Grad Life Voices: Living in the Moment

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– written by Tash, a current graduate wife

I am a planner; not a meal planner – that would be helpful, but instead, a crystal ball planner. I know I want to build a family home, and although it will be years before we can finance such a project, I feel like I am already intimate with every nook and cranny of the design. I knew how our wedding would look years before our engagement, and what we would name the family dog. I’m so goal driven and outcomes based that I sometimes feel overwhelmed by the uncertainty of our current situation and feel an inner desperation to settle, to relax, and to take a breath.

My husband has been my very best friend for a very long time. He is incredibly intelligent, loyal, and loving. He is deep, intuitive and the most incredible thinker. Like most of us, if he isn’t following his passion, he is simply a shadow of himself. Our children are 3 and 5, and, quite frankly, amazing human beings. It’s so important that my children watch what my husband is going through, because, dare I say it, I believe they are wired in a very similar way. It’s so important that my significant other is at university, because he is happy and healthy and smiling!

And then there is me. I am 27. I am a Mum and a youth worker, but most critically, I am the wife of a post grad student. I say most critically because my children deserve the stability of a strong and connected Mum and Dad. Given the pressures of the grad life, I’m okay with my order of focus.

Looking back on my past plans, it seems my crystal ball lead me on a defunct path. Where I once thought I would be a stay at home mum, I actually work. With living in a small country township, and with extended family members who could have that magic time at home with their own children, I was initially resentful.

Eventually I came to an understanding about the gift of our circumstances. My young children have genuine and incredible friendships, built through their time at preschool. They have an understanding of the outside world and a light, but clear belief of the importance of societal contribution. Through the work opportunities I have had, I’ve discovered more about myself and my abilities in the last few years than ever before. My husband’s return to university has pushed me to discover who I really am, and the gifts and talents that I have to offer. Interactions and progress within my career has given me a personal confidence that positively impacts my parenting. The intensity in which we as a household live drives us to be conscious about getting quiet time out in wide open spaces. Grad Life is a gift that has allowed for self development and enriched family life.

Despite this, I still fall into patterns of fear and loss.

I’m lucky in that I know my home is ‘home’ until The Engineer finishes his PhD. But where is home base for the long term? What if I have to let go of the community I’m so attached to, of the friends and neighbours that have been behind us during such an intense time? What if my children will have to learn to let go of their real world relationships and substitute them for Skype and Facebook as they go about making new connections in another town? What if this path isn’t leading us to the security that we convince ourselves it will, and if the husband doesn’t find work that meets his emotional, social and intellectual needs?

It’s a big, scary, wide world out there.

We can plan until the cows come home, until we’ve got the future colour coded, alphabetized, and listed. Then, when plans don’t come into fruition on our time line, it can be a lonely experience, and it can hurt.

So, we have to consciously rewire our brain. We have to push against ourselves, and we have to settle. Because as morbid and as cliché as it sounds, we get to be alive today. Who knows what tomorrow will bring. What works for one may not work for another, but I highly recommend reading “The Happiness Project” by Gretchin Rubin, to help get the inspiration flowing. Listed below are some of the wee baby steps that are helping retrain the way I approach this stage of life.

I began a gratitude journal. It’s where I slow myself right down, and take note of how good I’ve actually got it. My children are healthy, my husband is healthy, and my life has purpose. Some days, it’s simply I found the energy to make my morning coffee – that’s okay too. It’d be far worse a day if you didn’t have the energy to make your morning coffee!

Photography is therapy, it simply changed my outlook on life. I by no means sing my own praises, but I am fortunate to have a camera, and a great local camera club to learn from. I have slowly become aware of natural beauty, the colours of the sky, the shapes of the clouds, and the tranquility of water. I think my children are having a hard time with our lifestyle, but then I look back at the photographic memories and realise just how much mood and attitude can mess with our outlook and opinions. It turns out my kids are having an incredible childhood, and I’ve got the images to prove it. I have amazing relationships with my children’s teachers and they reiterate the balance in our children and the stories they share. So actually, as far as parents go, we’re doing just fine.

I’ve created shrines in my house. A ‘happy place’ shrine has little mementos of time with my family, and a bunch of my favourite flowers. I walk past it and smile, regardless. A shelf in our bookcase has been dedicated to our wedding, with the photo album, a shell from the beach we had our photos, the communion cup and a few other little extras. These things remind me that I am loved.

