Saturday, November 30, 2013

16 Years Later, An Unexpected Ride But A Happy Life Just The Same.


Sixteen years ago on November 30th, I was an excited bride ready to walk down the aisle to a man whose character and heart had exceeded all the things I had hoped for and asked God to bring me.
When Allan and I started our marriage we thought  that our time was our own, that there would be time to think and dream together, and that we would enjoy the "better, richer and in health" parts of the vows we took.  But somewhere along the way, expectations collide with real life and our hopes and dreams give way to hindrances and obstacles that begin to make marriage hard. We never thought it could happen to us. But it did, and we are now among those who deal with the daily stress of caring for a special needs child, finding ourselves disappointed and discouraged at times. But, I have a truth for you:  the love I have for my husband today has more depth, more strength, and more trust than it did the day we made our vows to one another.  That love has had some days and nights that tested it, but we’ve chosen to keep loving each other during some times when we didn’t feel all those warm, mushy feelings.

Sixteen years later, we know that marriage isn’t all roses and happy feelings.  It doesn’t always feel like it did that day sixteen years ago.  It feels different, but it’s stronger and it’s better.  I have a deeper respect for him now than I did then.  I have a steadier love for him.

We had an opportunity to leave Natalie at grandma's house last night and Austin was invited to a friend's birthday party. So we decided to celebrate it a day early.  
We were at dinner and we started to reflect on the last 16 years. We have truly grown up together. But through it all we have been so happy. We have so much in common, in that we love to laugh (especially at each other) and we enjoy staying positive. We focus a lot on our children and we value our family.
We talked about our unexpected journey with Natalie. You see, "special needs parents," no matter what our diagnosis is; lack time and energy, we suffer from high levels of frustration and unrelenting stress that can take its toll on a marriage. Marriage has its own difficulties, but with an autism diagnosis, we go beyond the normal struggles. We have extra financial strains resulting from medical costs too.

However, Allan and I understand that we cannot let our child's autism interfere or destroy our marital relationship. Because years of research around the world, shows that 
"the parents' relationship with each other trumps everything else!"  

It was a very special dinner. We talked openly about our feelings emotions and stresses as they relate to the care of Natalie. In times of stress, we tend to keep everything bottled up inside or explode over the slightest disagreement. But last night we shared insights about everything — the good, the bad and the ugly. We took the time to really listen to each other and I found that I love this man so much more than I ever did before. It's amazing, he is amazing. He has such a calm demeanor and a gift for seeing Natalie's challenges as "no big deal." He loves our daughter so much and completely accepts her for who she is--with or without words.  He is so patient and he puts all of his faith in God. I, on the other hand, am not as accepting of Natalie's diagnosis. I still cannot get past it. I still fight through it--every day. But my husband and I provide the perfect balance to each other and I am so thankful for that. 
We respect each other and we never blame each other -- we only support one another.
You see, we understand that a meaningful, beautiful life together, and a good and growing marriage, do not have to end with a child's diagnosis of disability. We have had to learn to lean often and hard on God's promises 
  For better or worse really does means for better or worse.  The challenges of raising an autistic child can become a blessing because we are in it together and we are a team. We make time to communicate about schedules, feelings and needs. We have to deal honestly with our frustrations. We get assistance and support and we seek help quickly and we take time for each other. We have learned that a strong marriage is essential. Without it, caring for our daughter is that much more difficult and challenging. 

So Happy Anniversary darling! Thanks for being on this ride with me, being my partner in parenting, and putting up with all my antics and whims!
I Love You
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