.” Or sometimes the best path for individuals is the path that has commonly been followed! You do you, boo.

As for me, I’m glad I switched up the marriage and baby milestones, and here’s why.

I’m not marrying a man I think will make a good father; I’m marrying a man I know will make a good father.

Our marriage will not begin on a foundation of hypothetical hopes; it will begin on a knowing that we make a really good team and are good at nurturing new team members. Parenthood throws couples into a blender of change, sometimes spitting them back out with a stronger relationship, and occasionally showing couples that maybe they’re better apart. Our first spin in the blender worked out pretty well, allowing me to move into marriage knowing that we’re capable of unified changing and growing.

I feel no pressure about meeting any preconceived notions about what our wedding should be.

I view this wedding as a celebration of what Eric and I have already built and are committing to continuing to build — not a celebration for the hope of something that may be. I hold no fear of something “going wrong” during our wedding (e.g., a rain storm, stained dress, or drunk best man speech) because I don’t view the wedding as a foreshadowing of how our relationship will continue to unfold; it’s just a party, and sometimes parties suck.

Image Source: Bailey Gaddis
Image Source: Bailey Gaddis

My child is already learning that his life doesn’t have to be dictated by society’s expectations.

My son is old enough to be aware that mommy and daddy are not married, yet we still have a happy and secure family. We’ve been able to talk to him about why we’re getting married and explain that even if we had chosen not to, we would still be just as committed to one another, and to him. I hope to continue showing him through example that he should feel empowered to take the pen from society and write his own life.

My son can be part of a fun milestone in our life instead of just seeing the photos.

Weddings are fun and poignant, and although this wedding won’t define our relationship, it will still be an exciting moment in its history. Because our son was such a powerful force in the forging of our bond, I think it’s fitting that he gets to be present for the party that celebrates that bond.

We’re getting married because we want to, not because other people told us we should.

When we became pregnant, everyone asked me if we were going to get married — assuming I would say yes. Our pregnancy was a surprise, and while it was a welcome surprise, we needed time to integrate with the bigness of it before we leaped into another ”biggie” — marriage. We didn’t feel right lumping it all together; we wanted each special landmark to stand on its own, being reached because it felt like what we were ready for, not what other people were ready for.

There is a delicious peace in setting aside the map of where you “should be going” and allowing life to organically unfold; settling into decisions and making moves, but not forcing — just allowing. That’s what this wedding is for me, an allowance of my life moving in the direction it naturally wants to go.

Where will you allow life to take you?

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