When I finish work early, I head to the university. It means the hubby and I get to travel home together and score a few minutes down time in one another’s company. Friday nights are simply not work nights. Sure we both want his PhD, but we want our marriage more. We have a jar with about a dozen washi-taped sticks. I googled ‘in-house’ and ‘budget’ date ideas, wrote them on the sticks and the stuck them in our jar. On date night, we don’t have to think about what to do, the jar will tell us. It doesn’t have to be flashy or expensive, but it means I’m not waiting for the day I get my husband back.

I accept where I am right now, in this moment. If I’m happy, that is okay. If I’m sad, that is okay. If I don’t feel up to entertaining once a month, it is okay. I am me with my strengths, weaknesses, dreams and desires and there is nothing wrong with that – in fact, it’s perfect. There is a reason I am the way I am, no justification required. There is a roof over my head, so therefore I need to love it. This is my home, and I am blessed to have one. It’s a time consuming but incredibly rewarding project to make it the best darn home I can, spending as minimally as I can. The future house loses its lustre when it means I have to leave the one I’ve created!

I haven’t nailed it, I still struggle with the concept, but living in the moment is certainly one of the key and most meaningful lessons that is emerging throughout our journey. Rest assured that if this post resonates with you at all you’re not alone, and that supposedly, one day we’ll look back and realise just how awesome we all really are.

Graduation day will come, for our significant others, and for us.

 As a graduate wife, how do you live in the moment?

REPOST: Another day in the library

Let me paint you a picture:

  • Dishes piled sky high in the sink.
  • Toddler who wants your full attention all day long.
  • Lots of emails in your inbox concerning an exciting project that you are contributing to that need to be answered sooner rather than later.
  • A shiny new book that arrived two weeks ago from Amazon, and still hasn’t been cracked.
  • Laundry overflowing in the hampers, and lack of clean laundry for all.
  • Pouring, I mean pouring rain outside. Nowhere to go but inside.
  • A list of creative toddler rainy day games with every single one crossed off…at least twice.
  • Dinner to prepare…then cook.
  • A phone call or two that needs to happen.

And then … (You can’t deny that you’ve done this too) … a picture pops into your weary, discombobulated mind: A picture of your husband. Alone. At the library. The quiet library. Researching. Reading about his interests, his passions. Quietly strolling through (in our case) the ancient adorned halls of the Oxford Bodleian library. Smiling, thinking deep, intellectual, powerful thoughts…alone. And I can’t help picture a smoking pipe in there as well. Or maybe your picture involves your spouse off doing fascinating field work in some exotic place…or doing a med school residency with a new rotation full of exciting, interesting new people teaching him/her life-saving skills.

Now, while I wish I could say the idea of my husband being in such a wonderful setting just raises my spirits and encourages me to get through the day, I have to be honest: it makes me a bit jealous and indignant at times.  When that picture comes to my mind at times, my first thought sometimes is not “oh how nice”, but rather, “oh how unfair“.

Yep.

It happens to the best of us. It has happened quite a few times to me lately, and I want to share some pointers if this starts happening to you.

1) Talk about it! The second that envy and jealousy start to creep up in your heart, share it with your spouse. Do not let these things fester and do not let silly, unrealistic pictures of his academic lifestyle continue to grow in your head.

2) Don’t jump to conclusions! He is not off playing Angry Birds! (And if he is, check out ML’s amazing post from last week). He is working his booty off for a degree that half the time he can’t even remember caring this deeply about to begin with. He is not off reading Bill Bryson with a pipe and a latte. He is knee deep in research and EndNote and endless PDFs and sometimes it feels more like a prison to him than an opportunity.

3) Be realistic! They don’t say “It isn’t meant to be easy” for nothing. Graduate school is hard work. Hard, hard work. And trying to balance that work on top of family and other commitments can sometimes be a lot to manage.

In short, I just want to say that for me, I have realized that maybe one in every five days of working in the library is relaxing and exciting for my husband. I feel like the other four are more like an isolating 9-6 office job that he has to keep pushing through, all alone, in order to get closer to an exciting, but far off finish line. And when he gets home he is usually needing encouragement from me (or an honest conversation about where I am at), not a whiney and jealous spiel about how hard my day seemed.

