Marriage, Parenthood, and Illness

Bear with me this evening as I attempt to gather my thoughts …

Fifteen years ago — on October 22 — I married my best friend. I’ve only ever been in three relationships. The first was as a teenager, and it was full of poetry, drama, hidden issues, and eventually heartbreak.

The second was one of those “storybook” romances … I moved into the same area as a young man who, when we were children, my grandmother insisted I would marry. Sadly, the romance included “conditions” that I eventually decided I would never be happy conforming to.

As a young adult, I was convinced I’d marry someone I’d known my whole life. As it turns out, I married a man I met one evening at an innocent get-together. We dated six months before he asked me to marry him, and honestly I was already planning our wedding. He was so refreshingly different from my previous suitors … protective, hilarious, and sweet (not romantic, but there was no doubt in my mind about his feelings towards me). My mother has said that her primary memory of our courtship (I lived at home) was laughter. We had many differences in background, maturity, and interests. But with him, I was safe.

Ours was a whirlwind romance … we married one year to the day after we met. We did so much getting to know each other in those first years of marriage. Did we have struggles? Of course! But even when doubts crowded my mind, I held onto three things: 1) This man loves me like crazy; 2) I feel completely safe — safer than I’d felt in years — with him; and 3) He makes me laugh. We make each other laugh.

You’ll notice that the above is written in present tense. That’s because they have been a constant in our marriage. And I am not exaggerating when I write that we have been through a lot! Over the last 15 years we have been diagnosed with chronic illnesses, we have lost family members to death, we got through the shock of a surprise pregnancy and are so far raising an awesome kid. Together, we have gone through five surgeries (one for him and four for me), numerous diagnoses, and several scary issues.

I love him. I love him. I love him. He is the definition of a good man. And he continues to be as we face more scary possibilities.

This evening I was researching something related to my health when my son ran over to me. He thought I was still playing a game I’d played earlier. I quickly pulled my iPad away from view — I didn’t want him to see what I was researching — and he decided it was an investigation. He commenced sneaking around trying to see the screen. Eventually my husband explained that Mommy didn’t want him to see because I didn’t want him to worry. After that explanation, he continued to engage in whatever game he was playing, but changed his role to be protector over me.

I wonder if he has learned this from his father. Does he see how my husband takes care of me and feel that he should protect me, too? Is it a typical mother-son relationship? I don’t know, but I am all at once filled with gratefulness and regret. Gratefulness that our son is growing up to be a sensitive boy in some ways. And regretful that at age nine, he would feel a need to protect his mother.

Our kid was a surprise. I cannot pretend that I planned how I would mother. The reality is that I had already been diagnosed with Psoriatic Arthritis (aka PsA; an autoimmune disease), and my husband and I decided it would probably be better if we did not have children. But we welcomed our pregnancy fiercely, protectively, and with our whole hearts enmeshed in it.

We have had parenting fails and parenting successes. Days come where this Mama just can’t and we have to improvise. Days have come where I’ve felt well and been able to focus on the kid like I focus on a good book.

Recently my days have been filled with unusual symptoms and diagnoses and an overwhelming fatigue. Not to mention the ongoing question of, “Is it allergies or an infection.” (I never know, especially not having PsA). I certainly did not want to raise a child while combatting illness, but it is our reality.

I hold onto — our whole family does — the hope and the knowledge that things will get better. And so, as I cope with uncertain times, I pray (a lot), I enjoy my kid as much as I possibly can, and I rely on my husband to continue to make me laugh.

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