In the last month, I have been consistently busier at work than ever before in the five years I’ve been a lawyer. I’ve made it home before the kids are in bed only a handful of times, and have gone into the office for full workdays on the weekends. I am stressed, I am tired, and I am short-tempered.
My wife has also had a crazy-stressful run at work. She is emotionally exhausted, and picking up all the slack at home caused by my long hours. She is stressed, she is tired, and she is short-tempered.
Normally, for us anyway, this kind of a situation would cause us to fight. We are both passionately strong-willed women who are often convinced of our own underlying competence and general right-ness. And we’re both lawyers! In the lead up to our wedding last year, we snapped, argued, and debated our way up to the altar. On our honeymoon, with the stress of the wedding behind us and a long stretch of days to be together, we talked about the wedding and decided that if we could so the whole thing over again, there was only one thing we’d do differently. We’d spend the night together the night before the wedding.
See, we had this huge misunderstanding on our wedding day, caused 100% by the fact that we couldn’t really communicate with each other. We had decided not to see each other until we walked down the aisle, so the getting-ready portion of the day was a series if clipped cell phone conversations, ambiguous text messages, and comments filtered through well-intentioned friends and relatives. If we had seen each other, face to face, and just talked for even a few minutes, that last minute misunderstanding-turned-argument could have been avoided.
And so, we made another vow to each other on our honeymoon, one that I think is every bit as important as the vows we made at our wedding. Going forward, we promised each other, over dinner on a soft night in the Caribbean, we would lean in to each other. When things got hard, and stressful, and we had too much on our plates and too little time, we would support each other and rely on our marriage and our love for each other to get us through.
Over the past year, this has been tested. Sometimes we have failed, and we’ve taken our stress out on each other, we’ve let disagreements escalate into arguments and arguments into full-scale fights. We’ve let parenting disagreements get the better of us.
But this time, by some small miracle or by sheer force of will, we are doing it right. When I snapped at my wife for an entire day on Sunday, she was patient with me. When I hung up on her yesterday after she took it poorly that it would be another 16 hour workday for me, I called back and apologized for taking it out on her that I was so frustrated with work. But mostly, we’ve just leaned on each other, talked, cried, and fought through our stressful life side by side, instead of head to head.
I am shocked how much trying to get pregnant has added to the stress of it all. I’m convinced that we were too late with the insemination this month, and that I’m not pregnant. My wife is more hopeful than that, and has been having conversations with our little peanut that I’m not privy to. This is the piece that has been so important to me this month. I need her hope. I need to believe we didn’t waste our precious time and money doing something that was pointless. Even if this isn’t the month, I need to believe that it could be the month (or could have been the month, if it turns out not to be). I need her telling me that, you know what? People get pregnant in war zones. Those women have more stress and less sleep than I do, and they get pregnant. Maybe it’s not the optimal thing for fertility, to be working 16 hours a day and commuting for 3, but it’s also not the end of the story. So she tucks me in, keeps the dog quiet for what few hours of sleep I get, and rubs my shoulder on the weekend (yes, only one shoulder, then she got tired – I take what I can get) to get the knots out.