Joel and I are coming up on our 4th anniversary next week, and the 6th year that we've known each other this summer, and it's been a pretty crazy journey so far. When we met, we both had good jobs and were on top of the world, so to speak; we could afford what we wanted and had no responsibilities other than ourselves. That first summer was amazing, full of adventures and road trips and random spontaneous acts of joy and exploration. A few months after we met, I bought the home I'd been living in, and a month or so after that, we moved in together... things seemed to be almost perfect, at that moment. How could anything possibly go wrong?
Two weeks after Joel moved in with me, his job laid him off, and two months after that, the housing market took what was the beginning of its fatal dive. The financial crunch had just begun, and we felt it immediately. Still, we thought things would pick back up soon and we could get back to focusing on our lives together instead of how to pay bills. Instead, our lives just became more and more defined by our financial crisis. As our money issues increased, though, so did our affection for each other and our determination to make it through. The bright note that year was our engagement, and we followed it up with a small elopement witnessed by only a few friends the next February. Unfortunately, we followed that up by declaring bankruptcy and surrendering our home to the bank. It was a very tough time, finally admitting to the world and to ourselves that we were in way over our heads... but it was necessary. Things were a bit easier emotionally after that, because we didn't have the massive debt hanging over us anymore, and we moved into a rental home that would allow us to start trying for a family. We're both getting older, and didn't want to start our childrearing at age 45 or something. My favorite memory of that year was when Joel surprised me with a trip to San Francisco just before my birthday, and we saw "Monsoon Wedding" in a funky theater. It was very romantic, and definitely needed.
Again, though, life wasn't quite done teaching us some lesson or other. We enjoyed a mostly uneventful pregnancy until the last month, when we started experiencing some serious problems. There was daily bleeding, and days when we felt the baby wasn't moving, early contractions, and multiple visits to the birthing center. The day he was born via emergency c-section, I went through the worst fears of my life... trying to stay positive about your baby's chances while simultaneously hemorrhaging is a difficult task, and I definitely struggled to keep from bursting into tears every minute. But guess what? We made it through that with no major complications, and welcomed our darling boy into the world. Just a few months after that, I was laid off from my job, and then not two months later, Joel was laid off from his. Yet another challenge, but how could we even think about that, when we had a little one to focus on... or sometimes, less focusing and more just exhausted sleep was going on.
After the initial sleeplessness and bizarre rituals of introducing a newborn into your household were established, we started to realize just how much parenthood changes a marriage. It changes every way you relate to each other, or at least it should... we struggled with learning how to stay connected to each other while building a connection to this new little person, and I think it's going to be a lifelong learning process. But it has been worth it; every time I look at my son's face, I know it was worth everything.
And this brings us back to my husband... we've been through some very lean years together. Very, very lean. And those times aren't over yet. We're still in the midst of a major financial crisis, and yet somehow we are sticking together through all of the stress and worry and humiliation of asking for yet another loan or more support from family. I'm really looking forward to getting on our feet again sometime soon... not only because it'll be a relief to finally stop worrying about whether or not we're paying rent next month, but also because I want to see how this changes our relationship yet again. If we've survived these hard times, then how much better will it be when we're not struggling financially anymore? I can't wait to find out...