Unflinching Honesty About Marriage, Motherhood and Mourning

Unflinching Honesty About Marriage, Motherhood and Mourning

And when he got down on one knee with sunflower in hand to propose that we get married, I was never so sure of anything in my life. He always surprised me with sunflowers—in my car, under my pillow, in the blue vase on the table. Whenever I see one now, I go back to the bright summer day when he led me, blindfolded, into a giant field of buttery Kansas sunflowers after taking me home to meet his family. It was one of the most beautiful things I had ever seen, so many at once. He spread a blanket in a clearing on the ground and we lay there, looking up at the tall stalks of yellow leaves overhead in the vast blue sky, knowing that we had found our own special heaven. He would often sing, “You are my sunflower, my only sunflower,” to wake me up in the morning, which annoyed me as often as it made me laugh, but it always filled me with complete love.

Dealing with the insecurities associated with marriage

Still, the deepest part of me worried about being responsible for another human being, much less be married to one and possibly having kids with one. What if it all went wrong, the way so many marriages do? Then what? Worse, what if he left me for another woman, like my father had done to my mother?

Couldn’t we just stay living together? Or better yet, couldn’t we live in separate apartments in the same building? That way, we wouldn’t wear out our relationship. Or, how about a commitment ceremony rather than an official wedding? “Relax, babe,” he said with amusement while holding my chin in place, so I would have to look at him in the eyes without squirming away. “My purpose in life—it’s to love you.”

It's tough dealing with the insecurities associated with marriage

Natural progression – kids!

“You say that now but look at what happens to people. What if it happens to us?”

“Shh…” he would whisper, cutting me off. “I promise I will never leave you. I promise I will never hurt you or cheat on you or lie to you or abandon you or our children.” “What children? You’re pregnant?” I liked it that he laughed at my bad jokes. “The children we are we are going to have,” he said. “I see girls.

Two of them. Maybe we can name one of them Ruth? For some reason, I’ve always felt connected to that name.”

And I felt connected to Mark. He calmed me in the deepest, most settled of ways. And that made all the difference. He wanted to get “properly” married in a church. In a white dress with vows and everything? I thought. Really? We did—we got married in a beautiful, old stone church and held a picnic reception at the Saugerties Lighthouse on the Hudson River.

Next, when he wanted to get started on a family for real, I worried. Me? A mother? I couldn’t imagine being a mother. I didn’t want to be a mother. The thought of it literally terrified me. But just four months later, I was so excited to be pregnant with Nell, and four months after welcoming her to the world, our plan worked. We were pregnant again.

 Just four months later, I was so excited to be pregnant

Relationships and marriage can be hard at times

With our second child on the way, it was time to say goodbye to our tiny apartment and city life. We bought a modest house just north of the city, in Yonkers, and moved just two months before Susannah was born. It was hectic and crazy and wonderful. I couldn’t believe how much our love had grown, that there were even deeper layers to the levels. Any honest couple will say the same thing: relationships and marriage can be hard at times, even when you love the person so much you can’t imagine how you lived without them. But it goes way beyond wet towels on the floor or budgeting to replace the cracked driveway. It’s the modern-day problem—two people balancing their careers with home life.

I was lucky to be able to do both by working at home, raising the girls while earning a living in a career that I loved. It wasn’t that Mark didn’t want to leave work at 5:00 pm to make it home in time for dinner, baths, pajamas, and books; it’s that he often had to work later and longer to cover whatever the big news story was of the day, or produce what’s called an enterprise piece, a story that a reporter digs up on his or her own that goes beyond covering events, news conferences, and press releases. He often spent parts of the weekend working from home, too.

An impulse to rush back to the carefree, single life

I’ll admit that it sometimes made me want to run back to my carefree, single life—the one I had before, where I had been free to do what I wanted when I wanted and how I wanted. No husband, no children, no mortgage; and while I was so in love with him and so proud of him and so happy with our lives, I sometimes found myself resenting him for giving me everything I never knew I wanted.

Suddenly widowed and with two young daughters, author and journalist Laura Fahrenthold recounts her courageous and healing journey across the United States and Canada as she seeks answers to her loss and comfort in her grief. The Pink Steering Wheel Chronicles presents a moving portrait of life told with unflinching honesty about marriage, motherhood and mourning. Laura Fahrenthold knew that to cope with her painful loss, she needed to do it on her own terms. She bought an RV, took her kids and their dog, and drove across the United States and Canada in search of healing and understanding.
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