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Our Daughter Made Our Marriage Stronger

For years, researchers have been reassuring those without children that perhaps they're better off. After all, children can hinder our social lives. They can erase our sex lives. They can make us overtired. Overwhelmed. And at the same time underappreciated. They can strain our wallets. They can strain our patience. They can strain our marriage.

Children will make you fight more, researchers said. And this scared me. Because my husband and I had definitely had our ups and downs.

When my husband and I first got together, I grappled with chronic depression, anxiety, and wild mood swings. Talk therapy and medication only helped a little bit. As a result, our relationship was volatile.

We fought often and we fought with intensity.

Then we decided we were ready to start a family.

That's when things got worse.

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Because for a year and a half, it just didn't work. And then we added infertility treatments into the mix, and that didn't work either. The both of us were devastated by our continued failure to conceive. But we each handled this devastation in very different ways. I was vocal about my growing pessimism, and began to push my husband to consider other options. My husband didn't want to think that far ahead. In fact, he didn't seem to want to think about it at all, or at least he didn't want to talk about it. He began going out every night with his coworkers, coming home long after I'd fallen asleep, avoiding me. We retreated from each other. We stopped communicating.

Maybe everything we struggled with before makes me see her impact on our lives differently.

After a period of unhappiness with the general state of things in our marriage, I lost my patience and demanded a change.

He suggested a separation.

The months immediately following this were hard. After some discussion, we both verbally renewed our commitment to our marriage. But I no longer felt secure in that marriage. I was constantly afraid he was going to leave me. It took individual and couples therapy, and some damn hard work, for us to get to a place where we both felt stronger in our marriage than we'd ever been before.

It was about another year after that before we finally got pregnant. And then, on the fourth of July, we had Em.

And despite what I'd read in the past, our mutual love for our daughter made me feel even more secure in our partnership.

Yeah, yeah. I know what you're thinking. Bitch is all Tra-la-la my life is so awesome! But I swear it's not like that.

In the beginning, there were days when I cried for hours, and the only thing I looked forward to were my weekly postpartum support group meetings. There were and still are the inevitable arguments with my husband that come from being two busy, overworked, and overwhelmed parents. I am really bummed out that I can't go to yoga six times a week. Or go on spontaneous dates with my husband. Or go on spontaneous outings to the bar with my friends.

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But I don't know. Maybe everything we struggled with before makes me see her impact on our lives differently. Maybe the new attitude of gratitude (blech) I try to bring to my life makes all the hard stuff seem small.

Last year, new research came out showing that having kids can actually make you happier. But I still don't know. Life is hard. Parenthood is hard. Everything is hard. I think maybe happiness just comes from how we respond to it all.

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