We thought we would always be the couple we were on our wedding day. All of us do, don’t we? We were fast and furiously happy from the first date. Even before that, with endless phone conversations and flirty IM’ing.
We met online on Jdate. Hal wrote to me. I ignored it. Six months later, I wrote to him. He was angry I’d never answered him. And I accidentally insulted his mother in my first communication with him. I mistook her for Janet Reno in his profile picture of them dancing. Seriously, I did.
Our first date was perfect. Hal was stage managing a play. I came to see the play. He left a balloon animal, a flower, and a card on my seat. He came out to meet me when he saw me in the lobby. The box office lady knew who I was. Everyone did. We locked eyes. His were bright blue at that moment. Mine were relieved and smiling. Yup, this was it. I even called my best friend, Stacy, at intermission to say “Game over, I found him!”
A few weeks later, we found ourselves at Great Adventure. The Ferris Wheel is as adventurous as I get. And that is where we started our adventure. That is where Hal told me he loved me for the first time. At the top of the Ferris Wheel. Up and down and all around. Looking out at the amusement park view from our little bucket seats. I was still crying when the ride stopped.
We were married two years later in an outdoor ceremony on a May day that was too cold for an outdoor ceremony. My dress was named Chantilly. Hal had peacock feathers and a sprig of rosemary in his boutonnière. I had beaded flowers my mother had made in my bouquet. I was thirty-nine years old.
We had tickets to see a Sunday matinee of Mama Mia on Broadway in December of that year. We were casually trying to get pregnant. By casually, I mean by just having sex like newlyweds. So I guess, we were pretty serious about it. I found myself mostly afraid of seeing a + on the stick. And then I was surprised at feeling disappointed after a few months of negatives. That morning I saw a big, bold, dark blue + !
“Hal, come look at something,” I said to him in a slightly shocked and stuttering voice. He was still in bed. He thought our cats, who had not been getting along, had maybe had a breakthrough. No cuddling cats. Just a positive stick covered in pee. I did another pregnancy test in the bathroom of the Broadhurst Theatre a few hours later. A positive in two states must be real.
Noah was born in September.
I had terrible post partum depression that hit about 10 days after he was born. We had no idea what was happening or what to do. I remember wishing Noah would just disappear. I needed help and Hal did everything he could to find it for me. I stopped my attempt at breast feeding so I could go back onto my anti-depressant that I obviously needed.
With help from my mother, I was able to be a stay at home mom to Noah. Of course at the time, I had no idea how much those almost two years with him would play over and over in my head. Pleasure and pain.
We were a happy couple to say the least. Enjoying our baby so much. Enjoying planning family Sunday adventures. “To the chariot!” I would yell and Noah would run to his stroller folded up in the kitchen. He’d drag it out into the living room of our small apartment and climb into it all by himself. Seatbelt clicked, blue shoes kicking and dangling, ready for adventure. One of my favorite memories is walking back into our apartment from the parking lot after a day trip somewhere. Noah was in the middle, holding both our hands. I remember looking across at Hal and him looking at me. We had it all.
It was the day of the accident. I was sitting next to the rabbi at the hospital. Noah had quietly been pronounced. The doctors and nurses were trying to hide their tears. One nurse ran from the room at one point. That’s when I knew.
At some point I said to the rabbi, “Couples get divorced after they lose a child, right? Isn’t that what happens?! That what I’ve heard. Is Hal going away too? Is my marriage over?”
We committed early on to beating the statistics. It wasn’t always easy. But I think if we wouldn’t have been able to hold our marriage together, it would be another “death” we couldn’t bear. We were still us. We had to morph into another kind of couple. But we needed to try to make sure the pain of losing Noah never overshadowed those vows and it was difficult. The component that made us a family was gone. It was just us again. We were hurting and healing separately and alone. There is no name for a parent who loses a child. We lost our identities and our purpose. But if we lost each other too, we really would have lost it all.
After Noah died, we watched a lot of TV. There were certain commercials we had to turn off as soon as we saw them. Pampers commercials with babies scooting all around and anything that had to do with water. Swimming, ocean vacations, anything with water made our hearts race and hard to breathe. We talked about what we could handle and couldn’t handle as far as outside stimulus. You know what tv show seemed to be safe and soothing? Roseanne. The family was imperfect. The jokes were funny. We watched a lot of Roseanne.
Along with our intense love for each other and dedication, the pain we were feeling became a part of our marriage. Like a third wheel. Sometimes we knew how to make conversation with it. Sometimes it was just awkward and sucked to have around. But we kept on being the gracious hosts we are. We didn’t have a choice.
To be continued…