A year and a half into our marriage, my husband and I found ourselves expecting our first baby. It was unexpected, to say the least. We lived in a tiny, one bedroom apartment and had lived off of one meager income for the duration of our marriage. While we knew that children were in our future, we didn’t anticipate “the future” greeting us so soon. What we didn’t know was the baby was only the beginning of adjustments for our life plan.
A month into my pregnancy, my husband started having problems with his hip. He found himself in excruciating pain and was progressively losing mobility in the joint. By the second month of my pregnancy, he could barely walk across a parking lot. My pregnancy progressed, and we went from appointment to appointment trying to discover what was ailing his body. No one could explain what was happening. The joint pain progressed from one hip to both. He had to take one stair at a time. By the time my belly had expanded to an uncomfortable size, I found myself on the floor putting my husband’s shoes on for him, as he could no longer bend to reach them. Though my husband needed compassion, I felt resentment build in my heart as I tied his laces, wondering who was going to tie mine.
The various doctors could find no answer, and by the time our beautiful baby was born, my husband was so weak he couldn’t transition from sitting to standing while holding our 7lb 4oz son. The fatigue of a newborn wore on me as the worsening fatigue of illness took every ounce my husband had. The joint swelling had expanded to his hips, knees, and an elbow. He began having hallucinations, and the vibrant personality I had fallen in love with had faded. I struggled to love my husband patiently. I felt as if I was enduring and savoring parenthood all alone. It grieved my heart that he didn’t have the capacity to fully feel the joy of our new baby. I found myself married to someone who was a mere shadow of the person I had fallen in love with. We didn’t know what to do. I distinctly remembering lamenting to a friend that I only had the capacity to care for one helpless being, yet I found myself with two. We finally visited an alternative medicine doctor that gave my husband a regimen that gradually improved his fatigue and joint swelling over the following 6 months. The doctor was never able to fully diagnose his illness, nor fully resolve his symptoms. We spent the next several years seeking the wisdom and help of every kind of health provider we could. His health very slowly improved with the various treatments, eventually reaching about 75% of his healthy state.
Today, it’s been nearly 6 years since he first had health problems. He still doesn’t have a diagnosis. His knees remain chronically swollen, and his large joints still ache often. His mobility is still slightly impaired, and he is still unable to play the sports he used to enjoy. However, his personality and energy levels have returned and we have been able to relish in the joys of our two children, traveling, and the adventures of new career opportunities.
Through the journey I have learned that I meant it when I said, “in sickness and in health.” I have learned that loving without expectation is an acquired skill that takes more than I have to give on my own merit. I have learned the intimacy my husband and I shared on the day we wed only scratched the surface of the intimacy we would discover in our experiences together. More than anything, I have learned that in the highs and the lows, the expected and the unexpected, my husband is still the one with whom I would choose to journey through it all.
-Callie R., a labor and delivery nurse and mom of two with another on the way