When these thoughts come, take a deep breath. Try to be thankful for the work that both of you have been given to do during this season: playing marbles for the 30th some odd time, singing Old McDonald again, scheduling conference calls while your kids are sleeping, or researching Lorentz’s views on relativity theory.

Cut them some slack.

This is a season.

Talk about it openly.

And know you are not alone in feeling this way every now and then!

-M.C.

REPOST: Helping Children Put Down New Roots

                                                                                                  written by Michelle – a former graduate wife

In the summer heat, my boys are restless and roaming the house looking for their next adventure.  Hoping to provide some direction for their boundless energy, my sister asks if we would help her transplant some potted plants.

“Yeah! Digging and dirt!” shouts one.

“I want to hold the hose!” chimes in the other as he sprints out to the back patio.

She brings a basket of plants outside that have grown too big for their original pots.  Browning and overcrowded, they clearly need more dirt, fresh nutrients . . . something to bring new life back into withering leaves.

My boys hover over pots and sacks of Miracle-Gro.   Soon, clay pots are filled with new soil and small shovels loosen plants from old containers, their roots twisted and tangled together.  The perfectly pot-sized clumps of roots are placed in spacious pots and new dirt secures them in place.  My younger boy comes by with a miniature watering can to finish the job.

This small bit of gardening took all of ten minutes, but now as I sit in the evening quiet, my thoughts come back to this transplanting idea.  I am thinking about how many times my family has been transplanted during the course of my husband’s studies.   I am remembering what it was like to tell our kids we were moving again and how we attempted to guide them through the transitions.

Even my rowdy 3 and 7 year old boys can transfer a strong, established plant to a new pot with a little bit of focus, but it can be difficult to move a seedling successfully.  Moving children is a lot like attempting to transplant seedlings.  Their roots are tiny, fragile white threads and they never seem to balance properly in the new pot.  We moved five different times during our graduate journey and each time friends and family were keen to reassure us:  “Oh, don’t worry – kids are so resilient!  Especially at such young ages!”  or “Kids pick up new languages almost instantly.  They soak it up like a sponge. ” And yet, each time we moved, my children did struggle.  And learning a new language and going to school in that language was hard work for my older son.  After a few moves, I began to be of the opposite mind as my well-intentioned advice givers.  I came to realize that my children actually do hear and understand and feel a lot more than I sometimes realize.  Especially because they are fragile and not fully formed (much like seedlings), my boys need to be given opportunities to process what is happening if they are going to transition without problems.    So, in this piece I would like to explore ways we can help our children during a move or major transition.  Some ideas come from what we have tried in our own family and I have also added some ideas from the moving chapter of the book Third Culture Kids.

1)     Introducing the Idea of Moving

a)     Before our most recent move, my husband set up a series of bedtime chats with our sons (then 5 and 1) in which he told them about “God’s special plan” for our family.   We told the boys that we felt that God was directing us to move in order to follow His special plan.  We also had a night in which we talked about the fact that God has a special plan for each of their lives and God may be using some of our travels to prepare them for their futures.  These chats were given in bite-sized pieces they could understand, usually with a map nearby and time for their questions.

b)     We marked on a map where we lived (Germany) and where we were moving (England).  In order to create some excitement, we tried to make lists of things the children might like about our new city.  If possible, it is great to find pictures of the school the children will attend or pictures of the house/apartment that you will live in and its surrounding neighborhood.

c)     Read books about moving and talk about how the different characters might feel.  Try to find one with clear pictures of what happens during the packing up of an old house, the unpacking at new house, saying goodbye to old friends, making new friends, etc.

d)     For very small children, it can be helpful to play “moving games” in order to just introduce them to what a move is.  We did this some with our youngest in our last move a couple of weeks before we left.  I gave him a couple of empty boxes and we would pack up toys and move them to the next room and unpack them, explaining that this is what we were going to do later with all of our stuff.  Also, during all the events that precede a move and happen during a move, it is good for the parents to “frame” what is happening:  “Look, Daddy and his friend are putting the boxes in the van.  They will bring all of your toys safely to your new room.  Just like our game!”  or “We are waving goodbye to our old house.  We will have a picture of it in our photo album, but now we are going to live in our new house.”   When things get busy, it is easy to forget to include our young children in what is happening by framing it in words they can understand.

