“We’ve got five years, that’s all we‘ve got!”
We had sung those words from David Bowie’s “Five Years” on countless road trips since dating, and with especially celebratory gusto once we hit our five-year anniversary of marriage. On October 16th, 2017, however, our usual road trip soundtrack carried some unmistakably somber tones.
That day was inarguably the most important road trip of our lives, one to mark the end of an era. Our last drive as a family of two, the destination was not exotic, but certainly significant—the hospital where I would be delivering our twin boys via scheduled c-section. What a strange thing, to have an appointment to meet your children! That day would be, without a doubt, the point of no return.
In the months leading up to the birth of my children, my excitement and anticipation had been met with numerous forms of anxiety, one of which involved my marriage. As much as I had longed for children, during those last days of pregnancy, I experienced a sense of grief related to how our life together would inevitably change with the arrival of our sons. We enjoyed five exceptional years of marriage together—not without hardship, for certain, but a period marked by deeply-rooted friendship, spontaneity, and intimacy. We had truly grown up together, cultivating a deep commitment to share whatever life threw at us. As The Day of our planned C-section neared, I cried to my husband, remembering a graph of marital happiness from one of my college psychology courses. The line quantifying marital bliss steadily, naively climbed, only to plummet once children entered the picture. I imagined the drop in my stomach, were we to fall just as hard…twice as hard, perhaps, with twins? It seemed as if the “good days” were nearly behind us.
Gently, unceasingly, my husband held me and reassured me of the days ahead. Would they be hard? Absolutely. Would there still be romance and happiness? We would fight to ensure it. We wrote new vows to each other, which we read at our last date night before our boys’ birth. We pledged our love and commitment and spoke of how we would try to reach each other amidst the chaos of raising newborns. I pored over his words and savored those final moments of it just being “us two.” As much as I tried to envision our new life as parents in mental preparation, I knew I wouldn’t understand until we were actually living it.
Sure enough, our boys, Elliott and Asher, entered the world on the appointed day, and my heart ached as it swelled in ways I didn’t know were possible. Our greatest shared adventure had officially begun. Those five days in the hospital were some of the best and hardest moments in my life. After riding the sort of manic bliss following delivery, I crashed hard on our third night in the hospital. Sleep deprivation, breastfeeding challenges, and plummeting hormones caught up with me and brought on tears like I had never experienced. I sobbed in the bathroom at 3 AM, wondering how we could be expected to go home, how we would survive this kind of challenge. He held me and cried, again reassuring me that we would get through this together. In that moment, my eyes, red and swollen, were opened to a new kind of romance.
I was amazed that hospital staff determined we were fit to be discharged after all they had witnessed. You really trust us to take care of these precious babies? We took our first road trip home as a family of four and were largely silent, weary and embattled by the first few days of parenthood. We were relieved to be returning to our familiar environment but terrified at the challenges ahead. Oh, the challenges.
It’s a humbling and heartbreaking revelation, to realize parenting does not impose ugliness on you, but rather, exposes the inherent crookedness of your heart. I remembered our vows to fight for each other, as we truly had to fight like never before in those early days of parenting and beyond. Sleep deprivation and stress revealed an edge that hadn’t existed in our marriage before; it seemed especially difficult to be kind and quick to forgive. As one of our boys would cry for the umpteenth time in the middle of the night, I experienced the moral dilemma of whether I would get out of bed or wait for my husband to stir. Each day and night brought new tests of sacrificial love, and as often as I would witness my own failures in this area, I would discover new facets of my husband’s love and commitment.
Prior to a one-night getaway, a friend had suggested my husband and I not discuss our children during the trip, in an effort to focus on ourselves as a couple. I looked at her, confused, and protested. Just as our attraction and friendship grew over common interests, our children have become a shared passion, an inside joke. I smile recounting the times my husband has made me cry from laughter during a late-night feeding—imitating one of our boys or making fun of their antics. Through these moments, domestic and monotonous, romance has blossomed in new ways that will never be advertised on the cover of Cosmopolitan. I am convinced that putting our marriage first does not entail periodically pretending our children do not exist. Rather, it is being intentional about finding each other in our shared, but different experiences as parents. Just as my own body grew to nurture our babies, so our marriage has expanded to provide space for these new beings.
Now, as my boys are a few months old, I no longer view them as an obstacle to be overcome in my marriage. Rather, they are beautiful, tiny manifestations of our love, borne of our one flesh. Their very existence presents us with opportunities to fail, confess, repent, and experience God’s grace as a couple—the lifelong process that continues to knit our hearts together more intimately.
Those five years without children will always be a period of time I cherish with sentimentality. However, they are not the golden years (no pun intended, fellow Bowie fans!) of our relationship. Rather, they served as a sort of launchpad for us, a training ground in which to build the foundation for our future family. For five years, we were able to practice love without the responsibility of raising little humans, and now that practice continues in a more challenging arena. Just as it was before twins, our love is imperfect, and drives us to our Savior in desperation, ready to receive the grace that sustains us both. I know it is this truth about love that will carry us through the years and adventures ahead.
(photo by Hill Smiley Photography)
Michelle Gee lives on the Central Coast of California, with her husband, Jon, and sons, Elliott and Asher. She is pursuing a life of devotion and wonder in the midst of early motherhood. When not writing, Michelle enjoys serving at her church, reading, singing and playing guitar, cooking, hiking, and great conversation over a glass of red wine. You can connect with her on Facebook and Instagram.
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