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The following is a guest post from a man who is a husband, father, doctor (& wonderful writer). So thrilled to have this male perspective here.

The evening of our 5th anniversary, my wife and I hired a babysitter for our 3-year-old daughter, went out for dinner at a nice little restaurant downtown, and generally had a miserable time.

It had been a doozy of a year. The previous summer, what the on-call obstetrician deemed at first to be a relatively uncomplicated miscarriage became something scarier when I heard my wife pass out and hit the floor from the other room. It turns out she had a ruptured ectopic pregnancy; after an emergency surgery, several liters of blood, and minus one fallopian tube, she healed well physically, but we were left with some uncertainty about what this meant for our family. Eventually, the obstetrician advised us to keep trying, and my wife had another ectopic pregnancy, but diagnosed early this time so that surgery was not necessary. After more discussion, we decided to consult with a fertility specialist, and consider IVF. We were anxious for the chance to find a way to have a second child, even as we felt guilty for going to such lengths when we knew plenty of people who had been trying in vain for even a first – after all, we already had one wonderful, happy child. Was it wrong to want more? My wife wondered aloud if the universe was trying to tell us not to get greedy. In the end, we decided to give IVF a shot.

The psychological burdens of all this, piled on top of our other stresses, weighed on us as I ordered a glass of wine and my wife pointedly did not. There were our jobs – we both work in healthcare, and I was plugging away at the continuing mission of trying not to let my personal and professional lives drown in a sea of documentation which piled up from the clinical work I was doing, while my wife’s boss who had recruited her had stepped down and it seemed others were starting to jump ship as well. That recruitment, and her boss’s status as a nationally known figure in her field, had been the reason we moved to this mid-sized city in the first place a year and a half prior, away from the family, friends, and amenities of the much bigger east coast city we loved. Ostensibly our new home city was more affordable, a chance to build some savings and some equity, like our other friends in their mid-to-late 30s seemed to be doing. But when you factored in a string of unexpected major home repairs and appliance replacements, and now the process of IVF, the idea that we were building a savings seemed laughable. And we were lonely in our new town – family thousands of miles away, and we hadn’t yet made anyone we’d call friends, in spite of a few half-hearted outings as a part of the town’s newcomer’s club where we met some nice people and felt super-weird that apparently this was our life now, going to gatherings of grown-ups hoping that we hit it off with another couple enough that they’d want to come over for brunch sometime.

On the night of our 5th anniversary, these stresses, anxieties, and frustrated hopes all hung about us. I honestly can’t tell you what we talked about, but I can say pretty confidently that we weren’t very nice to each other. We certainly didn’t act like the couple that had gazed into each other’s eyes five years before and pledged to support one another and prioritize each other above everything else in our lives. In that moment, we could not brush aside the baggage of life and our own discontentment in a way that allowed us to enjoy the special moment of a nice dinner shared alone together.

While I wish I could have been present enough that evening to live up to some idealized ultra-mindful Zen version of myself, I think it’s okay to chalk it up to going through a rough time. Now, more than a year later, we have been incredibly lucky enough to welcome our second daughter, we are starting to feel more settled in our new town and in our jobs, and no major appliance in our home has blown up in, like, at least 2 months. Of course, we still have to apply active effort towards not getting overwhelmed by work stress, and our baby’s arrival, while joyful, created new complications in all of our lives (not least of which our now 4-year-old daughter’s!). But we seem to have reached a new kind of stasis. This feels livable. This feels sustainable (well, almost). We no longer feel like we are slowly sliding off the side of a mountain. My wife is more emotionally available to support me when work stress feels overwhelming, and I am more emotionally available to support her as she goes back to work, or grieves her inability to breastfeed, and as she wonders what kind of mom does that make her?

What I’ve taken away from this, and from what Aidan and others write about the Here Year, is that being present, being here, may be a place where some couples can live forever – and kudos to them – but the task for me and my wife is to try to recognize when we are in combat survival mode and can’t be properly present in our marriage, and to take any action we can to keep that period as short as possible. We have to hunker down, try to pick off the biggest threats, and work to avoid any collateral damage. Then, when calm returns, we need to treasure it, and each other. This week, as we figured out how we were going to split a day off work to care for our baby that wasn’t eligible for daycare because of a viral illness, I thought to myself: She’s got my back, and I’ve got hers. And at least for today, we can be present in our appreciation of how lucky we each are to share our lives with such a wonderful parent, an inspiring professional, and an amazing spouse.

Is there anything in this incredibly thoughtful & honest post to which you relate?

{If you would like to share a marriage story with me, please email me at aidandonnelleyrowley [at] gmail [dot] com.}

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