 2)     Giving a Sense of Closure

a)     As it got closer to our moving date, we wanted the kids to have a chance to think about all the people in our current home who have been important to them (church leaders, teachers, friends, neighbors, family members, etc.) and also the places we have been that have been meaningful.

i)      People: Children can write notes of appreciation, draw pictures for special people,  or think about leaving a special momento with a close friend or family member

ii)     Places that hold important memories:  Visiting these places one last time, reminiscing, and getting a special photo or hiding a treasure or note to hopefully find again there someday. 

3)     Easing the Actual Transition

a)     Use of “sacred objects”:  For some of us who are making international moves, it is just not possible to take much with us.  How do you deal with this?  We met one family who had a policy we really liked.  Though they moved often, they made sure they always kept a few of their children’s most valued possessions:  some quilts their grandmother had made them and some special dishes made for them by a friend.  The quilts were unpacked first thing and spread over the beds and then their dishes were set out, helping to create a feeling of “home” for them.  Though the quilts were bulky and the family was sometimes very limited on space, these “sacred objects” were always a priority.  Having a set of “sacred objects” as they are called in Third Culture Kids helps to give the kids some stability.

b)     Keep as many family rituals in place as possible – Keep the days and weeks as normal as you can.

c)     Plan for a period of misbehavior and general adjustment.  You, as the parent, are going to need to give a lot emotionally and the kids are going to need you more than normal.  Their behavior is almost guaranteed to be crazy for a while. Give them grace – moving can be even harder for little ones who had no control in the decision that has resulted in their entire world changing.  Keep close tabs on how kids are doing emotionally – you will be very busy and overtired but keep your eye on signs that something might be off with them.  Help them to name feelings and provide acceptable outlets to express feelings.

d)     Make contact with some other families in the area or at the same school as soon as possible (in advance if you’re lucky enough to have the opportunity!)  Don’t expect your new community to initiate having a relationship with you – be prepared to go out and actively seek out community for your family.

e)     One way we have eased the transition for our family is by sending my husband ahead first.  When we moved to Germany, he drove our possessions to our new apartment with a friend a few days before we arrived.  It made a big difference for our five year old, because when he first saw his new room it was completely unpacked with all of his familiar toys out and favorite posters on the walls.  Instead of a weird feeling of not belonging in a small white-walled, empty room, he seemed to feel at peace and slept alone in that room on the first night.  It also helped lessen the stress for me because before our arrival my husband could purchase some preliminary groceries and a map and scout out the neighborhood.

f)      For those of you who are moving internationally, I strongly urge you to learn all you can about the language and culture ahead of time.  Of course, no matter how much you prepare, you will still be learning a lot as you go through life in your new country.  Your children can learn a lot by watching how you handle the experience.  Describe how you are feeling about learning all these new things.  Present it as an exciting new adventure, but acknowledge that it can be overwhelming at times and that’s normal and okay to feel that way.  Try to laugh at your mistakes and move forward so the children know that when they make mistakes, they can learn from them and move on without feeling ashamed.

Taking some time to put some of these ideas in place (and maybe add to them with some of your own!) can really make a difference in how your children react to a move.  We all hope that our kids, if they must be transplanted to a new place, will adjust to the soil and be able to drink deeply of the water and nutrients that a new experience can offer them.  With a little bit of planning and effort, you can help give them the best possible start.

In your graduate wife journey, how have you prepared your children to move to another country, city, or state? Did you do anything specifically?

The Glad Sacrifice of Motherhood

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Julia’s mother, Christine, with her son, David

A sacrifice to be real must cost, must hurt, and must empty ourselves. –Mother Teresa

Before I became a mother, I often listened to the stories of sacrifice that populated my family’s collective memory, handed on like heirlooms. They were impressive to me then, as a child and adolescent, but the reality behind the tales has only gradually sunk in as I’ve had my own children and settled into life as a mother. This Mother’s Day has me remembering with gratitude the legacy of glad sacrifice in my maternal forebears.

