This time we were completely and totally at odds. Him on one side of the coin, me on the other. There was no meet in the middle, he gives a little/I give a little. Not this time.
This time it was heads or tails, black or white.
“David, do you think you can you do this for Julie?”
Silence blanketed the therapist’s small office—the office that my husband and I had spent many hours over the past few years, relentlessly spinning this decision round and round between us. Stuck in a spiral of power struggles, hurt feelings, and resentments that poked holes in and drained every aspect of our relationship.
I slowly sunk into the too-soft, purple couch glanced at my husband, noticing how his arms were crossed tightly around his chest. My gaze turned toward our therapist. Her patient and compassionate eyes felt like a safe place to linger as I waited in angst for David’s response to her question.
Could he have another child for me?
Negotiating the decision to have a third child grasped at each one of my heart strings that tightened and loosened as I wrestled with feelings of hope and despair. My resolution wedged into my brain like a concrete block. No logic, reasoning, or discussion could dislodge its certainty. To me, it felt like life or death, sink or swim, and possibly marriage or no marriage.
Yet, on the other side of our therapist’s purple couch sat the man who had been my husband for the past seven years, the father of my 4-year-old daughter and 2-year-old son. I loved this man. I did. I was grateful for the two healthy children, and the life we had built together. But right now, there was a force in him that I could not reckon with. A force that held the ends to each one of the strings connected to my heart.
“I just don’t know, he gingerly responded, seeking some refuge by looking out the frost-covered window. “I have enough energy and love to give to our two kids, and you, Julie. I don’t know if I have more to give. And we can afford the two, and…”his eyes turned slowly toward me, “I want to be young when our children leave home, so we can have fun together and see the world…” His voice trailed off and his words seemed to take him somewhere else, somewhere far in our future where it was just him and me. Somewhere I was not ready to go.
All I was able to hear was his icy word “NO,” which shocked and froze a piece of my spirit, annihilated a part of my soul. And then I felt the familiar burning, obsessive, inextinguishable inferno within me that screamed, “I am not done having children! Our family is not complete. I am not complete! This is my life and my family too! I get to have a say!”
And this is how it went. Round and round. Fire and ice. Our already passionate relationship hit new heights as heated conversations were laced with hurtful, verbal daggers thrown at one another, including a few mentions of the word divorce. Between parenting our two spirited children, and managing David’s grueling travel and work hours and my part time job, we both were running on fumes of sleep, and little or no time for ourselves or each other.
So why in the hell was my heart on fire for another baby?
Was it the amazing sense of purpose I had felt in being able to give and sustain life after surviving a life threatening battle with an eating disorder in my late teens? Was it a way to stave off some of the emptiness that I sometimes felt in my marriage? In myself? Was it to divert the uncertainty of what I wanted to do with my life outside of being a mother? Or was it, in some twisted way, a plea to save our marriage?
“David, it is very clear that you do not want another child,” our therapist addressed my husband. “And that you are concerned about your ability to handle the physical, emotional and financial responsibilities. But your wife does want another. And since there is no halfway, or compromising solution to this issue, I need you to ask yourself this critical question.
Once again, “Can you do this for Julie?”
“And Julie, here is the most important question for you to consider. “Do you want this child enough for the both of you?” My heart stopped as I felt the magnitude of her question set in. If David did this for me, could I live with that responsibility? I too glanced out the window, catching a glimpse of the December sun shimmering on the ice-covered lake visible in the distance. My mind raced as I began to ask myself, how would we handle a third child given all of his very real concerns? The reality of what I was asking him to do—for me—sent a chill of fear and self-doubt through my spine. Is this too much to ask of my husband—a good man, a loving and devoted father and partner? Was I testing his love for me? Was I selfish? Or was he?
Calmness came over me as my answer became crystal clear. “Yes, I do,” I blurted out. And then a flurry of tears poured out of my eyes, “I don’t know exactly why, but I want this child more than anything in the world.”
David and I left the office in silence, once again leaving the baby issue to linger on the purple couch. And yet we both knew that it wouldn’t and couldn’t stay there. It was too big and had taken up too much space between us. This decision lived like a large, gaping hole in the seams of our relationship, and one that if we did not find a way to weave ourselves back together, could end up splitting us into two separate pieces of torn fabric. But neither of us was ready to move in from our corners. I tried to go about daily life without slipping and falling on the thin ice on which we walked. I tried to maneuver around the big, white elephant that hung out in our living room. And in our bedroom.
A week after our therapy session was my 34th birthday. After a day of celebrating with the kids, David and I fell into bed, exhausted. Just as I was about to doze off to sleep, I felt his arms around me.
As he enveloped me in his gesture of kindness, selfless love, and generosity of spirit, every last piece of ice that separated us melted away.
“Happy birthday, Julie,” he whispered.
And a new fire was ignited.