Being the Strong One

A recent post by Therese Borchard contained a beautiful Biblical verse, a portion of which reads, “To everything there is a season… a time to break down, and a time to build up…” It reminded me of something my mother said to me when John was in and out of the psych ward: “You take turns being strong in a marriage. This is your turn.”

At the time, I was scared that John would never recover, and that I’d have to be the strong one for the rest of our lives. Fortunately, that hasn’t turned out to be the case.

But looking back, I can see that as my husband was breaking down, I was building him up. When he was sick, I advocated for his recovery. I took care of paying the medical bills, scheduling doctor’s appointments, and communicating with his employer about his eventual return to work.

It was sort of a yin/yang kind of thing: I took care of the details of everyday life so he had the space to get well.

*****

I’m about halfway through my pregnancy now, and I’ve been doing some reading about how to get your newborn baby onto a good feeding/sleeping schedule. (This is extremely important for us since sleep disturbances can trigger mania.) One interesting thing I’ve learned is that when babies are in the womb, they’re rocked to sleep by their mothers’ movements.

When I’m active, the baby is sleeping. When I’m resting, the baby wakes up.

Again, it’s a yin/yang kind of thing.

*****

When my mom and I were searching for my wedding dress, I apologized to her for the way I’d treated her as a teenager. I blamed her and my dad for my unhappiness, and I was very cold to her as a result.

“I don’t think I could have done anything but blame you,” I told her. “The thought that I was making myself miserable would have made me hate myself even more.”

“Oh, Heather,” she said, “we knew that. Daddy once said to me, ‘You know, I think the girls really resent me,’ and I said to him, ‘You’re the dad. You have big shoulders. You can take it.’”

Hearing that made me cry. Yes, John and I do plan to do things differently from my parents, but they did love me and try to help and protect me; they just didn’t always know how.

*****

So now I really do have to be the strong one, for the rest of my life, for this baby. The difference this time, though, is that John’s going to be standing strong right next to me. I’m not going to have to toe this line alone.

Now it’s our turn, as a couple, to build up this new life we’ve created. Together, we’re going to love, support, and protect this baby so he* has space to grow.

*I’m using the masculine pronoun, but we’re not finding out the gender until the baby is born.

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