When my grandfather returned from World War II he married the love of his life, my grandmother. When his son, my father, was four years old, my grandfather suddenly lost his ability to walk. He learned from doctors that a spinal column injury sustained during the war would, as they told him, give him the option of sitting or lying down. He told them he would walk. (And he did walk eventually – with a brace from hip to ankle, and supporting himself with a cane.) My grandmother looked after the children and visited him daily for months in the hospital and rehabilitation center. In the evening, she put her kids to bed and went off to work as a waitress. Tirelessly, she worked to put food on the table – from the time my grandfather was in the hospital to when he came home unable to walk, let alone work.

My maternal grandmother had seven children. My mother, Christine, was the third born. When my mother was in junior high, my grandfather grew gravely sick, suffering from early onset Alzheimer’s. And so my grandmother went to work at a factory while my oldest aunts and uncles kept things going at home. And when my grandfather passed away when her youngest was still in grade school, she continued to work at night and be at home during the day, never taking her wedding band off her ring finger.

And then there’s my mother. After she married her high school sweetheart at the tender age of twenty-one, my mother left school, her family, and her way of life to move across the country for my father to go to seminary. Shortly after they arrived, she discovered she was pregnant. David was born nine months later. A very difficult labor made way for the even more difficult news that David had a heart condition that would require surgery in a few months’ time. When David was six months of age, my parents and their best friends got on their knees and pleaded with God to protect their firstborn son the next morning during open heart surgery. The next morning David died. My parents were twenty-three.

In sharing these stories, I don’t for a moment think that my family is unique. This kind of risky love and untiring devotion are wonderfully universal. There is beautiful commonality woven in the stories we all carry of our mothers, and of our mothers’ mothers. Each of us is here today precisely as the result of the sacrifice of others. Even those of us who may not have had ideal mothers have often benefited from mother-like sacrifices from someone who loved us.

When I’m tempted to despair at the solipsism of this world and question whether the era of this type of sacrifice has passed, I step back and consider the strong women around me, many of whom have forsaken family and country in the graduate journey, and now joyfully sacrifice to raise their children in circumstances that are not always easy – children who will, one day, look back on the difficulty their mothers endured with gratitude and wonder.

written by Julia, a former graduate wife

Part 4 of 4: Infertility/Adoption

It seems like a lot of our readers are grappling with the ‘when is the best time to have children’ question, especially since this season of life seems to be the perfect time to start a family. But – what if life doesn’t work out that way?

Over the next couple of months, we’ll follow 4 different graduate wives through their journeys of infertility, miscarriage, and adoption. If you are facing any of the above, or know a graduate wife who is, we hope you will find their stories encouraging and supportive.  ~Mandy and MC

-written by Katy, a current graduate wife

Part 1 found here

Part 2 found here

Part 3  The first part of Katy’s story found here

As we were moving overseas in less than three weeks, we knew that our situation would be unusual. In fact, at first we weren’t even sure it would be possible for us to adopt while living abroad. But after a little research we learned that as American citizens living in Europe we could pursue a path to adoption following a precedent set by military families living abroad. As we interviewed agencies, talked about what type of adoption we were interested in pursuing, and read everything about adoption we could get our hands on, two things happened. First, I felt empowered to make decisions in a way that I had not felt in years. For so long it seemed like whether or not we became parents was completely out of our control. We couldn’t get pregnant on our own, and once we began fertility treatments I began to defer all decisions to the doctors we worked with. Now, with adoption, I was back in control and able to make choices and decisions with my husband that had been taken away from us for so long. And second, my heart began to heal. One of the most important books that I read during this painful journey was Adopting: Sound Choices, Strong Families by Patricia Irwin Johnston. If you are going through infertility, whether or not you are looking at adoption, I strongly recommend this book, if only for her section on grief.

Johnston writes about how infertility is not just one loss, but really multiple losses including (but not limited to), the loss of control, the loss of genetic continuity, the loss of a jointly conceived child, lost physical and emotional expectations (pregnancy and birth), and the loss of the parenting experience. Reading that finally gave me the permission to name my grief and realize that grief is multifaceted, and therefore not dealt with all at once, or all in the same way. Choosing adoption allowed us to break free from some of the grief we had been carrying with us for years. We were able to regain a level of control over our ability to grow our family that had previously been beyond our reach. Once again we were free to anticipate becoming parents with joy and hopefulness. Our grief was transforming. And while some of the losses we experienced through infertility, particularly the loss of never experiencing pregnancy (which likely will always be an area of tenderness), remain poignant for me, we both felt as if new life had been breathed into us, and suddenly the fog that had been hanging over us for the past five years began to recede.

