One thing that really shocked me when I had a child was realizing how much I needed to change and become a better person. I always thought I was a pretty decent person before my daughter was born, although I knew I had some baggage from a rough childhood. Secure in the knowledge that I made it through abuse and neglect, I thought I could handle almost anything. I was unprepared for the way the everyday stress of raising a child can expose all the weak points in your foundation. The strain of all those sleepless nights, the severe reduction in my libido, and the postpartum depression highlighted the inequalities in my marriage and made me realize I would never be happy if I didn’t work on all the broken parts of me that I had built my life on. My marriage became very rocky in the months after my daughter was born. I needed to fix our house so I tried to work on me and my relationship with my husband, and I thought I was fixing things most of the time, but I think all I was really doing was spackling the cracks in the walls and not giving too much thought to where they were really coming from.
We weathered a lot in the 3 years after our daughter was born. We had three cross-country moves, a failed graduate program that racked up enormous loans, several bouts with unemployment and one very temporary bout with homelessness. We struggled through without really working on any of our problems because we were merely surviving. I thought living with my mother in law would be the end of our marriage, but we made it. We were so relieved that we didn’t really notice how big the cracks in the walls had grown.
When our son died there was no shoring up. I merely took one breath after the other until I woke up one day not wanting to die. It was impossible to see the cracks in the living room when a whole wing of the house had burned to the ground. We held on to each other to keep from being buried in the ashes of our hopes, and thought that made us stronger. But the cracks just grew. When I could see them again, they only looked smaller because the parts of our house that were completely gone were so huge. I guess we didn’t notice that the foundation had shaken down to almost nothing, and all that was holding those cracked walls together was wishful thinking and denial.
Now we have this new child* and the strain was finally too much. Our parenting styles are so different, and we have such a history of hurts never healed, that one question was enough to blow the whole house down. I don’t know if it can be built back up again. I don’t know if I have the strength to try.
No, Sean, there isn’t anyone else. There never has been. I want you to know that no matter how angry or hurt I’ve been these last ten years, I never once didn’t trust you. The fact that you don’t trust me has broken my heart.
*It is not the fault of the girl we are trying to adopt that our marriage is so weak. This was a long time coming and I shouldn’t have ignored my worries that our marriage wasn’t strong enough to parent a special needs child. I think this might have happened even if our son had lived. I’m so scared now that I will cause more damage to M, but I won’t EVER give her back.