Sometimes I think I spend so much time focusing on the wedding and on building healthy foundations to this wedding because it's all I can do. It's some sort of desperately inadequate insurance policy against our unknowable future. With any luck, we've got another 50+ years together in which we'll celebrate joys and face down terrifying emotional journeys together. We both know that life isn't easy. We've seen illness closeup and watched how it changes families and we know how it can strike suddenly and without mercy. I've seen other friends deal with mourning the loss of their parents, children and partners. We really never know. We hope, and marriage is part of that hope.
I worry sometimes that our marriage won't be strong enough to survive, if things ever get really bad. I already know we can handle bad, but it's the can't-even-mention-it-for-fear-of-stirring-the-devil Bad that I worry about in my darkest moments. Although we're working so hard on the underpinnings of our relationship, even as we decorate it all in the trappings of white dresses and wedding flowers, I wonder how any relationship survives those sorts of Bad. I have true and genuine faith in us and how our relationship is built on a foundation of shared values, shared religion/spirituality, shared politics, some shared activities, mutual respect, and a healthy sense of humor about the world. That foundation is absolutely critical, and its our only ballast against the horrors of the sort of soul-crushing Bad that stirs my secret unruly fears.
No one can ever see the future, and so we just stumble on, hopeful and ready to tackle problems as they arise. And 99% of the time, I'm happy to stumble forward, comforted my incredible faith in us. Faith is the only word for it. Faith - not in God, but in Us - is the only thing that that can usually keep that fear of the awful at bay. But, sometimes, the fear of the unmentionably dark Bad creeps in anyhow. And right now, my fear is centering around babies. Not the fear of having babies, but the fear of being unable to have them, and what that years-long struggle can do to a couple.
As I was reading Offbeat Bride yesterday, Ariel linked to a post on her sister site Offbeat Mama that detailed her years-long challenge with infertility. By the end, I was an emotional wreck. I've had babies on the brain lately. My best friend since age five just had a baby. One of my closest friends from college just got pregnant. A blogland friend just announced her pregnancy. One of my colleagues is about to have his second baby. I'm filled with so much baby-related joy that I could burst, even if it hasn't pushed me to reconsider our three-years-from-now timetable. (Sorry, Mom.) But Ariel's discussion of her five painful years struggling against infertility was a glimpse into how the inability to have a baby can wreak havoc on a life and, I can only imagine, a marriage. It's the sort of Bad I worry about. It feels close and possible and like it's an all-too-real Bad that could snake into our lives and slowly poison love. It feels all the more real because we have friends who are going through this suffering right now, mixed in with the loss of multiple miscarriages.
They, however, are my inspiration. I cannot begin to fathom their pain or understand their struggles over the last few years, but I've only watched them grow closer. I know they've been ripped apart - individually and as a couple - by their experiences. But I've also marveled at their strength and how their relationship has actually seemed to pull in tight around itself and survive. It's grown harder and less rosy-eyed, perhaps. Their love now carries fragments of their loss. But, somehow, it's remained whole and somehow became stronger where other couples have easily failed.
Their relationship is the reason I know marriage is about so much than just love, even as it's entirely rooted in the fierce love we have for each other. Because it has to be more than just emotion, and yet it needs to rely on something so primal and raw that it can hold us together is we ever need to face down the truly Bad. I need to believe we're one of those couples whose marriage will be forged into something stronger if we ever face down an unmentionable terror. We both have clear examples of this in our parents, but it's different, somehow, seeing it with the patina of age and distance from their initial troubles. With our friends and peers, their struggles are happening in real-time, just as we are preparing to promise our lives together. In sickness and in health. With bonds forged in legal, spiritual, and communal promises. It's terrifying. Marriage and love can't protect us from whatever there is to come, but I'm finding faith in the examples of our friends who have protected their marriage and love despite it all.
Regarding comments for this post - I really have no interest in fertility scare stories about age. It's not the point of this post and it only serves to create more stress on couples who have made their choices as they see fit, oftentimes with full knowledge about the correlation between age and fertility. And, to be clear, the two couples mentioned in this post started trying to conceive well before 30. My mother had me in her late 30s. These Bad things can happen to anyone, anywhere, and are not contingent upon age. And that's the point, more than anything about tips on conception or ideal age.