The week before we moved to the UK we settled on a wonderful faith-based agency that was happy to work with us, and we began the paper work to pursue a domestic infant adoption. Shortly after making the decision to move forward with our adoption, we went from feeling like we had no options with our infertility to suddenly having more options than we knew what to do with. It was strange being in a new geographic place, working to form a new community, while still carrying the wounds of loss the past few years had left us with. No one knew about our past, knew that we were mourning, or that we were actively pursuing adoption. It felt like we were a two-sided couple: the happy, carefree couple excited to begin a European adventure and two heartbroken souls desperate to become parents. Finally, we made the decision to share openly with our new community about where we were at, despite our fears that it was too early in these relationships to share such personal and difficult details. Our vulnerability yielded rich rewards as we found comfort, encouragement, and empathy among our new friends in the midst of this graduate-life journey we were sharing together.

Over the next few months we completed all the paperwork and found ourselves ‘actively waiting’ the placement of a child. When the call finally came that we had been chosen, our joy was made that much fuller by the wonderful surprise party our friends organized to celebrate. Our long wait was nearly over, and nine months after we had begun ‘actively waiting’ we found ourselves back in the States watching the birth of our beloved son. Those first moments he was placed in my arms still seem like a dream. He was beautiful and perfect, and I was at long last a mama. Even now, fifteen months later, I still have days that tears of joy overflow as I look back over our long road to parenthood and can honestly say I’m thankful for all of it. It shaped me and changed me in ways that were incredibly painful, but also incredibly beautiful. Infertility was like a refining fire that taught my husband and I how to truly love one another, taught us what it means to be vulnerable, and about our desperate need for grace. Adoption has taught us about the incredible capacity and depth with which we have been created to love. It has shown us that out of deep grief comes an even deeper joy. And throughout our entire journey, we have learned that openness and vulnerability with your community makes room to experience true life together. Going through infertility and completing an adoption while living as graduate students in foreign countries has not been easy. But the gift of having a close-knit group of friends through the graduate community walk this long journey with us has made our joy that much more complete, providing strength in our brokenness, encouragement when we were without hope, and steadfast love throughout it all.

How has your graduate community helped you heal, or deal with difficult, life changing decisions without family nearby?

Another day in the library

Let me paint you a picture:

  • Dishes piled sky high in the sink.
  • Toddler who wants your full attention all day long.
  • Lots of emails in your inbox concerning an exciting project that you are contributing to that need to be answered sooner rather than later.
  • A shiny new book that arrived two weeks ago from Amazon, and still hasn’t been cracked.
  • Laundry overflowing in the hampers, and lack of clean laundry for all.
  • Pouring, I mean pouring rain outside. Nowhere to go but inside.
  • A list of creative toddler rainy day games with every single one crossed off…at least twice.
  • Dinner to prepare…then cook.
  • A phone call or two that needs to happen.

And then … (You can’t deny that you’ve done this too) … a picture pops into your weary, discombobulated mind: A picture of your husband. Alone. At the library. The quiet library. Researching. Reading about his interests, his passions. Quietly strolling through (in our case) the ancient adorned halls of the Oxford Bodleian library. Smiling, thinking deep, intellectual, powerful thoughts…alone. And I can’t help picture a smoking pipe in there as well. Or maybe your picture involves your spouse off doing fascinating field work in some exotic place…or doing a med school residency with a new rotation full of exciting, interesting new people teaching him/her life-saving skills.

Now, while I wish I could say the idea of my husband being in such a wonderful setting just raises my spirits and encourages me to get through the day, I have to be honest: it makes me a bit jealous and indignant at times.  When that picture comes to my mind at times, my first thought sometimes is not “oh how nice”, but rather, “oh how unfair“.

Yep.

It happens to the best of us. It has happened quite a few times to me lately, and I want to share some pointers if this starts happening to you.

1) Talk about it! The second that envy and jealousy start to creep up in your heart, share it with your spouse. Do not let these things fester and do not let silly, unrealistic pictures of his academic lifestyle continue to grow in your head.

