“The Porch Light”

So the other night around 9pm I went out my front door, to put the trash out by the curb for pickup the next morning. As I went out the door, I reached over and flipped on the switch for the porch light – and nothing happened. Nothing. Confused, I switched the switch up and down a few times, and still nothing. “What the heck?” I said. “This thing has always worked! I’ve never had a problem with it before! I just wanted to take the garbage out!” The thing that I counted on – the thing that I took for granted for always being there, wasn’t. I had to go get a new light bulb before it would work again.

I know you’re thinking “What the heck does this have to do with anything?” Well, sometimes I think we end up treating our darling wives like a the porch light! Being men, we tend to “move on the next challenge” after we get married. We think “ok, we got her, so now what’s the next challenge?” Our wives are left going “hey, where’s that romantic, talk on the phone with me into the wee hours of the morning, send me flowers all the time – guy I married?” – While we’re out working on the hot-rod  in the garage. We go through our day, week, month, acting like they will always be there, always know that we love them, always cook us dinner, always be “madly in love” with us, etc. – and never put any (or much) thought into “maintaining” or working on our relationship. How about trying to speak HER love language every once in a while?! If she’s anything like Val, she loves it when I take some time out of my night, turn off the TV, get off the computer, set my phone down, and give her even 20 minutes of my undivided attention and listen to her (without Sports Center in the background – because I know you were thinking about it.). I know this seems crazy to us guys, because after a long day talking to people at work, sometimes the last thing we want to do is talk – but this is HUGE for our wives (which if you’ll remember, don’t think like us)! Our wives just want to feel like they are #1 in our lives, and REALLY LISTENING to them talk about their day or what’s on their mind – is a great way to show that. What’s even better, is that most of the time I don’t even have to say much! It’s all about truly listening to her. That’s just one example. I’m sure you can come up with several more. So here’s a challenge: Don’t settle for the “same old, same old”, “ho-hum”, “same as it’s always been” relationship with your wife! Do something this week that you know she loves, and do it without any strings attached. You’ll be surprised how far a little creativity goes. It might just make her day.

Miscarriage: The subject that never get’s brought up.

This is a tough post for me, and for most guys to talk about. It’s a topic, that if you’ve been through it first hand, that guys like to “stuff” and avoid thinking about, because we can’t “fix” the problem, and if you’re like me,  that drives you nuts. This is also one of those trials in life that no one talks about. When you go through it, your friends, and even your family, seem to walk on egg shells around you. It’s ends up being the elephant in the room. That being said –  I must admit that before I went through it first hand, I had some friends that went through it, and I was the same way. Scared I would say the wrong thing, that they would become upset if I mentioned it, I would even avoid them if I saw them in a store, all because I didn’t know what to say. I wish I knew then, what I know now: that it means a lot to the couple going through it if you were to just ask “hey guys, how are you holding up?” – and mean it – it would help so much. Just to break the silence. And so I share our story….

July 13th, 2011 is the 1 year ago mark for Val and I going through the heart-breaking loss of loosing a child to miscarriage. I still remember that day like it was yesterday, even though I have tried to forget. It was a sunny, beautiful day like most days in the Summer here in the Valley. Val and I were going in for a normal 15 week checkup with ultra-sound, and I had the day off from work. We ran a couple of errands before her appointment as we often do. Everything was normal. Val was even feeling better than she had been with the pregnancy. She had gotten up that day and said she felt good, and was hoping the “morning sickness” was finally over.

We finally arrived at the medical center after running all of our errands, and waited for her name to be called. We had done this many times before, as this was our third pregnancy, and when you live in a small town, there’s only one place you go for your ultra-sound. We knew the routine, and the staff. It was all normal. The guy who always runs the ultra-sound machine had Val lay down on the table like always, there was the normal warning about the gel maybe being cold, etc. Just another “normal” appointment.

Val could tell something was wrong before I could. I think I knew it too, but was in denial. “This doesn’t happen to us. We have healthy babies”, I kept telling myself.  The Tech. tried to act like nothing was wrong, but after about 10 minutes, said he had to go find the doctor to “look at something”. No explanation, no reason. The time it took for the doctor to come down from upstairs seemed like an eternity. I still remember the dead quiet of the room, except for the constant whirring of the ultra-sound machine. We didn’t say much to each other. We both knew.

The doctor finally arrived, and after conferring with the tech, told us “I’m very sorry, but there is no heartbeat. It looks like there was an abnormality in the brain-stem. I’m so sorry”. I could see his lips moving, and hear his voice, but it felt like I was in someone else’s body. Numb. Like it was some kind of bad dream. The doctor and Tech left the room to “give us a minute”, and I went over and held my wife as we cried together. This was not supposed to happen! This was a normal checkup! They must have something wrong – we don’t go through this, this doesn’t happen to us – were some of the thoughts racing through my head. There was such a feeling of empty. Shock. They told us to go home, and we would have to schedule a “D&C” for a later date.

I still remember walking out of that little room, and down what seemed like a really long hallway, that in reality wasn’t more than a brief walk. I remember thinking that you’re supposed to leave that room happy, talking about names, or the video of the ultra-sound you’re going to show your family – all the happy, normal thoughts that you’re supposed to have at that stage. But it seemed like I was in a dream. One that for some reason, I couldn’t escape from.

