A few years ago, I was captivated by the story of Jon and Kate Gosselin…a young couple who, having resorted to fertility treatment as a result of Kate’s PCOS, were blessed, first of all with twins, and then sextuplets!!! Leaving them with 8 kids in such a short space of time! Wow! I was mesmerised, and I was soon addicted to their reality show. At the time, all 8 children were under the age of 5, and their home was always in mayhem. Ever the body language reader, I soon started noticing some strain in the relationship between Jon and Kate. They seemed to be permanently snapping, scowling, or rolling eyes at each other. And this was long before the cracks in their relationship were picked up by the media. Before our eyes, their relationship crumbled and collapsed like a sand castle. Soon, there were allegations of infidelity, and before the viewing audience knew it, the couple divorced. Jon & Kate plus 8 became simply Kate plus 8. I was really saddened by this, not only because of the obvious effect on the children, but on the couple too. What a tragedy…to long so much for something, and then implode so soon after you get it!
I had been married for a little under a year when Jon and Kate divorced. By this time, we already knew something was not quite right with us in the baby making department, and my biggest fear, at the time, was having to resort to fertility treatment. What if we got a house full of kids, like the Gosselins, and, like them, were not able to make it work? I once voiced this fear to my husband, hoping he would put his arms around me to assure me that it would never happen, but had instead gottten a look of sheer disgust. “Jon and Kate?? Really??!” was what my dear hubby retorted. So, I respected myself and proceeded to throw away those thoughts, and promptly forgot about Jon and Kate, for as long as the media allowed.
This was until I was halfway through my pregnancy, and I heard the awful news of the separation of a couple close to us. I’ll call them Onome* and Uyi*. Uyi was my husband’s childhood friend, and they were as thick as thieves when I started dating him. Uyi was one of the first in their circle to get married, and had been with his wife for 6 years at the time of our wedding. But they had no children. Onome and I had always gotten along, but it wasn’t until one visit to theirs, when my husband and I had been married for over a year, that we truly connected. While the men were busy watching football, we had bonded over our battles with infertility. She laughed at me for fretting, wondering what I wanted her to do with almost 7 years under her belt. Theirs was a case of unexplained infertility, and she lamented about the number, invasiveness, and expense of all the fertility treatments they had had to undergo. She further confided in me that, earlier that morning, she and Uyi had had an explosive row over finances, as he was vehemently refusing to pay for yet another cycle of IVF. No wonder, I thought to myself! That explained the unusual frost I had noticed between then…very unlike their usual lovey dovey, PDA-filled behaviour.
After that day, Onome and I kept in touch, and talked/texted/chatted/e-mailed almost on a daily basis. Eventually, Uyi had agreed to the IVF cycle, and theirs was a case of the 3rd one being the charm, as Onome got pregnant. Everyone who knew them was overjoyed! A few weeks shy of their 8th anniversary, their daughter was born. Three months later, at their baby dedication, whilst family and friends were making merry and celebrating, I noticed that the couple did not seem as excited as I would have imagined they would be. They looked drawn and spent. Perhaps it was the strain of having a newborn, I thought. Later that evening, when it was just a handful of close friends still hanging around, we had all been stunned to embarrassed silence when the raised voices of the couple from their bedroom filled the living room. It was a full on shouting match that didn’t even end when someone tapped on their bedroom door, as if to let them know that everyone could hear them. But they didn’t seem to care, as their voices got even louder. Eventually, the guests started leaving quietly. On the ride home, my husband told me that Uyi had been complaining bitterly about the rising expenses. He hadn’t recovered from the expensive IVF procedure, which was quickly followed by expensive ante-natal and delivery costs. It was further compounded by the baby’s expensive costs. His grouse lay in the fact that he believed Onome was extravagant, and not willing to compromise her taste. He lamented her expensive choice of hospital, and her wasteful behaviour ever since the baby was born. Of course I thought this was all a lot of rubbish, and soon my husband and I were arguing about our opposing views on the matter. In the end, we agreed to disagree.
A few days later, I called Onome to check on her, and she had casually laughed off the incident, saying it was one of those things. I knew her well enough to know she wasn’t being truthful, and that there was more to it than that, but respected her and dropped the subject. She remained a dear friend, and comforted me through my failed IVF cycle, and cheered me on with the next successful one. But she clammed up at the mention of her husband’s name. All anyone would get from her was a stiff “He’s fine” or “Everything’s fine”, anytime she was asked. But it was clear to all that nothing was fine!
And then early one Sunday morning, in July 2011, my husband had gotten a distress call from one of their friends, asking him to rush down to Uyi’s house immediately. Apparently, Uyi and Onome had had a verbal altercation that had quickly turned physical. They had beaten each other black and blue, trashing their house in the process. Their frightened nanny had had to lock herself up, with the baby, in the nursery. It took their neighbours forcing the door open, to restrain the incensed duo. If they hadn’t, the couple probably would have killed each other. By the time my husband, and their other friends, got there, their house looked like a war zone. TVs smashed, coffee tables and artefacts broken to pieces, curtain rods hanging, slithers of glass littering the floor, and with a neighbour dressing a deep cut on Uyi’s shoulder, one of many wounds he had sustained in the fight. Onome had been whisked to a neighbour’s apartment, to tend to her own injuries. My otherwise cool-as-a-cucumber and nothing-can-phase-me husband told me how he was moved to tears at the sight of the sheer carnage. Apparently, Uyi’s and Onome’s mutual resentment had degenerated to a deep loathing and hatred. That afternoon, Onome’s family had moved her out of the house…and just like that, Uyi and Onome were over. After 9 years of marriage, and a 1 year old child, their love had ended…just like that!
This resurrected my Jon & Kate fear, and I literally had panic attacks about how things would be after our kids were born. If Uyi and Onome’s relationship couldn’t stand the pressure of 1 child, could our relationship stand the pressure of 2 children??! It didn’t help that I read about how difficult it is for couples who have been trying to conceive for a while, to transition into parenthood, as they have spent so long being codependent on each other. I prayed relentlessly for this not to happen to my husband and I, as I couldn’t bear the thought of finally getting our dream, only to lose each other.
But I was soon to experience, firsthand, the effect of this change in dynamic. My husband and I went from being a twosome to a foursome, over night. Of course, we were over the moon to have been blessed, finally, with these beautiful gifts from God. But there were times when my husband couldn’t understand why he couldn’t always come first. There were times when I was enraged about him not being as hands-on as I would have wanted him to be. And there were many times when we argued about our expenses, which were now several multiples higher than before. That first year of parenthood was wonderful, and it was awful as well, for our relationship. But thankfully, we got over that hump, and as we entered our second year, we had attained a good rhythm as a family.
The bottom line is for couples to be very aware of this impending change, and be prepared for it. Your dynamic will most surely change, and things will not be the same way ever again. But in a good way. You just have to remember where you are coming from, what you have prayed for, and now that you have it, how you can best balance being parents with remaining as in love with, and as devoted to, each other. From experience, I can tell you that, once you are able to get over the hump, your love even deepens and you have a deeper appreciation of each other, not just as partners, but as co-parents. It truly is worth it…all you need to do is hang on for the bumpy ride.
Baby dust to all!