2) Don’t jump to conclusions! He is not off playing Angry Birds! (And if he is, check out ML’s amazing post from last week). He is working his booty off for a degree that half the time he can’t even remember caring this deeply about to begin with. He is not off reading Bill Bryson with a pipe and a latte. He is knee deep in research and EndNote and endless PDFs and sometimes it feels more like a prison to him than an opportunity.

3) Be realistic! They don’t say “It isn’t meant to be easy” for nothing. Graduate school is hard work. Hard, hard work. And trying to balance that work on top of family and other commitments can sometimes be a lot to manage.

In short, I just want to say that for me, I have realized that maybe one in every five days of working in the library is relaxing and exciting for my husband. I feel like the other four are more like an isolating 9-6 office job that he has to keep pushing through, all alone, in order to get closer to an exciting, but far off finish line. And when he gets home he is usually needing encouragement from me (or an honest conversation about where I am at), not a whiney and jealous spiel about how hard my day seemed.

When these thoughts come, take a deep breath. Try to be thankful for the work that both of you have been given to do during this season: playing marbles for the 30th some odd time, singing Old McDonald again, scheduling conference calls while your kids are sleeping, or researching Lorentz’s views on relativity theory.

Cut them some slack.

This is a season.

Talk about it openly.

And know you are not alone in feeling this way every now and then!

-M.C.

Part 2 of 4: Miscarriage

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It seems like a lot of our readers are grappling with the ‘when is the best time to have children’ question, especially since this season of life seems to be the perfect time to start a family. But – what if life doesn’t work out that way?

Over the next couple of months, we’ll follow 4 different graduate wives through their journeys of infertility, miscarriage, and adoption. If you are facing any of the above, or know a graduate wife who is, we hope you will find their stories encouraging and supportive.  ~Mandy and MC

Grief is the price we pay for love. –Queen Elizabeth II

I opened the front door of our flat, stepping into a sunlit breezeway. Rays of sunshine danced across my face as I turned to lock the door.  From the stairs below, the laughter of my son and husband floated through the air like snowflakes on cold winter’s day.

It was the start of a perfect day, my 35th birthday. The outside air was crisp, so I tightened the scarf around my neck. I climbed onto my bike, knowing I would spend the next 15 minutes happily peddling, attempting to keep up with my two favorite men. “Mummy!” chided my 2 year-old son, “Keep up with us!”

I was 10 weeks pregnant with our second child. It was something I had waited for and dreamed of for a long time. My heart brimmed with joy at the thought of a new little life in our house. For me, it was another dream on my graduate wife ‘pause’ shelf that was finally being fulfilled.

When we arrived at our destination, I excused myself to the bathroom.  There was blood. I felt my stomach lurch.

I knew this day was going to end a lot differently than it had started.

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I’ve thought a lot about that day over the past few months.  I remember the glorious morning joy. I remember the deep evening sadness. I remember relishing the warmth of the sun on my face, a rarity in February. I remember my husband and I eating in complete silence while celebrating my birthday dinner at my favorite restaurant. I remember walking home, our fingers intertwined, both of us hollowed eyed and emotionless. I remember feeling alive with life. I remember feeling the sting of death. I remember feeling everything. I remember feeling nothing.

I don’t want to remember anything about that day. Yet, I find myself wanting to remember everything about that day.

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I’ve mentioned in the past that one of my biggest sacrifices on this graduate wife journey has been motherhood. My husband and I were a bit older when we started school, and made the decision together to postpone having children until we were further along in his program. I knew it then and now that it was the right decision for us. However, it did not diminish the desire I had to have a family. It just meant I had to become really great at waiting.

When we finally decided it was the right time for us, it happened quickly. It seemed like a blink of an eye before our little Jack-Jack made his entrance into this world on his own terms, 15 days past his due date.  I figured when we were ready to try for a second child, it would be as simple.

Instead, my carefully laid plans were thwarted at every turn by life circumstances. One month of waiting turned into three months; then three months of waiting turned into six months. Finally, my husband and I decided we needed to take a break.  Another pause. Another dream shattered.

Many months later, you can imagine our elation when we found out we were expecting our second child. You can also imagine our devastation when we found out that child was no longer alive. It was a heartbreaking moment.