The first few days afterwords were really tough. The worst part was having to call our family and friends to tell them the news. Val was in no shape to talk, so I called our family one by one, and tried to put on a “God know’s best” face – all the while still feeling like I was in a daze. In my “guy” mind, there had to be some way to “fix” this! I would replay every possible solution over and over in my head, knowing full well there wasn’t one. The days ticked by, and rolled into weeks. I tried to be as supportive as I could to Val, but I felt like I just didn’t have the words to say that would help comfort her. Again, trying to “solve” it, I tried to encourage her by saying that we could “try again”, and that “we just have to believe the Lord has a plan in this somewhere hon”.  As the weeks turned into months,I began to look for projects to fill my time. Something to get my mind off of it. From my “guy” perspective, it’s so much easier to just put it behind me as much as I can, and bury it or push it down so I didn’t have to deal with remembering the pain.

A few months after the D&C procedure, I remember wondering why Val was having so much trouble “moving on” from it, and concentrating on trying again – or “fixing” it. It was hard to wrap my male mind around. “Why she would want to always be thinking about it! WHY would you want to remember the pain? WHY can’t we begin to move past this, we can make it better, we’ll just get pregnant again!” were my thoughts. I tried to be understanding, and supportive of her, but she was taking my attitude as “me not caring about our loss”. She instead wanted me to cry with her. She wanted someone to feel the pain with her, and not feel like she was the only one that was stuck in this grief that had gripped us both. But I was dealing with in a very different way. I needed to look through her eyes. It took me a lot of trial and much error, but I finally began to understand what my wife was longing for from me:

  • She wanted me to remember – she didn’t want me to act like it never happened! I wanted to put it behind me, but she needed me to remember with her! This was key to her being able to heal.
  • She wanted me to bring it up in conversation – This was so hard for me, but so important to her! It showed her that I remembered our baby in heaven, and I was missing him/her too. She wasn’t alone.
  • She needed me to hold her and let her cry – She wanted me to put down the “tough guy” routine, and hold her. To tell her that it’s ok to cry. Allow her to grieve. To grieve together.
  • She wanted to know it affected me also – Although I thought this would be pretty obvious, she said several times that “she felt alone” in her sadness when I would not talk about it, and deal with it by working in the garage, or taking a drive on the bike. Is needed to show her that it was hard for me too.
Loss of a child – born or unborn – is one of the hardest tests your marriage may ever go through. There’s no way around that. The biggest thing to remember is that men and women grieve in much different ways! This can not be overstated! There is not a WRONG way to grieve, God just designed us to do so differently, and it’s our job as husbands to learn and  understand our wives – even when it doesn’t make sense to us – and support and love them – especially during  times when the hurt is so deep.

The “Cast”

So I said that I would introduce the cast of characters that make up our little (but getting bigger) family. Here goes…

Gerad (Dad) – That’s me. You know about me.

Valerie – That’s my beautiful wife. She is the most amazing wife/mom/cook/housekeeper/teacher/best friend/multi-tasker I could ever ask for.

Benjamin (4yrs) – Ah yes, our firstborn. As like most firstborn, he was “easy” and made us think that “this whole kid thing isn’t that hard, I don’t know what everybody’s complaining about.” He is a little wary of some things like loud rides at the fair, but loves loud “race cars” that go by. Takes after me in most things. Loves cars, anything that moves, soft heart, plays drums like a champ, and loves music.

Corbynn (2yrs) – The whole “this parenting thing is easy” went down the tubes when she came along. She is the classic, not afraid of anything (besides firetrucks that come around our corner), brave, strong-willed, “will walk right off the ledge of the play-set at the park unless you catch her” kind of girl. She’s got the most amazing BIG brown eyes that she uses quite often to “soften” dad when she get’s into trouble. She’s my little “Corber-bear”, and has me wrapped around most of her fingers. 

Cohen (Born 8-19-2011) Then there’s the newest addition to the family, who at this point is only interested in milk and sleeping…oh, and being super cute! I can’t wait to start to see his personality start to come out! 😉

Surely that doesn’t count as a “date”….right?

Sometimes marriage is funny. Today Val and I went to lunch at our favorite Mexican restaurant and afterwords went to Starbucks, ordered 2 iced teas, and sat outside talking and playing “Words for Friends” (it’s like Scrabble) on our phones. It was great to be able to get away from the kids for a couple of hours, turn our minds “off” from the cares of life, and just enjoy each others company while having a little fun playing a game we both enjoy.

So here’s my question: Is that really a date?! I say YES!  It sure meant a lot to my wife, who speaks in “time” as her love language. Sometimes us husbands get a little confused by what our wives really want when they say “date”. Men get this idea of expensive dinner, putting on the dress shirt you never wear, flowers, etc, etc, etc, when it comes to going on a “date”. And there’s nothing wrong with that every once in a while, but unless you are one of those lucky families that has a maid to take care of the laundry, dishes, house, kids and all those other things that seem to never go away, odds are you don’t get that opportunity much. So why not take those “normal times” you find yourselves together, and make them count! When it comes down to it, our wives just want to spend time with us. They want to be number one on our mental “to do” list. Before the lawn. Before the Cars get washed. Before Golf and ESPN. So remember – when your wife says she wants to go on a date, you don’t have to always haul out the dozen roses, and try to scrape together $50 for a “nice” dinner. Sometimes all it takes is a couple iced teas, a silly game, and laughing and being with each other.

What the heck is a blog?

“Blog” sounds like something I find underneath Corbynn’s high chair. Definitely never thought I would be writing one – but here I am. I am not a writer, I do NOT have any degrees in how to raise children, or be a good husband. What I do have is a desire to be the best husband and dad that I can be, with God helping a lot, and a tongue in cheek way of looking at life. I’ll try to avoid putting you to sleep, unless of course you are as sleep deprived as most parents are, and if so, it wouldn’t matter anyway. My next post will introduce the cast of characters (aka family) to you, but for now I have to get to bed, because my kid’s idea of fun is to get up right as the sun is rising above the horizon, and softly knocking on my bedroom door until I finally give in and realize that the knocking sound I think is in my dream, isn’t.