Ten years ago I was looking forward to my senior year of high school. I had a plan. I knew what I wanted and nothing was going to get in my way of achieving that goal. I was going to go to college, double major in history and political science, graduate early, go to grad school, become a professor, get tenured, go into politics, become President.
I had my plan, down to the most minute detail and all I had to do was work hard and nothing would stop me. I worked hard at school taking extra credits to meet my goal of graduating early, I lived in my own apartment so I worked hard 30-40 hours a week to pay for it, I was in the Air National Guard so that took up a weekend a month and my ambition to succeed followed me there as well, and I was trying to plan a wedding. Life was stressful, but I thrive under pressure so I’d just pop a few Tylenol when my head was pounding and keep plugging along.
Trying to be perfect at everything caused everything to suffer. Soon I was having chest pains, hardly able to walk from my bedroom to the kitchen let alone keep up my schedule of school, work, and life. Turns out if you’re taking things like Tylenol all the time it’s probably a good idea to have food in your stomach. I was 20 years old and had given myself the start of an ulcer and a terrible case of Acid Reflux.
I scaled back, dropped my second major, cut back my hours, let my mom and sister take over the wedding plans. I let go of dreams that no longer thrilled me like they had just a few years early. I realized a new dream.
I wanted a good job that satisfied me and gave me the freedom to have a home life, I wanted to be a good wife and I really wanted to be a mom. I had never realized that before this point, always claimed I didn’t want to get married or have kids, saying I had things I wanted to do instead. And here I was one of the first people in my friend group to be getting married. We married and dealt with so many of the issues that newlyweds go through, with the added stress of the worst recession in a generation. He was unemployed, I was deployed.
Life was tough, but I was stubborn and determined that no matter what things were going to work. I think back to that time and I am still blown away by the pain and tears and the frustration of two very different people trying to work a relationship with thousands of miles in between. I completely understand why so many military marriages end. It’s HARD.
I came home, we struggled to re-adjust, but persevered and things went to a pretty good place. I went to grad school, he went back to work and we started talking about having kids. Going into our relationship we knew it wouldn’t be easy, I have PCOS and my body is one hormonal mess but I had hopes that modern medicine could help us, if not we had embraced the idea of adopting. So I pushed forward, I realize now I pushed harder than I should have, but ambition doesn’t just have to be placed in your career. I had a new plan and a new goal and I was going for it. My doctor suggested we take 6 months and try naturally to conceive if nothing happened we’d look into a specialist. At the same time we put in our application to adopt from the foster care system, figuring we would leave it in God’s hands to decide what route we become parents.
Then life threw us for another loop and I was offered a good job in Arkansas, a couple hundred miles from our friends and family. Taking it would be good for my career and let my husband go to school but it meant walking away from the adoption process. I agonized over it, struggled and tossed and turned, wrote countless pros/cons lists and finally…accepted the position.
Again we were in the position where we had to do the long distance thing. A very long summer apart, not nearly as bad as overseas but again with the misunderstandings and pain and frustrations. I loved my job, I had great co-workers, made amazing friends, but he wasn’t happy. We gave it an honest shot and looked into adopting in Arkansas (but I was less than impressed with their system) so we moved forward with having a baby. I got into the specialists office and had a great doctor. We came up with a conception plan and I started the rounds of hormones, clomid, ultrasounds and more hormones. My body went crazy, weight gain, puffiness, hot flashes, mood swings. Basically every bad side effect you can get. But I didn’t care, if it meant I would have a baby than it was worth it.
But things weren’t getting better, my body was rejecting everything and after a few rounds of these less invasive measures the doctor suggested in-vitro. A line I had made a long time ago not to cross. I was weary, my body hurt, my soul was torn, depression I had fought for a long time was taking over and I just wasn’t strong enough. I had no one to lean on, I felt so alone. We moved home to Michigan hoping that would bring us back together and help bridge the huge gaps that had been forming in our relationship for a long time. We tried counseling, tried screaming and crying, tried doing more together, tried doing more apart, everything we could. I was stubborn I didn’t want to give up, didn’t want to be a failure. Met with our pastor, agreed to one more try…. Little less than a year later we both realized it wasn’t working anymore.
Marriage is hard, very hard. You’re taking two different people, in two different places in their life and trying to get them to the same place. Under the best of circumstances that’s hard. But when you throw in the difficulties of infertility, very different personalities and goals, different desires for the future than you’re looking at an impossibility. After 5 years of fighting and struggling we accepted defeat. That was the hardest call I’ve ever made in my life. To give up. Not something I do easily, but at some point you have to step back and do what’s necessary to survive.
I now had a new struggle, a new career, a house I had to now pay for alone, a life to pick up and move on with, and so many questions and not many answers. I worked two jobs just to barely pay the bills, I started dating a whole new world as a ‘grown-up’, I got my heart broken, I travelled, I gardened, I met interesting people.
I had finally figured out what I really wanted….I wanted to be happy. I wanted a partner, I wanted a job I enjoyed that paid the bills but didn’t go home with me each night. I wanted to make good food and feed my friends, I wanted to enjoy the simple joys in life. I wanted peace and joy and laughter. Life is still hard at times, sometimes there are more bills than money in the bank, sometimes I burn the pie, sometimes I forget to set my alarm, sometimes my pea plants all die. But none of that takes away from my joy.
Maybe I’ll never have kids, and that thought makes me so sad sometimes, but like Dustin is fond of reminding me “there are worst fates in life than being Carl and Ellie.”
I have joy, I have a partner in life, I have a good job, a beautiful home, a pantry that is starting to fill with wonderful bounty. I have a plan for the next five years. Of course we have lots of goals; to be debt free, to buy our homestead, to raise our goats. But those are goals. The Plan is simple…..be happy!