As I walked through this, all around me dear friends of mine were announcing pregnancies, glowing with the anticipation of their new arrivals. I found it difficult to watch these dear friends of mine living my unattainable dream. I found it even more difficult sharing in their excitement.  It was an incredibly dark and lonely time.

Being the type of person who always takes time to reflect back on difficult seasons of life, selfishly to glean any type of wisdom for future seasons, I have spent hours wondering what pearls of wisdom I am supposed to learn from all of this, especially in relation to the graduate wife life. To be honest, I don’t have much of a clear answer to share with you, and I probably never will. I do know from others and my own experience that miscarriage is a very private, personal thing, and every woman deals with it differently.  However, I do want to share a few things that have helped me process my grief, and maybe they’ll help you also, whether you are the one going through the miscarriage, or mourning with a dear friend who is.

Cherish your friends. Going through something this traumatic away from family was hard. Really hard. Our friends, who are our family in our graduate life, loved on us in ways I never expected. Each one of them used their creativity, tears, laughter, love, and good food to nourish our family’s physical and emotional needs. They genuinely mourned with us. I spend a lot of time on this blog talking about the importance of community, and especially now, I have a deeper understanding of why it’s so important to have that in place where you live.  And, you can be sure when they go through a difficult time, I’ll be there to reciprocate.

Find a miscarriage buddy.  It sounds hokey, but it’s helped me immensely. My buddy is a dear friend in California who has had two miscarriages. Even with the eight-hour time difference, we find time to speak to each other regularly. She’s been my go-to person when I’ve found out another friend is pregnant, when I’ve fallen a-part on the inside after having to hold a friend’s newborn, when I express anger that life hasn’t turned out the way I thought I deserved, or when I fear trying to have another baby because I’m afraid I’ll miscarry again. She has provided for me a safe place of love and protection to process my grief, and she has also given me reason to hope. I am supremely thankful for her.

Explore your faith.  My faith has definitely played a huge part of my healing process. Don’t get me wrong, there were and still are days where I hate God for allowing this to happen to my husband and me.  And for once, I’m not ashamed to admit that.  As I’ve worked through my seething anger, disappointment, and loss, I’ve found it’s strengthened my faith and resolve, and through it all, I know and feel God still loves me and wants the best for me. During my absolute worst moments, I have an image stamped on my heart of our child sitting in God’s lap, in perfect peace. Somehow, that brings me enormous comfort. I realize not everyone shares the same religious beliefs I do, so if you have a different faith, I implore you to find a way for your faith to comfort you during this difficult season.

Seek a counselor.   I know I am a very strong person. I also know I am an internal processor. That can be a dangerous combination, especially when it comes to dealing with traumatic life events. I tend to think I am fine for months, then something (often small) will trigger a massive outburst of anger or I’ll handle a situation in an unfavourable way. It usually takes that to happen for me to realize I’m not doing as well as I think I am. With my miscarriage, it was unfortunately an angry outburst directed at someone who didn’t deserve it. I was frightened by my reaction, because I felt like I had been doing a fair bit of processing with friends. So I decided to see a counselor. She objectively helped me articulate a lot of ideas and thoughts running through my heart and head. It reduced my anxiety, cleared my head, and helped me feel a bit more grounded. So, take time to see a professional who can help you process your own grief and loss. Friends can often do this, but I think having an objective opinion from an outsider can sometimes make all the difference in the world.

Love your family. Every minute of every day. My husband and I have been together nearly ten years. I can honestly say I have never loved him more than I did the week of our miscarriage.  He didn’t leave my side. It has also made me appreciate the gift of love in our son. His crazy boy antics and boundless toddler energy have been a huge source of delight for me. He has, on more than one occasion, turned our sorrow into joy.  If it turns out that he is to be our only child, then I know we have been blessed beyond measure, and I am at peace with that.

The giant, gaping hole that February left in our lives has slowly started to heal. I still have hard days on occasion, but I am finding that there is more time between floods of tears, true happiness and joy for friends with new babies, and contentment for where life has currently placed us. I feel like I’ve been given a choice: I can let a difficult season of life, like miscarriage, define me, or I can let it be a defining moment in my life. I would much rather the loss of our child be part of who I am, instead of who I am, especially if it allows me to emphatically love and empathize with another person on this bittersweet journey of life.

~Mandy

If you or someone you love has experienced a miscarriage, what will or are you currently doing to see them through this time?