During my seventh month of pregnancy, our family suffered a loss of a different kind.
Before our world was rocked, I was at home in my bedroom on the first Friday in May, thinking about which outfit I would sweetly accentuate my bump when we attended my sister’s performance of Grease that evening. The garage door opened and I turned around to say hello to my husband and was met not with the sweet relief of a finished work week on his face, but with something else. A look that in our 13 years together, through losses of parents and grandparents, jobs and friends, I had never seen. And yet I knew.
He didn’t even have to speak. I knew. At seven months pregnant with our first child, my husband had lost his job; lost our benefits and lost half of our income. Even today, three and a half years later, I feel that look on his face in the pit of my stomach.
I can’t tell you much about immediately after that moment. I don’t know what words I used, I don’t remember how I comforted him while he crumbled. I remember biting back tears, unsuccessfully. I remember praying to my Mom in heaven, bargaining with all of my might for this all to be a mistake, much like I bargained with God in those last months of her cancer fight.
We went to my sister’s play, and I am pretty sure I’m the first person ever to sit through a middle school production of “Grease” sobbing literally the entire time. When we got home, I sat numbly on the couch contemplating my next move. For a person who always has a plan and a backup plan and a backup backup plan, I was unanchored; drifting in a haze of worst case scenarios at midnight on a Friday. My husband was quiet, shocked I think, unsure how to go forward.
I searched for Medicare options and the Affordable Care Act (the latter would later save us in so many ways); I distracted myself with social media and something on the television. I was afraid to go to bed that night, afraid to wake up the next morning to our new reality.
We pushed through the weekend, and I numbly went to work Monday morning while my husband didn’t. He applied for unemployment and received his vacation and sick time cash out. I met with an insurance agent and wept with relief when I found out that we would be able to insure me, my husband and the baby for a sum we could afford through the Affordable Care Act, allowing us to forego the $1,200 per month COBRA premiums. We cussed and cried and hugged and cried again. We budgeted like we never had before. He and I both scoured job listings and he brushed up his resume. We told family and friends about the situation, and leaned on them in countless ways.
My husband painted our daughter’s nursery while I was at work later that month, texting me silly updates. He put together her crib one day and painted the knobs on her dresser pink another. He spray painted her bookshelves and hung them, he designed and executed an amazing gallery wall for her with items we had been picking up for months.
And the day we brought her home from hospital, and every single day until the day we sold that house, my heart seized up and my breath caught at the love and attention and devotion he put into it all. A sort of calm descended over us. Due to high risk, I had weekly OBGYN appointment and he came to every single one from May until the last week in July, the day before our daughter was born. Sometimes in a suit straight from an interview, sometimes in clothes dotted with aqua or pink paint, sometimes with light in his eyes and sometimes with darkness.
Our family and friends showered us with advice and gifts and, most importantly strength and love. We worked out finances to get us through to our daughter’s birth and my short term disability pay. We marveled at the little kicks and weekly heartbeat checks, we nested and cleaned and splurged with one last date night the night before she born.
And then she was here. We got six weeks together as a family of three before my husband went back to work. I cried the day he went back, not because I was overwhelmed with the baby or motherhood particularly, but because that little cocoon we had carefully built around the three of us from the day he was let go until the day he started his new firm position slowing breaking away. I had watched our eight year marriage grow and bond together in ways I never thought possible.
We still talk about that first Friday in May, but not in a way we would ever have expected three and a half years ago. When we talk about it now, it’s with a little bit of awe, a little bit of pride, a little bit of hope and so much love. I truly, with all of my heart, thought I hated my husband’s boss when he lost his job. But honestly, today I would thank him, because out of despair our family rose.
We learned so much about ourselves, and how strong we are, and how strong our bonds are in those four months, from May until August. And it amazes me every time we look back that we made it. We survived all of those hard days, and I’m stronger now when hard times present themselves, and they do.
Difficult situations, hard times, always come back in different ways. Marriage is this fragile entity, piled high with children and families and work and a home and bills to pay. It’s important for us to look back at this hard time and relive the good while knowing we can make it through the bad.